A team at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax is looking at eye testing in a new way thanks to an experiment with virtual reality.
The eye clinic works with patients ranging from infants to adults and depends on the subjective responses from patients to help with a diagnosis. That can make their work tricky, especially when small children are expected to undergo exams that can routinely run an hour long.
Dr. Darren Oystreck, an orthopist at the hospital who also works with the health faculty at Dalhousie University, estimated his profession has used the same tests for six decades to check for disorders of binocular vision or eye alignment issues.
“You compare it to other areas of medicine where they’ve had amazing breakthroughs in technology in some of the things they can imagine now and the data they can collect is mind-boggling,” he said.
Oystreck uses equipment like flashlights, pictures and foggy goggles to conduct his work and keep the kids focused.
Last year, his team decided it was time to look for new options. That’s when they met Ryan Cameron, the CEO of Electric Puppets, a Halifax-based virtual reality company that specializes in children’s programming.
“Everything [Oystreck] needed could be applied to many other areas, like brain injury research,” he said.
Cameron has adapted the old vision tests to a virtual reality program.
For the team at the IWK eye clinic, the collaboration allows the eye doctors to alter settings and try a wider range of scenarios, all while recording the reaction of a patient’s eyes.
The hope is that for children in particular, it will lead to more accurate observations.
“They can calm down and relax and feel familiar with the environment quickly and then we can start to put them through the classic tests,” said Oystreck.
The program is being tested and studied at the hospital. The team needs to prove the results are just as accurate — if not more accurate — as the old tests, and they’ll produce a peer-reviewed study.
Steve Van Iderstine, a research associate at the IWK, said virtual reality systems weren’t designed for medical use, but they have great applications for that.
“I’m hoping in a year from now we’ll have good data to demonstrate that the virtual reality version of these tests has strong validity, then we’ll be able to look forward to the more exciting environments that we can generate with the virtual reality,” he said.
Cameron said those environments, for example, could be a virtual circus where kids would have the impression they’re playing a game, when in fact they’re being tested.
Van Iderstine said because virtual reality systems are commercially available, they’re far cheaper than medical equipment. They also take up less space.
He hopes headsets sized for small kids will soon be available.
For Cameron and his company, this program is just the beginning. They have a patent pending on their work, and they’re hoping that virtual reality could be used in the treatment of everything from physiotherapy to psychology.
Halifax-based PhotoDynamic, Inc. has closed a $2.3 million round of financing, which will help to finance the launch of its teeth-cleaning product in the autumn of this year.
The company’s CEO Martin Greenwood told Entrevestor a year ago that the company was aiming to raise at least $1.35 million, and it has handily exceeded that figure. More important, one of the lead investors is the American Association of Orthodontists, or AAO, a group that will be key to bringing the product to market. The funders also include Charlottetown-based Natural Products Canada and Island Capital Partners.
PhotoDynamic is developing a device that uses natural extracts from a wild Nova Scotia plant to erase heavy plaque buildup on teeth. Such buildups are an unwanted side-effect of wearing braces, so PhotoDynamic plans to market the product by selling it through orthodontists.
Precision BioLogic Inc., a leading developer of hemostasis diagnostic products, is pleased to announce the availability of its new cryocheck Chromogenic Factor VIII assay in Canada, the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand following market authorization by Health Canada and respective in-country regulatory authorities.
cryocheck Chromogenic Factor VIII is intended for use by clinical labs for the determination of FVIII activity in human plasma and as an aid in the management of hemophilia A. Studies1 have shown the chromogenic method to be less prone to interference from lipids or traces of heparin than clot-based FVIII activity tests, offering unsurpassed assurance in results, especially in cases of severe hemophilia A.
cryocheck Chromogenic Factor VIII has been designed to meet the needs of today’s hemophilia testing laboratories: validated for use on current automated coagulation analyzers, with a test range from 0–200% FVIII using one standard curve, and formatted to meet the needs of any size laboratory, increasing efficiency while ensuring accuracy of results.
