Announcing FACIT and U of T’s new precision medicine company: Cellular Analytics

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.”

U of T entrepreneur creates his own job post-graduation: Delivering clean, affordable energy to Nigeria

For Olugbenga Olubanjo, the lightbulb moment leading to clean energy startup Reeddi came when the lights went out.

The graduate student at the University of Toronto was often frustrated speaking to family and friends in his native Nigeria over the phone only to have the calls cut short by power outages back home. So he decided to do something about it.

Barely two years later, Olubanjo is set to graduate with a master’s degree in applied science and a job that he created: CEO of Reeddi, the startup he founded and incubated at U of T to bring clean and affordable electricity to energy-starved communities in Nigeria and beyond.

“Energy shortages affect a lot of people I know, love and care about,” he says.

Reeddi provides portable energy via compact capsules that are charged at solar-powered stations located in communities. Customers rent the capsules at an affordable price and are incentivized to return them on time by earning credits that can go toward future rentals.  

The Creative Destruction Lab encourages slow movement on AI

Amid the exponential growth of artificial intelligence in both the fields of research and business, some in the industry are carefully considering how emerging technology will influence the way we will continue to live and work.

This week, 24 industry veterans took to the stage at The Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, to deliver their insights on how artificial and machine intelligence will affect power and society.

“We want to think about ways that we can reduce the price of disruption and creation of innovation, and [if we can], we’ll probably get more innovative.”

The conference, now in its fifth year and hosted by Canadian accelerator Creative Destruction Lab, aims to investigate applications of machine intelligence in a variety of domains, like public health, enterprise strategy, self-driving vehicles and more. This year’s event took a particular focus on the wider societal consequences of AI, and how AI will affect emerging issues such as labour market concerns and income inequality.


Fresenius Medical Care makes breakthrough with new dialysis product

Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), the nation’s leading provider of kidney care products and services, announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted breakthrough device designation to a new hemodialysis system, currently in development, that aims to prevent blood clotting without the use of blood thinner medication in most patients.

The antithrombogenic additive, Endexo®, is being incorporated into the manufacturing process of dialyzers and bloodlines. Endexo is a polymer made of surface modifying molecules that are designed to inhibit the adsorption of protein and platelets, which in turn can potentially reduce clot risk and increase hemocompatibility. Citrasate® dialysate would be used with the new dialyzers and bloodlines as part of this novel system.

Creative Destruction Lab to launch its second European location in Paris

The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), a seed-stage accelerator founded at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is expanding to Paris.

Launched in collaboration with the HEC Paris business school, CDL-Paris becomes the not-for-profit program’s second European location alongside CDL-Oxford, which is located at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. CDL also operates out of five other Canadian universities.

CDL-Paris will accept 25 startups into its first cohort, with applications set to open in April 2020. The participants will join the ranks of over 1,500 founders from more than 30 countries that have participated in the CDL program since it was founded in 2012 by Rotman Professor Ajay Agrawal.

Zealand Pharma expands its peptide platform with acquisition of Encycle Therapeutics

Zealand Pharma A/S (“Zealand”) (NASDAQ: ZEAL) (CVR-no. 20 04 50 78), a Copenhagen-based biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of innovative peptide-based medicines, announces the acquisition of Encycle Therapeutics, Inc., a private Toronto-based biotech company exploiting a unique platform technology that enables the rapid synthesis of macrocyclic peptides exhibiting enhanced drug-like properties.

The acquisition is centered on a pre-clinical lead asset that complements Zealand’s focus on developing next-generation peptide therapeutics for gastrointestinal diseases. The lead asset, ET3764, is being developed as an orally-delivered peptide drug to target integrin alpha-4-beta-7, which is involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The target’s mode of action has been clinically validated in IBD by vedolizumab, an approved, infusion-only alpha-4-beta-7 integrin inhibitor.

Microsoft accessibility grants go out to companies aiming to improve tech for the disabled

The tech world has a lot to offer those with disabilities, but it can be hard to get investors excited about the accessibility space. That’s why Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility grants are so welcome: equity-free Azure credits and cash for companies looking to adapt AI to the needs of those with disabilities. The company just announced ten more, including education for the blind startup ObjectiveEd.

The grant program was started a while back with a $5 million, 5-year mission to pump a little money into deserving startups and projects — and get them familiar with Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, of course.

Applications are perennially accepted, and “anybody who wants to explore the value of AI and machine learning for people with disabilities is welcome to apply,” said Microsoft’s Mary Bellard. As long as they have “great ideas and roots in the disability community.”

Among the grantees this time around is ObjectiveEd, which I wrote about earlier this year. The company is working on an iPad-based elementary school curriculum for blind and low-vision students that’s also accessible to sighted kids and easy for teachers to deploy.

U of T graduates’ app — Honeybee Hub — will help researchers find study participants faster

Honeybee Hub has researchers buzzing

University of Toronto alumni Catherine Chan and Weiwei Li have developed a digital solution to reduce the time and money it takes for researchers to find suitable participants for their research studies. At the same time, they’ve also created an innovative way to encourage stronger public participation.

Chan experienced the difficulties of participant recruitment and management first-hand. As a master’s student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine, she spent much of her time looking for people to participate in her study on how faba bean pasta affects glycaemia, satiety, and metabolic control in young adult males.

Frustrated, she saw other university researchers spending a large portion of their time and budget on recruitment.