BioNova Announces MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies as the Winner of the BioInnovation Challenge
(Halifax, NS – October 26, 2016) — They invented, they pitched, and they conquered. MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies from Nova Scotia was named winner of the sixth annual BioInnovation Challenge at BioPort 2016. The company’s ParaGlide technology, was deemed the most attractive for investment by a panel of judges dubbed The Commercialization Council and the conference audience. The ParaGlide device revolutionizes the way people are repositioned in wheelchairs in homes, hospitals and care facilities around the world. With ParaGlide, a wheelchair user can move freely from a slouched position to an upright position with the touch of a button – safely, independently and with dignity – while eliminating risk of injury to caregivers.
“Winning the BioInnovation has validated that we have a product that is meeting an unmet need in the market. We are happy that the judges and conference audience saw as much value in our product as we do. The prize package will be a tremendous help in tying up loose ends and answering our unanswered questions in the next few months as we get ready for market in 2017,” said Matthew MacKenzie, CEO of MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies.
MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies will receive a prize package that includes $15,000 in seed funding and an advisory services package worth more than $30,000 including services provided by Cox & Palmer, Jennifer Cameron PR, JLT Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sandler Training and Grant Thornton. MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies was up against NovaResp Technologies Inc. of Nova Scotia and SomaDetect Inc. of New Brunswick
With evaluation criteria, such as adaptability, market pull and consumer readiness, MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies’ edged the competition with higher marks from the judges and conference audience.
“We received a record number of applications this year for the BioInnovation Challenge and the quality was superb, there is a lot of exciting innovation happening in the sector right now,” said Scott Moffitt, managing director of BioNova. “All three companies deserve the win, but there can only be one and MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies came out on top and I wish them every success moving forward.”
The BioInnovation Challenge was created by BioNova, Nova Scotia’s life sciences industry association and several partners to help ease the transition from research laboratory to market. BioNova has worked with its sister organizations BioNB and PEI BioAlliance for the last number of years to open the competition to companies from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
This year, Daniel Boyd, the inaugural winner of BIC in 2011 sat on the Commercialization Council, “it’s exciting to be sitting on the other side of the table. The BioInnovation Challenge was a great help in the early stages of ABK Biomedical and I wish MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies every success as they move forward.”
The Commercialization Council:
Jennifer Hamilton – Senior Director, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
Daniel Boyd – Associate Professor, Dalhousie University
Chris Cowper-Smith – CEO, Spring Loaded Technology
Bill Power – R & D and Government Incentives Practice Leader, Grant Thornton
Jessica Gillis, Communications Officer
AGADA Biosciences Corp. was among 26 businesses to receive provincial government money Tuesday to help expand outside the region’s confines. The company, which received a $26,252 grant under the province’s Global Business Accelerator Program, has 10 people on staff, not including its two founders.
According to Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s website, the disease can appear at any time in life. It is widely understood as a childhood disorder, but there are many types that afflict people.
“It’s a horrible disease where children are diagnosed between two and four years of age; one hundred per cent of them die in their twenties,” AGADA co-founder Dr. Kanneboyina Nagaraju said in an interview Tuesday.
“It’s a horrible thing for parents knowing that their children are going to die.”
Nagaraju said the provincial money will help expand the young company — co-founded by Dr. Eric Hoffman, who in the late 1980s discovered the gene that causes muscular dystrophy — and enable AGADA to break into new markets in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, France, Italy and Australia. The firm has contracts with groups in those countries.
“In fact, this is one of the first human genes ever discovered; it remained as his main focus,” Nagaraju said of Hoffman.
“He needs to find a cure … for the disease.
“We wanted to expand our business in multiple different companies. We truly don’t have the expertise to go off to each market, so that means we have to hire people to help us.”
AGADA will continue to work on treatments of its own and screen possible drugs for muscular dystrophy submitted by other pharmaceutical firms, he said.
Nagaraju and Hoffman worked on a drug to combat the disease in 2008 and plan human trials next year. That drug was developed by the partners, who also own the firm ReveraGen, before they formed AGADA, said Nagaraju. AGADA did pre-clinical work on the drug.
Hoffman, who is based in Washington, D.C., spends part of every year in Nova Scotia. Nagaraju, a professor of integrated systems, biology and pediatrics at the Children’s National Medical Centre in that city, frequently travels to the province.
