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Health Innovation Week Showcases Canadian Medical Technology Advancements

This year marked the 6th annual MaRS Health Innovation Week (HIW), Canada’s largest gathering of health startups, investors and the health ecosystem, as over 4,000 attendees collected to network, secure funding, and learn from industry experts.  HIW events were focused around three key conferences this year including HealthKick Adopt, HealthKick Investment, and HealthKick Focus.

Health Innovation Week 2019, Healthkick Invest

HIW kicked off with HealthKick Adopt, where health institutions, decision-makers and entrepreneurs came together to drive the adoption of the latest health solutions in local and foreign markets. The HIW Healthkick Focus events explored “How AI Will Transform the Pharma Industry” and “The Intersection of Innovation and Aging.”  

Next came HealthKick Invest, which is the largest early-stage health investment conference in Canada.  It provided a platform for attendees to connect with global venture capital funds, family offices, angel investors and other capital partners through a series of investment panels, networking events, one-on-one meetings and the HealthKick Challenge pitch competition.

Medical technology startups pitched to Canadian and U.S VCs, other investors, c-suite leaders and industry partners for a chance win up to $25000 in cash prizes as well as in-kind services valued up to $10000 at the Healthkick Pitch competition. The competition showcased 16 Medical devices, pharma & biotech, and digital health companies, and three finalists were then chosen from each industry category.  The pitch competition prize was awarded to Nanology Labs, a pharmaceutical company that harnesses advanced nanotechnology to detect and treat cancers at the early stages. In kind services were awarded to the runners up, Managing Life, an industry-leading digital pain management solution, and ImmunoBiochem Corporation an oncology biotechnology company that is innovating the targeting of heterogeneous solid tumors.  

Healthkick Pitch Competition Finalists (Top left: Christopher Jones, Partner at Blakes. Top right: Mohammad Ali Amini, CEO at Nanology Labs. Bottom left: Tahir Janmohamed, CEO at Managing Pain. Bottom right: Anton Neschadim, CEO at ImmunoBiochem)

Fundraising panel discussions provided attendees with the opportunity to gain investor insights on deal making, raising capital, expectations following investment, and the effects of public markets on private health investing. The panel emphasised the importance of startups having alignment with the investor, understanding what value the investor brings to the table other than just money, and maintaining trust and transparency with investors after the close.   

Investing panel discussions ran in parallel with the Fundraising panels and addressed digital health, medical device and therapeutics investing, multinational partnering and corporate venture capital investing, as well as Angels and family offices investing in Health. The investing panels wrapped up with a discussion on “Why Invest in Canada,” which identified Canada’s medical technology infrastructure and talent arbitrage as major advantages amidst current political and economic volatility. But the panel also highlighted a lack of Canadian aspiration, emphasizing the need for a change in mindset to dream bigger in order to create anchor companies and advance medical technology commercialization.  

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Budget 2019: Highlights for Businesses

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s election year budget, tabled on March 19th, 2019, forecasted a deficit of $19.8B for fiscal 2019, with deficits projected to decline gradually to $9.8B by 2023.

No additional measures were proposed to provide business tax reductions, or to address the 2018 Fall Economic Statement announcements regarding an Accelerated Investment Incentive or the immediate write-off of manufacturing/processing and clean energy machinery and equipment in response to the recent U.S. tax reform.  

The initiatives proposed in Budget 2019 are heavily focused on investments in skills and training and offer some limited benefits to Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

SR&ED Enhanced Tax Credit Rate Eligibility Amended

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program provides a  basic 15% , non-refundable credit to all businesses performing SR&ED in Canada. Eligible small and medium-sized companies can qualify for enhanced 35% refundable tax credit rate of qualifying SR&ED expenditures up to $3M per fiscal year.

Eligibility for the 35% rate is determined by a business’ level of taxable capital and income from the prior fiscal year. 

  • The taxable capital threshold is between $10M and $50M.
  • The taxable income threshold begins at $500,000 taxable income in the prior year and reduces current fiscal year eligibility for the enhanced credit on a sliding scale until $800,000 taxable income in the prior year.

Budget 2019 proposed to eliminate the income threshold to qualify for federal enhanced (refundable) SR&ED investment tax credits for taxation years beginning on or after March 19, 2019, for SMEs, in order to increase support for SMEs that are scaling up their R&D efforts or have variable income from year to year. The capital threshold will continue to apply.

The proposed changes will allow SMEs to continue to receive refundable tax credits on up to $3M in expenditures, regardless of their profitability. 

