November 6, 2019

FACIT launches assessment of venture philanthropy models to scale Canadian commercialization of cancer research

Ms. Donna Parr and Dr. Niclas Stiernholm recruited to broaden public/private equity expertise

Ms. Donna Parr and Dr. Niclas Stiernholm

TORONTO, ON (November 6, 2019) – FACIT, a commercialization venture venture firm, reported on the expansion of its Executive-in-Residence program and new strategic initiatives. Ontario is home to world-leading cancer research connected through the collaboration model established by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), FACIT’s strategic partner. Growing market signals suggest Canadian philanthropy, oncologists and patients want more discoveries translated into therapies and technologies that directly impact cancer care, while also supporting Canadian entrepreneurialism. Commercialization of innovations is aligned with OICR’s translational mission and a strategic imperative for the province’s university and research hospital partners. 

Continue reading – FACIT launches assessment of venture philanthropy models to scale Canadian commercialization of cancer research

October 30, 2019

FACIT and University of Toronto launch precision medicine company: Cellular Analytics

Next generation liquid biopsy platform to revolutionize companion diagnostics

TORONTO, ON (October 30, 2019) – FACIT, a commercialization venture group, together with the University of Toronto (“U of T”), announced the creation of Ontario-based Cellular Analytics (the “Company”). Cellular Analytics is founded upon a proprietary microfluidic platform that enables molecular characterization of cancer at the level of single circulating tumour cells. The technology quantitatively detects sensitivity to immune-oncology agents ‘on-chip’ at both significantly lower sample volumes and at a fraction of the cost. Seed capital from FACIT’s Compass Rose Oncology Fund will be used to develop the non-invasive, commercial prototype of the Company’s lead product. This critical capital also allows Cellular Analytics to maintain its momentum and continue strategic discussions with potential partners and investors to attract follow-on financing.

The platform, with an initial application in lung cancer, was discovered at the U of T lab of Dr. Shana Kelley. The professor and serial entrepreneur will act as the Chief Scientific Officer of Cellular Analytics. “Dr. Kelley’s technology is rapid, exquisitely accurate and inexpensive, which positions the Company well for clinical application across a range of cancers and competing in the diagnostics market,” said Dr. David O’Neill, President, FACIT. “Partnering with the University of Toronto on exciting new biotechnology companies like Cellular Analytics is aligned with FACIT and OICR’s joint strategy to support entrepreneurship and translate the benefits of research to patients and the Ontario economy.”

Continue reading – FACIT and University of Toronto launch precision medicine company: Cellular Analytics

September 26, 2019

FACIT’s Prospects Oncology Fund invests in Ontario-developed medical device and novel therapeutic platform technologies

Niche early-stage investment program seeds Ontario’s developing pipeline of oncology assets 

TORONTO, ON (September 26, 2019) – Three promising Ontario-based oncology innovations are recipients of seed capital through the latest round of FACIT’s Prospects Oncology Fund. Medical device start-up Xpan Inc., Dr. Igor Stagljar of the University of Toronto, and the Drug Discovery Program at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) were selected to receive seed funding among a top-tier pool of applicants.

Xpan Inc., whose CEO Zaid Atto also won FACIT’s Falcons’ Fortunes pitch competition earlier this year, is developing expandable surgical access ports that aim to increase safety and efficiency of minimally invasive surgeries. Dr. Stagljar is developing a unique and disruptive system for detecting protein-protein interactions in real time for drug discovery applications, while OICR’s Drug Discovery Program, led by Dr. Rima Al-awar, will receive funds towards the development of a platform targeting multiple members of the WD40 repeat domain (WDR) family with small molecules. The lattermost project builds on OICR and FACIT’s recent success in executing a $1B USD strategic transaction with Celgene for a related WDR5 asset.

Continue reading – FACIT’s Prospects Oncology Fund invests in Ontario-developed medical device and novel therapeutic platform technologies

June 18, 2019

From idea to impact: An expanding solution to a common surgical problem

Zaid Atto, Founder and CEO at Xpan Inc.
Zaid Atto, Founder and CEO at Xpan Inc.

