MARC of a Great Venture
If there is a project that ideally represents Springboard’s mission of “bringing research to life”, then the commercialization of MARC (Measurement of Accuracy when Resin Curing) might just deserve top billing. Originally developed by Dr Richard Price, a practicing dentist and professor with the Faculty of Dentistry at Dalhousie University and his assistant Christopher Felix, MARC provides a solution to a problem that has troubled dentists around the world for decades.
When filling a cavity, dentists use a soft, tooth-coloured resin upon which they shine a bright blue light to harden the filling and make it durable. The challenge lay in the fact that until now, there was no way to measure or control how much energy a dentist was applying. Too much light and it can overcook the resin, damaging the tooth as well as surrounding tissue and nerves. Too little light and the filling won’t harden properly and may need to be replaced sooner. Studies revealed that the variance among dentists applying the light was as much as ten times, which is a significant problem for a procedure that is performed daily by thousands of dentists on hundreds of thousands of patients. The introduction of MARC provides a critical solution.
Using custom-designed software, Dr. Price’s invention accurately measures the amount of total energy being delivered to a filling in the mouth - factoring in conditions such as the location of the cavity in the mouth, the design of the curing light and the type of resin being used - to ensure a precise application. Originally used as a teaching tool for dental students and professionals at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Dentistry, Dr Price felt confident that MARC had commercial potential but knew he needed help.
“While I knew that MARC could be a very valuable instrument,” says Dr. Price, “What I didn’t know were all the steps involved in the process of getting it in the hands of dental professionals. That’s where Springboard was instrumental.”
Searching for expertise on transforming his idea into a profitable commercial reality, Dr. Price approached Springboard’s industry liaison office at Dalhousie University. After learning about MARC and Dr Price’s vision for its practical application, Operations Manager Kevin Dunn and his staff turned to the Springboard network as an initial sounding board.
“The ability to access the expertise in technology transfer and business development within the Springboard network is an invaluable resource,” says Kevin Dunn. “Sharing opinions, ideas and lessons learned helped us decide not only whether MARC had the potential to be viable in the marketplace but also helped us chart the best course to commercialization.”
One of the first steps Dunn and his team identified was the need to replace the fairly crude research prototype Dr Price had been using in his classes with a more attractive and marketable version that could work for presentations to potential investors. Thanks to special funding provided by Springboard’s Technology Assessment Committee (TAC), a more realistic version of MARC was built that allowed people to visualize exactly how it might work on a living, breathing patient.
According to Springboard’s Executive Director, Dr David Shindler, when MARC came forward for consideration by the TAC – Springboard’s most commercially experienced professionals - there were a lot of questions about the commercial interest and the immediate needs. The clear need was to produce an appealing prototype for display at an international dental conference, and that this would be a crucial market test. So Springboard’s TAC funded the prototype development in time for the conference. At the conference, the MARC device, along with the keynote presentation by Dr. Price, were big hits, thus confirming the potential of this technology.
“The TAC funding provided confirmation of the potential market for MARC and contributed to gaining the interest of investors,” says Dr. Shindler. “This is precisely the reason that TAC exists.”
The support and guidance from Springboard didn’t stop there. Thanks to the training, outreach programs and networking each Springboard member is involved in, Dalhousie Industry Liaison and Innovation was able to secure the investment of local entrepreneur, Colin Deacon and negotiate the licensing of MARC to form a new private venture called BlueLight Analytics, Inc.
“Without the interest, guidance and support of Springboard and the Dalhousie Industry Liaison and Innovation, MARC may never have gone further than my classroom,” says Dr. Price. “Even worse, the intellectual property could have been stolen or any attempts at commercialization on my own may not have resulted in the kind of potential that is growing for MARC through BlueLight Analytics. It’s an exciting time and I’m confident about the future of MARC as well as new product developments.”
A year later, BlueLight Analytics is not only actively marketing MARC among dental researchers and manufacturers with an eye toward the dental training market, but they have already sold several units with more on order.