Two local entrepreneurial scientists are getting international recognition for their innovative biotechnology research.
Nature Medicine, a distinguished biomedical research journal, recently published a study by Drs. John Lewis and Andries Zijlstra. The research showed, for the first time, that fluorescent plant virus nanoparticles can be used to attain high resolution images of blood vessels in live animals. The technique enables researchers to closely monitor biological activities such as blood flow, tissue damage, and cancer growth. The study presented evidence that the new virus imaging agent is superior to using traditional techniques.
"Plant viruses are present throughout our food chain. They don’t infect animals or people, and when used for imaging, we see no toxicity. What is particularly exciting is what this could mean for developing diagnostics and drug therapies to fight diseases such as cancer," Dr. Lewis said.
Those are the possibilities that Drs. Lewis and Zijlstra are pursuing with their new company, Innovascreen Inc. Using an advanced imaging and screening technology they developed, they now work with pharmaceutical companies throughout the world to help speed the drug approval process, lower the costs of development and minimize the risk of dangerous side effects.
They are particularly enthusiastic about identifying and generating new anticancer drugs in-house using their proprietary screening platform. These drugs represent a new class of therapeutics aimed at halting the spread of metastatic cancers.
"This is an innovation and commercialization success story and we’re thrilled to have it played out in Nova Scotia," said Marli MacNeil, CEO of BioNova, the province’s life sciences industry association. "We know we can build solid companies from excellent research and Innovascreen is the latest example of this industry’s ability to impact the province’s economy and quality of life for people here and all over the world."
Drs. Lewis and Zijlstra performed the study while at The Scripps Research Institute, a world renowned biomedical research organization in La Jolla, California. Innovascreen Inc’s corporate office is in New Glasgow and research and development is based at Innovacorp's BioScience Enterprise Centre on the Halifax waterfront.
Nova Scotia, February 27, 2006