Toronto-based entrepreneur Zaid Atto receives FACIT’s Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award to further develop his new device for safer and less invasive surgeries

Ten years to the day after he and his family landed in Canada from Iraq, Zaid Atto stood in front of a panel of judges and pitched his idea. He had developed a new surgical device – a port that could allow for safer and more efficient minimally invasive surgeries – but he needed commercialization support and resources to move it into the next stage of development.

Surgeons use ports, also known as trocars, to make a tunnel into the body for laparoscopic surgeries. Complications with ports include accidental organ perforation, hernias and potentially death from incorrect insertions. Adding to the risk of complications, sometimes surgeons have to switch an inserted port for one with a larger diameter during the procedure to accommodate larger surgical instruments, or reinsert a port that slipped out of the abdomen accidentally. Through interviewing surgeons and shadowing dozens of surgeries, Atto recognized these concerns and saw an opportunity to address an unmet need and help both patients and surgeons.

Traditional ports are fixed in size and may slip out of a patient’s abdomen during surgery. (Photo: Magnus1313 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0])

After graduating with a biomedical engineering degree from the University of Toronto, Atto and his team at Xpan Inc. developed an expandable port that reduces the risk of complications associated with port insertion and alleviates the need to remove and reinsert ports. The team has consulted stakeholders and device manufacturers throughout the development of their device and have received support and validation from surgeons with multiple minimally-invasive surgical specialties.

“We saw that our device could assist surgeons across many subspecialties, especially those who have to exchange ports often, like in surgeries for colorectal cancer, pediatric surgeries or emergency procedures” says Atto. “Our port, however, is not limited to cancer surgeries. It’s a device that can make a difference for all laparoscopic surgeons and the five million patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery every year in North America.”

Earlier this year Atto pitched his technology at the FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes pitch competition. In addition to creating exposure for novel oncology innovations and providing training support for entrepreneurs, FACIT’s annual pitch competition celebrates a culture of commercialization in Ontario. Atto was one of six finalists who were pre-selected by the FACIT team to deliver pitches. Impressing the judges with an innovation developed based on a clearly-identified market need, Atto was ultimately awarded the $50,000 Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award. Xpan Inc. plans to use this funding to complete proof-of-concept animal studies and prepare for regulatory submission.

“By partnering with FACIT, we hope to bring our device one step closer to patients,” says Atto. “This means one step closer to safer and more efficient surgeries for all of us who may need these surgeries in the future.”

Read more about this story in FACIT’s most recent announcement of investments.

April 9, 2019

Entrepreneurs from Ontario’s Nanology Labs and Xpan Inc. receive FACIT investment for early-stage cancer innovations 

Latest recipients slated to accelerate Ontario’s commercialization momentum are a 2018 finalist and 2019’s winner of FACIT’s Falcons’ Fortunes pitch competition

FACIT Logos

TORONTO, ON (April 8, 2019) – FACIT, an Ontario First business accelerator and investor for oncology innovations, is pleased to announce recent successes in its mission to help bridge the capital gap often experienced by early-stage entrepreneurs. The newest recipient of FACIT’s Prospects Oncology Fund is Nanology Labs, a start-up based out of the University of Toronto.

Nanology has developed an innovative low toxicity MRI contrast agent that circumvents the limitations of other MRI contrast agents currently available. This exciting nanoparticulate system leverages manganese to illuminate early stage tumours, including those in the brain, in a manner that allows clinicians to make better treatment decisions. Concurrently, it produces oxygen molecules in the tumour which enhances therapeutic efficacy of irradiation. “This seed funding is critical in enabling our technology to reach its next inflection point, moving our system closer to the clinic and positioning our company for further investment,” said Dr. Mohammad Ali Amini, CEO and Co-Founder of Nanology. “We were fortunate to have been chosen as a finalist in FACIT’s 2018 pitch competition, which helped to strengthen our subsequent application to the Prospects Fund.”

