This Week's Vitals: Meet three U of A spin-off companies led by FoMD researchers bringing Edmonton a step closer to becoming Health City
From organ transplants to cancer treatment and detection, these innovative University of Alberta spin-off companies led by Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researchers are game changers in the health care field.
By SHELBY SOKE
From organ transplants to cancer treatment and detection, these innovative University of Alberta spin-off companies led by Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researchers are game changers in the health care field. These technologies have the potential to improve patient care while solidifying Edmonton’s reputation as Canada’s Health City.
MagnetTX Oncology Solutions
Did you know that tumours, especially in the body cavity, can shift? A big sigh can shift a lung tumour several centimetres. Currently, the imaging to identify where the tumour is and radiation therapy to treat it are two separate medical appointments. The coordinates of the tumour identified by the Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are used to direct the linear accelerator that delivers the radiation. Since the tumour can shift between medical appointments, doctors have accepted that some healthy tissue may be damaged during radiation.
FoMD researchers Gino Fallone and Brad Murray are the medical physicists behind spin-off company MagnetTX Oncology Solutions. They combined a medical linear accelerator and an MRI machine into one unit called the Aurora RT™ Linac-MR. This means that doctors can use MRI imaging to adjust the radiation beam in real time to hit only the tumour, no matter how much it shifts.
The team has built two working prototypes and were the first to take images of a human subject by a Linac-MR in 2014. As global authorities in the field, they have published over 45 peer-reviewed articles about this technology.
The company has secured worldwide exclusive rights from Alberta Health Services and the University of Alberta to carry the project forward to commercialization.
Organ transplants are lifesaving procedures. Unfortunately, there’s often a shortage of donor organs available. In addition to a limited number of donor organs, location is another factor that can prevent organ transplants. After it’s harvested, an organ only has a six-hour window before it’s no longer viable, which can limit who can receive it.
Tevosol has designed a medical device that keeps critical organs such as hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers viable for transplant longer. The device keeps organs warm and supplied with oxygen as if they were still in the body. Called the Ex-Vivo Organ Support System (EVOSS™), the inventor is Darren Freed of FoMD and the device also allows for better resuscitation of dysfunctional organs, which has the potential to double or triple the number of available donor organs worldwide.
Tevosol recently secured $2 million in financing to further develop the device for clinical use, and to begin a lung transplant trial at the University of Alberta.
Metabolomic Technologies Inc.
Although it’s curable if identified early, colorectal cancer is still a leading cause of death in North America. Existing fecal-based screening methods aren’t always sensitive enough to detect adenomatous polyps, a precursor to the disease.
Metabolomic Technologies Inc. (MTI) was formed by Haili Wang and Richard Fedorak. They were interested in using the new science of metabolomics to explore how colorectal cancer and adenomatous (precancerous) polyps affected cellular metabolism.
Their flagship product is PolypDx™, a spot urine diagnostic test that offers a much higher sensitivity in detecting adenomatous polyps. This will assist in early detection and therefore prevention of colorectal cancer. Stay tuned for an upcoming story on MTI.
Dr. Fedorak, who is also the dean of the FoMD, was recently appointed to Edmonton’s Health City steering committee to lend his expertise the initiative.
Meet our partners in innovation
These U of A spin-offs, led by Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researchers, were made possible in part thanks to TEC Edmonton, a unique not-for-profit organization. TEC Edmonton is a joint venture of the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. TEC Edmonton helps technology entrepreneurs accelerate the growth of their projects. In addition to being the commercialization agent for University of Alberta technologies, TEC Edmonton operates Greater Edmonton’s largest accelerator for early stage technology companies, including both university spinoffs and companies from the broader community.