Program ID: Innovation Anthology #462
Program Date: 03/06/2012
Program Category: Awards and Competitions, Health and Medicine, Life sciences, Nanotechnology
TEC Edmonton Enterprise Award For Metabolomic Technologies Inc
PROGRAM #462 INTERVIEW WITH REG JOSEPH
MP3: 6.1 MB
Time: 6:47 Minutes
Reg Joseph is the CEO of Metabolomic Technologies Inc. MTI received the 2012 Enterprise Award from TEC Edmonton for its work on commercializing a new low cost, easy to use diagnostic test for cancer. The company expects people will be more likely to take this test than the invasive colonoscopy that is currently used, leading to earlier detection and treatment.
CC: REG YOUR COMPANY HAS WON A SPECIAL AWARD TODAY FROM TEC EDMONTON. WHAT IS THE AWARD AND WHAT IS IT FOR?
RJ: So, as you probably know TEC Edmonton fosters the growth of high tech startup companies within the region. MTI is one of those companies that is part of the TEC Edmonton family. Every year TEC Edmonton chooses a company that is most likely to succeed, if you will, based on science and technology and the business that they’ve done over the last year.
So MTI has been selected for that award.
CC: SO WHAT IS IT THAT YOUR COMPANY IS DOING?
RJ: We’ve developed an early stage colon cancer test. Right now, colon cancer diagnosis is in a dismal state. If you’re diagnosed with colon cancer today, you’re survivability rate is roughly 50 percent. And that only has to do with the fact that the current means to diagnose cancer, although very good, they are costly and invasive and don’t get used as often.
We’ve developed a test that’s non-invasive and is relatively cheap to use. And so the screening protocol would go much quicker. You’d be able to screen more people.
If you catch this cancer early at the polyp stage, which is what our test will detect, your survivability rate goes up to above 90 percent.
CC: IS THIS A SPINOFF FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA?
RJ: Yes, Dr. Richard Fedorak who is the scientist behind the company and the founder, is a clinical scientist at the University of Alberta. And this technology emanated from there.
CC: HOW DOES THE TEST ACTUALLY WORK?
RJ: What we’ve detected is in your urine there are waste molecules that are being shed from your body. These waste molecules give a good indication of your health status.
And what we’ve found is that there are particular compounds in your urine that relate directly to either polyps or different chemicals that relate directly to cancer. And it’s these compounds that we’re detecting in the urine to give us a positive signal as to whether you have polyps or colon cancer.
CC: WHAT CHANGE IS THIS GOING TO MAKE TO THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE RIGHT NOW?
RJ: Ideally if this test is accepted, it will push the entire paradigm of how we treat colon cancer back in the system. Currently you use a colonoscopy to detect whether you have colon cancer or not. Once you do detect colon cancer, you move into some sort of chemotherapy regimen.
If our test is accepted, you’d test whether you have polyps at the early stage using our test. Then you would use the colonoscopy more as a therapeutic modality to go in, remove the polyps and then essentially get rid of the cancer.
CC: WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS LIKE RIGHT NOW?
RJ: As I mentioned earlier the current diagnostics methods result in a 5 year survivability rate of just over 50 percent, which is quite dismal. Again this is a cancer that can be eradicated. If you test for the cancer early enough, the survivability goes beyond 90 percent.
CC: A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T LIKE GOING FOR A COLONSCOPY OR TESTING FOR COLON CANCER, AND SO THAT’S REALLY PART OF THE PROBLEM THAT FEEDS INTO THIS, ISN’T IT?
CC: That’s exactly right. The existing test of colonoscopy is invasive. It’s painful. Most of us would like to avoid it if we can. That’s why we’re really excited about this test that we’ve developed. This test that we’ve developed is a urine test. Essentially it’s the kind of test that we go into our labs at least on an annual basis, pee in a cup, you leave the cup with the diagnostic technician. They run through a number of tests ticked off on the sheet that your doc has sent you. And will come back and tell you whether you have polyps or not.
CC: THE COMPANY ITSELF, WHAT STAGE ARE YOU AT NOW?
RJ: We’ve completed clinical trials at the University of Alberta on 1200 patients. And that has verified that our test has an accuracy rate of over 80 percent.
There is another non-invasive test on the market called a fecal occult blood test. It’s accuracy rate is somewhere around 30 percent. And not only is the accuracy rate really poor, even patient compliance is worse than that. It’s about 14 percent in the province of Alberta. And one of the main reasons is that the test is a fecal test and you have to collect your own stool at home. And so a lot of patients prefer not to do that or don’t do it properly.
So we see that this would be a test that would be easy for patients to comply with. It’s very similar to other tests that they already do at their diagnostics labs.
CC: WHAT DO YOU SEE AS BEING MARKET POTENTIAL FOR YOUR COMPANY AND THIS PRODUCT?
RJ: So right now, looking at the market opportunity just in North America, looking at the American Cancer Society and their recommendations for the number of people that need to be screened in North America for colon cancer, we’re looking at a very large market, almost a 5 billion dollar market just in North America alone
CC: WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR YOU?
RJ: A couple of the key next steps for a test like this is for us to work with the health delivery organization. So in Alberta that will be Alberta Health Services. We’ll be running it with Alberta Health Services starting in the late spring or summer. So that’s one of the steps.
Once we’ve completed that trial we will have sufficient data for us to go through the regulatory path. We do have to get regulatory approval for this test. And we will be doing that both in Canada and the United States as well as abroad.
CC: ARE YOU GETTING ANY RECOGNITION FROM OTHER AREAS?
RJ: Definitely we are. Our company has just been invited to go to China to visit one of the largest research institutions in that nation called BGI (Bejing Genomics Institute). They do a lot of work in looking at different biomarkers and translating those to diagnostics like we do. They are quite excited to hear about our test. It’s one of the first types of tests like this available on the market today. S we spent about a week in China last month looking collaboration opportunities to release not only this test in China, but working with that group to develop another test for the Chinese market.
CC: NOW YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE PART OF THE TEC EDMONTON FAMILY. WHO ALL HAS HELPED YOU ALONG THE WAY? WHAT SORT OF FUNDING SOURCES HAVE YOU HAD?
RJ: I could spend a very long time in terms of all the people who have helped and so forth. But this idea came about from a discussion from the head of the business development group, Dr. Randy Atscoff, in a discussion with the founder, Dr. Richard Fedorak. They were talking about something completely different related to the University of Alberta when this topic of Richard’s research had come up.
Randy had come up and said, you know, this is an ideal opportunity for a company. And Richard’s response was, I have no idea how to start up a company. And Randy said, leave it to us.
And so, the TEC Edmonton family really stepped up. I was part of TEC Edmonton at the time and jumped at the opportunity to work with Richard and the rest of the team to make this a reality.
CC: WELL CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
RJ: Thank you very much.
Reg Joseph is the CEO of Metabolomic Technologies Inc in Edmonton.