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Healthcare and Wellness : Innovation + Job News

135 Healthcare and Wellness Articles | Page: | Show All

Pickering biotech firm 4iBIO aims to launch arthritic joint product within 6 months

Dr. Marvin Schwartz is a maxillofacial surgeon who has seen his share of arthritic joint problems.

"You could say this is many years in the making," he says of his company, 4iBIO, which is conducting clinical trials now on an artificial joint implant it hopes to make available for animal use this year.

"Helping humans is down the road," he says, noting that regulatory approvals are much more difficult for the human medical market than for the veterinary one. "The process is set. I have an American patent and other patents to follow. We've finished clinical trials on sheep hips, we're just finishing a clinical trial on dogs, and we have the intention of going to the veterinary market in about six months," he says.

The current dog trials are being conducted at the University of Guelph, with 50 per cent of the funding coming from the federal government (and the other half coming from 4iBIO). Schwartz says that he is seeking about $1.5 million now to set up a manufacturing facility in the GTA that will receive imaging data—such as CT scans—from doctors anywhere in the world and create a custom-made prosthesis for the patient using 3D modelling. For the trials, the company's three principals have been contracting out the manufacturing work, but expect to hire about three staff for the new plant when it opens.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dr. Marvin Schwartz, CEO, 4iBIO 

Cancer diagnosis company Xagenic gets boost with $10-million funding round

In 2010, we reported that University of Toronto spinoff company Xagenic had secured just over a million dollars in funding to move forward with commercializing its nanotechnology-based diagnostic test. It was about half of the funding the company attracted that year.

Last week, the company got another big boost towards bringing its test—which could help screen for cancer and other diseases—to market, as it closed a $10-million funding round led by Montreal's CTI Life Sciences Fund. The arrangement will see two CTI partners join Xagenic's board.

Dr. Shana Kelley, the founder and CTO of Xagenic, founded the company based on her research at the University of Toronto. In a statement, she said the investment would help "establish Xagenic as a world leader offering rapid, on-demand diagnostic tests." She says these tests should both lower costs and improve care.

Kelley, responding to question by email, said that the funding will allow Xagenic to add some members to its team of 10 over the next year, and will also finance clinical trials.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Shana Kelley, CTO, Xagenic

MaRS startup Smarter Alloys signs orthodontics development agreement for innovative alloy technology

Less than one year after spinning off from the University of Waterloo and setting up office at the MaRS incubator's downtown Toronto office, Smarter Alloys has signed a development agreement that could change the shape of the orthodontics industry. The technology developed by Smarter Alloys founder, Dr. Ibraheem Khan, allows special alloys to remember multiple "shape memories." The process means such materials may be programmed to perform multiple functions.

The implications of Smarter Alloys technology extend to multiple industries, including printers and hard drives, automobile components and energy conservation. Last November, the company won the CleanTech North Innovator of the Year Award for its technology's potential to harvest wasted heat and reduce fossil fuel consumption.

The deal announced this month, according to a statement by Khan, "is poised to greatly improve the functionality of smart materials used in orthodontic applications.... We’re especially pleased with this agreement because our partner has a proven track record of taking innovation and converting it into improved dental care."

The announcement is the first of four to six development agreements that Smarter Alloys expects to announce this year, to accompany further growth. They recently hired a business development manager with the help of a $50,000 grant from MaRS and expect to double the size of their technical team. They also plan to open a manufacturing facility in 2012.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Chris Stevenson, Director of Communications, MaRS; Ibraheem Khan, Smarter Alloys

Eve Medical's innovation brings women's health home from the clinic

"We were all talking, and someone brought up a pap test," says Jessica Ching of a conversation in her industrial design class at OCAD. "No really likes going, and it's a problem. This is something that's potentially life-saving, yet people hate it. That's a shame." That observation led Ching and her business partner Evan Moses to found Eve Medical, a Toronto medical device startup that aims to improve health outcomes for women.
 
Since incorporating in 2010, the two-person company has attracted a series of small but significant sources of encouragement and funding, including grants and loans from the provincial Ministry of Innovation, winning the MaRS Up-Start contest and the Martin Walmsley Fellowship for Technical Entrepreneurship.
 
Eve Medical's first product is HerSwab, a device that allows women to collect their own samples to test for vaginal infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and, especially, HPV (human papillomavirus). The last is important because the presence of certain strains of HPV can indicate a high-risk of cervical cancer, and diagnosing cases more easily could lead more women into screening for the life-threatening cancer. The device allows women to overcome the significant barrier of needing to visit a clinic for an intimate and sometimes invasive test administered by a doctor.

