TORONTO (March 17, 2016) — QD Solar, a Canadian technology company created by the University of Toronto (U of T) and MaRS Innovation, has received $2.55 million from the Sustainable…
MaRS Innovation and its member institutions are is profiled in International Innovation‘s July issue (#191) in a feature interview with Dr. Rafi Hofstein, MI’s president and CEO, written by Rosemary Peters.
The article is posted on the publication’s website and viewable through a digital interface (pages 80 and 81).
Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Hofstein’s comments:
“Canada’s academic research community is internationally highly competitive, but it has been argued that its scientific commercial success tags behind other countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. While this remains a matter of debate, I do agree that we need to continually encourage additional sources of seed capital to join is so as to allow for accelerated advancement of early-stage technologies. Industry needs to become much more engaged in advancing early-stage (and promising!) technologies emerging from the academic sector, which are usually young and in significant attention, navigation, management expertise and seed capital provisions. These are areas of rising importance in Canada, as many innovations fall into the ‘valley of death’ due to a lack of proper funding, or they leave the country and flourish in the U.S. where funding is more abundant.
TORONTO (May 27, 2015) – LegWorks Inc., backed with a $2 million blend of private and Government of Canada investments catalyzed by Grand Challenges Canada, is a new Toronto-based company that will contribute to a better life for amputees in developing countries.
The LegWorks AT-knee was covered in the Toronto Star on June 1, 2015 in “Great advances being made in assistive technology” by Kate Allen and in Healio Orthotics & Prosthetics News on June 2.
The LegWorks “All-Terrain Knee” (AT-Knee) is a safe, high-functioning, durable, affordable prosthetic knee joint developed at Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. It enables lower-limb amputees to walk more efficiently, safely and comfortably. Its patented design provides incredible stability, is easy to fit and maintain, and can even be used in harsh environments, including water.
“With the AT-Knee and LegWorks, it is our goal to begin to provide more universal access to better prosthetic care for individuals living with amputations around the world,” said Jan Andrysek, scientist in the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. “We want to make high-quality and well-functioning prosthetic devices affordable and accessible for the many individuals whose needs are currently left unmet.”
In trials, early users in 10 countries reported a 95 per cent preference for the relatively low-cost AT-Knee to more expensive existing technologies. Developed with a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada seed grant awarded in 2012 to the Bloorview Research Institute, the AT-Knee easily outperformed existing technologies under rigorous conditions in El Salvador, Chile and Myanmar.
With the new funding, LegWorks will mass produce its innovative, affordable prosthetic knee, the All-Terrain Knee (AT-Knee), the functionality and durability of which makes it ideal for amputees living in the developing world. The $2 million investment deal includes a loan via Grand Challenges Canada of up to $1 million (of which $405,000 has been dispersed), matched by MaRS Innovation, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Ontario Centres of Excellence and a group of private angel investors. With the $1 million expected from private investors and foundations matched by federal funds, the project will receive an anticipated $2 million to scale-up the success of the company.
In the first five years, LegWorks expects 37,000 units to be sold via distributors, NGOs, prosthetic clinics and government rehab facilities, in both high-income countries and the developing world.
TORONTO (October 20, 2014) — Vasomune Therapeutics, a biotechnology start-up founded by Drs. Dan Dumont and Paul Van Slyke of Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) in partnership with MaRS Innovation, has received $1.5 million, in part through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP), to advance Vasculotide, the company’s lead Tie-2 activating agent, towards clinical development.
This announcement was covered in Biotechnology Focus.
The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) and Dr. Pierre Meulien, president and CEO of Genome Canada, announced the funding as part of 12 selected projects under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP), on October 15 in Wallenstein, Ontario.
“We believe that our technology is well positioned to accelerate from preclinical research into clinical development based on its strong data package,” said Parimal Nathwani, president and CEO of Vasomune Therapeutics. “This award, in combination with industry funding, validates the Vasculotide opportunity and gives us the required funds to advance the drug candidate toward the clinic.”
