For the culmination of their work through the 10.5-month program, the 2020-21 cohort of Western Medical Innovation Fellows (MIF) have launched a startup for one of their program projects. Tenomix will help commercialize a bench-top robotic scanning device that can automate the detection of lymph nodes in resected colorectal cancer tissues. The purpose of the device is to help pathology staff shorten sample preparation time, accelerate sample throughput, achieve productivity gains, and contribute to the current standard of care with the use of fewer laboratory resources than existing manual methods.
The nascent company just received six-figure funding from FACIT, a commercialization venture firm that builds companies with entrepreneurs to accelerate oncology innovation, with a portfolio that has attracted more than $1 billion in investment to Ontario. FACIT receives support through its strategic partner, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), which is funded by the Government of Ontario. FACIT also runs an annual pitch competition for Ontario-based oncology innovations, and selected Tenomix as a finalist in the 2021 event.
“The FACIT team is pleased to support these entrepreneurial scientists, providing both capital and commercialization expertise, as they advance their technologies closer to benefiting patients with cancer,” said Dr. David O’Neill, President of FACIT, in a recent press release. “We look forward to continuing to realize the full value of Ontario IP, attracting private sector investment into the province, and anchoring companies and jobs in Ontario.”
The funding will enable preliminary clinical validation studies for Tenomix, generating critical evidence to achieve key inflection points along its commercialization pathway. The startup wants to get their prototype into the hands of pathology staff, enabling them to collect data and implement valuable feedback into the design of their final device.
“We plan to use our passion for medical innovation to help alleviate major pain points experienced by patients, healthcare staff and hospitals, and improve the quality of life for others,” said Saumik Biswas, founder and CEO of Tenomix.
The company has a strong foundation for success, driven by personal experience with the impacts of improper cancer staging, a significant need in the healthcare community for a sustainable solution, and interest from top-notch academic collaborators – the company is equipped for each stage of the medical commercialization process.
Tenomix will market their technology to academic and non-academic teaching hospitals and hospital-based clinical laboratories, as pathology staff at these institutions are primarily performing lymph node searches in surgically removed cancer tissues. The Tenomix technology has several advantages over its competitors. Existing technologies use toxic chemicals, are oftentimes ineffective, unreliable or are cumbersome to use. Additionally, current offerings are not keeping pace with changes to the standards of care.
The fellows credit the MIF program for helping them interact with high quality clinicians who are also passionate about medical innovation. The program equipped them with business and intellectual property strategy skills while building a network of mentors.
The startup will be run by a team of four founders while they get off the ground. Biswas, PhD, has taken on the role of CEO and is responsible for the overall strategy, mission and vision of the company. Eveline Pasman, MD, PhD will be Chief Operations Officer and will oversee day to day operations and exploration of the regulatory landscape for medical devices and provide leadership and direction for the pre-clinical and clinical development plans. Sherif Abdou, PhD, P.Eng, as Chief Business Officer will formulate IP and legal strategies, lead business development activities and manage company finances and governance. Finally, Michael Lavdas, BESc, MESc, as Director & Engineering Advisor, will lead the technical development of the current and future technology.
“The MIF program brings talented individuals together and provides the necessary environment for them to connect, learn, dream the impossible and make it tangible,” said Souzan Armstrong, Director of the Western Medical Innovation Fellowship program, “Tenomix is a great example of what motivated entrepreneurs can achieve in a short time as a team.”