Ching says she hopes to have the device finalized by next month, after which a launch to market—likely in Europe first, partly because getting regulatory approvals there is easier—will follow.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jessica Ching, CEO, Eve Medical
 

Brampton Civic Hospital launches Ontario's first Intermediate Care Unit

Brampton Civic Hospital last month became the first community hospital in Ontario to employ an around-the-clock "intensivist" physician, who will provide care in the hospital's new eight-bed Surgical Intermediate Care Unit.

The unit will serve patients who need more care than is available in a regular ward but not intensive care, according to a statement by BCU executive VP Liz Buller.

"Positioned solidly between the care received on the wards and the most intensive care levels, [the intermediate care unit] gives additional support to address the needs of surgical patients," says Buller.

An intensivist is a specialist in critical care like that typically available in intensive care units. The first-in-Ontario intermediate care innovations are part of an ongoing expansion of Brampton Civic Hospital that includes adding operating rooms and capacity in orthopedic and general surgery units.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Harpreet Hansra for Brampton Civic Hospital


$750K investment will help Tornado Medical Systems commercialize cancer technology

Toronto-based medical imaging innovators Tornado Medical Systems will receive $750,000 in financing from the provincial government's Health Technology Exchange (HTX) to commercialize its innovative breast cancer medical imaging technology.

In announcing the investment, HTX said the investment will help create jobs while allowing sharper diagnoses in breast cancer cases. Tornado's "world-class medical technology" should cut down the need for need for repeat surgeries.
 
The company was founded in 2009 as a partnership between Toronto's Sentinelle Medical Inc. and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute. Headquartered in Toronto, it now has offices in Thunder Bay and Ithica devoted to developing diagnostic medical imaging tools. By the start of this year, the company had grown to employ 20 people, and launched a wave of new hiring in February. The company is currently hiring more than 11 new staff, and is expected to continue growth as it commercializes its technology.
 
Dr. Stefan Larson, CEO of Tornado, said in a statement that the HTX funding would fund more technological development as well as clinical trials for the technology.
 
Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Stephanie Evans, Operations Manager, HTX; Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre

GlaxoSmithKline launches $50-million innovation fund in Toronto

Earlier this year, we reported that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline was ramping up its Canadian presence by expanding its Mississauga facility and adding 70 new staff. On Nov. 10, the company announced that its expanded footprint in Canada would also include a significant investment in research, with the launch of its $50-million GSK Health Sciences Canada Innovation Fund.

In the announcement, the company said the investment dollars would spur the industry in Canada, helping to close the "innovation gap."

"We're excited by the prospect of developing even closer ties with leading research organizations across Canada to enhance opportunities for innovation and create new high-value jobs," said GSK president and CEO Paul Lucas. 

According to the company, the fund will provide direct investment to academic and research organizations involved in "early-stage research" in the health sciences sector, particularly academic and health institutions, translational research centres and start-up companies.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Anna Robinson, for GlaxoSmithKline

Segasist gets key FDA approval, will hire 3-4 by January

Toronto's Segasist Technologies, whose founder, Dr. Hamid Tizhoosh, told Yonge Street in September that he expected US Food and Drug Administration approval for his oncology diagnostic product this fall, recently received that approval.

"For a small company such as ours, this is amazing," Tizhoosh says. "FDA approval doesn't mean you've made it as a company. You still have to take the product to market. But getting approval is one of the key challenges of the medical devices market."

Tizhoosh says he's now in discussion with his investors to prepare to launch a technology he believes could "revolutionize" the oncology industry by providing easier, more reliable contours of tumours, a process that now takes an extraordinary amount of time for oncologists. "I am extremely happy, extremely proud, but we still have hard work ahead of us."

Tizhoosh says he expects to hire three or four new staff by January to help the company's growth, bringing his staff to 11 or 12 people.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dr. Hamid Tizhoosh, CEO, Segasist

Vaughan's Newtopia gets $250K, has added 7 staff this year, will add 10-15 more next year

Innovative Vaughan-based health and fitness company Newtopia will get an injection of almost $250,000 in capital to launch its service more broadly across the continent, thanks to the federal government's Economic Development agency, it was announced last week.

