Natural Products Canada, the Charlottetown-based organization that supports businesses that commercialize natural products, has fleshed out its staff and is ready to help build a vibrant, pan-Canadian ecosystem.

The organization announced this week that it has hired two new positions in Charlottetown, Karen Wight, Vice-President Investment and Finance, and Stephen Ball, Regional Director of NPC-Atlantic. That means NPC now has six full-time employees, including CEO Shelley King.

“There is a ton of scientific expertise and a growing interest in our natural product companies here in Atlantic Canada,” Russ Kerr, CEO of Nautilus Biosciences Canada and Chair of the PEI BioAlliance, said in a statement. “NPC’s evaluation, support and investment will make it faster and more efficient for companies like ours to turn that into valuable products.”

After years of work by the BioAlliance and others, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced in February that the federal government would contribute $14 million to NPC.

While the BioAlliance serves as the Atlantic Canadian hub for the centre, the partnership includes AgWest Bio in Saskatchewan, the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization and the Institute for Nutrition and Functional Foods in Quebec. The federal contribution will be matched by more than $10 million from industry and other sources, for total funding of more than $24 million over the next five years.

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King, who previously worked with Synapse (the tech transfer office at the University of P.E.I.) and Genome Atlantic, will eventually have staff of eight to work with companies that have products based on natural substances and need to bring them to market.

As the East Coast regional director, Ball will work closely with the BioAlliance to identify promising products, technologies, and companies for potential investment from across Atlantic Canada, said the statement. They will ensure these companies are linked to the national and international resources and partners they need.

Additional hires across the country include two regional directors: David Gauthier of NPC-West will work closely Ag-WestBio in Saskatoon; and Paul-Thomas Lacroix of NPC-Quebec will collaborate with Quebec’s regional node, the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, Université Laval. Sue Coueslan, Vice-President of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, has been hired in Charlottetown and other regional directors will be recruited in the near future, said the organization.

Key initiatives for the first year of operations include launching the NPC investment program and developing a database of the technologies, platforms, service providers, investors, and expertise essential to the successful commercialization of natural products.

“NPC is already creating connections and opportunities in the natural products sector in a way that’s great for Prince Edward Island and the rest of the country,” says Rory Francis, CEO of the PEI BioAlliance. “We look forward to continued collaboration that brings positive results for companies in the region.”