Quebec innovator’s start-up will help get vaccines to market faster

The Team

Co-founder and CEO Juliette Champeil and colleagues at Ivano Bioscience

The Challenge

Getting vaccines to market faster by speeding up the process for evaluating their efficiency

The Solution

Ready-to-use lab test kits that come pre-loaded with bioengineered artificial cells and viruses

The Outcome

Company expects to launch commercial product for testing new COVID-19 vaccines early next year while also supporting the development of vaccines for HIV, Zika and Dengue

New technology makes vaccine evaluation process 20 times quicker through ready-to-use test kits that are safer and easier to use

While Juliette Champeil pursues her PhD in Chemical Engineering at Laval University, she also serves as co-founder and CEO of her bioengineering start-up, Ivano Bioscience. The company is advancing Champeil’s breakthrough innovation: ready-to-use lab test kits that come pre-loaded with bioengineered artificial cells and viruses designed to mimic real life. The test kits speed up the process for testing new vaccines, helping them get to market faster.

Speedy solution 

“Right now, when scientists want to evaluate the efficiency of vaccines, they need to detect the presence of neutralizing antibodies in the blood of vaccinated patients,” says Champeil. “To do so, they’re forced to use live viruses and cells, meaning they need to wear extreme protective equipment and work in state-of-the-art, biosafe facilities.” This current approach to testing is very laborious, taking anywhere from four to 10 days to return a result.

“We are replacing those live cell cultures and viruses with safer, artificial structures that we engineer to accurately mimic the interaction that occurs during a viral infection,” she says, noting that the novel approach allows a test to be completed in four easy steps and results are delivered in just four hours.

Quality and convenience 

The quality of results achieved using the company’s test kit — called the AbVenger, short for ‘antibody avenger’ — are on par with current methods, and the kits themselves can either be used in a manual process or incorporated into an automated workflow. Safe for all types of lab environments, the kits can analyze up to 96 samples at once and detect whether neutralizing antibodies are present. The kits consist of small tubes preloaded with the artificial virus and a well plate preloaded with artificial cells.

Next steps 

The company’s current efforts are focused on developing test kits for COVID-19 vaccines, including against variants, and it expects to launch a commercial product early next year. Other kits will support the development of vaccines for HIV, Zika and Dengue, as the company continues on its aggressive growth plan to reach 32 employees and gross revenue of $20 million within five years.

“The pandemic showed us that there was an unmet need in vaccine deployment,” says Champeil, noting that the vaccine market is currently growing 10 per cent annually and is expected to reach $150 billion in 2026. “The industry was really able to step up to tighten the process, but there are stills steps that can be shortened further, and our product will do that for them.”

International exposure and commercialization 

Mitacs’s Accelerate Entrepreneur program has helped the Ivano Biosciences team on their commercialization journey.

“Thanks to Mitacs, we have been able to do two trade missions in the U.S., and both had a big impact on our company by confirming the interest for our product and enabling us to plant seeds for future partnerships,” Champeil says. “Mitacs’s support will also be incredibly valuable as we bring our product to commercialization faster, which in turn will help improve everyone’s quality of life.”

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from valued partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to foster innovation and economic growth throughout the country. 

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