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NMIN HQP-Entrepreneur wins pitch competition

Photo: Michael Valic pitching (inset) and holding the first-place prize cheque (2nd from L).

On 27 March 2024, NMIN HQP Michael Valic won first place in Medicine by Design’s 2024 Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition on behalf of the prospective venture Twenty-nine Therapeutics.

Emerging from the University Health Network (UHN), in collaboration with the lab of NMIN researcher Dr. Gang Zheng and his NMIN spin-off company, NanoGenix, Twenty-nine Therapeutics is developing the use of Copper-67 (Cu-67) in radiation therapy to treat peritoneal cancers, leveraging a targeted nanoparticle delivery system platform technology. The $25,000 in prize funding from the pitch competition will support research to increase the technology readiness level of the platform.

“The ‘29’ in the venture name refers the atomic number of copper,” explains Dr. Zheng. “Michael’s first-place pitch really conveyed well the potential of our idea. Michael is easily one of the best PhD students I have ever had, and no doubt one of NMIN’s most accomplished HQP.”

Peritoneal carcinomatosis is a rare, difficult-to-treat form of cancer that affects the thin membrane surrounding abdominal organs. It can develop from the metastasis of ovarian, pancreatic, gastric, colon or rectal cancers. Current approaches to treatment involve lengthy surgeries and systemic treatments, with high recurrence and poor survival rates.

“Our new approach aims to transform care for patients affected by peritoneal metastasis,” says Michael. “We will arm clinicians with a new treatment modality that will be safer, better targeted and more precise, and that can used for diagnostic imaging at the same time as it is used therapeutically.”

Michael is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, a UNH research associate, a researcher at Princess Margaret Hospital, Director of Scientific Operations for NanoGenix, and Vice-President of the NMIN HQP Network (NHN) Executive Committee. He was one of six competitors who presented their pitches to a panel of experts for adjudication.

The pitch competition is part of the Building a Biotech Venture Program, an entrepreneurship program at the University of Toronto (UofT) and affiliated hospitals that supports new initiatives in regenerative or precision medicine. Prior to the pitch competition, competitors attend a series of workshops and mentorship sessions organized by the UofT-based Health Innovation Hub (H2i), to familiarize them with the business aspects of developing a venture idea.

Read the Medicine by Design announcement