Health innovation beat followups: Deals, drugs, and Dragons

· The Pulse

Just because a story is written doesn't mean it's over. Here are some updates on health innovation stories we covered in 2022:

Entos and Lilly sign agreement to research and develop new brain-disease therapies (Jan. 10, 2022)

The original story: Entos Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Eli Lilly worth $50 million up front and up to $400 million in the future, granting the American pharmaceutical giant exclusive access to its Fusogenix PLV platform as well as an equity investment.

Then what?: Steve Chen, who was made the chief medical officer of Entos in March, spoke to PharmaVoice in April about what the Eli Lilly deal means to the company, calling it "a major inflection point" on the path towards treating diseases he never would have imagined being treatable when he was in medical school. The company continued to work on a COVID-19 DNA vaccine using the Fusogenix platform, CEO John Lewis wrote in Drug Target Review in April. By September, 268 people in Burkina Faso were enrolled in a Phase 2 clinical trial, but a coup d'état interrupted that work, Folio reported in December; Lewis said the trial may be moved to Senegal, and the vaccine may be tested in Canada as a booster.

AltaML partners with venture capital firm to combine AI and life sciences expertise (Jan. 19, 2022)

The original story: AltaML formed a strategic alliance with Amplitude Venture Capital, which invests in life sciences and precision medicine.

Then what?: It's not clear where this alliance stands right now, as a big part of the deal was making Alex Hope a shared team member between AltaML and Amplitude, and his LinkedIn profile indicates he left AltaML in October. Both companies had a busy 2022, however. Amplitude went on to participate in DrugBank's $9-million seed round, tapping into Alberta's AI ecosystem. AltaML announced more collaborations, including a public sector AI Lab called, and it made the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and the Report on Business top growing companies lists.

PrairiesCan invests $17M to support innovation in Edmonton (May 3, 2022)

The original story: PBG BioPharma, headquartered in Leduc, received the largest share of the Prairies Economic Development Canada innovation funding announced in late April for the Edmonton region, garnering $5.39 million to increase its biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity.

Then what?: In May, PBG BioPharma announced it had received a licence from Health Canada to deal with psilocin and psilocybin, two psychedelic compounds that have shown promise in the treatment of mental illness. It has also been pursuing the "untapped potential" of cannabis, though CEO Jacqueline Shan told Made in CA that regulatory challenges in Canada and abroad made expansion somewhat challenging. In September, the company announced a new line of natural health products.

John Lewis of Entos Pharmaceuticals and Nanostics, Cory Janssen of AltaML, Jacqueline Shan of PBG BioPharma, Colin Coros of Nanostics, Sharmin Habib of Umay, and Sunil Rajput of Alberta Innovates

Catch up with the rest of the story on Entos Pharmaceuticals, AltaML and Amplitude, PBG BioPharma, Nanostics, Umay, and psychedelics in medicine.

Nanostics wins Inventures pitch competition for 'game-changing health' (June 16, 2022)

The original story: Nanostics, a precision-health company that developed ClarityDX Prostate to aid in the accurate detection of prostate cancer, won $10,000 in the health pitch competition at Inventures in Calgary.

Then what?: A couple of weeks after that win, Nanostics released positive data from a study of ClarityDX Prostate. That helped it secure clearance to market and sell the test in Europe and other countries. In July, Nanostics launched a clinical study of ClarityDX Bladder to determine its effectiveness in diagnosing bladder cancer. Founder and CEO John Lewis will continue his work in prostate cancer research as the Bird Dogs Chair in Translational Oncology.

Umay sets sights on future after Dragons' Den offer (Sept. 20, 2022)

The original story: Michele Romanow offered Umay's brother-and-sister team of Sharmin and Ali Habib $380,000 in exchange for 5% of their eye-rest company on Dragons' Den.

Then what?: It's not clear whether the deal actually went through, though many Dragons' Den deals don't survive due diligence, and Romanow's e-commerce company Clearco had hit rough waters in the summer. However, Umay has been busy, getting accepted into the Alberta Innovates Revenue Accelerator powered by GrowthX in the fall and winning a side deal at Startup TNT's Investment Summit VI in November. Its REST device is available for purchase and is now eligible for coverage under health savings accounts.

Symposium to explore advancements in medical cannabis and psychedelics (Sept. 28, 2022)

The original story: Alberta Innovates announced plans to host its first health research symposium on medical cannabis and psychedelics in October.

Then what?: The symposium was not open to the public, but abstracts from invited speakers indicate a wide range of research was shared, including cannabis research out of the University of Alberta on pain management, the analgesic effects of various compounds, whether cannabis use predicts opioid misuse, the risks and benefits of recreational use by veterans, and the need for more information for the treatment of arthritis. In October, the Alberta government announced plans to regulate the use of psychedelics for mental health treatment.