Halifax medical device maker ABK Biomedical has begun human trials for its Eye90 microspheres — tiny, mildly radioactive glass spheres visible on x-rays and CT scans, which can be injected into patients and used to view the size and shape of cancerous tumours.

The trial is being conducted in a partnership with the research unit of New Zealand’s Auckland Hospital. It is designed to test both the safety and effectiveness of the microspheres for liver and colon cancer patients. Each patient will be injected with the microspheres and then monitored for a year.

“We believe that Eye90 microspheres have the potential to advance Y90 radioembolization therapy into a new era of improved patient outcomes,” said ABK Chief Executive Mike Mangano in a press release. Y90 stands for Yttrium-90, the radioactive isotope used in the Eye90 beads.

“Specifically, we look forward to studying the key technical advances that Eye90 microspheres offer over conventional Y90 radioembolization devices. These include an advanced delivery system allowing physician administration control, tumor-targeting visualization, and the potential of x-ray-based imaging data.”

In 2019, ABK raised a US$30 million venture capital round — at the time, the largest ever in Atlantic Canada — despite not yet having a product on the market. The company was founded in 2012 by a trio of Dalhousie researchers: Bob Abraham, Daniel Boyd and Sharon Kehoe.