Ekidna: Cannabis industry innovation with uOttawa roots

Faculty of Engineering
Nic Boileau poses with Ekidna products in a lab
University of Ottawa student Nic Boileau and fellow alum developed nanotechnology for the cannabis industry that flourished into start-up company Ekidna.

In 2018, while Nic Boileau was conducting research on biosensors as a PhD candidate, he and his co-founders got the idea for what would later become Ekidna. He started the company with a team of professors and PhD researchers from uOttawa. Nic went on to create a successful start-up company, and he now reflects on the resources that he leveraged to start Ekidna as a student.

What is Ekidna?

Ekidna is a lab-on-a-chip technology that measures levels of THC, THCa, CBD and CBDa in cannabis plants. Ekidna test kits contain a chip that uses an electronic sensor to measure cannabinoid levels. The tube is then inserted directly into an analyzer, which is connected to a computer to reveal the potency results. Tests can be done directly on site, with no lab technician needed. This technology helps licenced cannabis producers reduce operational costs, obtain accurate potency results, and bring their product to the market faster and more efficiently.

uOttawa roots

To design the patented product, Nic partnered with professor and electronic sensor expert Benoit Lessard, chemical diagnostic expert Adam Shuhendler, and cannabis researcher Cory Harris.

While Nic was still a student, he participated in the Entrepreneurship Concepts Competition and in the Simon Nehme Summer Entrepreneurship School at uOttawa. He then signed up for the MakerLaunch program, a nine-month accelerator program that supports engineering students and young alumni so they can launch their companies and fast track the commercialization of their technologies.

A year after completing the program, the company completed their first prototype and raised $900,000 in investment. They grew their team to eight full-time employees and moved to a bigger lab in the BioScience Hall on campus. In June 2022, they achieved a big milestone, selling their first products to Canopy Growth, a world-leading cannabis company.

Nic credits uOttawa for much of his company's success, saying, "uOttawa is where Ekidna started. The programs there helped build the foundation for my entrepreneurial journey. Between the classes, the competitions, and MakerLaunch, I gained valuable knowledge, connections, and funds to pursue Ekidna. Without the funding from MakerLaunch, I'm not sure if Ekidna would be where it is today."

Nic Boileau
Alumni Voices

“uOttawa is where Ekidna started.”

Nic Boileau, founder of Ekidna

Thankful for the opportunity that uOttawa has given him, Nic signed the Founder's Pledge, a nonbinding commitment to support the Faculty and the next generation of innovators when the time is right.

With over $1.4 million in investment so far, the future looks promising for Ekidna as it continues to advance sensor technologies and bring its technology to other industries such as the alcoholic beverage industry and agriculture industry.

Are you a student or alumni of the Faculty of Engineering interested in starting their own company? You can apply to take part in the MakerLaunch program until November 25, 2022. Not ready yet? Take a look at our entrepreneurial ecosystem for resources to help you at any stage of your entrepreneurial journey.