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Jeff Turner and the wonderful science of life


It’s quite a challenging environment.” While there has been much talk of the dangers of geneticallymodified organisms, Turner feels some are good and people need to talk about it to ease their fears. “First of all, dialogue is wonderful. I love to talk about things,” Turner said. “To say GMOs are all good or all bad, you are misinformed. We have to look at why people likeme are doing this. Take something like golden rice, for example. I struggle to see what is wrong with it. In Asia, children who eat rice as a staple go blind because of the lack of vitamin A. Vitamin A is inserted into rice, making it golden and helps to prevent blindness. If you can keep amillion kids fromgoing blind, why wouldn’t you? However, theMonsanto terminator gene is not the same. If youmake transgene corn you get more corn. Termina- tor corn can’t growmore corn. It’s the worst kind of industrial farming.” Although ZMapp is in the clinical trial stage right now, it has been used in extreme emergency cases such as Kent Bradley and Nancy Writebol who received ZMapp after contracting Ebola in Africa while working

Saint-Eugène resident Jeff Turner grew up the son of a military man and moved around a lot. He took the experience as an opportunity and a challenge. “As a young man growing up in little towns, I had a wealth of information,” said Turner. “I always liked biology. I didn’t knowwhat it was about, thought science was boring. Turns out, there are all sorts of exciting things in science. It is sad not a lot of people are interested in science anymore. It’s a wonderful life. It really is.” Turner was born in Ottawa and has lived throughout Europe and North America. He received a PhD in Animal Science andMole- cular Genetics from the University of Illinois. When Turner graduated, he was contacted byMcGill University inMontreal and offered a teaching position in animal science. “It was fantastic,” exclaimed Turner. “I taught there for seven years. I loved it.” Turner worked in lactation, discovering how milk is produced and learning about

different cow diseases. “Then someone asked me, why don’t you make something dif- ferent? Make some- thing special instead of just milk,” said Turner. Turner resigned from his position at McGill and founded Nexia Biotechnologies.

with Doctors Wit- hout Borders there. “Ebola is a ne- glected tropical di- sease,” said Turner. “There are usually outbreaks where 50 to 300 people get the disease and then it disappears again. Themost recent out-

From spider goats to Ebola, Jeff Turner has studied science that most only dream of and found solutions to some of the worlds most difficult problems, all right here in our own backyard in Ste. Eugene..

Jeff Turner enjoys his life and the work that he does. Shown above in his living room by his much loved bookcase.

“It was really interesting,” he said. “We ope- ned a huge facility inDalhousie, just south of Vankleek Hill. Wemade geneticallymodified goats.” Nexia Biotechnologies found a way to combine goat’s milk, and spider silk, creating steely strong but supple filaments, which offered medical, military and commercial applications. “We made things such as soft bodied armour for the military and super thin filament used in eye surgery, as well as artificial ligaments,” Turner explainedmatter of factly. “Things like that. It was good for Canadian biotechnology.”

break has killed close to an unprecedented 8,000 people. For every person who dies of the disease, two or three more are infected. We weren’t ready for that,” Turner explained. “Before this, in the history of mankind, only 2,000 people have died of Ebola. No one was prepared for the tens of thousands of cases.” “There are agencies helping out there like Doctors Without Borders, The World Health Organization,The Gates Foundation, andWelcome Trust Foundation.They are all spending huge amounts of money to help. The challenge is huge.There is tremendous poverty, and the government is corrupt. It takes huge support tomake things happen. It’s not really an economic problem,” Tur- ner explained.” “Our little company hasn’t made a cent off the medicine we have sent to Africa. So far we have given all the drugs for free.”

Defyrus is working on having enough medicine within 2015 to help those inWest Africa afflicted with the disease. “There was no way a little Canadian company could sup- ply the world,” Turner said. “We partnered with a U.S. company in San Diego called Mapp Bio.” Turner recently retired as CEO of Defyrus and now acts as a special advisor for the company. “Sitting here at 56 years of age, it’s hard to say I’m going to stop,” Turner smiled. “I will retire from Defyrus but not from life. Now I amgrowing Haskap berries. They have a lot of nutritional and health benefits. And it’s not GMO. It’s going to keep me busy for the next little bit. It’s been fun. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Correction The story of Laura Burroughs was in print on January 30 with an error in the name. It should have read Lisa Burroughs.We apologize for this inconvenience. The Hawkesbury Legion, branch 472, at 152 Nelson Stree in Hawkesbury was filled Friday, January 30, for the monthly smoked meat dinner. The dinner was followed by live music from local musician Ray Seguin. All seemed to enjoy themselves including Hawkesbury mayor, Jeanne Charlebois. The legion offers a smokedmeat dinner with livemusic on the last Friday of eachmonth. (DH)

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From spider goats to Ebola Turner later founded Defyrus. “It’s doing very well,” said Turner. “The name is a com- bination of defying and virus,” explained Turner. “We work on really bad diseases and highly infectious diseases like Ebola.The big thing right now is ZMapp, a cure for Ebola.” “The cure for most diseases like the flu is anti-bodies. It is naturally found in your blood. You get sick, you feel terrible for a few days, then your body kicks in andmakes anti-bodies, and you start to feel better. We wanted to try the same thing for Ebola.” ZMapp is created from genetically engi- neered tobacco. “That is part of what takes so long, plants need time to grow,” Turner explained. “It is not just availability and cost. It’s getting it there and finding the people.

Bertrand Castonguay , President, Roger Duplantie , D.G. / G.M., François Bélair , Sales & Development, François Legault , Directeur de l’information/News Editor, Yvan Joly , Sales director (Hawkesbury), François Leblanc , Directeur (Lachute), Gilles Normand , Production & Distribution Mgr., Thomas Stevens , Layout & Prepress Mgr.,

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