Dal medical companies - part of an economic and patient-health ecosystem

Major ACOA investment in Dal spin-outs

Ryan McNutt - September 17, 2012

President Traves speaks at the ACOA announcement event. (Danny Abriel photo)
President Traves speaks at the ACOA announcement event. (Danny Abriel photo)

On Thursday, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced $1 million in support of two Dalhousie spin-out companies making big advances in health care.

The companies—Thorasys and DeNovaMed—stand as examples of how Dalhousie medical research is making its way out of the lab to the patients who need it.

“This is what happens when you bring scientists, students and entrepreneurs together in one location: you create an ecosystem,” said Dal President Tom Traves, speaking at the announcement event in Dal’s Life Sciences Research Institute.

“The ecosystem creates collaboration. The collaboration helps bring research to market, putting it into the hands of the people who will benefit most. This is what we had in mind many years ago when we first started talking about the Life Sciences Research Institute.”

A better measurement for asthma patients


The announcement, made by Gregg Kerr, member of parliament for West Nova on behalf of the Honourable Bernard Valcourt (minister of state, ACOA), marked a key milestone in the history of two Dal success stories.

Thorasys, a medical device company, started with a collaboration between Geoff Maksym, currently the director of Dal’s School of Biomedical Engineering, and Thomas Schuessler, who serves as president and CEO of Thorasys. The company’s tremoFlo device, presented at the most recent European Respiratory Society convention to rave feedback, provides an easier, more accurate method of measuring airway function in asthma patients than the Spirometry that’s currently in use.

“Our portable tremoFlo allows direct, detailed measurements of airway obstruction and lung function in large majorities of these patients [who struggle with current techniques]…the patient just breathes normally,” said Schuessler at the announcement. “It’s a technique that is easy, fast and offers addition insights into disease mechanism that Spirometry cannot provide.”

With the support from ACOA, the company is preparing for commercial launch in North America and Europe in the next 12 months.

Learn more: Thorasys website

Treatments for superbugs


DeNovaMed, founded by Dalhousie researchers Christopher McMaster, David Byers and Donald Weaver, is developing novel antibiotics to help treat infections from so-called “superbugs” such as methicillin-resistant Staph (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).

Christopher Barden, chief operating officer of DeNovaMed, said that the new funding would help support the further verification of the company’s antibiotics and enable market readiness in the not-too-distant future.

“New classes of antibiotics are the weapons that physicians and patients really need: drugs that are completely different in the structure and mechanism of action from antibiotics of old,” explained Dr. Barden. “There are too few of these truly new antibiotics in development, but I am proud to be part of a company that is taking on this challenge.”

Read also: Striking a bold blow in the battle against bacteria (DeNovaMed profile - April 2, 2012)

Dr. Traves added that the announcement was further recognition of how university research can play a key role in economic development.

“Commercialization is the natural extension of the research done by universities, and Dalhousie and its affiliated teaching hospitals will continue to provide the world-class research capacity that leads to innovation and serve as a catalyst of progressive growth for many years to come.”


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