Canadian neurological disease and mental health experts ready to connect with Korean companies

Although biopharmaceutical companies devote considerable resources each year to treating neurological diseases, many of them still do not have a cure. This is precisely the gap that Canadian biotech Ananda seeks to fill by accelerating the development of therapies for neurological diseases. Along the same lines, mental health is another often overlooked issue that struggles to objectively diagnose patients. However, Canadian company diaMentis has high hopes of changing that story with its FDA Breakthrough technology.

Ananda Business Development Associate Victoria Kwok (right) and diaMentis Vice President Jean-Denis Dubois talked about their company’s digital technology solutions in neurological disease and health mental health, respectively, at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday.

In this context, Korea Biomedical Review sat down with Victoria Kwok, business development associate of Ananda, and Jean-Denis Dubois, vice president of diaMentis, to learn more about their digital health solutions and how they plan to find the right partners in Korea.

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According to Kwok, Ananda is developing nervous systems on a chip for neurological research and testing by cultivating neurons in a highly organized way as opposed to traditional cultures which she described as “disorganized spaghetti” with many overlaps, making very difficult to find meaningful information. .

By providing and developing specific physiologically relevant disease models, we are able to analyze, de-risk and validate pharmaceuticals and neurodegenerative disease markers, she added.

“Our work contributes to the development of pharmaceutical drugs. As neurotoxicity is the number one cause of failure of drugs under development, we are also developing neurological models for drugs that do not treat neurological diseases,” she said. Explain.

When asked how her company differentiated itself from competitors, she replied that “organs on a chip” was an emerging market, but the company was committed to making its technology easily adoptable. The company has added a microfluidic system below the commonly used 384-well plate, which is compatible with both standard microscope readers and pre-existing lab equipment, Kwok said.

On the same note, diaMentis VP explained that they are a pioneer in the field of mental illnesses.

diaMentis Vice President Jean-Denis Dubois explains his company's digital health technology solutions in the area of ​​mental health at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday.
diaMentis Vice President Jean-Denis Dubois explains his company’s digital health technology solutions in the area of ​​mental health at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday.

Symptoms of mental illness all look the same in the early stages, so it’s very difficult for doctors to diagnose mental illnesses early, Dubois said.

As the retina is the window of brain function, diaMentis has developed an objective diagnostic tool that stimulates the retina with light, records the electrical response signal from the retina with electroretinography (ERG) and analysis for biomarkers that can distinguish between different mental disorders. diseases like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disease at any stage of the disease, he explained.

The data analyzed can also predict whether a child of schizophrenic parents will be at risk of contracting this disease in five or ten years, he added.

“As we are the first to market with this disruptive technology, there is no other competition in the world for us right now,” he said confidently.

Psychiatry is the only medical specialty that still uses subjective questionnaires as diagnostic tools between doctor and patient, but diaMentis wants to provide the first objective diagnostic tool for mental illnesses, he added.

Why partner with Korea?

Regarding the reason for its partnership with Korean companies, Kwok said that Korea is at the forefront of innovation, especially in the health and research sector, which is very exciting for technology. emerging from his company, because their products require a certain level of expertise and scientific knowledge.

Ananda Business Development Associate Victoria Kwok speaks about her company's digital health technology solutions in the area of ​​mental health at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday.
Ananda Business Development Associate Victoria Kwok speaks about her company’s digital health technology solutions in the area of ​​mental health at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday.

“In addition, we are also interested in using our expertise in microfluidic engineering to engage with customers who have expertise in cell culture to develop custom solutions,” she continued.

In this regard, ideal partners would be pharmaceutical companies, different biotechnology companies and hospital researchers who work on models of rare diseases, she said.

The company has already partnered with a Korean company that produces cardiomyocytes to develop a related in vitro diagnostic tool.

Meanwhile, the VP of diaMentis explained that his company is looking for partners globally, but since Korea has a high burden of mental illnesses and a high number of suicides, his company is eager to find partners. in Korea. He said, “As we are still in clinical trials in Canada and the United States, we are specifically looking for partners who can help us commercialize this technology and analyze regulatory policy in South Korea.

Priority projects and future plans

Elaborating on Ananda’s priority projects, Kwok said the company’s newest product of a modeled neuromuscular junction is in its launch phase.

“This is one of the very first functional neuromuscular junction chips on the market and we are actively working with the FDA to gain approval as we applied for a multi-million dollar grant from the FDA to develop a neuromuscular junction,” she said. “We expect this to play an important role in developing treatments for neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases without having to collect preliminary data from patients who are already suffering.”

Currently, diaMentis is focused on successfully completing clinical trials, refining its technology, and developing a more specific electroretinography device for the company’s needs.

He added: “Due to our breakthrough designation, we also have fast-track approval and four-year sales exclusivity in the United States, so we are maintaining close contact with FDA regulators to make sure everything runs smoothly. smooth.”

Sharing some of their future plans, Kwok remarked, “Right now, we want to validate many different results on our devices, bring them to market, and expand our product platform to biopharmaceutical companies that address rare diseases.

“Ultimately, we want to enable our devices for in vitro diagnostics directly in hospitals where you could take a blood sample from a patient and quickly stratify the patient to determine whether a drug might be effective or not. “

Dubois chimed in, saying diaMentis’ short-term goal is to complete the clinical trial and then begin commercialization for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar and depression globally. In the long term, he expressed his wish to expand the platform for early diagnosis of other diseases such as anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism to start treatment more quickly.

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