Like all of Precision BioLogic’s cryocheck products, components are frozen, allowing for fast and easy preparation.
cryocheck Chromogenic Factor VIII is Precision BioLogic’s second hemophilia-related product to launch in less than a year.
“Last February, we introduced a kit to help clinical laboratories accurately and precisely quantify FVIII inhibitors in patient samples,” explains Paul Empey, President & CEO of Precision BioLogic. “With the launch of our latest product, we have taken a leadership role in the coagulation diagnostics industry by bringing novel, authorized solutions to clinical labs conducting hemophilia testing in Canada and beyond.”
Precision BioLogic has submitted a premarket notification for the device to the U.S. FDA for clearance, and is actively pursuing other opportunities to innovate in the field of hemostasis and diagnostics.
About Hemophilia A
Hemophilia A is an inherited bleeding disorder caused by insufficient clotting factor VIII (FVIII) in the blood. People with hemophilia A experience prolonged bleeding, which can lead to permanent joint damage and life-threatening hemorrhages. The level of severity depends on the amount of clotting factor missing from a person’s blood. People with severe hemophilia usually bleed frequently into their muscles or joints. They may bleed one to two times per week—often for no obvious reason. People with moderate hemophilia bleed less frequently, about once a month. They may bleed for a long time after surgery, a bad injury, or dental work. People with mild hemophilia usually bleed as a result of surgery or major injury. They do not bleed often and, in fact, some may never have a bleeding problem.
The standard treatment for people with hemophilia A is intravenous (IV) FVIII replacement therapy with recombinant FVIII (rFVIII) or plasma-derived FVIII (pdFVIII) concentrates. Prophylaxis, the regular infusion of clotting factor concentrates, is used to prevent bleeds thereby minimizing joint damage.
About Precision BioLogic
Precision BioLogic Inc. is a privately-held company that develops, manufactures and markets the cryocheck™ line of frozen products used by medical professionals and researchers around the globe to diagnose coagulation disorders. Precision BioLogic also has several active initiatives with pharmaceutical partners who seek to ensure that the diagnostic implications for their novel therapeutic agents have been well characterized. In November 2018, Precision BioLogic acquired Affinity Biologicals, enabling the company to expand its clinical and research offerings to include an extensive line of coagulation-related antibodies as well as other products and services. For more information, visit www.precisionbiologic.com.
Partner International Inc. is pleased to announce that Ilya Pharma have engaged Partner International to advise on its global business development activities.
Ilya Pharma, a clinical stage Swedish biopharmaceutical company, developing next-generation biologics from its own technology platform to Proof of Concept in clinical phase I and II.
From its roots in Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agriculture, Ilya Pharma has developed novel drug candidates where human therapeutic effector proteins are delivered on site in from lactic acid bacteria, acting like small bioreactors. This is a very cost efficient way to deliver the active substance, it is off-the-shelf products, have good stability, the manufacturing process is simple and scaling finished and it is a very low COGS/dose.
Initial indications of focus for ILP100 include treatments of post-surgical wounds where healing is delayed and wound complications significantly increased, such as in diabetes, and gastrointestinal indications, including inflammatory bowel disease, and there are numerous other potential therapeutic applications for the technology.
Ilya Pharma expects to deliver clinical value in these indications by providing cost efficient pharmaceutical products with improved safety and efficacy profile than available alternatives and that use of the compounds also should limit spread of antibiotic resistance.
Ilya Pharma is completing a First in human/Phase I clinical study of ILP100-Topical, with first data readout in Q1 2020 and second readout in Q2 2020, and is exploring business developments options for the program to move it further through clinical development and to commercialize the product. Ilya pharma has engaged Partner International to support these efforts and explore the business development opportunities for the platform and drug candidates globally.
Partner international is a global leader in corporate and business development for the life science industry with offices in the US, Canada, Australia and Switzerland. For over 20 years, Partner International has built a significant reputation in accelerating transactions for licensing, partnering, mergers and acquisitions, and divestitures in all therapeutic areas. Partner International represents companies of all sizes to advance their business development objectives. PI has completed billions of dollars of transactions globally.
