Medical Breakthrough - Up-and-Coming Entrepreneur Earns Prestigious Award

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Saint John, New Brunswick — A Saint John entrepreneur, Dr. Alli Murugesan, is cutting the time to market from research to drug by creating a first-of-its-kind incubator within academia to encourage and support commercialization — starting with the advancement of a ground-breaking therapy to treat blood cancers such as myeloma, leukemia and lymphoma.
 
The game-changing commercialization strategy has earned Dr. Murugesan a prestigious entrepreneurship award from Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that partners companies, government and academia to promote Canadian research and training. In recognition of the ongoing success of her start-up and its important work to bring medical breakthroughs out of academia and into the real world, Dr. Murugesan — a former Mitacs postdoctoral fellow, founder of BioHuntress Therapeutics Inc. and a senior scientist at the Reiman cancer research laboratory, University of New Brunswick, Saint John — will be presented the Mitacs Global Impact Entrepreneur Award on June 5 at a ceremony in Montreal.
 
The first breakthrough supported by the Saint John-based BioHuntress Therapeutics Inc. is a patent-filed, nature-inspired chemical compound, co-invented by Dr. Murugesan in collaboration with medical oncologist and UNB professor Dr. Tony Reiman and Université de Moncton associate professor Dr. Mohamed Touaibia. The promising compound is capable of targeting and killing blood cancer cells, including those that have grown resistant to chemotherapy. After proving the drug’s effectiveness in the lab, the company is now seeking investment and industrial funding to begin animal testing and phase one clinical trials in people.
 
“This could be a disruptive drug as it demonstrates superior treatment potential than existing chemotherapy treatments,” Dr. Murugesan explained.
 
BioHuntress Therapeutics Inc. is currently negotiating to establish its incubator within the University of New Brunswick so that it can help more researchers embark on a similar commercialization path, with a focus on promoting therapies for blood cancers and bone diseases. What sets Dr. Murugesan’s strategy apart is her willingness to delay traditional academic publishing in favour of pursuing intellectual property and product development channels first, and she is encouraging other researchers to do the same.
 
“There’s a personal sacrifice in delaying publication and working instead towards a larger, beneficial impact to society,” said Dr. Murugesan, whose company envisions aiding researchers to articulate a value proposition, connect with key partners and identify channels to realize a drug.
 
“Many ideas born in academic research labs never see the light of day,” she explained. “I believe I have the passion and vision to help them cross that last mile, bringing new drugs to market that will benefit thousands of people worldwide.”
 
Dr. Murugesan is one of seven winners of the Entrepreneur Award, presented by Mitacs (www.mitacs.ca), who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of others.
 
“Mitacs is proud to support the exceptional talent displayed by young Canadian entrepreneurs like Alli,” said Alejandro Adem, Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director. “Support of this research is critical to advancing entrepreneurship across Canada, which in turn boosts the economy, spurs productivity and creates jobs. In the end, we all benefit from the next great idea.”
 
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