Corporate Rates and Employee Stock Option Deductions (Compared to U.S. Tax Measures)

Despite tax-payer anticipation for Canadian corporate tax rate reductions in accordance with recent U.S. tax reform, there were no proposed changes in Budget 2019 to the corporate income tax rates or to the $500,000 Small-Business Deduction Limit for Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs).

Budget 2019 proposed to impose a $200,000 annual cap on employee stock option grants for employees of large, long-established, mature firms in alignment with the U.S. tax treatment. Employee stock option benefits of startups and rapidly growing Canadian businesses will remain uncapped.

Further details of this measure will be released before the summer of 2019.

Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan is Ongoing

Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan was launched in 2017 to help Canadian businesses start up, scale up, and become globally competitive.

  • In February 2018 the Government announced a $950M investment in five regional industry-led innovation superclusters including digital technologies, food production, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence in supply chain management, and ocean industries. These superclusters have assumed operation and are expected to create 50,000 jobs and add $50B to the economy over the next 10 years. 
  • The $1.2B Strategic Innovation Fund was launched in July 2017, to spur Canadian innovation by supporting the costs of direct labour, subcontractors, and consultants, as well as overhead, direct materials and equipment, land and building, and other direct costs. As of January 2019, the Fund had secured 31 investment agreements from leading researchers and manufacturers, worth a total of $8.1B, including a federal investment of $795M. Budget 2019 proposes to provide a further $100M over four years, starting in 2019–20, to the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).  The SIF will leverage private sector co-investments in order to support the activities of the Clean Resource Innovation Network.
  • Innovative Solutions Canada was launched in December 2017, replacing the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP), to help companies bridge the technology gap between the R&D stage of projects and the pre-commercialization phase through government acquisitions. The program will dedicate over $100M annually by the end of March 2020 to support challenges issued by twenty participating federal departments and agencies to address federal government needs.
  • The first Canadian National Intellectual Property Strategy was proposed in Budget 2018. Budget 2019 announced intent to move forward with a pilot Patent Collective, to help Canadian start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises pool together vital intellectual property assets.

Workforce Development Investments

Budget 2019 proposed investments in talent acquisition and skills training that impact businesses including: 

  • $35.2M over five years, starting in 2019, with $7.4M per year ongoing to make the Global Talent Stream a permanent program to give Canadian businesses enhanced access to top global talent. The Global Stream Talent pilot project was a part of the Global Skills Strategy that was announced in the 2016 Fall Economic Statement.
  • More than $1.7B over five years, and $586.5M per year ongoing to: (1) implement a Canada Training Benefit which will include a new, refundable Canada Training Credit (CTC) to help cover up to half of eligible tuition and fees associated with training, and (2) to implement a new Employment Insurance Training Support Benefit to provide income support when an individual requires time off work As of 2019, eligible individuals will be able to accumulate $250 annually (up to a maximum of $5,000 over a lifetime) that can be applied towards eligible expenses beginning in 2020.
  • An additional $150.0M over four years, starting in 2020, to Employment and Social Development Canada to create up to 20,000 additional work-integrated learning opportunities annually in partnership with innovative businesses.

Additional Funding Proposed in Budget 2019

  • $100M over three years (on a cash basis), starting in 2019, to Western Economic Diversification Canada to increase its programming in western Canada.
  • New Strategic Science Fund starting in 2022, which will operate under a principles-based framework for allocating federal funding for third-party science and research organizations. The Minister of Science will provide more detail on the Fund over the coming months.
  • Implementation of new Regulatory Roadmaps for reviewing and modernizing regulatory requirements and practices that impede innovation and growth in the following high-growth sectors:
    • Agri-food and aquaculture
    • Health and bio-sciences
    • Transportation/infrastructure

This includes the establishment of a regulatory sandbox for new and innovative medical products such as tissues developed through 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and gene therapies targeted to specific individuals. Further details will be released in the coming weeks.

New FedDev Funding Announced- Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream

If your company is a Canadian or provincially incorporated businesses located in southern Ontario you may be eligible to receive a repayable grant to cover up to 35% of eligible project costs for a maximum of $10 million per project through the FedDev Stream 1: Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream.

The recently announced Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream aims to accelerate the growth of firms and assist with the adoption and adaptation of new, innovative technologies that support scale-up, productivity, development of and entry into new markets to help companies become globally competitive.

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis with no submission deadlines.

