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Success Stories

ABK Biomedical – From Post-it to Prototype

Daniel Boyd often tells people that “Springboard took us from post-it to prototype.”

Boyd is the Chief Scientific Officer of ABK Biomedical, a Halifax-based medical device company whose product improves the efficiency and safety of minimally invasive procedures for treating uterine fibroids in women.

Boyd is a professor in the biomaterial department of Dalhousie University’s School of Dentistry and a researcher in the biomedical engineering departments in the School of Medicine. And in the autumn of 2010, he had an idea for a biomedical product that he scratched on to a post-it.

Uterine fibroids – tumors that afflict about 40 percent of women over 35 – are now killed by the injection of tiny bio-compatible beads around the tumor so it is starved of blood. But there’s a problem: these little glass beads aren’t visible under fluoroscopy, an imaging technique using X-rays to obtain real-time moving images. So interventional radiologists have to introduce a dye into the patient’s system so they can confirm under fluoroscopy that they’ve blocked the right blood vessels. It takes time to introduce the dye, and the pigmentation can be toxic or lead to an allergic reaction, so the risks of the procedure increase when the colouring is introduced.

Boyd came up with a novel idea. His innovation was the development of new particles – or to use the clinical term, radiopaque embolic beads – called OccluRad that are visible under fluoroscopy so the dye is no longer needed. That reduces the risk of a toxic reaction from the dye, cuts costs and saves time, so doctors can carry out about two additional procedures each day.

In October 2010, Boyd had little more than a few notes on a little yellow piece of paper, but Barbara Campbell from the Dalhousie Industry Liaison and Innovation Office put him in touch with an interventional radiologist, and together they were able to work on the project.

Springboard Atlantic became interested in the project and provided Boyd with $20,000, which he used to develop his idea into a prototype that demonstrated the efficacy of the idea. A year later, in the autumn of 2011, he entered his idea in the Bio-Innovation Challenge, the pitching contest for biotech startups organized by BioNova. Boyd and his new company, ABK Biomedical, walked away with the $10,000 first prize.

With that initial push from Springboard and Dalhousie, the company was able to move on from a research project into a bona fide corporation.  By the autumn of 2012, the company raised $1.25 million in funding -- a $500,000 equity investment from a group of Atlantic Canadian angels, $250,000 in venture capital from Innovacorp and a $500,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
With that money, ABK was able to improve its corporate structure and hire Chief Executive Officer Pat O’Connor, an experienced medical technology executive who worked previously for Boston Scientific and Stryker Orthopaedics.

Under O’Connor’s leadership, the company is now completing detailed development testing in preparation for applying for regulatory approval in Europe, US and/or Canada. O’Connor expects ABK will spend the rest of 2013 analyzing which regulatory path offers the fastest and most likely path to market, and then apply for regulatory approval early in 2014. Assuming all goes well, the company could have a product on the market later that year.
It’s a frantic pace, and the company’s development has been rapid, given that it all began in a Dalhousie lab just three years ago. Boyd is quick to give credit for the company’s development to Barbara Campbell from the Dalhousie ILO – so much so that he now retains Campbell as a consultant with the company.

“Without that support from Barbara Campbell at Dalhousie,” says Boyd, “ABK might never have gotten started.”