The company's approach is to use what founder Jeffrey Ruby calls an innovative "breakthrough in personal genetic testing" to come up with a personalized health and fitness coaching program for clients. Newtopia's services are delivered to clients live online through portals on the web and through mobile devices. Clients also get access online to real-time video chats with their coaches. The service was launched commercially in January of this year after two years of beta testing. Ruby says the company has seen between 20 and 30 per cent client growth each month. As for results, Ruby claims 80 per cent of clients report acheiving their weight loss or health goals and maintaining that success for six months. The service launched commercially in the United States in September.

Ruby says that since January, the company has grown from 18 to 25 staff—including both full-time employees and consultants. He anticipates adding an additional 10 to 15 new coaches to the team over the next year. The injection of funding from the government will help finance broader market deployment of the product—and not strictly because of the money itself. "It's a real credibility marker," Ruby says, "that the government of Canada is behind this approach."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jeffrey Ruby, Founder, Newtopia

Oncology startup Segasist prepares to unveil 'revolutionary' technology, has grown from 3 to 5 staff

Toronto medical software startup Segasist Technologies plans to launch its new cancer diagnostic tool Reconcillio at the American Society for Radiation Oncology conference in Florida early next week. Founder and CEO Dr. Hamid Tizhoosh says the product represents the culmination of his company's work and could eventually "revolutionize oncology."

Reconcillio is an automated "contouring" tool that learns from doctors as they outline tumors for diagnostic, treatment planning and monitoring purposes. Each oncologist will have his or her own style of contouring, and often several doctors will need to spend hours separately performing the process to reach consensus. The software learns different doctors' styles and can then apply them to new medical images. It can provide "consensus contours" showing how multiple doctors in a hospital would contour the image. And Tizhoosh says eventually, it could provide a cloud-based tool containing the consensus of all 5,000 or so oncologists in North America.

The company's history, Tizhoosh says, goes back to when his grandfather died of lung cancer. Then an engineer, Tizhoosh vowed to fight cancer. "I had young children at that point, so it was a risky move, but I decided to do a PhD in medical imaging." Originally born in Iran, Tizhoosh was based in Germany, but moved to Canada in 2000 and took a job as a professor at Waterloo University. It was there he set up a research team to develop his software, and by 2007, he had a prototype.

Tizhoosh says the company established itself with grants and venture capital financing in downtown Toronto because the access to world-class cancer hospitals was too good an asset to ignore (though the commute to Waterloo where he continues to teach is sometimes difficult). In the past year, the company, based at the MaRS incubator, has growing from to five from three staff, and expects to relocate to its own offices early next year. Reconcillio will be the third product the company has launched--its second, the engine that will eventually drive Reconcillio, is awaiting FDA approvals. Tizhoosh expects to receive those next month. From there, more financing will be made available and the company will begin the approvals process for Reconcillio.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dr. Hamid Tizhoosh, CEO, Segasist Technologies

1DegreeBio doubled staff over the summer, expands office, closes funding round

It has been, 1DegreeBio founder and CEO Alex Hodgson says, a busy summer.

"We closed a funding round in early July, we've hired new hands and moved to new offices," Hodgson tells Yonge Street. Amid the flurry of growth activity, the medical research database startup has also been redesigning the front and back ends of its website and adding new products.

Hodgson says that over the summer, the size of her staff has more than doubled, from four full-time employees to nine, with one more new position about to be added. She says the hiring itself has been a delicate process--so many new staff at a small startup company can dramatically affect the culture. However, she says she's confident she's found the right people.

Where to put them all has been another challenge. The company recently moved into a new 725-square-foot office space in a former U of T science building on College Street, an almost literal stone's throw from the lab where the 1DegreeBio was founded. "The space is so perfectly suited to our company," she says, "we've recycled the old science equipment into office furniture." And just months after moving in, the company is already expanding, negotiating the addition of another 500-square-feet of space to accommodate more contract staff as the company grows. 

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Alex Hodgson, CEO, 1DegreeBio

MaRS research and innovation hub to expand: Phase two construction will create 4,000 direct jobs

The MaRS Discovery District, opened in 2005, has rapidly fulfilled its intended function as a hub of research and an accelerator of innovation—an incubator of dozens of start-up companies and a link between researchers, hospitals, universities, entrepreneurs, financiers and venture capitalists. Today, more than 2,300 people are directly employed by the various tenants housed at its College Street MaRS centre, and it recently announced an expansion that will see it almost double in square footage and make it, according to the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, "the largest urban innovation hub in the world."

The phase two construction—which was always part of the long-term strategy—was halted when the global economic crisis struck in 2008. Now it's back on, with committed tenants and provincial government financing, according to MaRS Discovery District CEO Ilse Treurnicht.

