Announcing the top two grand prize winners: Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition

Teams focused on cell therapy and diagnostics win first and second place

TORONTO, May 05, 2023 – Medicine by Design today announced the grand prize winners of the Building a Biotech Pitch Competition held this month. Now in its third year, it was designed as a unique education program for trainees — including graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates — at the University of Toronto (U of T) and its affiliated hospitals who are working in regenerative or precision medicine. Myoxa Therapeutics and Specific Dx were selected as the first place and second place winners, earning $25,000 and $10,000 in research funding to advance their product concepts, respectively.

The Myoxa Therapeutics secured first place with its product, a cell therapy (lab made cells that can replace damaged ones) that can prevent heart failure. This would be an alternative to a heart transplant, which people often cannot get because of the shortage of donor hearts, and addresses a key issue with these kinds of cell therapies: the lack of oxygen that can kill cells after it is injected.

“Myoxa’s solution is to engineer cells that sense low oxygen levels and respond by turning on protective mechanisms,” said Mohammad Saleh, a PhD candidate and member of the Myoxa Therapeutics team, in the pitch. “The value of our technology lies in the improved survival of Myoxa’s cells, translating to a more effective treatment for patients who need them.”

The Myoxa Therapeutics team lab is at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at U of T and is using cutting-edge technologies to develop their product.

Specific Dx, whose team is based at the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at U of T, earned the second place prize for developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) rapid test for people with spinal cord injury. Often people with spinal cord injury are misdiagnosed with UTIs and put unnecessarily on antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic resistance, the team said in their pitch.

The Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition is the culmination of Medicine by Design’s Building a Biotech Venture program, offered in partnership with the Precision Medicine Initiative (PRiME), Health Innovation Hub (H2i) and Talk Boutique. Over the past several months, teams have worked with mentors to advance early-stage company concepts based on their research and have participated in a series of workshops to develop their business cases.

Medicine by Design Executive Director, Allison Brown, says the program fulfills several needs. “It demonstrates how real-world innovation can come directly out of the science trainees are doing,” said Brown. “It gives trainees a strong foundation in business concepts in the life sciences innovation ecosystem. And it kick-starts tangible innovations that teams will continue to work on and develop, and that could eventually benefit patients.”

Four judges with a range of experience in areas like entrepreneurship, law and venture development determined the winning pitches.

“The technologies presented were exciting and the pitches were engaging. The most impressive was each team’s commitment to truly building something massive,” said Mathew Platt, associate director and global head of venture recruitment at Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) and one of the pitch judges. “I strongly encourage all six teams to continue to experiment passionately, de-risk ambitiously, and continue to prove why their idea won’t fail as much as they work to prove why it will succeed. I hope to see their applications to CDL in the future.”

About Medicine by Design:
Medicine by Design builds on decades of made-in-Canada excellence in regenerative medicine dating back to the discovery of stem cells in the early 1960s by Toronto researchers James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch. Medicine by Design is made possible thanks in part to a $114-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

About Precision Medicine Initiative (PRiME):
PRiME was established at the University of Toronto to align research efforts in the area of Precision Medicine. PRiME brings together multi-disciplinary talent to face and answer emerging challenges in Precision Medicine by understanding the biology of disease, creating new tools for disease diagnosis, and developing novel therapeutic strategies.

About Health Innovation Hub (H2i):
The Health Innovation Hub’s vision is to create culture, infrastructure and momentum that translates discoveries and ideas into problem-solving designs, services and products, to foster the success of 100 companies over the next 10 years.


Media contact:
Julie Crljen
Marketing & Communications Officer
Medicine by Design