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March 22, 2017 [OTTAWA] – Canada’s biotech industry today welcomed the federal budget and its measures supporting the advancement of Canadian innovation in biotechnology centered sectors such as health/bio-sciences, clean technology and agri-food. Importantly the budget proposes support for the acceleration of innovation through the establishment of sector specific superclusters, including health/bio-sciences, agri-food and clean technology.
“The core of our industry is innovation – much of it coming out of universities. The Budget’s focus on innovation and creating super clusters in biotechnology centered fields including health/bio-sciences, agri-food, and clean technology recognizes Canada’s strengths in these areas and the enormous opportunity for the economy in successfully advancing biotechnology innovation. Today’s commitments will result in products and therapies of the future and will accelerate the use of biotechnology in supporting the global competitiveness of Canada’s traditional cornerstone economic sectors of agriculture, forestry, mining, energy and advanced manufacturing,” commented Andrew Casey, President and CEO BIOTECanada.
Drawing on the nation’s rich legacy of research, Canada now has an opportunity to become one of the world’s most successful modern biotech regions by transitioning its traditional industries into the new economy while drawing on its considerable strength of its investment in research. From universities, small mid-sized companies, hospitals and public research agencies across the country, Canadian biotech scientists make up the ecosystem ensuring Canada’s biotechnology sector thrive.
Importantly, Canada already has in place many of the components necessary for global competitiveness and success in biotechnology. Indeed, Canada is home to a number of regional clusters which bring together: world-class universities and research institutes; biotech entrepreneurs; a significant multinational industry presence; and, a highly educated workforce. All told, the Canadian national biotech ecosystem is an economic strength that positions Canada well to compete in the emerging global bio-economy. The Budget will help harness many of these strengths to accelerate Canada’s biotechnology innovation progress.
BIOTECanada looks forward to working with the federal government over the months ahead, offering a coordinated set of recommendations and mechanisms for the announced programs. Implementation consultations are key to ensuring the commitments realize the potential they offer to the biotechnology industry.
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Working to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients with diabetic retinopathy
Nearly 90 percent of people living with diabetes will eventually go blind. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by diseased vessels in the retina leaking blood components or hemorrhaging. The affects increasingly distort vision because of scarring of the retina and, in its most advanced stage, leads to blindness. The damage is irreparable increasing the importance of early diagnosis.
The current diagnostic procedure is Fluorescein Angiography, a standard eye test performed by an ophthalmologist, who uses a special dye and camera to look at blood flow in the retina. The ophthalmologist visually reads the images and provides a diagnosis based on qualitative analysis. The founder of Emagix, Dr. Alon Friedman together with his team, developed software that reduces the testing time while enhancing the current images and providing results that enable a quantitative analysis. The software uses an algorithm that processes multiple images to produce a single, finer grain image, which makes previously imperceptible leaks from tiny capillaries as noticeable as much larger leaks from bigger vessels. In short, this innovation promises to reduce the subjectivity involved in reading the test results dramatically. Additionally, this process will enable much more precise and objective analysis of treatment effectiveness.
Dr. Friedman moved his research to Dalhousie University from Ben-Gurion University in Israel in 2014 after being attracted to the university and the province of Nova Scotia because of its business community and provincial support from organizations such as ACOA, Innovacorp and BioNova. The gain was also a big one for Dalhousie, Dr. Friedman is one of the top researchers globally in his field and has received over $9 million in research funding over the past decade.
The software can be integrated into existing equipment and will provide ophthalmologists with much more valuable data that promises to significantly improve diagnosis and treatment efficacy not only for patients at risk of diabetic retinopathy but also patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, Stroke, brain injuries and other diseases that are caused by leakage from blood vessels.]]>
Originally featured in LINK Magazine
Revolutionizing the way people are repositioned in wheelchairs in homes, hospitals and care facilities around the world.
Nova Scotians working in the healthcare sector have the highest rate of workplace injury compared to any other industry, with musculoskeletal injuries to healthcare workers costing Nova Scotia taxpayers $100 million annually. These injuries are frequently caused by continuing care workers repositioning patients in wheelchairs who are unable to reposition themselves.
MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies, in collaboration with NSCC and Northwood, a leading long-term care facility in Halifax, has developed The Paraglide system to help alleviate this problem. Paraglide is a wheelchair repositioning system that brings mechanical innovation to the currently injury-prone and undignified task of moving someone in a wheelchair from a slouched position to an upright position.
