There were fist bumps and high-fives around Metabolomic Technologies Inc’s (MTI) office, and by early May, 2016, all was official and announced.
MTI had made its first major sale. The long-time TEC Edmonton client has signed a multi-million-dollar licensing and distribution agreement with Pennsylvania-based Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories (ADL).
ADL will be selling MTI’s PolypDx™ diagnostic test to detect pre-cancerous polyps in the colon – before they become cancerous through urine analysis in 12 eastern American states. Its laboratories will also analyze and report the results to customers.
There are so many firsts.
The University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has long been a leader in the application of the metabolomics field to medical diagnostics, identifying and analyzing markers in body fluids – particularly urine – to detect medical conditions in the body.
Researcher Dr. David Wishart led the international Human Metabolome Project, identifying and categorizing all known metabolomes in human tissues and fluids. The final database has identified some 8,500 metabolites.
PolypDx™ is one of the first commercial, practical applications of metabolomics knowledge to detect abnormal conditions within the human body, specifically to indicate the presence of pre-cancerous polyps in the intestine. The earlier such polyps can be identified, the quicker they can be removed before they become cancerous.
At the University of Alberta, gastroenterologist Dr. Richard Fedorak, (currently interim dean of the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry) and his research team began to search for metabolomic patterns from urine that might be an indicator of the presence of polyps in the colon.
Once the results became promising, TEC Edmonton assisted in applying for international, American and Canadian patents. TEC Edmonton’s business advisors have worked closely with MTI in developing its business affairs since Metabolomic Technologies Inc. was incorporated on May 6, 2010.
MTI’s on-going research and field testing has been an all-Alberta collaboration.
Alberta Health Services, the province’s fully-integrated health system delivering health services to over four million Albertans, assisted MTI with clinical field trials and clinical protocols. The trials were associated with the Edmonton Colon Cancer Screening Program.
DynaLIFE Dx, delivering most medical lab services for Alberta Health Services’ operation in Edmonton and Northern Alberta, worked closely with MTI in adapting the unique urine metabolomics test so it could run quickly and efficiently on standard laboratory testing equipment.
A commercial cloud-based system to remotely evaluate the test was developed by MTI and Edmonton-based software development firm Spieker Point.
MTI’s original angel investors were drawn from Alberta. Funding and research grants came from both Alberta provincial agencies and the Canadian government.
In addition, MTI are currently working the Chinese genomics institute BGI to do trials of PolypDx™ in China to expand into the Chinese market.
David Chang, MTI’s VP for Research and Operations, believes the licensing of PolypDx™ to Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories is just the beginning.
“There were 157,000 new cases of colon cancer in 2015 in North America alone,” he says. “Our test is very easy – a urine sample – compared to standard patient-administered fecal tests that, due to their nature, are often incorrectly collected.”
The accuracy of PolypDx™ testing also dramatically reduces the need for “preventive” colonoscopies. Unless the PolypDx™ test indicates the presence of polyps, there’s no need for the invasive, awkward and time-consuming procedure as a preventive measure.
Dr. Fedorak can barely contain his excitement about MTI’s metabolomic analysis potential. The company is working on licensing and distribution deals for other parts of the United States, Europe and China. “Colon cancer metabolomics screening could become a standard procedure around the globe, making huge inroads into colon cancer detection before it’s too late,” says Dr. Fedorak.
A new horizon is dawning for metabolomic pattern detections to indicate the presence of other cancers.
“We’re getting close on developing metabolomics tests for the detection of early breast and prostate cancer,” says Dr. Fedorak, “both in our own labs and in association with other metabolomics researchers.”