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February 2013

Canadian pharmaceutical company given start-up strength

As the effects of an aging population have led to increased health care costs, consumers have become increasingly aware of the role that diet has in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring longevity. With this awareness has come an increased demand for enhanced food products and natural health supplements which can assist in disease prevention.

However, the cost of research and development of natural health products is often impossibly steep as the products must be rigorously tested and proven before they can be placed on store shelves.

With this challenge ahead of them, the Alberta “phyto-pharmaceutical” biotech company, SinoVeda, turned to Mitacs-Accelerate to assist in the advanced testing of its latest natural calcium supplement which is currently undergoing clinical trials.

They approached Dr. Michael Doschak and a team of three graduate students from the University of Alberta ‘s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, who were matched to SinoVeda with the goal of testing and measuring the effectiveness of the natural compounds contained within the company’s calcium supplement product and comparing it to traditional calcium products. The project involved in-depth research from all three interns, led by Dr. Doschak in collaboration with SinoVeda research staff.

As calcium compounds are difficult to trace in test subjects after their absorption, Dr. Doschak and his team of Mitacs-Accelerate interns developed a state-of-the-art method to trace strontium compounds in the bone, which behave similarly to calcium but are much easier to detect. The development of this tracing method could be a major contribution to health supplement research, but has also provided SinoVeda with cutting edge expertise to help prove their product in the market.

“Mitacs-Accelerate is an extremely good program, particularly for emerging companies like ours.  It has given us access to cutting-edge technology and expertise which fills an important gap for our company. These benefits, combined with partial financial support from Mitacs, are what a growing company needs; and in our case it has the potential to generate revenue by introducing our product to the market.” says Dr. Yun Tam, President and Chief Scientific Officer of SinoVeda.

Dr. Doschak commended Mitacs Accelerate with providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the graduate researchers to collaborate with an industry partner in ways relevant to their own research fields:

 “Mitacs Accelerate afforded enormous benefits to the graduate students, as this was their first interaction with local Canadian pharmaceutical manufacturers, and it has exposed them to many valuable experiences developing their skills in their respective scientific fields.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Alberta, Industry Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence’s IRDI Program and Western Economic Diversification Canada for their support of Mitacs-Accelerate.