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Proposed plant sprouting questions: proponent has big plans for Kenora, but NOB has trouble verifying his story.

A new biotechnology initiative to extract plant oil for cancer fighting drugs is expected to take root in Kenora. However, Northern Ontario Business has learned there are some questions surrounding this project and the proponent, Gordon Summers.

In 2000, after a three-year investigation into the "Titania Oil and Gas Canada Inc.," Gordon Summers pleaded guilty in North Bay to two charges of fraud over $5,000, one count of possession of stolen property and one count of defrauding the general public amounting to $434,000.

He was sentenced to 27 months in jail. He will reappear before a judge Oct. 21 to address new charges of fraud and forging documents.

Hoping to start anew, Kenora-area resident Summers has been putting out feelers identifying new funding resources for his latest business Biotics, which has recently changed to Vigor Biotics Inc.

"We were forced to incorporate for the tax liability," Summers said.

On May 30, Summers said meetings with officials from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and Lake of the Woods Business Incentive Corp. had him hopeful that funding will flow in for a 10,000-square-foot biotechnology manufacturing facility. He said the plant, which will extract paclitaxel, the anti-cancer ingredient from the Canada Yew plant, will be located on airport-leased land.

"We are hoping to start (construction) June 15 and be open October 3," Summers said, maintaining that 112 jobs would sprout from the estimated $2 million initiative.

"We are on a leased piece of land from the airport authority in Kenora. This will be a 24-hour operation."

However, Kenora airport officials and the town's planning department have only received queries from Summers about the property. No land agreements have been drawn up.

"There is a fair level of skepticism about the whole thing," says Bernd Richardt, lawyer and chair of the Kenora Airport Authority.

"Certainly I am not aware of any lease being entered into at this point."

Summers clarified June 24 that past chair Don McDougal was his contact person. Planning has only reached query and application stages because the steel building that will be transported from Markham to Kenora is not building code compliant, he said. But the application for land "should be at my lawyer's office as we speak."

Mike Zroback, airport manager, says no leased land application has been issued and if there was such an initiative, he would be involved.

Summers claims to have financial backing from the the New Brunswick teachers' federation.

However, the New Brunswick Investment Management Corp. (NBIMC), the company managing the teacher's fund, denies knowing Summers or partaking in any investment initiatives.

"This gentleman's name doesn't ring a bell for me or the initiative," said NBIMC president John Sinclair.

Brian Bawn, president of the New Brunswick Teachers Association, said they are a non-profit agency.

"So we don't have that kind of funding to do that sort of thing. I don't know where that came from."

In response, Summers said his partnership is with the New Brunswick Teacher's Federation Pension Fund and the contact person is Fred Stubbs.

But there is no such person or investment connected to either of the organizations, according to officials.

The Industry Canada website provides a company description of Biotics. It states the ISO 9003-certified company has total sales up to $5 million and exports to the United Kingdom, New Jersey, Bulgaria, Pakistan and Turkey with its "16,500-square foot facility" bringing in up to $5 million. A discrepancy in the size of the facility exists because it is difficult to make updates on the site, Summers says.

But Bob Porter, director general of the information management branch of Industry Canada said "the data provider can come on line and update that record whenever they wish.

"They are the only person who can access that company record."

Porter said the department does "not guarantee the information."

A disclaimer on the site means people should verify company information, he added.

To post a business on the site all one has to do is fill out the questionnaire.

On May 30, Summers said he was in "discussions with (a) great big (seller) in Quebec. He has all our information now and all the analysis. It's in their court now," Summers said.

He was referring to vice-president Andre Lalonde of the biomass division at Bioxel Pharma Inc. who said, "Oh boy, the only thing I received is a sample.

"There was no proposed contract, nothing. I heard from somebody that we were supposed to be in business with him, but we never had any deal any discussion about that."

Summers' idea is to extract the raw paclitaxel in the Kenora plant, then further refine it at a Bioxel facility.

On June 24, Summers confirmed he has no formal agreements, or any proposals for agreements, on the table with Bioxel.

Asked why he chose Kenora as a base point, Summers said it is the centre of the marketplace, since supply will come from plantations in Vancouver, Saskatchewan, North Bay, Parry Sound and overseas from China.

An estimated 236 kilograms of yew are expected to come from China, according to Summers. He claims to have a contract with Tiajin Foreign Trade Group Chemical and Medical Product Company Ltd. and Chongqing United Pharnaceutical Co. to sell paclitaxel worldwide for three years. Neither company showed up on a Google Internet search. The phone response given from agent Chen Wenhui of Chongqing was "hello," not the company name. When asked why the company does not show up on the Internet, she said she wanted to send a "CD" of all the company information. Wenhui says Congqing is on the China Stock Exchange in the "B" market section. Summers did not provide a number for Tianjin Foreign Trade Group Chemical and Medical Products Company Ltd.

Summers says he has made headway into the European and possibly the United States market with partnerships from Medical Services Europe, Inter Pharma IPP, Pharmaceutical Services Inc. and Maine Pharma. None of the companies was identified on a Google search.

Other East Asian companies were mentioned as official partners.

"In five years time I hope some big pharmaceutical manufacturer will buy us out," Summers said with a laugh.

He claims to have been a geologist in central Alberta; however, according to the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA), which houses names of professional engineers and geologists, he does not show up in the province's database.

That is because he is with the Calgary Society of Petroleum Geologists, he said.

But Tim Howard, business manager with the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, says there is no such organization. Even if Summers meant the Canadian Society of Petroleum of Geologists, his licence number, 04685, does not show up on the database, Howard said.

Summers said he also spent time as a grain farmer in Saskatchewan, and now he is bringing his cultivation and harvesting techniques to eager First Nations communities growing plantations. But, Summers declined to elaborate or identify the Aboriginal bands.

"This (project) is based on the merits of the project not the merits of me," Summers said, referring to his past convictions and his present initiative.

"I have no intention of putting this (new initiative) in the newspaper. You do. And whether it goes in the paper or not means absolutely nothing to me because there is no one involved in this but me. I am not asking anyone for a dime."

By KELLY LOUISEIZE

Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:EXCLUSIVE
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Words:1242
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