In preclinical studies, Vasculotide has shown to be an effective treatment for multiple renal diseases including acute kidney injury (AKI), which in humans is a possible outcome of kidney function loss that manifests in nearly a third of high-risk cardiac patients. AKI may result from short-term interruptions in blood flow during surgery; 11 percent of patients who develop AKI after bypass surgery will die. People who survive AKI are at risk of developing longer-term kidney complications such as chronic kidney disease or End Stage Renal Disease. Vasomune’s founders conceptualized and designed Vasculotide to bind to the Tie-2 receptor, which is responsible for maintaining vascular health (and thus blood flow).
With this new funding, a third from Vasomune and MaRS Innovation, a third from Genome Canada and a third from a leading multinational pharmaceutical company, Vasomune can transition its program into manufacturing optimization, pharmacokinetics and toxicology studies to prepare for clinical development in early 2016.
UTEST among the four U of T entrepreneurship programs to be funded through Ontario’s CLA program
The funding is part of the Campus-Linked Accelerator Program (CLA), announced today by Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
“Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit among students is a key component of Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy, through programs that help transfer their ideas and skills to the marketplace while creating rewarding careers,” said Minister Moridi. “By partnering with colleges and universities to support entrepreneurship, we are ensuring our province’s business leaders of tomorrow are getting the support they need to succeed today.”
With this funding, U of T will continue to build on its long track record of success in this area by expanding the entrepreneurship opportunities it offers to students, primarily through its four principal accelerators: The Creative Destruction Lab (Rotman School of Management), The Hatchery (Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering), The Impact Centre (Faculty of Arts & Science), and UTEST (The Innovation and Partnerships Office, produced in partnership with MaRS Innovation).
The CLA program provides critical funding that enhances the support U of T and MaRS Innovation offer to our current UTEST companies,” said Kurtis Scissons, co-director of UTEST. “It also allows UTEST to expand to work with a greater number of student entrepreneurs in computer software, and is a catalyst for other UT CLA’s to combine their entrepreneurship efforts in a synergistic, complimentary way.”
Toronto start-up to advance context-aware mobile experience platform
TORONTO, Canada (August 20, 2014) — Flybits Inc., a Toronto start-up that has created a context-aware experience development platform for mobile environments, has closed a $3.75 million Series A financing. Led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC) and Trellis Capital Corporation with participation from MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund and Ryerson Futures, Inc., the investment will advance the company’s product development and international growth in the United States and Europe.
Since spinning off from Ryerson University in 2012, Flybits has raised a total of $4.05 million to date, including a seed round from MaRS Innovation. Flybits technology has been used in developing smarter cities, connected stadiums, smart corporate campuses, shopping malls, conference venues and even fashion shows. The company also concurrently incubated its technology at the Ryerson Digital Media Zone in Toronto and Vodafone Xone in Redwood City, California.
“Flybits is RBVC’s first investment in Canada,” said Luis Llovera, managing director of Robert Bosch LLC based in Palo Alto, California. “The company has demonstrated a unique and innovative approach in building foundational technology to deliver Contextual Mobility Services for both display-driven devices and for the emerging Internet of Things applications. Flybits’ strong roots in tangible and high impact R&D, their ability to predict the required infrastructure for the industrial Internet and their global entrepreneurial ambitions were some of the reasons we were attracted to this company.”
“Involving high-quality investors such as Bosch and Trellis demonstrates the potential in our unique approach to designing Intelligent Mobility Solutions that are intuitive and scalable,” said Dr. Hossein Rahnama, CEO and founder of Flybits. “In particular, having Bosch as a strategic investor means we leverage their global expertise in software automation, connected communities and sensor technologies as we support new and existing international customers, and scale and develop both our team and our products.”
“Recognizing the Flybits’ platform potential to create next-generation mobile experiences at an early stage, MaRS Innovation worked closely with Flybits to launch the company and secure initial market traction,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation.
Whirlscape Inc., a graduate of the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program’s cohort graduate, exits beta with the version 2.0 release of Minuum, their hit “small keyboard for big fingers.”
Whirlscape Inc. graduated from the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program’s first cohort. UTEST is accepting applications for its third cohort until April 17. Click here to apply.