Continue reading – Entrepreneurs from Ontario’s Nanology Labs and Xpan Inc. receive FACIT investment for early-stage cancer innovations 

March 27, 2019

The winner of last year’s FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes pitch competition is already seeing early success in moving her product to the clinic

The winner will soon meet with U.S. regulators, marking a major step towards commercializing her innovative polymer product, ReFilx™, and bringing it to breast cancer patients.

Dr. David O’Neill, President, FACIT, and Dr. Soror Sharifpoor, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Polumiros Inc., pose for a photo.

It took only 10 minutes for a panel of investors and industry experts to recognize that Dr. Soror Sharifpoor and her oncology product – ReFilx™ – were worth supporting. Last spring, she pitched ReFilx™ in the FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes competition and won the top prize – the $50,000 Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award. Almost 12 months later, Sharifpoor and her team at Polumiros Inc. will be meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to officially begin the regulatory submission process – a necessary first step in bringing their product to patients.

ReFilx™ is a polymer designed to fill the breast tissue cavities left in breast cancer patients following a lumpectomy. The polymer dissolves over time, allowing the patient’s cells and tissue to regrow in its space, thus preventing breast tissue defects from forming.

“ReFilx™ could improve the emotional and mental well-being of breast cancer patients,” says Sharifpoor. “In addition to the psychosocial benefits, it could also encourage surgeons to take more aggressive margins around the tumour, thereby reducing the chances of cancer recurrence.”

Bringing ReFilx™ to the clinic requires rigorous clinical testing and regulatory review, which begins with a pre-submission meeting with the FDA. FACIT’s support allowed Sharifpoor to continue with pre-clinical testing, hire a regulatory consultant and further develop ReFilx™ into an injectable form.

In a few months, Sharifpoor and her team will have the pre-submission meeting to collect feedback on their product, which will then be used to guide their future submission to the FDA and their plans for further clinical research. Polumiros Inc. intends to pursue this research in Canada.

“We’re excited to initiate our regulatory submission process,” says Sharifpoor. “We’re fortunate to have had FACIT’s support, allowing us to develop ReFilx™ faster and smarter than we would have on our own.”

FACIT, OICR’s strategic partner in commercialization, is hosting its 6th annual pitch competition this year on April 4, 2019. The Falcons’ Fortunes event will feature six aspiring entrepreneurs from across the province who are developing oncology-related innovations. FACIT runs the annual competition as part of its broader mandate to support translation of cancer research to benefit Ontario’s economy and patients worldwide.

Learn more about Falcons’ Fortunes – FACIT’s annual pitch competition or read about this year’s event details.

February 7, 2019

Op-ed in The Globe and Mail hails innovation strategy that resulted in record-breaking investment by Celgene

Rima Al-awar showing the structure of WDR5 at podium.

In a contribution to The Globe and Mail titled “For Innovation, open science means business”, E. Richard Gold and Max Morgan point to the recent investment by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Celgene into a potential treatment for leukemia developed by OICR researchers, as an example of how Canada can successfully commercialize its scientific discoveries. The authors note that the uniquely Canadian approach employed by FACIT and OICR working together will, unlike other strategies, keep the intellectual property (IP) in Canada longer and see research and development, clinical trials and other outcomes, benefit Canada and Ontario.

Gold and Morgan point out that it was an open science collaboration between OICR and the University of Toronto’s Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) that allowed for the initial scientific discovery behind the new potential drug to take place rapidly, since traditional concerns around IP weren’t a factor. This approach allowed FACIT and OICR to move towards targeted drug development much earlier than possible under other models, enabling them to create a patented drug candidate. Gold and Morgan call on Canadian governments to replicate the open science to IP model, which Celgene’s investment shows is a viable path to commercialization in Canada. 

E. Richard Gold is James McGill professor, McGill Faculty of Law; senior fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation; former technology lawyer. Max Morgan is chief policy officer and senior counsel, SGC; corporate secretary and legal consultant, M4K Pharma Inc. OICR has provided funding to M4K Pharma Inc. through its Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline initiative. SGC and OICR are long-term partners.

