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Darren Rowles is CEO and president of Nova Scotia-based biotech firm Sona Nanotech. Having worked with gold nanoparticles for the past 15 years, he explains the role that they currently play in the healthcare industry and their revolutionary potential.
Analysts predict that the global, gold nanoparticles market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18.84% between 2017 and 2021, driven largely by increasing demand for medical applications.Having travelled extensively over the last few months, discussing this breakthrough and identifying new partners and opportunities, I have experienced first-hand the growing demand for innovative gold nanoparticle products. China in particular is a vast untapped market with the healthcare industry being especially focused on lateral flow diagnostic testing products, specifically those targeting heart disease. The country has more than a quarter of the worldwide market for these products but local manufacturers often make gold nanoparticles in-house and quality control is poor. This leads to a sub-optimal final diagnostic product so firms are moving to other methods of clinical diagnostic testing, using markers such as fluorescent markers and quantum dots. While these methods are new and innovative, they are more expensive than gold and don’t necessarily produce better results. Looking ahead, there is an enormous opportunity for lateral flow diagnostic manufacturers in China to create better quality, stable gold nanoparticles, which can be reliably produced at scale. It is not a complex issue and it would help to drive the availability of high-quality, cost-effective healthcare solutions around the world, and Sona is committed to making this happen. For those of us working in the field, it is exciting to see the technological innovations and breakthroughs involving gold nanoparticles – and the business and investment opportunities that stem from them. Indeed, analysts predict that the global, gold nanoparticles market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18.84% between 2017 and 2021, driven largely by increasing demand for medical applications from home or point-of-care testing to drug delivery in cancer treatment. While the quantities of gold used in these types of application are small, the added value and impact to individuals are potentially very significant. This branch of science and technology has much to offer in the twenty-first century and beyond.
See original story here The shareholders of Halifax-based Stockport Exploration have approved the company’s merger with Sona Nanotech, completing another step in the merged company’s path to a stock market listing. The companies on Friday released a statement saying the Stockport shareholders voted 99 percent in favour of the merger last Thursday. The meeting was attended by 18 Stockport investors, as well as employees and board members from both companies. Halifax-based Sona Nanotech, which produces gold nanorods, agreed last year to merge with publicly listed mining concern Stockport Exploration and raise about $700,000 in a private placement. The merged company will focus solely on Sona’s core business of producing gold nanorods. If the deal passes all the relevant regulatory requirements, the parties say it should close within the next few weeks, paving the way for the listing on the TSX Venture exchange. “We see the vote as also being a vote of confidence in our ambitious plans for Sona,” said Sona CEO Darren Rowles in the statement. “This merger will give Sona a strong and stable financial foundation from which to build our brand in the life sciences market.” Sona was formed by St. F.X. University profs Gerrard Marangoni, Michael McAlduff and Kulbir Singh to commercialize their research in nanotechnology, which includes health-care applications such as cancer treatment. The founders discovered a way to produce gold nanoparticles free of a toxic substance called cetrimonium bromide, or CTAB. The rod-shaped nanoparticles are known to have uses in several tasks associated with medicine, such as diagnostics, but traditional methods of making the microscopic particle create toxic substances in the process. The company’s founders believe absence of the toxic substance makes Sona’s nanoparticles ideal for a range of medical applications. Having recently recruited Rowles from Wales, Sona also recruited a new nanotechnology scientist and is recruiting a new business development manager. It plans to hire up to five new members of staff in total by the end of 2018. It now plans to relocate its facilities and team to the Halifax-Dartmouth area from Antigonish, and is actively looking for new premises.]]>
See original article here Written by Darren Rowles , CEO of Sona Nanotech Having been a scientist for more than 15 years, I’ve seen my fair share of science-based startups come and go. Those that succeed tend to do so through a combination of good products, good business sense and good fortune. Often a good enough product or idea can compensate for a lack of business sense, and some companies succeed through sheer luck alone. But many others fall by the wayside before they even get a chance to succeed. Without a good business plan and knowledge of the market even the best products and ideas can fail. The simple fact is, many scientists lack the business acumen and motivation needed to take their idea or product to market. I don’t say this as a criticism, just an observation; many scientists have absolutely no interest in business, finance or commerce and that’s fine. Take my company, Sona Nanotech, for example. The team at Sona comprises brilliant scientists who have developed unique products – the world’s first toxin-free gold nanorods. But they lacked the knowledge and contacts to gain the vital market access they needed to make the products a commercial success. Over Sona’s brief history there has been no shortage of would-be investors willing to back the company and its products, but it was difficult for the team to properly capitalize on these offers without a solid commercial strategy. That’s why I was brought on board as CEO and president at the end of last year, because I know the market, I am comfortable in business environments, I can talk the language and I can build relationships and partnerships. Read our Report on Sona’s Plan To List on the TSX Venture Coming from the U.K., I am having to learn how to navigate an entirely new and unfamiliar system here in Nova Scotia, so I can understand some of the difficulties other life science startups in the province face when it comes to commercializing their own products. For example, after an initial successful application a couple of years ago, we applied to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for further funding, but not being very familiar with the system and wanting to get the best out of it meant we needed help. So, we brought in a consultant to help us better understand the system and how to access the different tiers of funding programs. As a result, our current application stands a better chance than most. There are also operational issues to consider. Take facilities, for example. We are incredibly lucky and grateful that we have been able to operate the company out of lab space at St. Francis Xavier University. But now we need a new space to accommodate our growth and have been looking around for somewhere suitable. Many life sciences startups will no doubt be in the same position, having spun out of one of the province’s excellent universities they will be looking for a permanent base from which to grow. Luckily there are options for us in the Halifax area, and for startups there are several incubation hubs in the region that can offer superb facilities. However, finding those facilities and negotiating a good deal can be difficult if you aren’t commercially minded. Logistics is another issue. We recently needed to buy in some specialist equipment from the U.S., but to do so we had to use brokers to deal with the import/export costs and supply chain logistics, something which came as a bit of a surprise. ABK Raises $9M in Equity Financing Nova Scotia has a healthy and growing life sciences sector. Worth around $300 million and centered on the Halifax area, it is home to more than 50 companies that employ around 1,100 people. There are also some incredible life science startups dotted throughout Nova Scotia, but unless they receive proper business support many are going to struggle to fully realize their potential. Life sciences if a fast-moving global sector, and startups need interaction with industry partners, access to programs of funding and, most importantly, access to the market. And this can’t just be access to market reports, because those can be sourced online, but real market access, company databases, contact info and the opportunity of actually getting in front of the key decision-makers in their specific part of the life sciences sector. Ideally, they need to obtain access or incorporate an individual or organization into their setup that can bridge the gap between science and business, which can be worlds apart. That’s why something like BioNova, the life sciences body for Nova Scotia, is so vital. BioNova aims to advance life sciences in the province and accelerate the commercialization success of its businesses and organizations by building relationships and by creating networking and educational opportunities. Additionally, it offers programs that allow life sciences SMEs to apply for project funding or work with collaborators. As a member we have made vital connections in the sector both inside and outside the province. If the potential of Nova Scotia’s life sciences sector is to be fully realized in the increasingly competitive global marketplace, its science and business communities must work more closely together in future. Darren Rowles is CEO of Sona Nanotech, a biotech firm based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has 15 years’ experience in product manufacture and development in the area of gold nanoparticles and lateral flow diagnostics.]]>