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OICR Invests in Personalized Medicine Spin-offs

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research said today that it has made equity investments in two new University of Toronto spin-off projects that are focused on developing molecular diagnostic technologies for use in cancer screening and treatment.

The non-profit institute, which is funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation, said that the new investments include one multiplexed biomarker analysis startup and one planned spin-off that is developing a biomolecular detection technology.

“These technologies hold exceptional promise in the advancement of personalized medicine,” OICR VP of Commercialization and Chief Commercial Officer Frank Stonebanks said in a statement. “These investments will help close the gap between seed funding and clinical proof of concept, moving these programs closer to the commercial arena,” he added.

One of the investments will fund DVS Sciences, which is developing a multiplexed biomarker tool for use in research, clinical trials, and personalized cancer treatment.

The machine is similar to a flow cytometer, but it uses stable isotope tags to identify up to 100 biomarkers at a time. It has been shown to analyze 30 biomarkers in single human leukemia cells at a rate of 1,000 cells per second. Several prototypes of the tool have already been sold to labs in the US and Canada, OICR said.

DVS also is developing a low-cost liquid bead array for genetic analysis.

Another investment will support a planned spin-off by two researchers at the University of Toronto, one specializing in biomolecular science and the other in computer engineering and nanotechnology.

Shana Kelley, director of the Division of Biomolecular Sciences in the faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, and Ted Sargent, a professor of engineering and Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, are developing a microchip system that would validate clinically accepted leukemia biomarkers. The technology uses no enzymatic amplification steps and it detects DNA, RNA, or proteins at low concentrations in around five minutes with high specificity, said OICR.

The funding will be used to test and refine the electronic chip, which employs silicon-based integrated circuits and sample pre-processing, as well as the hand-held rapid detection device.

OICR did not disclose the amount of the new investments, but it said that it expects that these start-ups will receive additional funding from other sources.