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Biotech Firm Sona Nanotech Ltd. Is Moving To Halifax And Expanding

A Nova Scotia biotech startup with big plans for its super-small, non-toxic gold particles is looking to move its lab facilities to Halifax and expand.

Andrew McLeod, Sona Nanotech Ltd.’s president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday the company is already looking for lab space in Halifax and wants to hire three additional employees to handle production, research and business development.

“The move is being driven by the need for extra equipment for product development,” said McLeod.

“We have some equipment but we will also be acquiring new equipment, and near the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre we will have access to equipment on a pay-per-use basis.”

Sona Nanotech has two products, its Gemini and Omni gold particles, intended to be used in the health-care industry for such things as the treatment of cancer and diagnostic testing.

These particles are measured in nanometres.

“You’re talking about something that’s on the order of millionths of the width of a human hair,” said McLeod.

While other players make gold particles, Sona Nanotech has developed a way to make its products so that they are free of a toxic chemical ,and that’s opening doors for the Nova Scotia startup whose products can be used inside the human body.

There’s already talk of Sona Nanotech teaming up with an as-yet-unnamed Canadian organization for a cancer research project, but McLeod was tight-lipped about the details.

Backed by the Halifax-based venture capital firm of Numas Financial Inc., Sona developed its first nano-sized gold particles as a result of a three-year deal with Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre for a smart metallic nanomaterial research program.

The company also has funding from the National Research Council’s industrial research program.

A privately-held company, Sona Nanotech does not divulge either its revenues or the amount invested in it so far.

But it’s clear Sona Nanotech will soon be looking for more financing.

“We are in the early stages of discussions with commercial and research organizations and as we deal with the details of what our production, development and contribution will look like in the next 60-90 days, we will have a better idea of the amount of financing required,” said McLeod.

Incubated at Cape Breton University, Sona Nanotech has since moved into a temporary lab at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.

Last year, the biotech firm inked a deal with Newburyport, Massachusetts-based distributor Strem Chemicals to commercialize this nanotechnology throughout the world.

That distribution agreement is still in place but Sona Nanotech has since shifted its focus and is now concentrating its efforts on working with research partners.

There’s an explosion of research for the development for new diagnostic products that introduce a chemical in liquid form to a treated surface — think pregnancy tests — and Sona Nanoteach is hoping to cash in on this bonanza.

The company’s particular type of gold nanoparticles would allow such tests to indicate more than one result, allowing a user to test for two different conditions — such as pregnancy and a human papilloma virus infection — at the same time.

“There are a lot of companies out there doing testing with the goal of creating new lateral flow tests,” said McLeod.

In the coming years, he is confident the health-care industry will develop such tests for early cancer detection and to diagnose cases of infectious diseases.