The Paraglide device will be the first of its kind that will allow people who become slouched forward in wheelchairs to reposition themselves at the touch of a button, removing the reliance of a caregiver and giving them dignity and independence. The device will also eliminate the risk of caregiver injury for this task, prevent pressure injuries (bed sores), and save resources in healthcare facilities, nursing homes, homecare, governments and injury-related insurance coverage for both wheelchair users and caregivers alike.
Paraglide, made of lightweight aluminum, contains a motor, gears, and electronics which attach to the back of the wheelchair. The device uses a wireless remote control, rotating and pulling a specially designed fabric sheet along the seat of the wheelchair thereby moving the person automatically. When the button is released the device releases the sheet, allowing enough slack for the individual to make their way forward again, allowing free movement.
Last October, MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies was named the winner of the sixth annual BioInnovation Challenge (Presented by BioNova) chosen by a panel of judges for its adaptability, market pull, and consumer readiness. The prize package valued at more than $30,000, contained a seed investment and a package of advisory services that the company has used to advance its production as it prepares for the market this summer.]]>
Nova Scotia’s Unique Comprehensive Approach
Nova Scotia provides a rare opportunity to develop innovative technologies such as the technology Densitas has developed for the mammography enterprise. The Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program (NSBSP) has repeatedly innovated, with a focus on improving quality and service delivery. A pillar of its success has been a unique home grown breast information system that allows the program to evaluate clinical outcomes and develop evidence based strategies for breast health care. The health of Nova Scotians is better for it. The availability of this kind of data is unusual. It provides the opportunity for Densitas to establish collaborative research agreements with researchers to rapidly prototype and validate new technologies with the women of Nova Scotia directly benefiting from these innovations.
“We are very fortunate to be able to collaborate with the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program, the IWK and the Nova Scotia Health Authority,” says Abdolell. “The innovation agenda and the collaborative environment in Nova Scotia allows Densitas to develop and test technologies rapidly, accelerating our pathway to commercialization.”
The ability to link mammograms with clinical outcomes provides a unique opportunity for the application of big data analytics to tackle the big challenges in breast screening that relate to breast density, mammography quality and clinical workflow. This means that Densitas can develop unique technologies and validate them before going to market.
“In an environment that is moving from volume based to value based healthcare, it is important that new technologies can demonstrate improved health outcomes. This kind of health Developing Meaningful Data-Driven Healthcare Products Mohamed Abdolell, founder and CEO of Densitas technology assessment can only be done if the right data has been collected,” says Abdolell. “Historically, products have often been introduced into the market without such health technology assessment reviews. We are in an enviable position in Nova Scotia whereby we can validate our technologies first, which makes for improved health care outcomes as well as a more rapid path to market.”
The Support of an Innovative Ecosystem
Abdolell finds the company has also significantly benefited from the supportive funding ecosystem in Nova Scotia. He credits organizations such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the National Research Council (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program, Innovacorp, BioNova, NSBI, Learnsphere, the Canadian Trade Commission, and others, not only for their assistance and counsel, but for providing a supportive infrastructure that attracts interest from investors and big players in the healthcare industry internationally.
“We have attracted international interest in what we are doing, and that is partly due to the unique data holdings in Nova Scotia and partly as a function of this ecosystem here,” explains Abdolell. “You can’t underestimate the value of that. There aren’t many places that have this type of supportive infrastructure.”
The company has also received international recognition from programs in Silicon Valley, Chicago, and Toronto. In early 2016 the company was selected to participate in Dose of the Valley, an exclusive workshop for some of Canada’s most promising life sciences companies to engage with key US stakeholders. Densitas was also selected for a residency at Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLABS@Toronto, located at the MaRS Discovery District, which will allow them to participate in the medical technology innovation and commercialization network in Toronto. In February (2017) the company will head to Chicago to participate in the Canada-Chicago Mentoring Program (C2MP), which catalyzes technology commercialization opportunities in the Chicago area by matching experienced and supportive mentoring teams with early stage innovators who can help strategize entry into the US market.
“We just submitted our FDA 510K application, and we are looking forward to entering the US market, so our participation in C2MP is coming at a great time, and we are quite excited about that,” said Abdolell.
Abdolell and his team at Densitas are gearing up for a big year in 2017 with plans to enter the European and Canadian markets, and moving forward with US markets once it receives FDA clearance for its flagship product, DM-Density. Looking ahead, the team will continue to develop new technologies in their product pipeline.]]>