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A Critical Breakthrough

Two men holding glass vials

When a patient experiences critical blood loss – whether from an accident, a medical condition or on the operating table – every second counts. Having the resources and technology to stem the flow quickly and effectively can mean the difference between life and death.

Now, a Fredericton, New Brunswick biotech company has found an innovative way to manufacture a product used to control critical blood loss.

Mycodev Group is manufacturing chitosan, an anti-microbial ingredient that promotes blood clotting and tissue regeneration that is frequently in short supply in the medical industry. It also has other industrial uses.

“It’s very versatile,” says Brennan Sisk, Mycodev Group’s Chief Executive Officer, pointing out that chitosan has a variety of uses, from waste water treatment to wine clarifying kits. But in its refined form, the product can be used for brain and spinal surgery to stop bleeding. “As you can imagine, the quality of the product has to be very high and we’re able to achieve those high standards,” says Brennan.

Chitosan is typically extracted from shellfish by-products. But Mycodev has engineered a process to derive chitosan from a fungus produced in their own lab, ensuring purity, consistency and environmental sustainability.

And within the context of the wound care industry – which is expected to reach $4 billion in 2015 – that’s big news, resulting in a win at the New Brunswick 2013 INNOV8 Awards as Most Innovative Start-up.

It all began when David Brown, a microbiologist and Fredericton native, stumbled on the potential of chitosan while conducting other research at the University of Alberta.

“He came home with a burning passion to explore this a bit deeper,” says Brennan.

Though David understood how he could grow and extract high-value chitosan, he needed Brennan and Peter Dean, Mycodev’s Chief Engineer, to join his team and begin the process of turning his discovery into a commercially viable business.

Mycodev has purchased necessary manufacturing equipment with help from ACOA, but Brennan says the Agency also played another role.

“During the application process, when we were attending all kinds of pitch competitions and so on, we definitely felt the support of the individuals at ACOA,” he says.

The first chitosan shipments destined for the wound care industry are expected to roll out soon. As the young biotech firm finds its footing, Mycodev will require a diverse team of highly-skilled staff, including chemists and lab technicians.

Though Mycodev could set up shop just about anywhere in the world, its founding partners all share the same commitment: to make things work here in New Brunswick.

“There seems to be a movement to want to diversify the economic base here and bio-technology and biosciences are a part of it,” says Brennan. “New Brunswick is recognizing that we need to make this investment.”

Mycodev’s story proves that when it comes making it big in biotechnology, you don’t have to leave home to achieve critical success.

Published November 3, 2014