Court vision advantage: BCIT alum and former pro basketball player Brent Charleton helps lead quest for COVID-19 symptom relief

What does EnWave Corporation, a technology company servicing the organic food and legal cannabis industry, have to do with treating COVID-19 symptoms? The answer lies in the company’s patented Radiant Energy Vacuum (REV™) technology, which offers a gentle, low-temperature drying technique with the potential to help develop a new medicine for COVID-19 symptoms.

Leading EnWave’s contribution to this initiative is the company’s President and CEO and BCIT Marketing Management alumnus Brent Charleton.

Using EnWave’s point of difference to make a difference

The medicine, which will be in encapsulated form, requires a crucial drying step in the production process to maintain its efficacy. That’s where EnWave comes in.

The only other available drying methods are high-heat, spray-drying techniques, and Brent says these methods can’t effectively preserve the medicine’s treatment properties.

He shares that the project is being developed in partnership with University of British Columbia (UBC), which has close ties to EnWave: “EnWave’s technology originated from UBC in the early days, and since then, we’ve nurtured it and commercialized it over the last 15 years. So, the individuals there are very familiar with our value proposition of providing a very gentle way of removing moisture from organic materials.”

UBC pursued funding through the National Research Council enabling EnWave to offer personnel, time, and access to its lab and equipment to do further research and development, and ideally prove EnWave’s technology as a viable option for this vital drying step. Brent will gain more clarity on the development of the project by late 2020.

The effort to fight COVID-19 doesn’t stop there for EnWave.

To leverage this new endeavour, EnWave formed a strategic partnership with GEA, the dominant seller of freeze-drying equipment in the pharmaceutical space.

In addition to drying medicines – EnWave’s state-of-the-art drying technology can also be applied to vaccines.

Combining GEA’s pharmaceutical expertise with EnWave’s rapid-dehydration technology—which can dry vaccines in six to eight hours versus the several days it typically takes—the partnership aims to increase accessibility of vaccines worldwide.

Brent describes the benefit of drying vaccinations: “In the pharmaceutical industry, they want to dry vaccines to eliminate the need for cold-chain storage, which is required globally to ensure the efficacy of liquid vaccinations.” He adds: “For countries in Southeast Asia, and to a point, South America where cold-chain infrastructure just isn’t there, it can be difficult to transport these medicines to people who need it the most.”

He anticipates this project to take another two to five years before advanced commercialization.

From basketball to BCIT: his secret to success

Brent Charleton did not envision a career in business when he was pursuing professional basketball in New Zealand. In fact, it wasn’t even part of his back-up plan. If his basketball career didn’t work out, he says he considered going into law enforcement.

His father’s New Zealand citizenship allowed Vancouver-born Brent to play professionally overseas for the New Zealand Breakers. He shares that, while he loved the game, after four years of playing, he wanted a long-term career plan.

“I knew I wanted to get into business and not spend another four or five years at an academic institution,” Brent explains “I heard nothing but fantastic things about BCIT from friends who had attended and became very successful afterwards. So, I did my research and applied for the Marketing Management diploma program from New Zealand, and headed back to Vancouver for the fall semester.”

Brent says his drive and team-player mentality from basketball proved a perfect fit for BCIT’s team-based learning environment.

Brent shares that using the instructors as a resource was another essential key to his success: “The instructors at BCIT were incredibly engaging and always going above and beyond to provide advice and make industry connections for me. They ensure the students understand the level of quality that is needed to be successful after leaving BCIT. And that’s actually quite different from an academic institution where they’re cycling you through to get your piece of paper, without much direction.”

Brent was the recipient of many awards and bursaries at BCIT, including the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Student Leadership.

These meaningful connections and accolades helped Brent get noticed by EnWave upon graduating from BCIT. He served on the board as a member, and then President, of the BCIT Alumni Association where he would volunteer for more than five years and gain valuable experience while growing his career.

While Brent continues to drive new pharmaceutical developments and growth opportunities for EnWave, he says he’ll continue to hire BCIT alumni: “I love hiring BCIT grads. Our director of marketing is a BCIT alumna and we often hire BCIT alumni for engineer roles as well.”

In addition to his professional success, Brent is a husband, father, and mentor through the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Leaders of Tomorrow program and JA (Junior Achievements) where he helps prepare young people for entrepreneurship.

Learn more about the School of Business + Media and the Marketing Management diploma program.

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