ENTREVESTOR: Zecken Targets Lyme Disease

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.]]>

Appili Therapeutics Raises $3M to Advance Its Anti-Infective Pipeline

For Immediate Release October 23, 2017 – HALIFAX, Nova Scotia –– Appili Therapeutics Inc. (the “Company” or “Appili”), an anti-infective drug development company, announced today it raised $3,062,000 in a private placement financing, bringing the total equity raised since its seed round in March 2016 to $7,477,000. This private placement includes investments from new and current investors including Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s early stage venture capital organization. Proceeds from the financing will be used to fund operations and the continued growth of the company. Specifically, the additional funding will enable Appili to advance its pipeline of anti-infectives and move its lead antibiotic, a taste-masked treatment for anaerobic infections, into the clinic. “Appili has assembled a team with the proven ability to bring new antibiotics to market, and has made remarkable progress in building a pipeline that addresses major unmet needs in bacterial infections,” said Dr. Lidija Marušić, life sciences investment manager at Innovacorp and member of Appili’s Board of Directors. Innovacorp has participated in all of Appili’s financing rounds. “There is a robust market opportunity for antibiotics that really bring value and the successful closing of this financing round reflects that,” said Kimberly Stephens, CFO of Appili Therapeutics. “We appreciate the confidence investors have in our strategy to build a balanced-risk pipeline of products designed to treat the most serious and drug-resistant infections affecting patients today,” said Kevin Sullivan, CEO of Appili Therapeutics. Appili is dedicated to identifying, acquiring and advancing novel therapeutics for infectious disease. The Company has two anti-infective programs, ATI-1501 and ATI-1503, in its pipeline. ATI-1501 is a taste-masked treatment for anaerobic infections that has been granted orphan drug status by the FDA. Appili plans to take ATI-1501 into clinical trials in 2017. Appili’s second product, ATI-1503, is a novel antibiotic with broad potential to treat deadly Gram-negative infections. These drug-resistant infections have been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization as posing the highest threat to human health. For more information visit www.AppiliTherapeutics.com. For more information, please contact: Jennifer Cameron 902.209.4704 media@AppiliTherapeutics.com Investor Relations Kimberly Stephens, CFO Appili Therapeutics info@AppiliTherapeutics.com]]>

QEII Times: The computer that learns: QEII researchers strive for digital doctor

see original story here The future is now at the QEII Health Sciences Centre as researchers take their first steps toward artificial intelligence — a computer program with the ability to review tremendous sums of data, learn from its clinical colleagues, and in this case, even find cancer. The Biomedical Translational Imaging Centre, or BIOTIC, is an interdisciplinary group dedicated to the advancement and implementation of medical imaging technologies which, put simply, allow physicians to see a patient’s insides in the absence of a scalpel. Examples of these are MRI, CT and X-ray, all of which are interpreted, sooner or later, by radiologists. Dr. Sharon Clarke is one such radiologist and an active member of the BIOTIC team. Her line of work requires the routine interpretation of many thousands of these medical images, any one of which could contain information crucial to a patient’s wellbeing, from the outline of a tumour to the telltale fracture of a broken bone. “When you are on call at 4 a.m. with 1,500 images to look through, it would be nice to have a ‘second pair of eyes’ in the form of computer assisted diagnosis, to improve efficiency.” A computer program capable of sifting through these numerous images and pointing clinicians in the right direction has been on her mind for some time now. With the recruitment of computer science students Peter Lakner and Peter Lee through Dalhousie University, as well as support from physicists Steve Patterson and Chris Bowen, and pathologists Dr. Jennifer Merrimen and Dr. Cheng Wang, Dr. Clarke has spent the last couple years converting concept into computer code. “Artificial intelligence in radiology has become the hottest topic around,” says Dr. Steven Beyea, a physicist and scientific lead of the BIOTIC team. In the course of radiology conferences and from the lips of industry leaders, Dr. Beyea has heard the interest in, and inevitability of, these game-changing technologies. One of the major players in this forthcoming revolution is General Electric Healthcare, a subsidiary of General Electric (GE), which has invested heavily in the creation of exactly this sort of artificial intelligence. And with additional funds coming from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), some of that GE investment has reached Dr. Clarke and the BIOTIC team. As she describes it, the program they’re building is able to review MRI scans of prostate cancer in which she’s already pointed out the tumour. In this way the program learns how to recognize the tumour, and with each passing lesson it becomes more and more capable of identifying prostate cancer on its own, theoretically without limit. “I really don’t think radiology as a field is under threat by this new technology,” says Dr. Clarke, well aware of the fear that computers will replace professionals, particularly among the professionals themselves. She says the artificial intelligence presently “in training” is similar to spell-check, supplying radiologists with a second set of eyes rather than replacing them outright. Much like spell-check, this program is susceptible to mistakes in its search for tumours and will always require human oversight, but in time it has incredible potential to support the efficiency and accuracy of radiological work. While it’s being put through its paces on prostate cancer, Dr. Clarke says there’s no reason it couldn’t be applied to every organ in the body, given time, expertise and continued investment. “I think this will be very helpful to radiologists,” she says, “integrated into our daily lives the same as any other medical tool.” For the time being, her digital pupil is still very much in its early stages and an end-date for technology this new is difficult to set, but Dr. Beyea has been working closely with GE Healthcare to plan out next steps, including considerations for testing, regulating and implementing. “It’s not a matter of if,” he says, “but when.”]]>

ENTREVESTOR: Embracing Changes in Healthcare

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

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.  ]]>