On the back of quietly raising an unannounced pre-seed round in January, Dartmouth’s Impactful Health R&D is conducting pilot projects with several major players in the fish processing and packaging industries.

Founded by biomaterials researcher Mina Mekhail in 2017, Impactful is developing sustainable, antimicrobial packaging that prolongs the shelf life of fresh fish.

“All of our intellectual property is coatings that we do,” said Mekhail. “The formulation that we put on the surface of any (packaging) film is in order to give it the antimicrobial effects that extend the shelf life by targeting spoilage bacteria and inhibiting growth.”

He said the same supply chain bugbears and operational disruptions that have affected many startups during the pandemic made for slower progress from Impactful in recent years, but added that those issues have now been largely overcome.

“Thankfully, we’ve been on track,” he said. “Some things have been delayed, but a lot of things are on track.

“Overall, I would say things are good. They could have happened faster, obviously, if there were no supply chain issues and stuff would actually arrive on time … But overall we’re doing well.”

Mekhail’s January funding raise was worth $1.7 million, including a $250,000 grant from industry group Natural Products Canada. The equity investors included angels from Atlantic Canada and Montreal, as well as a venture capital firm from New York and provincial VC Crown corporation Innovacorp.

“It’s good to have Innovacorp support us because we’re part of the ecosystem here now,” said Mekhail. “They came in twice, actually. Once before the pre-seed round for a small amount and the for the pre-seed round, as well.”

Mekhail was referring to the fact that he originally founded Impactful in Montreal and relocated to Nova Scotia a few years ago. He said the decision was prompted by the interconnectedness of the regional startup support ecosystem.

He plans to spend some of the pre-seed money ramping up Impactful’s in-house research and development capacity, and is looking to hire an organic chemist and eventually a part-time chief financial officer, after having already onboarded a handful of people.

The chemist job posting can be found here. Counting Mekhail, the new hires will bring Impactful’s headcount to close to or into the double digits.

“We're a deep tech company, so R&D is always going to be core to whatever we do and develop in the future,” said Mekhail.

Some of the money will also go towards completing Impactful’s existing pilot projects and lining up additional, similar collaborations. Among the pilot projects already under way are a joint development agreement with the Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation and a separate deal with a large American company that manufactures packaging film for fish.

The Mitsubishi project is nearing completion, while the American one recently got under way.

Other deals with fish processors are also allowing Impactful to test the antimicrobial products that it has already developed in-house.