Version 2.0’s release is already a popular download for Android Apps in the Google Play store. Users can get a 30-day free trial of Minuum and experience new features, including a widely anticipated addition of a Brazilian Portuguese language module, the company’s most requested language.
“We’re constantly testing out new features and improving the disambiguation algorithms,” says Will Walmsley, CEO and co-founder of the company he started at U of T’s Dynamic Graphics Project lab. The company raised $500,000 in seed funding earlier this year, and under the advisement of Y Combinator, began releasing often, trialling new features in what they call Bonus Panels, secondary functions that quickly allow users to change languages, add emojis and more.
UTEST is currently accepting applications for its third cohort. Apply now.
Minuum, the “little keyboard for big fingers” is making waves in wearable technology with their disambiguation algorithm and advanced language modelling, which can be used on Android devices and smart watches.
Read Darrell Etherington‘s article about Minuum on Smart TVs and consoles in Tech Crunch and coverage in Geeky Gadgets, an online technology review and resource publication. You can also read more about the U of T science behind Minuum here.
Minuum keyboard creators accelerate wearable device input technology development
TORONTO, Canada (February 6, 2014) — Whirlscape Inc., creators of Minuum, “the little keyboard for big fingers,” have closed an investment seed round for just over $500,000 (USD). Y Combinator, FundersClub, BDC Venture Capital, and a dozen other prominent angel investors have contributed to the round.
Whirlscape’s plans for the capital involve innovating beyond its participation in Silicon Valley’s start-up accelerator Y Combinator. Whirlscape also aims to consolidate the success of its Minuum keyboard for Android touchscreen devices—available on Google Play—whose positive reviews have boosted sales since the New Year.
Since launching the Minuum keyboard in 2013, Whirlscape has grown to a dedicated team of 10 working to enable new ways to type, and to unify input methods across the rapidly emerging field of wearable and ubiquitous computing devices such as smart watches and Google Glass. Whirlscape has recently demonstrated the Minuum keyboard working on Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch.
“Our vision for the future of hyper-personalized input devices involves letting you choose your companion device for its input capabilities,” said Will Walmsley, CEO of Whirlscape. “By simplifying the concept of the keyboard, we allow text entry to occur in places where it was previously unthinkable, removing barriers to communication. Your keyboard can now be anywhere you want it to be, out of the way, yet immediately accessible.”
Whirlscape, Inc. was in the first cohort of UTEST, the MaRS Innovation and University of Toronto accelerator program for early-stage technologies. UTEST is now accepting applications for their third cohort.
U of T professor shares tips to her team’s commercialization success
When it comes to bringing research from the lab to the market, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Shana Kelley knows firsthand what it takes. She’s co-founder of Xagenic, a MaRS Innovation and U of T start-up company that’s developed the first lab-free molecular diagnostic platform with a 20-minute time-to-result based on her research with fellow U of T colleague Professor Edward Sargent.
In her guest blog post for the Ministry of Research and Innovation, Kelley outlines what she’s learned through her experience in the commercialization process (emphasis ours):
1. When ready to commercialize, look in your own backyard for investment and support
When the Xagenic technology was mature enough to consider commercialization, we started to call venture investors all over the world to see if we could get them to back the company. We always got the meetings we wanted, and lots of enthusiasm and encouragement, but it was difficult to get people engaged. We were fortunate to get seed funding from a group of local organizations including MaRS Innovation, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Innovation Acceleration Fund (IAF), and Ontario Centres of Excellence and then finally found the group that would eventually be our Series A lead investors, CTI Life Sciences Fund.
With CTI, we immediately got the traction we had been looking for from a venture investor that indicated genuine interest in the company. When we later made the rounds for the Series B investment outside of Canada, we repeatedly heard the comment: “we’re glad to see you could do the Series A in your own backyard.”
When I probed about why this was important, I found that the investment community thinks it is important to have your early investors as close geographically as possible. The level of interaction when a company gets off the group needs to be fairly intense — being geographically closer helps entrepreneurs and investors keep in better contact. This is definitely not a hard-and-fast rule, but I found it interesting that many investors had this perception. And it creates a particular challenge for Canadian companies given how little venture capital is available locally!