News

An Eye On: OnPoint Medical

on December 3, 2021

Founded in 2019, OnPoint Medical set out to create devices that are developed to greatly simplify objective, quantitative, assessments of dynamic balance in both clinical settings and at home for physiotherapists and their clients.  

The company’s Star Balance System removes the manual burdens preventing the broad adoption of the star excursion balance test by automating reach-distance measurement; while reducing the test’s footprint by 90%; enabling widespread evidence-based balance rehabilitation. 

The startup spun-out of a project developed through the Western Medical Innovation Fellowship.  

OnPoint got its first boost when it was awarded BURST funding from TechAlliance, an innovative incubation program for high-potential medical technology startups that provided the company with $70k worth of funding and mentoring. 

They are currently working with manufacturers to develop the Star Balance Training Board which has built in sensors that connect to OnPoint’s software system, providing assessment data to clinicians. 

The company has launched an online store where they currently sell the Star Balance Training Mat designed for patient use at home and the ONPoint Supervisor Licence to clinicians

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Raj BrahmbhattAn Eye On: OnPoint Medical

Western Innovation Fund

on December 3, 2021

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the non-invasive gold standard for blood flow assessment in larger blood vessels (arteries and veins), but MRI has limitations in terms of accessibility, patient throughput and operating cost.  

In contrast, Computed Tomography (CT) is one of the most frequently used diagnostic imaging modalities in hospitals, but CT application is primarily focused on anatomical assessment.  

Aaron So has developed an image processing technique that permits CT assessment of vascular blood flow at near real-time temporal resolution, which will facilitate the application of CT for different vascular diseases.  

The WIF will help further develop the technology and help prepare it for commercialization.

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Raj BrahmbhattWestern Innovation Fund

Western Entrepreneurship

on December 3, 2021

As one of the pillars of entrepreneurship at Western, WORLDiscoveries supports the Innovation Ambassadors and the Graduate Student Innovation Scholars programs.

Innovation Ambassadors are a group of approximately 50 self-identified researchers from across campus who have experience and expertise in entrepreneurship, commercialization or knowledge mobilization. They are charged with a mission to connect great ideas from their areas into the ecosystem.

Through their work in faculties and departments across campus, they are dedicated to developing and supporting an entrepreneurial mindset at Western. The Innovation Ambassadors run a virtual monthly speaker series that is attended widely across campus. They also put on an Innovation Ambassador Showcase in Spring 2021 that brought researchers in STEM and the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences together to discuss the longer-term impacts on society and research commercialization.

Graduate Student Innovation Scholars

Consisting of a series of lectures on topics ranging from intellectual property and patents to technology assessment and entrepreneurship, the program aims to broaden the minds of graduate students and show them a glimpse into the world of commercialization, entrepreneurship and knowledge mobilization. The program has progressively grown the number of graduate students supported in each cohort.

Winter 2021 Scholars

  • Chloe Lau
  • Eugenia Aulestia
  • Karishma Hosein
  • Kayla Gray
  • Martin Ugo
  • Morgan O’Shea
  • Olivia George-Parker
  • Peter Jeon
  • Razan AlFar
  • Ryan Wong
  • Tareq Tayeh
  • Victor Carranza

Winter 2021 Scholars

  • Alvin Leenus
  • Daniel Menyhart
  • Dhruvika Angrish
  • Haider Al-Tahan
  • Harpreet Atwal
  • Indra Bishnoi
  • Jessica Lammert
  • Justin Kuchmak
  • Mahsa Bataghva
  • Paul Ossowski
  • Summer Yang
  • Teniola Jegede
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Raj BrahmbhattWestern Entrepreneurship

WORLDiscoveries Asia

on December 3, 2021

WD Asia was established ten years ago in response to the changing global economy and to build upon strong ties between Western University researchers and Asian institutions. WD Asia has offices in Hong Kong and Nanjing and has expanded its activities to Singapore, South Korea, and most recently, Japan.  

Over the last year WD Asia has grown a business network in Japan’s life science eco-system – including the top pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, medical device companies and venture capital firms actively investing in the industry.  

Despite challenges and travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, WORLDiscoveries Asia has continued to leverage connections with industry and forged new relationships and grown their customer base in Canada as well. WD Asia has signed dozens of authorization and service agreements to represent startups and organizations in Asia with the aim of licensing technologies to various Asian industry partners. 