Eligible costs include:

  • Labor
  • Expertise
  • Non-Capital
  • Capital

Eligible applicants must demonstrate:

  • A minimum of 65% funding available for the project.
  • A sustainable business model
  • Financial, managerial, technical, and operational capacity
  • Minimum of 5 full time employees.
  • Market/industry demand
  • Potential for market growth
  • A viable project plan

Preference will be given to projects focused on issues and opportunities identified by FedDev Ontario as priority sectors, or projects that reinforce Ontario’s competitive advantage.

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Medtech startups will compete for up to $50,000 at SNG’s Hawk’s Nest competition

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On November 22nd 2018, four medical technology startups will pitch live to an all-star panel of judges and a 300+ person audience at the second annual Hawk’s Nest.   

Sunnybrook Next Generation’s Hawk’s Nest is a medical technology pitch competition and fundraiser that showcases Canada’s most promising local medtech startups as they compete for a chance to win non-dilutive financing for their company.

It starts with dozens of startups. Numerous pitch applications from the city’s most promising emerging medtech companies are screened and interviewed. Four medtech startups are selected and invited to pitch live to an expert panel of “Hawks.” The pitches are followed by tough Q&A from the panel and scored across a set of categories. At the end of the night, the winner is selected by audience vote to receive 50% of the net proceeds from the event in non-dilutive funding, up to a maximum of $50,000. The remainder of the proceeds raised from the event are donated to the Sunnybrook Medventions Program.

The first SNG Hawk’s Nest competition in 2017 raised $38,000 in support of the Sunnybrook Research Institute and another $38,000 in support of the 2017 Hawk’s Nest winner, Tréxō Robotics.

Founded in 2016 by University of Waterloo Mechatronics Engineering graduates Manmeet Maggu and Rahul Udasi, Tréxō Robotics developed the first human exoskeleton device for children with walking impairment conditions such as cerebral palsy, brain and spinal cord injury, stroke, neuromuscular conditions, and various genetic conditions. In its first year, the company took home the prestigious Lacavera Prize at the University of Toronto Hatchery Demo Day. By 2017, Tréxō was nominated as one of the best new startups at the 7th annual Canadian Innovation Awards.

Tréxō’s unique device, the Trexo Plus, can convert any passive walker into a fully-powered exoskeleton that can be used anywhere, anytime, and at a fraction of the price of currently available competitor devices. “With our device we see a future where kids can be given an option to be able to walk more and more” said Trexo CEO, Manmeet Maggu in an interview. “Whereas normally a child will be walking 50 steps in a day, with the Trexo we envision that would be over 1000 steps per day” Maggu explained. The company recently rolled out a second generation device to improve on its previous exoskeleton’s design.

Since winning Hawk’s Nest competition last year, Tréxō launched its first clinical trial at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre, the largest pediatric rehabilitation centre in North America and the first clinic to introduce the Lokomat, a computer-powered treadmill that gives Children with neuromuscular conditions the opportunity to learn what it feels like to walk.

While the funding they received has enabled Tréxō to reach their first clinical trial, the company plans on conducting multiple additional trials in order to continuously evaluate and grow their understanding of the benefits and the impact that their device provides. They recently received a Letter of Intent for a second trial at the St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in New York City and are currently in discussion with many top tier hospitals in Canada.

“The most important thing is to be relentlessly resourceful in your pursuit and finding support can be hard but it’s out there.”   

– Manmeet Maggu, CEO Trexo Robotics

Named as the ‘Company Most Likely to Change The World for the Better’ at the 2018 MIT Enterprise Forum Startup Spotlight Awards, Tréxō sees a future where their device can be in the hands of every child with a disability, giving them the opportunity to walk around freely. “Every time we have a child coming in to try the device, the response we get from the family about how they can’t wait to get their hands on this device for their kids just multiplies the motivation we have as a team and pushes us forward, and that is how we manage to uphold the values at Tréxō.”

The Medtech scene in the Waterloo-Toronto Tech Corridor is booming, but access to capital continues to be a major hurdle for growing companies.      

Tréxō financed their innovation through multiple different sources, including venture capital and government funding in addition to pitch competitions. “It is a tough space that can have fairly limited resources,” said Maggu.  “It’s a matter of leveraging your network and also creating a network and finding the opportunities that are out there. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be relentlessly resourceful in your pursuit and finding support can be hard but it’s out there.”  He also recommends looking at grant programs that are available in Canada, and advised that companies “should not take the competitions lightly as they provide much more value than just the prize money.”

The success of Hawk’s Nest 2017 helped accelerate the growth of SNG and generated publicity for both Sunnybrook and the finalists Tréxō, Retispec, Acorn and VivaVax.

