In October 2022, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) partnered with the Creative Destruction Lab to launch CDL Cancer – an intensive program that connects scientists who have game-changing ideas with experienced business mentors who can help bring those ideas to life. Following Year 1 of CDL Cancer, 9 ventures have successfully graduated from CDL Cancer and are now one step closer to bringing their breakthroughs from the lab to real life.
We recently spoke with 3 graduate ventures - VoxCell BioInnovation, Integrated Nanotherapeutics and Xpan Inc. – who are using what they learned from the program to solve some of cancer’s biggest problems.
Using 3D printing technology to create human-like tissue models
Based in Victoria, British Columbia, VoxCell BioInnovation is ready to disrupt the field of cancer science with their extraordinary invention – a 3D bioprinter that can create human-like soft cell tissues with vascular structures. Capable of printing cancer-specific tissues from a biopsy sample, their technology will enable pharmaceutical companies to test cancer treatments on realistic tissue models, rather than on singular cells in a 2D petri dish.
“It can take over 15 years to develop a new drug, and much of the time and money is spent doing clinical trials” says Kevin Vos, Director of Business Development and Strategic Alliances with Voxcell BioInnovation. “Our models enable more accurate tests and will help researchers to discover which treatments won't be effective so they can create targeted, life-saving treatment plans faster. Which means we can get life-saving therapies to cancer patients sooner.”
Gaining insights from mentors through CDL Cancer, VoxCell BioInnovation have worked to focus their idea and are now in the next phase of evolving their company. In the future, they see potential to expand into the field of personalized medicine by helping doctors to test therapies and treatments on printed models of their patients.
Maximizing the impact of therapeutic drugs through nanomedicine
Hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Integrated Nanotherapeutics is eager to make a big impact with an innovative drug delivery system that uses lipid nanoparticles, which are smaller than 100 nanometres in diameter! Their technology allows for several small-molecule therapeutics, like chemotherapies, to be combined into a single nanoparticle so that they can be delivered throughout the body at the same time.
This simplified way of delivering combination therapies benefits both doctors and cancer patients by reducing the number of doses a cancer patient may require and maximizing the impact of their treatment.
“There is a benefit to making something so small” says Dr Chris Tam, co-founder and CEO of Integrated Nanotherapeutics. “By having a smaller delivery system, we can better target drugs to localized areas of the body and release therapeutics in a way that reduces potential damage to healthy tissue. This leads to safer and more effective cancer treatments.”
Integrated Nanotherapeutics are grateful for the guidance they received from their CDL Cancer mentors. They are in the next phase of accelerating growth for their company and hope to build more therapeutics that can benefit people with diseases like cancer and beyond in the near future.
Reimagining medical devices to minimize complications from surgeries
Residing in Vaughan, Ontario, Xpan Inc. is changing the future of cancer by reimagining a traditional tool used by surgeons. Trocars are medical devices placed in abdominal or chest walls during procedures like cancer surgeries, so that surgeons can create incisions and access vital organs. While surgeons usually need many trocars during an operation that are quite large in size, Xpan’s version is smaller, expandable, and adaptable. Because of the way they are designed, they enable surgeons to operate with greater efficiency and make fewer wounds, leading to reduced pain and fewer harmful side effects.
“During cancer surgery, every second counts. Our devices allow surgeons and their teams to save time, because they can expand quickly when things go wrong and enable medical teams to be more adaptable. Unlike traditional trocars, extra time isn’t needed for our trocars to be inserted and re-inserted” says Zaid Atto, founder and CEO of Xpan Inc. “By streamlining the number of tools an oncologist needs and improving their functionality, we are able reduce the risk of complications from surgery and ensure better outcomes for patients.”
Xpan Inc. found their experience in the CDL Cancer program to be incredibly rewarding, and they appreciated being able to receive valuable advice and perspectives from so many experts in the industry. They look forward to scaling their business and conducting additional testing of their products in a patient setting.