Canadian organization’s that have connected with WD Asia in the last year include: 

  • Intellistem Technologies 
  • 16 bit Inc.  
  • Envision SQ 
  • McGill University 
  • FireRein Inc. 
  • Perceiv AI 
  • Vitreo Pharma 
  • Precision Biomonitoring 
  • Queen’s University 

To boost their visibility and facilitate further relationship building, WD Asia hosted two seminar events to develop partnerships between Quebec and Japan in the field of AI + Healthcare. These seminars connected Montreal’s InVivo a cluster of 600 life science and healthcare technology organizations with Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster.  

WD Asia also signed a memorandum of understanding with Montreal InVivo to strengthen ties between the two organizations with the aim of cultivating connections for life science and health tech companies to Asian markets.

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Raj BrahmbhattWORLDiscoveries Asia

Vanguard Innovator of the Year

on December 3, 2021

In the midst of the global pandemic, one of the region’s busiest pediatric doctors also became one of the country’s most prolific researchers in service to a broader public good. 

Dr. Doug Fraser’s work in developing state-of-art technologies in COVID-19 and traumatic brain injury research is poised to have a national and international impact – and has earned him the Vanguard Innovator of the Year award. 

“The pandemic has been a tragic thing. But anytime something like this happens, it also creates opportunity,” said Fraser, a professor of paediatrics, physiology & pharmacology and clinical neurological sciences at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. 

In this instance, the opportunity included research to break new ground in diagnosing, treating, and predicting who might become sickest from this new virus, said Fraser, who also treats patients in the paediatric intensive care unit at London Health Sciences Centre, is a researcher with the Lawson Health Research Institute, and scientific director of the Translational Research Centre at Lawson. 

Fraser and his team were the first to describe the immune response and several features of the virus, which helped build the foundation of knowledge on patient impact and potential therapies internationally. 

During the past year, Fraser’s unique approach to solving the mysteries of COVID-19 has resulted in four patent applications – a record for a WORLDiscoveries partner. These COVID-19- related innovations include promising therapeutic targets based in pathophysiological evidence, such as therapy targets for lung damage caused by the virus. 

He has also published 15 science papers and 22 collaborative papers in the past year. 

At the same time, Fraser pushed to expand his research into traumatic brain injury, investigating the human consequences of military blasts, and the use of protein-based biomarkers in the blood that can indicate concussion. 

That work, along with previous work identifying metabolite biomarkers of concussion resulted in four other patent applications– all aimed at improving diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of concussion – that are exclusively licensed to a biotechnology founded solely from this work called neuroLytixs Inc. 

Fraser’s test of brain lipids and proteins have the highest accuracy of any other published concussion test, at 95 per cent. 

The Vanguard Innovator of the Year celebrates researchers who have achieved significant market-readiness milestones for innovations that highlight products or services beneficial to society.

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Raj BrahmbhattVanguard Innovator of the Year

Proteus Innovation Competition

on December 3, 2021

Fifty-seven teams comprising more than 190 individuals vied for the five top prizes at this year’s Proteus Innovation Competition – more than any other year in the contest’s six-year history.

Teams overcame the challenges brought on by the pandemic and competed virtually, creating abstracts and business plans, then making pitches to a panel of judges.

Founded at Western by WORLDiscoveries and grown to collaborate with McMaster, Windsor, Waterloo, Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier universities, the competition brings students together to propose viable paths to market for novel technologies developed at the partner institutions.

It’s a key event within the Western Entrepreneurship ecosystem, awarding each winning team $5,000 and the chance to license the new technology and form their own startup.

“Proteus highlights so many things from our regional innovation community,” said Souzan Armstrong, Executive Director of WORLDiscoveries. “It creates a learning opportunity for all participants interested in entrepreneurship. It brings interdisciplinary people together to work on a common goal, and it has the potential to bring technologies developed right here in Southwestern Ontario to market for the improvement of society.”

This year’s winners came from across the country, with some contestants participating from as far away as Alberta. Many Western students also performed well in the business plan and pitch phases of the competition.

The contest was held completely virtually, with the pitch finale contestants presenting their plans to a panel of judges over Zoom. With the contest growing each year and representing various Southwestern Ontario institutions – switching to a virtual event going forward will provide endless opportunities for engagement and participation.

