ACOA makes investment in Dal innovation for women's health
Ryan McNutt - October 25, 2012
To say that researcher Daniel Boyd was excited about Tuesday’s Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announcement at Dal would be a bit of an understatement.
“What ACOA has announced today for us, you can’t just put a value of half a million dollars on it,” said Dr. Boyd, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Oral Sciences and the School of Biomedical Engineering.
He’s also the chief scientific officer of ABK Biomedical, the startup company based on his research that is receiving a repayable loan of almost $500,000 from ACOA to bring its novel treatment for benign tumours to market.
“That money will help us execute our business plan and bring our technology to market realization in 18 months. But it’s more than that: ACOA are always available on the phone, always willing to meet . . . making sure that we’re on a target and a trajectory that will bring a return on this investment to the Atlantic Canada provinces in as short a time as possible.”
Medical problem, innovative solution
ABK Biomedical’s product, which won BioNova’s inaugural BioInnovation Challenge last year, is designed to treat benign tumours in the uterus called uterine fibroids, which affect approximately 40 per cent of women over the age of 35. They can be cured by either an invasive hysterectomy or by using tiny particles to impede blood flow to the tumour.
The problem with the latter method to-date is that it has required toxic X-ray dyes to help visualize where the particles go – an indirect measure that carries risk for the patient and the doctor.
Not so with ABK Biomedical’s solution, which is equally as minimally-invasive but the parties used by ABK Biomedical are visible in X-rays. This eliminates the need for the toxic dyes, making the procedure safer and quicker.
“A technology with the potential to help nearly one-quarter of the people on earth over the age of 35 makes both a strong humanitarian and a strong business case,” said the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of State (ACOA) (La Fracophonie) who made the announcement Tuesday at Dal’s Life Sciences Research Centre.
Daniel Boyd’s co-investigators on the project, Sharon Kehoe (postdoctoral fellow, Department of Applied Oral Sciences) and Bob Abraham (Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Faculty of Medicine), were crucial to the project. Dr. Abraham, in fact, was the clinician who brought the issue to Dr. Boyd, starting the process on working for a solution.
“We’ve got this cool technology that absolutely eliminates one of the primary deficiencies in the ability for doctors like Dr. Abraham to treat uterine fibroids without the need for a hysterectomy,” said Dr. Boyd. “And it was developed in a life sciences R&D lab here in Nova Scotia.”
A team effort
The project has also received funding from Springboard Atlantic, Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Innovacorp. Dalhousie Industry Liaison and Innovation has been involved from the get-go, and the company just hired its new CEO.
“I just love the passion here,” said Stephen Hartlen, assistant vice-president of industry liaison at Dalhousie, who called the research another great example of how the Life Sciences Research Institute serves as an incubator for innovation.
“The ecosystem not only breeds innovation for the university but helps improve Nova Scotia’s economy,” he said. “Life sciences are not only critical for improving patient care; they’re also valuable player in our provincial economy.”