Nagaraju said big pharmaceutical companies often focus on diseases that affect a large number of people but not rare diseases, which AGADA focuses on.
Agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European medical regulators have recently become more helpful, and the focus on rare disease has heightened, said Nagaraju. That shift has helped AGADA because big companies are bringing trial drugs to the Halifax firm for screening, he said.
Blind trials are done at AGADA’s headquarters in the Dalhousie Life Sciences Building on Summer Street, where it has laboratories and offices. The company rents from Innovacorp and Dalhousie University.
AGADA is just a year old, and Nagaraju said the funding will help accelerate it beyond Nova Scotia borders.
“We are in the very early stages.”
familial exudative vitreoretinopathy, or FEVR. One in 15 babies born in Canada has what’s called an orphan disease. And even though there are more than 7,000 such diseases that affect over 300 million people globally, they’re considered rare.
“If you look at use of beds in pediatric hospitals, the estimate is one in three kids is there because of a genetic condition,” says Dr. Chris McMaster, professor and head of Dalhousie’s Department of Pharmacology. “This high incidence of hospitalization is due to the fact that 95 per cent of orphan diseases have no treatment.”
Major pharmaceutical companies generally concentrate on drugs that treat common conditions, so orphan diseases – most of which are genetic – haven’t been a priority, as their name suggests.Working with partners such as Halifax’s Agada Biosciences and the Vancouver-based Centre for Drug Research and Development, Dalhousie Medical School researchers are taking new orphan disease treatments from the lab and moving them to market.
“I’ve seen first-hand how Dr. McMaster and his team have been diligently working to advance their research and build partnerships,” said Stephen Hartlen, Dalhousie’s assistant vice-president of industry relations and executive director of the university’s Industry Liaison and Innovation Office. “The dedication and commitment to developing new medicines for patients who are impacted by these orphan diseases is both honourable and commendable.”
Through a project announced Tuesday (September 13), $3-million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and additional project support from Agada Biosciences and Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, making it worth a total of $4.5 million will enable orphan disease drug discovery work and will also result in the training of several highly qualified scientists with expertise in getting treatments from the laboratory to the medicine cabinet.
“Ninety per cent of orphan diseases are life-limiting, and 35 per cent of children born with them don’t make it to their fifth birthday,” says Dr. McMaster. “However, advances in knowledge and technology by clinicians and scientists in Nova Scotia have made it possible to move toward treatments for orphan disease patients, so we can now help these Canadian children in need.”
The zebrafish facility, located in Dalhousie’s Life Sciences Research Institute, will be key to advancing the drug discovery. Zebrafish share many genes with humans, so they’re excellent models for testing the safety and efficacy of treatments.
“This project will help establish the Atlantic region as a centre of excellence in orphan disease drug development,” says Dr. McMaster. “We’ll be leveraging the scientific expertise within our Zebrafish Core Facility to conduct drug screenings and to identify future drug development efforts.”
“It’s a brave new world for genetic conditions, and it’s a perfect storm for us right now in Halifax,” says Dr. McMaster. “We’re identifying genetic links behind orphan diseases, finding targets for therapeutic intervention, and developing compounds that can be turned into medications. So not only will we have faster, more precise diagnoses, we’ll have more precise, targeted treatments for patients.”
As Nova Scotia’s life sciences sector has grown and evolved, BioNova has grown along with it, and we felt it was time to reflect that growth.
In the last year we’ve experienced a lot of changes with the implementation of BioNova’s Growth Plan and will continue to see changes as we move towards building a bigger and better ecosystem to grow the life sciences in Nova Scotia.
When we made these changes, we realized that our brand elements didn’t express us quite as well as they used to. It was time for a brand refresh to reflect who we are today and to symbolize our dynamic future.
We will be discussing our next steps and opportunities for growth for BioNova and for the sector at BioPort Atlantic in two weeks time on October 25-26. If you haven’t already registered yet, I encourage you to do so as these are discussions you will not want to miss!
In the upcoming months we have to update all of our collaterals, marketing literature, online presence, etc. with our new logo. We are aware that changing a logo is a process that can involve many steps and takes time. We will do our best to reach out to everyone who uses BioNova’s logo in any marketing materials but please contact our marketing officer, Emma Menchefski for the new logo and guidelines if you plan to update any of these materials in the near future.
All the best,