Winners of this year’s ProteusIC include:

  • Team CAD15 Consultants for its commercialization plan for a pain measurement application developed by Western’s Dave Walton.
  • Team RubberCycle for its plan to commercialize the recycling of vulcanized rubbers through an organic polymers process developed by researchers at McMaster University.
  • Team vGen Solutions for its commercialization plan for forming multiple disulfide bonds in a peptide process developed by John F. Trant’s lab at the University of Windsor.
  • Team MacWest for its plan for the muscle training and recovery device developed by Jamie Burr at the University of Guelph.
  • Team BioGryphs for its plan for the phytotoxicological field-based monitoring device developed by Kevin Stevens at Wilfrid Laurier University.
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Raj BrahmbhattProteus Innovation Competition

Medical Innovation for a Stronger Future

on December 3, 2021

The Western Medical Innovation Fellowship (MIF) immerses talented young scientists, engineers and clinicians in training and research environments that build innovation leaders and create novel medical technologies. To kickoff the 2020/21 program, the fellows participated in a virtual bootcamp in collaboration with the University of Minnesota. Due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the fellows had to pivot and access the bootcamp  programing virtually.    

Later, the fellows consulted with clinicians across the local healthcare industry and developed two projects to address needs they discovered that fit within their areas of expertise.  

One of the projects was teleMDview, a technology they developed that provides tele-rehabilitation clinicians with a simultaneous multi-view of their patients. The other project was titled Tenomix, which harnesses the power of medical imaging and automation to improve inefficiencies in the colon cancer-staging pipeline. Their solutions aim to optimize care, reduce costs, better inform treatment decisions, and improve patient outcomes. The fellows showcased these projects in five pitch competitions, taking home several thousand dollars in prizes.  

Entering its seventh cohort in Fall 2021, the Western Medical Innovation Fellowship – in partnership with Western’s BrainsCAN – attracted eight talented scientists, engineers, and clinicians to take part in the intense 10.5-month program. Due to continued travel restrictions WORLDiscoveries delivered our homegrown 3 week long boot camp in person at Western, attracting local experts and entrepreneurs to take part in the program.  Clinical immersion will again be mostly virtual, however, with pandemic restrictions easing, in-person clinical immersion has been possible.  

Western’s BrainsCAN initiative committed more than $3.5 million over seven years to the program, along with MITACS and the Western Bone and Joint Institute’s Collaborative Training Program in Musculoskeletal Health Research.  

The program’s purpose is to shape inventive and capable leaders that develop novel medical technologies that solve complex problems faced in healthcare. In a world transformed by the pandemic – this program is now more vital than any other time.

From L to R: Eveline Pasman went on to join the MIF as Interim Director and is Founder and CMO of Tenomix, a MIF spinoff company, Sheyla Abdic is searching for a residency program, Gordon Ngo continues to be a resident physician, Kirill Fedorov is exploring career opportunities, Sherif Abdou became interim General Manager at the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Mohawk College, Michael Lavdas became Director of Engineering at a medical device company and Saumik Biswas is Founder and CEO of Tenomix.

For the culmination of their work through the 10.5-month program, Sherif Abdou, Saumik Biswas, Michael Lavdas and Eveline Pasman 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 nascent company just received six-figure funding from FACIT, a commercialization venture firm that builds companies with entrepreneurs to accelerate oncology innovation in Ontario.

The 2021/22 cohort is comprised of seven fellows. From L to R: Malcolm Eaton holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jeffrey Poon is a resident physician, Oleksiy Zaika is a PhD Candidate in Anatomy & Cell Biology, Xinyi Li has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, Olumide Olotu holds an MD, Sydney Robinson has an MESc in Biomedical Engineering and Valentin Lyashenko holds a BEng in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science.

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Raj BrahmbhattMedical Innovation for a Stronger Future

Programmed Proteins to Decipher Parkinson’s

on December 3, 2021

The labs of Professors Gary Shaw and Patrick O’Donoghue in the Department of Biochemistry at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, have engineered new methods to produce proteins with programmed modifications that clarifies their role in signaling pathways linked to certain disease. 

Proteins involved in major human diseases undergo significant post-translational modification, the alterations of proteins following protein biosynthesis – a core biological process, occurring inside cells, balancing the loss of cellular proteins through the production of new ones. These protein modifications relay chemical signals to alter cell fate – how a particular cell develops into a final cell type – and gene expression. Additionally, these protein modifications can be induced in a state of stress or a disease state. 

Recent breakthroughs in Shaw and O’Donoghue’s labs have enabled programmed protein modification in human cells. These protein modifications can be used in a number of ways. For example, identifying new drug targets, determining protein-protein interaction, determining protein stability, development of novel targets, antibodies, or other small molecules, to these modified proteins for a disease state. 