CEO of Partner International, Joanne Ball-Gautschi, said “We are very pleased to be representing Ilya Pharma and its award winning, innovative technology platform. We expect significant interest in ILP100 given its pre-clinical data, and potential to treat wounds in high risk populations and in GI indications.”
“The clinical program of ILP 100 is advancing well and already generating a great deal of interest both in Europe and North America. To augment our internal resources and be able to work with these opportunities, we have taken this strategic decision to work with Partner International. This a project in the Cell- and Gene Therapy space which is emerging, the team at Partner International we work with have a proven track record and impressed us with their understanding in this field and the unique potential of the ILP100 and ILP-platform,” says CEO and cofounder Evelina Vagesjo in a comment.
The OBIO 2020 Niagara Investment Summit will feature an Early Technology Showcase on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020. The Showcase will include presentations by leading research institutions from across Canada of the most innovative technologies and most promising early stage companies emerging from their institutions.
The Showcase will take place on Wednesday, February 5th and provide an incredible opportunity for global investors and health science industry leaders to get an inside look at the next leading-edge health science innovations being developed in Canada. Discover tomorrow today at the Early Technology Showcase during the OBIO 2020 Niagara Investment Summit.
To find out more about the Early Technology Showcase, click here. If you are interested in learning more about the OBIO 2020 Niagara Investment Summit, please contact Christina Yeh: [email protected]
In today’s data revolution, genomics is emerging as a potential game changer for medicine and human performance, fuelled, in part, by pioneering work in precision personalized data underway on Canada’s east and west coasts. This exciting development was examined in a recent panel discussion hosted and emceed by Genome Atlantic on “The Future of Personalized Health & Human Performance” during BioPort Atlantic 2019.
Dr. Steve Armstrong, Genome Atlantic’s President and CEO and the panel’s emcee, teed up the discussion by posing the following questions:
“If you were diagnosed with cancer today, wouldn’t you want a treatment plan that is custom designed for you, your genetic blueprint and your specific cancer? If your son or daughter had an unexplained illness and you were bouncing from specialist to specialist for years on end, wouldn’t you want to bring this diagnostic odyssey to an end? Or if you were the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, home of our local hero Sydney Crosby, wouldn’t you want to ensure that Syd and the team were performing at their best? In all three examples, what kind of data would you need to make that happen?”
To answer these questions, the panel tapped three well known trailblazers who use data every day in their quest to improve human health and well-being: Dr. Janessa Laskin, a BC Cancer medical oncologist and the clinical leader of the Personalized Oncogenomics (POG) initiative in Vancouver; Dr. Christopher McMaster, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Genetics and Director of the Scientific and Clinical Hub for Orphan Drug Development (formerly IGNITE), both based at Dalhousie University in Halifax; and Dr. Travis McDonough, founder and CEO of Kinduct, a Halifax-based athlete management and monitoring company with professional sports team clients from around the world.
POG is the world’s only cancer research project that uses whole genome sequencing, including transcriptomic (RNA) data to search for personalized treatments for patients with metastatic cancer, a malady Dr. Laskin characterizes as “a disease of the genome.” Dr. Chris McMaster and his group have uncovered a potential therapy for congenital sideroblastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough healthy red blood cells, and are developing treatments for inherited Parkinson’s disease and for familial exudative vitreoretinopathy, a hereditary disorder that can cause vision loss. Meanwhile, Kinduct collects, sifts and aggregates a vast array of data, including genomic information, on individual athletes to come up with comprehensive regimes to improve athletic performance.
Dr. Janessa Laskin
Dr. Laskin said one of the challenges of using genomics to find and then target the drivers of an individual’s cancer is the realization that “we have been extremely siloed in the way we think about cancer and how we think about drugs. But now we have technology that tells us that a particular drug might be very useful in multiple different kinds of cancers and genome technology is helping us figure that out.”
