The following piece is from our sister publication, Seed World Canada.
The genomics company, NRGene, which operates a satellite office in Saskatchewan, has 40 employees based in Ness Ziona near Tel Aviv.
Hamas’ Saturday morning surprise attack on Israel is having reverberations for those in the Canadian genomics space.
Masood Rizvi, general manager of NRGene Canada based in Saskatoon, Sask., is just one of many Canadians in active contact with co-workers based in Israel who are coping as best they can following the unprecedented attack that began last weekend.
NRGene’s head office is in Ness Ziona, a city in Israel’s Central District, just south of Tel Aviv. Approximately 40 employees work there.
NRGene develops and commercializes AI-based genomic tools and provides some of the largest ag-based companies in the world with computational tools to optimize and accelerate breeding programs.
In May 2020, NRGene announced its intentions to run local operations in Canada to serve customers here in Canada and also in the United States. The office, opened the following year, is located in Saskatoon’s agriculture research cluster, close to research institutes like the University of Saskatchewan.
Rizvi says the primary concern right now is the safety and well-being of NRGene employees and their loved ones in Israel. He adds that during Zoom and phone calls with colleagues in Israel, munitions can often be heard going off in the background.
“Our employees and their families are all OK, but some have friends and family members who are missing. Some have confirmed the loss of loved ones. Some of our employees who were serving in the reserve duty in the army are now actively engaged in military service, along with the spouses of some of our employees,” Rizvi says.
The situation is unprecedented and has left many in the region fearful for their safety, even within their homes.
“This is a surprising turn of events for everyone. People in Israel have expressed that this is the worst thing to happen to the Jewish community after the Holocaust. Everybody is in a state of shock, trying to deal with it. Our team in Canada stands in solidarity with our colleagues in Israel. We are in constant contact with them, ready to provide any assistance we can,” Rizvi says.
The conflict could have far-reaching consequences on the economy, trade, and even global oil prices, he adds.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, as we understand that it is not confined to a specific corner of the world but can affect us all.”
Rizvi, a Canadian citizen originally from India, visited NRGene’s Israeli headquarters in February, 2023, spending nearly a week in Tel Aviv.
“It’s an amazing city. People there are friendly, and the city is vibrant, with wonderful nightlife. It’s heartbreaking to see people who were living a full and joyous life now having to worry about their safety like this.”