Charlottetown-based Somru BioScience Inc. is adapting its antibody platform to assist in developing therapeutic and diagnostic solutions for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
The company has been developing a range of products centred around antibody technology for research, diagnostic and clinical applications. The products have been mainly used so far in research, with clients in 27 countries.
The company’s technology provides researchers with tools that in the short-term help mitigate risks during the pandemic. It's also aiming to do more in future outbreaks of infectious diseases with the long-term goal of developing diagnostic solutions. Somru's plans include shortening the development time of diagnostic kits for future infectious diseases by 50 percent.
“These are antibody-based tests and we’re exploring options with regulatory bodies for this to be used as a diagnostic kit in the future,” said Co-Founder Mohammed Moin in an interview.
Somru BioScience was founded in 2012 by two couples: Moin, his wife Dihan Ahsan; and husband and wife Rafiq and Clarinda Islam. The company’s specialty is producing research kits that use antibodies for accelerating drug development. Using its technology for diagnosis is far more ambitious than using it for research, and will require a greater level of regulatory scrutiny – a process Moin welcomes.
“We don’t know how long it will take,” he said, adding he hopes to have a time estimate by the end of May. “We’ve seen in the last month that regulatory bodies have done tests quickly and it has backfired. . . . We are thinking there will be more rigorous assessment of these trials.”
He added that the pandemic has created opportunities for the company because it could allow Somru to export to more countries, including some in South East Asia.
The company has a staff of 25 and recently brought on three new researchers.
Moin said the company will continue to hire, and next year may outgrow its current space in the BioCommons Research Park on the edge of Charlottetown. It plans to expand its current facility by building 12,000 square feet of laboratory and office space.
As well as private investment, the company received support in the summer of 2018 from federal and provincial governments.
The lion’s share of the funding was a $3 million provisional loan issued through the Atlantic Innovation Fund, a fund for major R&D projects operated by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The company also received a grant of as much as $257,752 from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, or IRAP.
The P.E.I. government lent the company $975,000 and provided a grant of $172,000 for marketing. Moin said at the time the total dilutive and non-dilutive funding round was worth about $7 million.