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University of Prince Edward Island

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A Sea of Potential  

The potential for any business to be successful lies in its ability to develop a competitive edge through new products or services. With the help of Springboard member Three Oaks Innovations, Inc. at UPEI, the commercialization of groundbreaking research can be the perfect conduit to that edge.

The successful facilitation of a licensing agreement between the university and Nautilus Bioscience Canada, Inc is an excellent example of Three Oaks’ expertise and vision for UPEI, their researchers and for the Prince Edward Island economy.
UPEI professor of chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Marine Natural Products, Dr. Russell Kerr, developed a process to ferment bacteria from sea coral to produce an anti-inflammatory and analgesic compound. These compounds, known as pseudopterosins, can be used in skin creams and cosmetics but have a more important potential in prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. What is especially significant about Dr. Kerr’s discovery is that while it had long been thought that corals contained pseudopterosins, his team was able to determine the compound actually exists in the bacterium growing on the coral.

“In the past, pseudopterosins were extracted from coral in the Bahamas, which meant only small amounts could be collected,” says Dr. Kerr. “The discovery that pseudopterosins actually come from bacterium allows for the possibility of large scale fermentation and production of the anti-inflammatory compounds in large quantities without the need to harvest more coral. This method of production is more economically viable and it has less environmental impact.”

Through their in-depth knowledge of technology transfer and commercialization procedures, Three Oaks assisted UPEI in facilitating a relationship with Nautilus and ultimately brokered a licensing agreement that has the potential for millions of dollars of revenue for both partners. The agreement allows Nautilus access to the bacterium. Nautilus aims to optimize production of these anti-inflammatory compounds through fermentation of the bacteria with the goal of marketing the product to pharmaceutical companies.

“This type of licensing agreement is a first for UPEI and our ability to access the knowledge base within the Springboard network was instrumental to the process,” says Sophie Theriault, Director of Technology Transfer and Commercialization Coordination at Three Oaks Innovations. “We are extremely proud of the role we played in bringing these partners together and are excited about the future potential for this technology and others like it on Prince Edward Island.”

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A Model of Success

The effects of central nervous system conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and stroke can be life altering if not devastating to both those afflicted and their loved ones.

As pharmaceutical companies continue to explore new compounds to help patients manage the characteristics of their diseases, UPEI researchers have developed an innovative testing model that will help determine the effectiveness of those compounds in clinical trials. Expanding the reach of that innovation is Springboard network member Three Oaks Innovations, Inc. who recently licensed the technology to Prince Edward Island biotechnology company, CNS-CRO.

As a result of a ten-year multi-disciplinary collaboration of researchers from across UPEI, four pieces of medical technology were developed that use unique models to provide faster and more effective preclinical testing of treatments for stroke, schizophrenia and epilepsy. The research team - Dr. Andrew Tasker, director of the Atlantic Centre for Comparative Biomedical Research at UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College; Dr. Tracy Doucette, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Catherine Ryan, professor of psychology and Ms. Melissa Perry of the Atlantic Centre for Comparative Biomedical Research - focused their expertise on improving preclinical testing methods so that ineffective compounds could be eliminated sooner in the process, thereby saving pharmaceutical companies valuable time and money in their quest to get medical solutions to market.

Assisted by Three Oaks Innovations, UPEI’s independent arm for facilitating the commercialization of university-developed research, the project was able to access vital resources through Springboard’s Proof of Concept fund and the Atlantic Innovation Fund. (AIF), contributing to further early-stage development. Three Oaks also provided support in identifying partners, managing technology transfer, securing intellectual property rights and negotiating the license agreement between UPEI and CNS-CRO, a pre-clinical neurological disease specialty laboratory and a subsidiary of biotechnology company, Neurodyn Inc.

For Three Oaks, the project was exciting not only because they were confident that the research could have meaningful medical impact globally but because it could also have competitive impact for a company locally.

“The commercial potential for this type of technology was clear,” says Sophie Theriault, Director of Technology Transfer and Commercialization Coordination at Three Oaks Innovations. “But the opportunity to find a home for it here in Prince Edward Island with CNS-CRO where it will not only influence the province’s economic development but also the growth of our knowledge-based economy made the project that much more rewarding. This is what our work at Three Oaks Innovations is all about.

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The Springboard Atlantic Commercialization Network is made up of 19 universities and colleges working together to increase collaboration among post-secondary institutions in Atlantic Canada, to facilitate industry partnerships, and to accelerate the transfer of research and development (R&D) to the private sector. Springboard Atlantic has core support from its members and from the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

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