Toronto based Retispec is developing a non-invasive retinal scanner that detects biological markers of Alzheimer’s pathology years before the onset of symptoms, when patients are typically much more responsive to intervening therapeutics and other forms of treatment. Retispec recently announced a collaboration and a licensing agreement with the University of Minnesota with the goal of expanding the company’s technological knowledge base and accelerating time-to-market for a commercially viable screening tool for Alzheimer’s.

Acorn Biolabs has developed a mail-in non-invasive cell collection kit to cryopreserve and sequence human cells, while VivaVax is making biosafe formulations to protect sensitive medications from breaking down during transport and storage.

The 2018 Hawk’s Nest will host pitch finalists Steadiwear, KA Imaging, MIMOSA Diagnostics, and Cyclica  as well as over 25 booths from other Canadian Medtech companies.       

Toronto-based Steadiwear is a medical device company that has developed cutting-edge damping technology to improve wrist stability and tactile functionality in Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor patients.Waterloo start-up KA Imaging has created a revolutionary 2D X-ray detector retrofit solution that can “see” different X-ray energy levels, enabling clear lung tissue visualization. A leading mHealth innovator, MIMOSA Diagnostics is building AI driven and cloud based patient monitoring and assessment tools. Cyclica is Toronto-based Biotechnology company developing a cloud-based and AI-augmented platform to enhance how scientists design, screen, and personalize medicines.

Hawk’s Nest 2018 will be held on November 22nd from 6-10pm EST at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District and will be proceeded by an open bar reception.

CLICK HERE to get your ticket and join a high profile panel of “Hawks” and large audience of professionals in selecting which of these promising companies will take home the winning prize.

 

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Elevate TechFest Sets the Stage for Canadian AI – Powered Medicine

For the second year in a row, Elevate TechFest, Canada’s largest technology and innovation festival, took over downtown Toronto in September as over 10,000 members of the tech community, including investors, government, media, start-ups, talent and next generation innovators all gathered to “disrupt together, celebrate diversity and inclusiveness, and proudly showcase the best of Canadian innovation.”

As a community driven festival, Elevate provides a shared stage for Canada’s booming high tech startup ecosystem to showcase their work, and to learn and network through numerous events, educational presentations, award ceremonies, and social gatherings. The result is an exceptionally inclusive and collaborative entrepreneurial platform which highlights Canada’s greatest competitive advantage to attract talent and investment for the next generation of innovation.

This is particularly relevant in the fields of AI and health/medical technology, with Canada being uniquely poised to drive AI innovation in the healthcare field as a global leader in AI technology with its universal healthcare system. Canada’s strength in AI and medical technology was emphasized throughout the various Elevate events and tracks by the prevalence of growing companies developing machine learning and digital health solutions with the goal of democratizing AI powered medicine.

Industry leaders such as Al Gore, Eric Schmidt, Tobias Lutke, Minister Navdeep Bains, Whitney Wolfe Herd and Wyclef Jean, shared the main stage on September 25 to discuss the role of technology and collaboration in shaping the future.

Keynote: How Technology Drives Global Change with Al Gore

Keynote: How Technology Drives Global Change with Al Gore

In a fireside chat moderated by co-founder and CEO of Canada Learning Code, Melissa Sariffodeen, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains discussed the federal Economic Strategy Table interim report and ‘How Canada Wins’ with Tobias Lutke, Shopify CEO and the Chair of the Digital Industries group (that is advising the government on improving the digital economy). The Economic Strategy Tables are a new model for industry-government collaboration that were announced as part of the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan to support economic growth in six key sectors: advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and resources of the future. According to Lutke, Canada needs more “anchor” or “freight train” companies which have “an outsized impact on the ecosystem.”

Top Canadian AI startups were invited to pitch their ideas for a chance to win $1,000,000 and the attention of international media, investors and global tech leaders at the ElevateR pitch competition taking place as part of the Main Stage events. Finalists Elucid labs and Aifred Health pitched live before Al Gore’s keynote address. Elucid Labs, a Waterloo based company that is developing a non-invasive digital biopsy device for detecting and diagnosing dermatological disease, was named the people’s choice winner. Aifred Health, the runner-up in the competition, is a Montreal based company using machine learning to increase treatment efficacy in mental health by creating a deep-learning based clinical decision tool for physicians to bring personalized medicine to psychiatry.

