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22 - 24 of the Bay St. Bull Power 50: Health

The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays. 

22. Mike Serbians: CEO, LEAGUE

by Sissi Wang

Everybody knows Elon Musk, the brilliant Canadian behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX. But less of us have heard of Mike Serbinis, an equally exceptional entrepreneur and technologist who is similar to Musk in many ways. (Serbinis actually helped Musk build his very first company, Zip2, while he was still in school.) Like Musk, Serbinis is a serial entrepreneur who has developed transformative technologies across multiple industries, all evolved into highly successful companies that collectively racked up over $1 billion in exits. In 2009, Serbinis’ digital reading company Kobo bursted into the publishing scene and drove $110 million in sales in its first year before being sold to Japanese Internet giant Rakuten for $315 million in 2012.

This time, Serbinis is set on disrupting the health and wellness industry with his new company LEAGUE, an online marketplace that gives consumers instant access to rated, verified health and wellness services. “We started LEAGUE to transform the consumer experience to healthcare and empower people to be healthy everyday,” says Serbinis. LEAGUE allows consumers to search for a health service they want in their area and purchase automatically through the app. No claim forms need to be filled and you can connect with your healthcare provider through a secure messaging platform. “The health insurance model has historically been about avoiding the consumer. We want to empower consumers by eliminating procedures that are normally a headache, and make it super easy, digital, and available at a moment's notice,” explains Serbinis.

Toronto already has thousands of service providers on the platform, according to LEAGUE, and the company is signing up employers looking to offer employees health benefits with its digital wallet. Telus, Loblaws and AOL have already joined, and the list of service providers and companies is growing.

Serbinis is determined to build LEAGUE into a multi-billion dollar company. As a member of MaRS Discovery District Board of Directors, Board of Trustees at the Ontario Science Centre, and the Creative Destruction Lab at Rotman School of Commerce, he wants to make Canada a great place for other entrepreneurs to succeed as well.

23. Stem Cell Research in Canada

By Ryan Yuh

It’s been hailed as the “holy grail” of regenerative medicine, but not many know that Canada has long been a pioneer of stem cell technology. It wasn’t so long ago that Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch discovered the existence of stem cells at Toronto’s Ontario Cancer Institute back in 1961. Since then, the field has made leaps and bounds in progress, much of it here in our very own backyard.

An unspecified type of cell that can develop into different types of adult cells, stem cells have revolutionized the way we think about healing and medicine. Earlier this year, the federal government provided $20 million to the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine to develop a facility for stem cell research development, which will become the first of its kind by bridging the gap between research institutions and industry to foster new discoveries in the field. Meanwhile, Ottawa announced last year that an $11 million grant would be given to build a stem cell research hub at the University of Toronto, called Medicine by Design, where scientists will be able to design cells to treat patients and benefit the economy (let’s not forget about that).

As new therapies progress into clinical trials, the hope is that stem cells will be able to one day treat — or perhaps cure — a multitude of debilitating conditions, including spinal cord injuries to multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. While there is still much work to be done and awareness to raise, we can all be proud that Canadians are forging the path to what is undeniably a brighter future.

24. Bill S-201

by Ryan Yuh

In many instances, Canada is a progressive nation. A leader in the international community that inspires others. It may surprise you to know, then, that Canada is also the only G7 nation that does not protect against genetic discrimination. It means that if you were to take a test — a potentially life-saving test — that would indicate the presence of, say BRCA1 (the gene that increases the risk for breast and ovarian cancer), you could be discriminated against for something that you have no control over. It means that, for example, insurance companies could choose to deny coverage or charge higher premiums based on something that you do not have any say in. Thankfully, under the initiative of Senator James Cowan, Bill S-201 (also known as the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act) would add genetic traits to the Canadian Human Rights Act, preventing employers and insurance companies from demanding genetic tests or the disclosure of previous test results. The bill, which recently cleared the Senate and has moved on to the House of Commons, would punish any of those who violate it by way of some very serious penalties: up to $1 million in fines or jail time for up to five years. The human genome was mapped thirteen years ago, unleashing the potential to access an unprecedented level of information that could save lives. But what is the point if people have become too afraid to do so out of fear? This bill may just change all of that.