Three New Brunswick Companies Prepare for Life Sciences Pitch Competition

admin October 17, 2014

It’s that time of year again. The BioInnovation Challenge is fast approaching and this year, three teams from the New Brunswick biotech sector have made it to the semifinals and will compete for more than $40,000 in prizes. On October 20, Mostafa Aghaei, Dr. Keith Brunt and Graeme Powell will make their way to Halifax with their teams to pitch their technologies before a panel of judges. The top three teams will pitch again on October 21st before a live audience. The winner will walk away with $15,000 in cash and over $25,000 of in-kind services ranging from legal counsel to marketing expertise and business planning.

“It’s not just about the prize money,” said Jenny Keleher, Marketing Coordinator at BioNB. “The semi-finalists have already received coaching on how to present their ideas to investors and that is a very valuable experience.”
One of the teams from New Brunswick competed in the Challenge last year. BIOPolynet, a graduate of the Planet Hatch Accelerator Program, is returning to the BioInnovation Challenge with a new application and market for their innovation. Their product, an environmentally sustainable nano-coil used to stabilize granular material, is now being marketed as an insoluble binder for pellets and bio-char. They have a foundation in the iron ore pellet market, but they will be looking to expand to other sectors. “The pellet market is the biggest market in the world after oil,” claimed Mostafa Aghaei, team lead at BIOPolynet. If his team is successful this year, he plans to use the winnings to conduct some market research and to leverage additional  funding and financing.

Doctor’s Orders, another New Brunswick start-up competing in the BioInnovation Challenge, grew out of a senior design course in the UNB Faculty of Engineering. Last year four 4th year students from Mechanical and Electrical engineering started their class with a challenge: Is it possible to make a weight sensing cane?  They spent the semester developing just that. Their product monitors and logs the weight that it is supporting and will be useful to help patients and doctors monitor rehabilitation. This year three of the founding engineers have begun their Master’s degrees with UNB’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. The 4th founder, Graeme Powell, has chosen to work full time on the business side of the startup. He will be pitching at the challenge on behalf of the company. He sees this challenge as a chance to build connections with other expertise in the sector and to get in front of investors that understand the opportunity they are presenting. “We are competing for money but I see it as a networking opportunity. It’s more beneficial because we can support each other.”

NB-BioMatrix, the third New Brunswick company competing in the Challenge, is presenting their first commercial product: Naqua-Pure. This innovation is a biodegradable, antibacterial liquid filter. Its unique nano-structure has the ability to bind with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals and also non-soluble components such as oil. The implications for this product are vast. In addition to the obvious environmental and emergency response applications, “this would be of value to: government managed watersheds, public water works, pulp and paper industries, agricultural run-off zones and the oil and natural gas sectors,” said Keith Brunt, Chief Scientific Officer for the company. Brunt will be presenting the pitch at the challenge. His team is very excited about this opportunity. If they win the Challenge they will be splitting the prize money between their business and product development portfolios.

The BioInnovation Challenge is one of a kind in Atlantic Canada. “Investing in the biotech sector is different than for other sectors,” said Meaghan Seagrave, Executive Director of BioNB. “This sector tends to attract more patient capital that is looking for larger returns over the long haul.  This competition is so valuable because it is based on an understanding of the unique needs and the real opportunities that exist in this sector. Pitching before a panel that understands the science and can properly evaluate the opportunity of these bio-based companies is a real treat that doesn`t come along very often in this region.

The three teams from New Brunswick represent the breadth and depth of research capacity and expertise in biotechnology that exists in this Province. We wish our semi-finalists the best of luck at the BioInnovation Challenge.

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