BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association, has adopted a new strategic course that has resulted in the departure of Marli MacNeil, who was the group’s executive director since its founding 12 years ago.

MacNeil said in an interview Friday that her position ended last week and is now taking time to enjoy the summer and consider her options.

“I’d love to be able to continue working to help the life sciences companies because I continue to believe we’ve got some super companies here.”

BioNova was founded early in the century when there were a handful of life sciences companies in the region, but the sector was embryonic at best. A group of founding members understood there was huge potential to commercialize the research being carried out at the hub formed around Dalhousie University’s medical and dentistry schools and the hospitals in Halifax.

In 12 years, the sector has grown to the point where it could be on the cusp of becoming a significant hub on a national or international level.

Several of the life sciences companies in the province are now gaining notice, because of impressive sales or the potential of their technology or both. For example, Halifax Biomedical of Mabou has landed some huge sales lately.

ABK Biomedical of Halifax has received funding recently from First Angel Network of Halifax and other angel groups across North America. It also received a $2.1-million Atlantic Innovation Fund loan to commercialize new biomaterials that will simplify and enhance the delivery of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for patients.

MacNeil said a group of BioNova members recently attended the BIO International Convention for life sciences in San Diego, where Immunovaccine of Halifax was “the talk of the town” because of new-found interest in immune system-based medicine.

She said BioNova and the sector overall now need to determine ways to move these and other companies on to “the next level.” Essentially, the industry has gone through a lot of company formation and now has to gain expertise in helping these startups grow into bona fide companies.

“We’re great at having babies, but what are we going to do when they’re teenagers?” MacNeil said.

Asked what is needed and how to provide it, she said BioNova is beginning to determine what is required and what to do, and more work will be needed to plot the next chapter.

BioNova is now headed by a 12-member board of directors chaired by Brian Lowe, the head of ABK operations and co-founder of First Angel Network. The three-member staff is now led by managing director Scott Moffitt.

MacNeil’s news marks a changing of the guard at two of the leading startup support organizations in Halifax. Milan Vrekic, executive director of Volta Labs, the city’s main tech startup facility, said this month he will be stepping down in the autumn to pursue other opportunities.

MacNeil said she hopes to stay in Nova Scotia and will always support the local companies in any way she can.

“My job has always been to be a cheerleader for these companies, and now I’ll be cheering from a different side of the field.”

BioNova could not be reached for comment.