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Neureka! set to release first product to market.

Greater Sudbury's first biotechnology project is on its way to commercialization.

Clinical tests are nearing completion as a highly effective cholesterol marker kit developed in Northern Ontario is prepared for the world market.

Results from a 40-month initiative between the Northern Centre for Biotechnology and Clinical Research (Neureka!) and Finland's University of Turku have come to bear with a cholesterol marker kit.

"At this point we are almost finished the research and development and we are in the process to approve a specific type of certification called ISO for medical devices," says Dr. Magdy Basta, president and CEO of Neureka!.

Currently, conventional test identifying cholesterol disorders are not effective markers, but the test kit, developed by Sudbury and Turku resident scientists in Europe, has a success rate of over 90 per cent.

Specifically, the kit targets bad cholesterol, which is found to exhibit numerous lesions on the artery walls that lead to heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular disorders. Blood samples taken from at least 200 patients identified cholesterol targets within two hours.

National and international hospitals, institutions and medical laboratories such as MDS Diagnostic Services will be the end users.

By the end of the year, Basta will have a better idea as to who will distribute and manufacture the kits. It will take a few years before distributors create a demand.

Right now Basta is in communication with distributors in Finland, Germany, South America and the United States. But before they are even considered, small manufacturing facilities must be courted. Basta explains that he wants to start small and ramp up in the future.

"But we need financial support, so we are looking at how we can arrange that."

Venture capitalists in southern Ontario like to invest in initiatives that are close to home, so they have some degree of control. Therefore, the challenge is to find international collaboration. The industry may have to accept a high price tag that comes with bringing in a new economic engine, Basta says. But Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto started with large investments from various levels of government and after time the clusters became independent, Basta says.

Over 40 full-time coordinators, technicians and scientists at Neureka! focus on bringing research to the international markets. Their progress directly impacts Northern Ontario's cluster of excellence.

It is quite easy to contract out such a kit or even an idea, but to build critical mass for a relatively new industry in an area approximately four hours north of Toronto requires dedication, he says.

"So the price may appear a little bit high, but you have to start somewhere."


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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