The construction, now underway and scheduled for completion in September 2013, will employ 4,000 workers. Information supplied by the office of the minister of innovation suggests the job gains will not all be temporary, either: after completion, 5,000 people are expected to work at the facility, including employees of anchor tenants Public Health Ontario and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

"Today, start-ups are blooming and growing across the GTA," Treurnicht writes. "These young, high-growth companies create the majority of new jobs in modern economies.... The expanded MaRS Centre will catalyze more startups and help grow companies that will generate thousands more knowledge-based jobs in the years ahead."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Ilse Treurnicht, CEO, MaRS Discovery District; Office of the Minister of Research and Innovation; Chris Stevenson
Communications Director, MaRS

Biopharmaceutical company Eisai to establish Canadian HQ in Mississauga with staff of 11

Late last month, the provincial government and Esai Inc, a Japanese-based biopharmaceutical conglomerate, announced that the company will establish a Canadian headquarters in Mississauga. The expansion of Esai's operations will see the company invest $15 million in the region, supplemented by a provincial government grant of $2 million. What is now a one-person operation will add 11 new staff over the next five years.

Eisai first announced its expansion into Canada just over 15 months ago. Then, the company's chairman Hajime Shimizu said the Canadian operation would anchor an expansion of the Esai's marketing of its drugs in Canada as it embarked on a substantial expansion of its activity here. In a statement on the recent headquarters expansion announcement, Esai Canada president Takihiro Hirasawa said the company selected Mississauga as its headquarters because of "its exceptional talent pool, comprehensive research and clinical trial resources and unique global connections and partnerships."

The GTA centre will be conducting clinical trials and introducing the company's range of medications to Canada, including those to treat Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and breast cancer.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Lauren Tedesco, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Trade; Lynn Kenney, senior director, U.S. corporate communications for Eisai; Manufacturing Chemist

Toronto washroom hygiene innovators Hygienna flush with $50,000 from Spin Master Innovation grant

Yonge Street reported this spring that Canada's largest toy maker (and one of its fastest growing companies), Spin Master, had teamed up with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to sponsor an innovation fund that would give recipient companies $50,000 and team them up with mentors to help their businesses grow.

Citing the "innovation, passion, integrity and outstanding character" of all the recipients, Spin Master CEO Ronnen Harary announced the eight recipients of grants from the fund. Among them was one Toronto-area company, Hygienna, founded by local entrepreneur Christopher Kang. The company is focused on design innovation in the personal hygiene field; its first product is a screw-top attachment for water bottles that turns them into portable bidets.

As Kang explains here, his company was inspired by the simple realization that for many people, going to the washroom, especially a public washroom, "can be a complicated and traumatic experience, so we're out to help them solve their problem."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Harold Chizick, VP of global communications and promotions, Spin Master Ltd.

Bionik Labs brings mind-controlled prosthetics from sci-fi to reality, hires 14 in 2 months

It might be the holy grail of the prosthetics world: an artificial limb that moves in response to the thoughts of the person wearing it. And such a device has been developed by two students at Ryerson, Thiago Caires and Michal Prywata of startup Bionik Labs. The young company--less than a year old--has drawn attention from major media outlets around the world, including, locally, CBC, Global and the Toronto Star.

Prywata says they are motivated to develop medical devices that extend and enhance the lives of those suffering--they're seeking out flaws or gaps in current medical technology that they can address. Their first prototype, a robotic forearm controlled by the brainwaves of the wearer, uses brainwave technology that's already been developed for video games and fairly basic mechanical moving parts. The pair hope to eventually market the device for less than $20,000.

Another product they have under development will likely hit the market sooner, Prywata says. They have developed a mobility device that will allow paralyzed people to walk, and the company is currently seeking manufacturing facilities and regulatory approvals to commercialize the technology.

They built their invention while both were students at Ryerson, working out of Thiago's home. Since unveiling it, they have moved into the business incubator at Ryerson's DMZ, and have begun developing other products. Plans include a prosthetic hand and an artificial lung, as well as innovative surgical procedures.

Prywata says that the company is growing quickly. "We're up to 16 employees now, and this has all happened in the past two months. This spring, we didn't even have a company yet, now we have a lot of people working to build a company." He says the founders have received quite a few offers from venture capitalists already, but are waiting to further develop the company before accepting outside investment.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Michal Prywata, Bionik Labs; Toronto Star; Ryerson DMZ
135 Healthcare and Wellness Articles | Page: | Show All
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