From the Globe and Mail (subscription required): For Innovation, open science means business

January 29, 2019

FACIT and Triphase Accelerator Announce New Partnership with Celgene for First-in-class WDR5 Leukemia Therapy

Largest transaction to date for Canadian-discovered preclinical asset arises from Ontario collaborators 

TORONTO, ON (January 29, 2019) – Triphase Accelerator, together with its majority shareholder FACIT, today announced a new strategic collaboration with Celgene for a first-in-class preclinical therapeutic targeting the WDR5 protein for the treatment of blood cancers including leukemia. Triphase is a drug development company advancing novel compounds through Phase 2 proof-of-concept, including the WDR5 program. 

Continue reading – FACIT and Triphase Accelerator Announce New Partnership with Celgene for First-in-class WDR5 Leukemia Therapy

January 29, 2019

First-in-class drug for blood cancers discovered by Ontario researchers receives record-setting industry investment

Years of hard work by OICR’s Drug Discovery group and Ontario partners moves potential new treatment for leukemia towards clinical trials

On January 29, 2019, Celgene Corporation made an investment of up to US$1 billion that will facilitate further research and development of the potential drug and support clinical trials in Ontario. The potential drug was designed to exploit a weakness in leukemia centred on the protein WDR5 that was discovered by Ontario researchers. If all options under the investment are exercised, the deal will be the largest transaction to date for a preclinical asset discovered in Canada.

“The progress of this pre-clinical drug towards the clinic is an example of how OICR, working with its partners, is accelerating cancer research in Ontario and increasing investment so that new innovations can help patients as soon as possible,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “This announcement shows how OICR and FACIT’s unique model for research and commercialization can generate long-term impact for the province of Ontario.” FACIT is OICR’s strategic commercialization partner.

The WDR5 project’s development demonstrates the unique expertise of OICR DD, the advantages to the OICR-FACIT model, and how OICR effectively harnesses the strengths of Ontario’s diverse cancer research ecosystem by collaborating with groups such as the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), the group that initially identified the potential of targeting WDR5 as a treatment for cancer.

Continue reading – First-in-class drug for blood cancers discovered by Ontario researchers receives record-setting industry investment

January 10, 2019

FACIT makes follow-on investment in AI-based genomics company, DNAstack

Capital leverages Ontario’s strengths in genomics and informatics, deepens FACIT’s tech portfolio

Continue reading – FACIT makes follow-on investment in AI-based genomics company, DNAstack

October 11, 2018

FACIT Welcomes Har Grover and Ken Lawless to the Board

Strategic appointments of seasoned entrepreneurs add expertise and strengthen governance

TORONTO, ON (October 11, 2018) — FACIT announced the appointment of two new members to its Board, Mr. Har Grover and Mr. Ken Lawless. Both leaders are passionate supporters of the Ontario life science sector, have broad industry experience and decades of work with entrepreneurial ventures. As FACIT drives oncology innovations to the marketplace and highlights Ontario as a top-tier destination for biotech investment, strong governance by its Board is critical to achieving this mandate.

Continue reading – FACIT Welcomes Har Grover and Ken Lawless to the Board

September 13, 2018

FACIT invests in three top Ontario entrepreneur-teams from near record pool of applicants

Prospects Oncology Fund seeds developing pipeline of Ontario-based biotech innovations

TORONTO, ON (September 13, 2018) – With an expanding portfolio of breakthrough innovations, FACIT is committed to supporting Ontario entrepreneurs through the latest round of its Prospects Oncology Fund. FACIT has selected three novel cancer therapeutic discoveries to receive early-stage capital – biotechnology start-up Talon Pharmaceuticals (“Talon”), the Drug Discovery team at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (“OICR”) and CCRM. The Prospects Fund provides entrepreneurial scientists with the capital resources necessary to achieve critical proof-of-principle studies for their cutting-edge breakthroughs aiming to benefit future patients.

Continue reading – FACIT invests in three top Ontario entrepreneur-teams from near record pool of applicants

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