ENTREVESTOR: Zecken Targets Lyme Disease

By | News | No Comments

See original post here

By Peter Moreira

For the past few years Kami Harris has received 1,000 ticks annually at her office at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. She hopes it continues. Her business model depends on it.

Some come from scientists, some from New Brunswick’s Natural Resources Department, others from members of the public who have heard about her work in ticks and Lyme disease.

Harris is the founder and CEO of Zecken Laboratories, which is dedicated to enhancing the diagnosis of Lyme disease. She has been studying ticks and Lyme disease for her PhD at Mount A, and now she is transforming her research into a company. Her faith in the endeavour is based in part on the growing public awareness and fear of Lyme disease.

“We’ve gone in five years from people thinking, ‘This could happen in the Maritimes’ to ‘This is a big problem,’” Harris told the BioPort Atlantic conference in Halifax last week. “Half my day already goes to answering emails from people who know I’m the ‘tick girl.’”

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by blood-feeding insects, particularly deer ticks. And as the climate warms, ticks are spreading north and their bites are becoming more common in the Maritimes. Concern about Lyme disease is growing.

Harris said there are actually 21 types of Lyme disease but current diagnostic tests only identify one type. That means about 90 per cent of the instances of Lyme disease go undetected, which can lead to long-term health problems. What Zecken is doing is devising products that can identify markers in the other types of Lyme disease to improve diagnosis and therefore generate more treatment.

The company has already identified peptides that show the presence of the affliction, and continues to research the disease to identify new strains as they come along.

“We’re not only going to give you the right information; we’ll give you more information,” Harris said. “We’ll be able to tell you the type of Lyme disease you have.”

At BioPort, Zecken was a finalist in the BioInnovation Challenge, the region’s main pitching competition for life sciences competitions. Earlier this year, it was a semifinalist in Breakthru, the main startup competition in New Brunswick. Soon it will be ready to start bringing in revenue.

The company is planning a basic swab test for consumers in 2018. For $50, consumers can swab their mouths at home, send the sample to the company and learn if they have Lyme disease and if so what type. Harris said this service will not require regulatory approval.

The swab service will bring in revenues as the company seeks regulatory clearance for more sophisticated products, such as a blood test to detect Lyme disease for health-care providers. It also wants a business-to-business product to offer to such industries as forestry, where tick bites are a growing concern.

So far, the company’s research has been financed through Harris’ research funding, but she and her three teammates know they will need a more structured financing model.

They will probably aim for a $250,000 funding round in their first year.

ENTREVESTOR: Embracing Changes in Healthcare

By | News | No Comments

See original Entrevestor article here

By: Peter Moreira
Delegates to BioPort 2017 on Wednesday were told of the impact of recent life sciences innovation in Atlantic Canada and encouraged to embrace further change.

The impact so far is found in the fact that $1 billion has flowed into Atlantic Canada in the last six years from exits by companies in the life sciences and digital health space, and follow-on investment by the companies that bought them.

BioPort is the annual get-together for life sciences entrepreneurs and innovators in the region, and the gathering this year celebrated the growth of biotech in the region, especially in New Brunswick. Pfera Inc., the winner of the BioInnovation Challenge, the conference’s $45,000 pitching competition, is from New Brunswick, as are Zecken Laboratories and Tieös Pharmaceuticals Inc., the two other finalists in the event. (Read our full report on the BioInnovation Challenge.)

The delegates were told to embrace further innovations, especially in overall healthcare.

Peter Vaughan, Chair of Canada Health Infoway and Nova Scotia’s former Deputy Health Minister, urged the delegates to embrace current innovations in healthcare – not just futuristic technologies on the horizon but products that are on the market now.

For example, he cited such companies as Babylon Healthcare in the U.K. and the Mercy Virtual in St. Louis as organizations that are cutting costs and meeting patient requirements through online and video consultations, often including drug delivery.

Patient surveys show that citizens want modern medical processes like e-prescriptions, online access to their medical records and timely medical consultations – goals met by groups like Babylon and Mercy. These organizations also meet the needs of government, as provinces spend upwards of 40 percent of their budgets on healthcare, only to find that 30 percent of healthcare spending has no value, said Vaughan.

