Incubator company markets seal oil product in China
Drs. Hu Liu, Lili Wang and Philip Davis
Dr. Axel Meisen, president of Memorial University, welcomed Kathy Dunderdale, minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Ken Martin, director of Business Programs for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and David Rideout, Atlantic and Nunavut director of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), to the university March 11 for the announcement of an important license agreement between North Atlantic Biopharma Inc. (NABPI) and Guangzeng Pharmaceutical Group of Guangdong, China, to bring a seal oil-based pharmaceutical product to market in China.
North Atlantic Biopharma Inc. (NABPI) was founded in 2001 and is currently owned by four professors of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Drs. Hu Liu, Lili Wang and Taki Kara from the School of Pharmacy, and Dr. Philip Davis from the Department of Biochemistry. The company develops pharmaceuticals derived from marine biological materials from the North Atlantic Ocean. The marquee pharmaceutical product being developed is a unique seal oil-based lipid emulsion used in feeding patients who have difficulty digesting essential nutrients orally such as traumatic and post-surgery patients.
The contract allows the Guangzeng Pharmaceutical Group the exclusive right to the technology. Under the contract, the two companies will work jointly to conduct necessary pre-clinical and clinical trials. While NABPI is conducting some of the pre-clinical studies on MUN campus, the Chinese company is aimed to invest about $8-10 million to complete tests and set up manufacturing facilities in China.
It is estimated that the development will take three to five years before it reaches the market. According to the contract, NABPI and the GENESIS Group, Memorial University's technology commercialization arm, are paid close to $1 million as up-front and milestone payments, with a very significant royalty regime on the sales of the product if it eventually reaches the market, which is estimated at $160 million per year in China.
“We are extremely proud of North Atlantic Biopharma Inc.'s success, particularly because they are truly a Memorial enterprise being owned by our faculty members and being assisted by our GENESIS Group,” said Dr. Meisen. “With this new contract, they are able to make an impressive debut on the global market.”
"This type of partnership highlights ACOA's commitment to support research and development teams, learning institutions, businesses and communities so that we remain competitive in our province," said John Efford, minister of Natural Resources on behalf of Joseph McGuire, minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. "This initiative will not only increase the market size for seal oil, it will add value to an already utilized and sustainable local product."
“I congratulate the innovative scientists of North Atlantic Biopharma for turning their research into a marketable product that will bring benefits to people everywhere. The Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development is pleased to contribute $50,000 seed capital to help commercialize this new product,” said Ms. Dunderdale.
"NRC-IRAP has been working with North Atlantic Biopharma Inc. on this exciting initiative utilizing seal oil emulsion in the production of a new pharmaceutical product for China. The potential economic return on investment to the region is tremendous and it is important to support such R&D initiatives with market potential," said David Rideout, Atlantic and Nunavut director of NRC-IRAP on behalf of executive director for the region, David Healey.
NABPI discovered that seal oil made lipid emulsion could be used in hospitals for intravenous feeding. It has several unique benefits over the existing vegetable or fish oil-based products and therefore has commercial potential. As a result, GENESIS Group, the technology commercialization arm of MUN, became involved. Through its Genesis Research division, it provided expertise and financial support to protect NABPI's intellectual property, in this case, through a patent. Patent protection for marketable scientific discoveries is a key component to help establish competitive advantage for companies.
In 2002, NABPI was accepted into the Genesis Centre, another division of GENESIS Group. The centre is an incubator for fledgling technology-based businesses and offers a wide range of resources to increase a company's likelihood of success. The centre provided NABPI with a wealth of much-needed business knowledge and experience through the provision of a board of advisors and a mentor.
NABPI is currently supported by financial contributions from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI), International Trade Canada, and the Provincial Government's Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development (DITRD). The National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) has provided technical and financial assistance throughout various stages of the development of this product. Local companies including the Barry Group Inc. and Caboto Seafood Ltd. have contributed by providing their seal oil for the project. The School of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Science at MUN have also supported North Atlantic Biopharma in their research efforts.