Picomole Instruments Inc. of Moncton expects to close $1.2 million in equity funding this quarter with the intent of performing clinical studies on a breath-analysis device it believes will revolutionize diagnostics.

In an interview in his office overlooking downtown Moncton, CEO John Cormier said the company has a working, portable prototype of its breathalyzer-like device that can detect lung cancer by identifying markers in people’s breath.

The company plans to spend 2013 performing clinical studies on the device and examining foreign markets, most likely in Latin America or Asia, to introduce the device in.

Having more than doubled staffing to seven in the past three months, Cormier is gaining confidence with the device that he believes will change the diagnosis of cancer by detecting the disease early and inexpensively.

He scoffs at some biotech companies that receive $300 million in funding and claim success because they extend a patient’s life by a matter of several days.

“With 10 per cent of that amount … we can change the world,” Cormier said. “I tend to have a Maritime attitude and not want to be too bold in what I say, but I think now is the time to be bold.”

Doctors now search for evidence of cancer through invasive biopsies, but Picomole will provide a quick intermediate step. Patients will breathe into a tube. If the device finds no markers identifying cancer, then the patient knows in minutes that he or she does not have the disease. If markers are identified, the medical team can move on to the biopsy. Most patients would be spared the second procedure.

Cormier said the device could have other applications. He envisages a patient breathing into the device in a doctor’s waiting room and by the time they meet in the examining room, the doctor could have diagnoses for a range of ailments.

Better, cheaper and faster diagnostics will mean better treatment, he said.

 “We now spend less than one per cent of our health-care costs on diagnostics, but it determines about 70 per cent of our decision making,” said Cormier.

The recent additions to the Picomole team have persuaded Cormier that he should examine launching the product in an emerging market because the company might get regulatory approval more quickly, and a younger health-care service tends to be less set in its ways and more open to new procedures.

What’s more, he said he’s learned that wealthy individuals in such countries are interested in investing in health-care technology such as Picomole’s. They don’t do this only for financial gain, but because they view the gift of improved health care as part of the legacy they leave their countrymen.

Based on the funding requirements of other device companies, Cormier estimates Picomole will need about $25 million to $30 million. It is now working on a bridge equity funding of about $1.2 million and already has “substantial” commitments in the round from angel investors in Western and Atlantic Canada.

It is aiming to raise a further $5 million to $8 million in about a year.

Cormier said the company is considering whether to seek a public listing in the long-term, though it hasn’t made a decision yet.

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  • Michelle James

    This is good news. It will be a big innovation so far. - Gary McClure