Franziska Broell

Franziska Broell

Halifax-based Motryx, which produces sensors that monitor the storage conditions of blood samples during transport, has been awarded a $97,500 grant from the federally funded Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.

CEO Franziska Broell, who holds a PhD in oceanography from Dalhousie University, said in an interview that the money will go toward integrating GPS support into the Motryx sensors by the end of this year—a feature that several laboratories have expressed interest in.

“It’s a key part of the solution that we need to develop in order to be able to access that big private lab market in the U.S.,” said Broell. “It’s going to be integral to [scaling the business].”

The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy is a $2 billion, federally funded program that aims to double the number of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025. Businesses with female CEOs, more than 50 percent female ownership or more than 50 percent female employees are eligible for funding from the program. Motryx meets all three criteria.

“Our government believes that women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do; it’s good for the bottom line,” said Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion Mary Ng in a press release. “It’s a smart investment with an economic and social return.”

Founded in 2014 as Maritime BioLoggers, Motryx originally intended to manufacture tracking tags for marine life. The company pivoted to monitoring blood samples in late 2018 because the marine trackers had to be customized for each new organism, which was going to make the business difficult to scale.

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The current sensor product, called VitalTag, is the same size and shape as a blood sample vial. It is intended to be stored alongside vials of blood during transport to laboratories, and logs factors such as temperature and jarring impacts. The laboratories can then review the analytics data when they receive the blood.

The information gathered is useful because harsh transport conditions can damage blood samples.

The Motryx website says it’s estimated that as many as three-quarters of all laboratory errors are caused by mistakes in the “preanalytical phase of testing”—in other words, damage to the samples.

And a press release from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, responsible for distributing the grant money in Atlantic Canada, said that 1 to 2 percent of all medical samples are damaged by rough handling.

The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, sets guidelines for multiple types of institutions, including medical laboratories, and is run by a group of representatives from163 members nations. It requires laboratories to monitor blood samples during transport.

There is limited consistency in how labs apply the ISO’s guidelines, creating a need for Motryx’s standardized system.

Design, testing and validation are performed by Motryx in-house, while the manufacturing of the sensors is outsourced.

The GPS tracking feature will allow laboratories to see where blood samples are located when they sustain damage, making it easier to identify and correct problems.

Motryx took VitalTag to market in an “early adopter” phase three months ago, and currently sells to nine laboratories throughout Europe and the United States.

Broell expects to begin marketing VitalTag to larger customers within the next one to two months, and Motryx is currently raising a $2 million round of seed funding.

Previously, the company also raised two rounds of angel investment—as well as a contribution by venture capital firm Concrete Ventures—totaling about $500,000. Counting Broell, it has nine employees, five of whom are women.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.