Granville Biomedical, the St. John’s-based maker of medical testing swabs, has formed a partnership with Toronto’s Inagene Diagnostics to develop a cheek swab for testing patients’ DNA and determining which medications are most compatible with their biology.

Co-Founder and CEO Christine Goudie said in an interview that the cheek swab uses a similar design to a COVID-19 nasal testing swab her company previously marketed. It has a smooth, hollow tip where the sample accumulates, and a thin, flexible handle with a scored break point.

“We're trying to stay as close to our original swabs as we can,” she said. "But it's a different application, so it's a slightly different swab, just in terms of length, and some of the design specs are a little bit different.

“But we're trying to keep a similar aesthetic. We want to create a family of products, long term.”

The company hopes to receive Health Canada approval in 2022 and sell the cheek swab to pharmacogenomics companies — medtech businesses that specialize in treatments tailored to patients’ genetic profiles. Granville could return to marketing its coronavirus swabs in future, Goudie said, but is currently focusing its efforts on the cheek swab because the COVID-19 testing market is petering out.

Unlike most medical testing supplies, often manufactured in China or India, Granville’s swabs are made by a contractor in British Columbia. Goudie said domestic manufacturing is more costly than overseas production, but reduces supply chain complexity and logistical challenges.

“Everything that we're working on will be made in Canada, sterilized in Canada and shipped out as part of [Inagene’s] kits within Canada,” said Goudie. “So that really lends itself to more of an independent framework for Canada.

“If there was another pandemic or any other type of major issue down the road with supply chains, at least we're creating an opportunity for this line of products to be secured within our own country, so we don't have to rely on importing products… and the delays on that.”

Goudie and Co-Founder Crystal Northcott had originally planned to make their follow-up product to the COVID-19 testing kits a diagnostic swab for women’s pelvic exams. But talks with Inagene executives revealed that Granville was well-positioned to help the Toronto company address a shortage of swabs for its genetic testing services.

Market research firm Emergen Research predicts that the global market for pharmacogenomics could reach US$11.97 billion or just shy of C$15 billion annually by 2027 and is growing at a rate of about 8.7 percent a year.

“Pharmacogenetics, it’s really the future of pharmaceutical prescription,” said Goudie. “Because it's a great way to shorten the timeline from prescription to an optimal pharmaceutical solution, whether it's for chronic pain or mental health.”

After receiving Health Canada approval, Granville’s next target market will be the United States, but Goudie and Northcott are waiting for domestic regulatory sign-off before wrangling with the FDA.

Founded in 2019, Granville has five employees and will likely hire a sixth person in the coming weeks. Goudie said she hopes to double that number within the next year.

So far, the company has only raised equity capital from one shareholder, otherwise relying on non-dilutive funding from federal and provincial agencies. Goudie said she plans to raise a seed round in the first quarter of 2022.

“I think now it's time for us to really look at the big picture and look at the growth that we need to have happen in order for us to execute on all the projects that we have in our roster,” she said.