Posted: November 9, 2016
This month, we’re checking in with past VenturePrize winners to see how their companies have changed since winning the grand prize in the Student, Fast Growth, Health and TELUS ICT streams. This week, we spoke to Brad Murray, President and Dr. Gino Fallone, CEO of MagnetTx Oncology Solutions, winner of the 2016 DynaLife Dx Health prize, the debut year of the health stream.
For cancer patients, undergoing the necessary, potentially life-saving treatments is a difficult enough process. Before even beginning radiation treatment, a patient must have an imaging appointment that determines the size and location of a tumour with CT and MRI scans before a second appointment is made to kill the tumour with radiation. The problem with this two-step process is that in the time between the two appointments, the tumour often moves around due to regular daily activities. This means the later radiation treatment can hit healthy tissues and cause problematic side effects.
The MagnetTx team has found a way to combine imaging and radiation treatment into one package with the Aurora RT™ machine. The technology, based on peer-reviewed research, allows radiation oncologists to zero in more precisely on the tumour itself, even as it shifts around, reducing unneeded radiation and improving cancer treatment outcomes.
The Alberta-based team took home the inaugural DynaLife Dx Health stream of the 2016 VenturePrize, but before they walked the stage to accept the grand prize, Gino Fallone and Brad Murray received help from TEC Edmonton to step up their pitch for the judges.
“The process was informative, and allowed us to develop and strengthen our pitch by getting feedback from different individuals,” says Brad Murray. He also described the panel of judges as being knowledgeable and helpful, contributing to the overall ease of the whole process.
Today, the MagnetTx team continues to work on the development of their product. Since the big win in April, MagnetTx has finalized a license agreement with Alberta Health Services and the University of Alberta, allowing the company to move toward commercializing the technology.
Brad describes the VenturePrize win as an important step in facilitating the company’s quest to gain the exclusive rights to the technology: “VenturePrize helped show us as a credible company, and validated us since our business plan had been reviewed by peers,” he explains.
The agreement also means that MagnetTx has exclusive rights to all patents involved in the technology. Of equal importance is that the agreement allowed the academic team members to remain within the company and continue to work on the product. “What could have been more complicated was made easier,” says Dr. Fallone.
Because MagnetTx now has full access to the intellectual property, the company can now seek major funding to further develop the technology. “At the time we won the prize, we didn’t have that in place and couldn’t go out looking for more capital,” explains Brad.
Although they enjoyed the full process, for Brad and Dr. Fallone, it’s easy to pinpoint the most memorable part of VenturePrize. “When we won,” laughs Brad.
With the win came the knowledge that MagnetTx has the honour of being the first company to win the Health stream that made its debut in the 2016 competition.
In addition to seeking financial support, MagnetTx needs regulatory clearance to use and sell the Aurora RT™(now a prototype) as an official medical device. Currently, they are preparing to file an application to Health Canada to obtain regulatory clearance. Once this is achieved, the team’s goal is for the machine to treat patients in hospitals around the world.
A version of the machine is currently being installed at the Cross Cancer Institute, and will be used to start treating patients ideally by the end of 2017.
Brad and Dr. Fallone recognize that the success of MagnetTx thus far wouldn’t be possible without the help of various agencies that contributed to the development of the technology: Alberta Cancer Foundation, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Alberta Advanced Education, and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. Dr. Fallone explains: “50 peer-reviewed publications described the design of the system.”
Thank you to Brad Murray and Gino Fallone for speaking with us about their experience! For more information on MagnetTx, watch their VenturePrize finalist video here.