One programmed protein, out of a suite produced in their labs, is licensed to a major research reagent company based in the United States with worldwide presence.  

The protein called pUb(s57), has been shown to hyper-activate Parkin. Parkin is a protein, which in humans, is encoded by the PARK2 gene. The specific function of this protein is undetermined; however, the protein is a component that mediates the targeting of proteins for degradation. Moreover, Parkin is described to be necessary for autophagy of mitochondria. Mutations in this gene are known to cause a form of Parkinson’s disease. 

Dysfunction of parkin contributes to sporadic forms of Parkinson’s Disease, a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. Therefore, by synthesizing pUb(s57), we can generate novel tools to target and understand the mechanisms it plays a role in – opening new doors to our understanding of the disease that affects 1 in every 500 people in Canada.

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Raj BrahmbhattProgrammed Proteins to Decipher Parkinson’s

Novel Blood Test For Concussion Diagnosis

on December 3, 2021

In Canada, hundreds of people experience a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) every day. Commonly known as concussions, mTBIs threaten the long-term brain health of children, athletes, and military personnel. Today, more than 10% of athletes experience a concussion every year and an astounding 50% of concussions in youth sports go undiagnosed. Up to 20% of military personnel deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan experienced an mTBI while deployed and up to one-third continue to experience persistent symptoms. 

Currently, concussions are diagnosed through physical, cognitive, and behavioural methodologies, which can be misinterpreted by clinicians. Left untreated, concussions can affect a person’s health and quality of life permanently. Long term effects include memory and concentration problems, light and sound sensitivity and even personality changes to name a few. 

Neurolytixs was founded following the discovery of a novel blood test for concussion diagnosis by Dr. Douglas Fraser and his team. Dr Fraser is a Clinician Scientist working at London Health Sciences Centre and Lawson Health Research Institute and is a Professor in the Department Paediatrics at Western.  

In consultation with WORLDiscoveries, Neurolytixs has licensed and patented Fraser’s technology that transforms mild TBI diagnostics. The technology requires a two-step process, a baseline blood sample from an individual and then a sample after an injury has occurred to compare. The blood test looks at metabolite levels in the blood, a break-down products generated by the body, that acts as a set of chemical identifiers that can indicate concussion. According to current clinical trials, the test has 90 per cent accuracy in detecting mTBIs. 

This diagnostic tool could help identify and remove injured athletes from play by assessing them at the start of the playing season with their baseline blood sample and then a sample after an incident has occurred. This can prevent further acute injury and supporting stronger strategies to help concussion patients recover. In training settings and deployment for military personnel, this technology can be lifesaving by being able to identify concussion and help deliver treatment on time to prevent long term damage.  

The company is moving towards obtaining regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. and Health Canada.

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Raj BrahmbhattNovel Blood Test For Concussion Diagnosis

UV Curing Technology Has High Growth Potential

on December 3, 2021

Ultraviolet (UV) curing is the process by which ultraviolet light is used to initiate a photochemical reaction that generates a crosslinked network of polymers, such as synthetic organic materials used as plastics and resins. These plastics or resins can be used to create protective coatings with varying useful properties to cover materials ranging from medical equipment to automotive parts. Some UV cured coatings can be antibacterial for example.  

Currently, coating, bonding, and printing are the most prominent applications in which UV curing technologies are used. The healthcare, printing and automotive sectors use these technologies the most but the solar industry, with its explosive growth is also looking at using UV curing systems. UV-curing has already been adopted by major companies like 3M, Bayer, and Dupont for its energy efficient, clean, and cheap processing capabilities.  

A team of researchers led Paul Ragogna, a Chemistry Professor at Western’s Faculty of Science has developed a new method for coating any surface in a quick, easy, and cheap way with polymerizable phosphonium salt chemistry. Conventional UV curing methods use solvents and large heating ovens, which consume a lot of energy and floor space, while taking longer to produce product. Ragonga’s method is solvent-free and operates with much less floor space making it highly scalable. This technique is excellent for the deposition of thin layers of any desired anion on a surface, on large scale. The organic solar cell industry, which is expected to double in size over the next decade could benefit from this technology as they scale up their industrial processes to meet demand. 

The technology holds several patents in Canada and the United States. It was recently licensed to a startup company, Common Knowledge Ltd., based in Israel that will explore the methods use on an industrial scale. The startup was founded by Ryan Guterman, PhD’15, and is a co-inventor of the technology. 

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Raj BrahmbhattUV Curing Technology Has High Growth Potential