SONA Eyes Nano Production in 2015

By this summer, a new startup based in Sydney hopes to be producing gold nano particles to be used in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue cancers.

SONA Nano Tech recently won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark competition and is using the money to establish itself in the Sydney startup community. The company is now working at raising $300,000 to $500,000 with which it plans to begin producing nano particles for medical treatment.

“Current radiation therapy techniques are limited in their effectiveness because they damage healthy bone and tissue,” said Gerrard Marangoni, a St. Francis Xavier University professor and Co-Founder of SONA Nano. “It has been proven that you can use gold nanorods – tiny gold particles – to destroy the cancer cells from inside with no harmful side effects to the patient. In the near future, we will be able to treat soft tissue cancers far more aggressively without the pain, discomfort, and sickness that is normally associated with radiation therapy.”

Marangoni and fellow St. F.X. prof Kulbir Singh have been in the entrepreneurship racket for years. They are the principals of GMS Surface Tech of Antigonish, which develops environmentally friendly cleaning products and has just signed a distribution agreement with ACCO Brands of Lake Zurich, IL. The deal covers about four products, and Marangoni said GMS has about 20 new products that it is hoping to get into the market soon.

They have also spent years dabbling in the study and commercial application of nano particles, or sub-microscopic particles. A year or two ago they discovered healthcare applications of their research, and began to form SONA.

What they have discovered is a cost-effective method of producing gold nano particles that requires no toxins, and thereby reduces the health concerns associated with toxins. What’s more, their methodology has greater control over the size and shape of the nanoparticles than others on the market.

“Our stuff is different because we have a different process of making it,” said Marangoni. “We can do it more inexpensively and we can make sizes that our competitors can’t make.”

Marangoni said in an interview that universities in the region have the equipment needed to begin producing these nano particles. The company, which now employs five people, is developing partnerships with companies in the U.S. that are now treating soft tissue cancers with nanoparticles. These partners would be responsible for the regulatory approvals and SONA would simply produce the particles themselves.

There is already a massive and growing market for gold nanoparticles worldwide and the company expects to capitalize on existing markets immediately, said Michael McAlduff, a Co-Founder of SONA.

The equipment now on hand in the region would allow SONA to produce enough material to get started, but eventually the company hopes to establish its own production facility. With that in mind, Maragoni said that in two to four years it would aim for a funding round worth a few million dollars. For now, the regional infrastructure can produce all that the end-users need.

“If you look at what our competitors are offering, it’s really just one- to ten-litre litre vials and the concentration is small,” said Marangoni. “The beautiful thing is you don’t need a lot for the applications the end-user will need them for. We can produce that in a typical lab setting.”

Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

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