Halifax medical device maker ABK Biomedical Inc. has raised a record-setting US$30 million venture capital round, with which it hopes to bring two products to market.
The Series B round is equal to C$40 million, which is the largest venture capital round ever in Atlantic Canada. The record had been held by Fredericton-based cybersecurity outfit Sonrai Security, which closed a US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million) round in late December.
The ABK funding round was co-led by: Cambridge, Mass.-based F-Prime Capital, which is an offshoot of mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems, a maker of medical software. They were attracted to ABK because of the strength of the management team and the potential of its technology – even though the company does not yet have a product in the market.
"ABK has a unique approach to address a large unmet need for patients with non-resectable liver tumors,” said Varian Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development Gregory Sorensen in a statement. “This technology is aligned with our goal of delivering innovative solutions in cancer care."
Non-resectable tumors are those that cannot be removed completely through surgery.
Since it was launched by scientists at Dalhousie University in 2011, ABK has been working to improve a process used to kill some forms of tumor: the company’s tiny beads cling to tumors, depriving them of blood flow and thereby shrinking or killing them.
The company worked for several years on a product now called Easi-Vue Embolization Microspheres – tiny beads that can be seen by x-ray, which will help doctors assess how well the treatment is working.
Meanwhile, the ABK team – which now amounts to 14 people in Nova Scotia and four in the U.S. – has also been working on a second product called Eye90 microspheres, which are designed to aid in a process for treating liver tumors known as “transarterial radiation therapy”.
"Our thought-leading physician partners and advisors see tremendous opportunities to improve procedural and oncologic outcomes for patients suffering from non-resectable liver tumors," said ABK Chief Executive Mike Mangano in the statement. "The ABK platform aims to deliver key technical benefits over existing . . . microspheres technologies for improved procedural and clinical outcomes.”
The company’s Chief Medical Officer Robert Abraham said in an email that the company’s focus is now on the Eye90 product, which will require clinical trials to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.
“The Series B investment allows us to continue development and complete this clinical trial,” he said, adding that the regulatory approval submission for both products will happen in parallel with one another.
ABK has made a habit of surprising the market with larger-than-expected funding announcements. Early last year, the company revealed that in mid-2017 it had raised $9 million in a Series A round, largely coming from angel investors in Canada and the U.S. In 2012, the company raised $1.25 million in debt and equity. Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s VC agency, contributed to both the 2012 and 2017 funding rounds, beginning the parade of VC investors that would show faith in the ABK team and its technology.
Said Ketan Patel, partner with F-Prime Capital: "We are impressed with the ABK Biomedical team and believe the company has an outstanding product platform with the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of patients with malignant liver tumors."