ElevateR 7

2018 ElevateR Pitch Competition – AI Edition

During the event, Toronto based Daisy Intelligence, an AI software-as-a-service company targeting the retail and insurance industries, announced that they had secured a $5M investment from Espresso Capital. Daisy Intelligence CEO, Gary Saarenvirta, acknowledged government funding programs such as SR&ED in supporting the company.

Aifred’s CEO, David Benrimoh spoke about ‘A new hope for personalized Mental Health’ as part of the Elevate Educate Health track on September 26, which provided a platform for discussions emphasizing the growth and impact of technology solutions in mental health. The track featured keynote discussions on topics such as ‘Democratizing access to mental health using technology’ by Sam Duboc, Chair and CEO of Beacon, and ‘Chat Bot solution for mental health’ by Lexi Kaplin and Alexandra Reeves of Conversation Health.

Using innovation for better access to mental healthcare with Alisa Simon, Hemai Parthasarathy, Sam Duboc, and Sean Kidd.

Adjoining the Health track at Elevate Educate, the Cannabis track featured keynote speakers from federal, academic and industry policy experts, thereby providing a shared stage for an open dialogue for patients, growers, innovators, and healthcare providers on pain management, cannabis legislature, and technology solutions.

Opioid Crisis and the Cannabis Opportunity with Kelly Narine of Aurora, Ed Sellers of the University of Toronto, Dr. Bernard Le Foll, Dr. Michel Verbora from Aleafia and moderator Ying Tam Managing Director, Health Ventures at MaRS

The strength of Canadian Medtech companies was particularly emphasized at the Elevate Educate AI track by several growing startups that are pushing the boundaries of AI powered medical technology. Various companies attended, such as Phenomic AI, which is developing deep learning solutions to automate and accelerate drug discovery; BenchSci, a reagent intelligence platform; Swift Medical, which is developing  the world’s most advanced and comprehensive wound care management software; tealbook, a platform providing centralized supplier  knowledge and discovery, and Cloud DX, a medically accurate, consumer/clinical vital sign platform.

AI Spotlight: Automating Drug Discovery with Oren Kraus of Phenomic AI

AI Spotlight: Automating Drug Discovery with Oren Kraus of Phenomic AI

 

AI Spotlight: How AI Will Transform B2B with Stephany Lapierre of tealbook

AI Spotlight: How AI Will Transform B2B  with Stephany Lapierre of tealbook

The rapid growth of AI and  availability of data in the age of information also raised important ethical discussions on the Elevate AI stage in regards to ownership, trust, use of information, data breaches, questionable data practices, and privacy debates. And there could not be a better time or place for these discussions to occur than in the country that has produced some of the most well known experts in AI, such as deep Learning pioneers Geoffrey Hinton and Joshua Bengio. When discussing the role of Canada in the AI revolution at the 2017 Elevate AI track, Bengio noted that “we had the foresight to invest in something risky…and we built something in terms of critical mass.” As a global leader in disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, FinTech and Blockchain, which will radically transform how we live, work and interact, Canada is emerging as a lucrative and inclusive epicenter of the advanced technology revolution which is drawing global talent, ideas, and investment. In particular, the startup community in the Waterloo-Toronto tech Corridor has exploded over the past few years, especially in areas such as AI and Medtech, thereby attracting private and public investment. Speaking at the 2018 Elevate TechFest,  Layer 6 AI co-founder and chief AI office for TD Bank, noted that “We are at a unique moment time when this industry around artificial intelligence is first starting to grow and we need to jump on this opportunity… we have an opportunity to transform the world.”

The New Normal? Institutionalizing Ethics in the Age of Algorithm with Hessie Jones, Carolina Bessega,  Ann Cavoukian,and Carol Piovesan,

The New Normal? Institutionalizing Ethics in the Age of Algorithm with Hessie Jones, Carolina Bessega, Ann Cavoukian, and Carol Piovesan.

Trust as a Value Creator: The Georgian Impact Model with Jason Brenier of Georgian Partners
Trust as a Value Creator: The Georgian Impact Model with Jason Brenier of Georgian Partners

Elevate Main Stage, Co-founder and CEO Razor Suleman announced the festival’s 2019 theme, Moonshots, following the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Next year’s festival will welcome acclaimed Canadian astronaut and bestselling author Chris Hadfield as a keynote speaker on the Main Stage. Chris and Helene Hadfield will serve as 2019 Co-chairs of the Elevate Founders Board. “We couldn’t think of anyone better than Chris Hadfield to help us explore far-reaching ideas and the future of tech and innovation at Elevate,” said Suleman.

 

Elevate: Moonshots will run from September 23-27, 2019.

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