What we are learning, she said, is that drugs not normally used for cancer or for a particular type of cancer can be strong therapeutic possibilities to attack drivers of a particular cancer based on its genomic analysis. Drugs normally used for hypertension, for instance, have been selected for use in some POG cancer treatments, as well as drugs conventionally deployed in different types of cancer. For example, based on an individual’s genomic data, a drug approved for lung cancer might be appropriate for a particular case of pancreatic cancer.
These findings have potential disruptive consequences, she said: “We have to think about how regulatory authorities are approving drugs and funding drugs, so they aren’t just siloed in particular applications in one particular tumour type.”
Dr. Christopher McMaster
The growing role for genomics in human health and other fields is largely due to the plummeting cost of creating the data, said Dr. McMaster. “The human genome was sequenced in 2003,” he said, adding, “It took a decade and it cost over $1 billion. In 2019 we can sequence the human genome in a few weeks for about a thousand dollars.” No technology, he said, has accelerated at such a pace.
Dr. McMaster’s research lab uses genomic data to uncover therapies for orphan diseases, most of which are currently untreatable. For orphan diseases which used to take five-seven years and up to $30,000 of tests to detect with certainty, Dr. McMaster said advances in genomics mean “we can now diagnose these cases by sequencing the [patients’] genomes in a matter of weeks. It’s speeding up a diagnosis without increasing costs to the health care system.”
Sometimes called “rare diseases,” orphan diseases are not rare at all when viewed as a category. More than 7,000 diseases fall into this grouping. In Canada, it has been estimated, one in 40 children are born with an orphan disease and because it is often life-limiting, 35 per cent of them fail to reach their fifth birthday.
“The nice thing about inherited diseases is, it’s a single gene in which a mutation is causing a disease,” said Dr. McMaster, so there is “an immediate cause to an effect.” With the help of Genome Canada, Genome Atlantic and other partners, he is now involved in a “scientific-clinical hub to come up with treatments.”
For most inherited disease there is no current treatment. “So, this hub is looking to lead Canada in terms of bringing medicines into the clinic and into the market for treating cases with inherited diseases,” he said. Helping advance this ambition, the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. offers Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Vouchers which help companies move qualifying drugs to the front of the review line in the approval process. The express provision brings cost savings to drug developers, ranging from $100 million to $250,000.
Dr. Travis McDonough
The software company, Kinduct, grew out of Mr. McDonough’s experience in the healthcare industry where 3-D medical examinations and rehabilitation programming generate a slew of compartmentalized data. Elite sports do the same thing with even more varied types of data – all sorts of player monitoring and player tracking, for instance. Kinduct figured out how to put it all together and draw helpful conclusions to optimize performance and wellness in professional sport.
“Essentially we create better athletes,” said Dr. McDonough. The goals, he said, are to create “vigorous, stronger, faster athletes,” mitigate costs associated with soft tissue injuries, identify “the next great athlete out there,” and capitalize on the new markets starting to appear for monetization.
Kinduct aggregates reams of data, including DNA, and with the help of AI engines, the company contextualizes and analyzes it. Detected trends can then lead to recommendations or interventions for the athlete – from nutrition to training programs and playing strategies. Kinduct is now considered a world leader in Athlete Management Systems and many professional sports teams, including in the NHL, have jumped aboard. Kinduct, he said, is now also starting to work with player associations.
“It’s been a crazy journey for us,” Dr. McDonough admitted. While focused on elite professional sport, he said, opportunities to move into related areas with Kinduct’s methodology of data collection and analysis seem boundless – from sports medicine to horses in equestrian sports.
“We hope that the people who attended were inspired”
“The panelists are recognized leaders in clinical care, orphan disease research and human performance and each brought to the table information on the incredible advancements they’re pioneering,” said Dr. Steve Armstrong. “We heard about a revolutionary new approach to cancer therapy, the progress being made in treating rare diseases in children at the IWK, and how a Halifax-based company is helping professional sports teams get the most of their athletes. These seemingly disparate topics are linked together by the ability to custom-tailor treatments and optimize performance thanks to personalized data.”
“We hope that the people who attended were inspired and that they left feeling optimistic about a future made brighter by the transformative power of personalized data and genomics.”