“You’re starting to get a picture of what’s available in the present,” said Vaughan. “So how do we take these things and change the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind – access to healthcare?”

Vaughan said the future of healthcare is found in data because the analysis of vast reams of healthcare data reveals patterns that can predict severe health problems. This data can signal a problem is imminent so measures can be taken to prevent a crisis. Multinationals like Google, Apple and Amazon are now analyzing such data in the cloud, he said, but there is an opportunity for public, open data projects that could benefit everyone. He called on the Atlantic Provinces to come together to pioneer such a project with the data from its 2.2 million residents.

“We in this country have the opportunity to produce a publicly funded ecosystem,” he told the assembled innovators. “This is the opportunity we face in Atlantic Canada. We can be that industry and then you can have access to more information than you ever imagined.”

Scott Moffitt, Executive Director of BioNova, said in an interview there is evidence the life sciences segment in the region is evolving as exits in the space have created about $1 billion in investment.

The exits of the past few years in the life sciences and digital health segments have included the sale of Ocean Nutrition Canada of Dartmouth for $540 million, BioVectra of Charlottetown for $100 million, and STI Technologies of Halifax, reportedly for more than $200 million. Moffitt said his tally also included other exits and investments that the purchasing companies made after the purchases closed.

ENTREVESTOR: Pfera Wins BioInnovation Challenge

By | News | No Comments

See original Entrevestor article here
By Peter Moreira

Pfera, the Fredericton company that helps horse breeders predict when their mares will give birth, won the $45,000 BioInnovation Challenge on Wednesday, its second big competition win this year.

Now in its seventh year, the BIC is the main competition for young life sciences companies in the region, and is a highlight of the annual BioPort Atlantic conference. As well as winning the BIC, Pfera CEO Lisa Pfister earlier this year won the $375,000 first prize at the Breakthru competition, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial startup contest.

“I am really excited about what the future holds for us,” said Pfister after the win. “We really enjoyed the whole process, the mentorship and training were invaluable and we will make good use of our cash and in-kind services to take us to the next level.”

Read Our Report on BioPort 2017

Pfera is developing a suite of products to reduce costs and improve survival rates in the breeding of horses. Horse breeding is now a $10.6 billion business and Pfera has already successfully tested its first product, a patent-pending device and software that tell breeders when their mares will give birth.

There’s now a range of about 50 days of when a mare could go into labour, and someone has to watch the horse 24 hours a day during this time. Pfister said Pfera tested its system on 10 horses in P.E.I. this spring and saw vast improvements.

“We were able to get the notice four days ahead of time,” said Pfister. “We were able to narrow [the predicted delivery time] to within four to eight hours and we’re improving on that all the time.” One of the horses was Pfister’s own mare, and she was able to fly into P.E.I. six hours before the birth because of her technology.

As the winner of the BIC, Pfera will receive a $15,000 seed investment and a package of support services and mentoring valued at more than $30,000.

The company plans to publish the results of its first test at veterinary conferences this year and go into clinical trials early next year. It’s planning a launch in late 2018 or early 2019.

Pfera is also working on a breeding platform for the horse community that contains data on each mare and helps tell when it’s the best time to breed. Pfister added the company is working on a third product, though it is keeping this project under wraps for now.

The BIC event was a big win for the bio-sciences sector in New Brunswick as all three finalists hail from that province.  The other two finalists were:

• Tieös Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Moncton, aims to create new paradigms in cancer treatment by targeting several “metabolic pathways” simultaneously to prevent cancer cells from spreading.  Arun Anand, CEO, told the audience that cancer is believed to be caused by genetic mutations, but his team believes that the causes are actually metabolic (meaning tumors are created by non-genetic factors). Tieös plans to revolutionize cancer care by taking a number of actions based on this theory to starve cancer cells of their energy and ability to reproduce.

• Zecken Laboratories, of Sackville, is enhancing the diagnosis of Lyme disease. CEO Kami Harris has been studying ticks and Lyme disease for her PhD at Mount Allison University, and now she is transforming her research into a company. She said there are actually 21 types of Lyme disease, but current diagnostic tests only identify one type. That means about 90 percent of the instances of Lyme disease go undetected, which can lead to long-term health problems. Zecken has already identified peptides that show the presence of the affliction and continues to research the disease to identify new strains as they come along.