Promising Mount Uniacke start-up wins big

Ashley Thompson
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A Mount Uniacke-based company is developing a drug that will grant people who suffer from biofilm buildup more time in between visits to the dentist.

Dr. Sherri McFarland, a chemistry professor at Acadia University and founder of Fenol Farm Inc., says the drug might be released into the marketplace in early 2016 if all goes as planned.

“Biofilm is the bacteria encased in a very sticky protective matrix that hardens into something akin to concrete and cannot be removed with brushing, flossing, mouth rinses, et cetera. The only effective solution is mechanical removal from a dental professional,” she said.

“This technology for managing oral biofilm in populations that are highly susceptible to calculus regrowth will offer a natural, safe, and effective way of reducing the number of dental visits and painful scalings.”

The idea for the natural treatment, using the roots of a plant grown in Nova Scotia, stems from McFarland’s studies of drugs that can be triggered by light.

“The treatment is called photodynamic therapy (or PDT). I am using the same principles to amplify (or turn on) antibiotic activity in plant extracts, and the technique is called photodynamic inactivation (PDI) of microorganisms,” McFarland explained.

Traditional antibiotics available in the marketplace today are unable to kill biofilm, she added.

Fenol Farm Inc., incorporated in May 2012, will see the product through to the commercialization stage.

“This opportunity to develop a product and see it transform from an idea on paper to a consumer product is very exciting for me,” said McFarland.

“I have developed drug candidates for cancer, one ready to enter phase one human trials for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer in 2014, but I am more removed from the commercialization aspect in this case since the compounds are licensed to a third party for further development.”

Fenol Farm was recently awarded $100,000 in cash and in-kind services for being selected as one of five zone winners in Innovacorp’s I-3 Technology Start-Up Competition. The up-and-coming company competed in the zone for businesses based in the Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties.

"The quality of entrepreneurial activity happening throughout the province is the highest it's ever been," said Stephen Duff, president and CEO of Innovacorp in a press release. "The 25 companies that were shortlisted from the initial 228 submissions in November left the judging panels with a very challenging task. The zone winners… represent high-potential, knowledge-based companies that will be capable to compete and win in global markets."

McFarland says the prize money — a pleasant surprise — will help Fenol Farm conduct the research necessary to have the product approved for the marketplace.

She says the goal is to release a product that will bring in enough money for Fenol Farm to increase its workforce and continue with research and development.

 

Organizations: Fenol Farm, Acadia University

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Annapolis, Hants Hants County Mount Uniacke East Hants

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