NSRIT funded equipment “vital” to research

Dr. Daniel Boyd is making groundbreaking discoveries in the world of medical devices to treat both osteoporosis and some cancers.

Dr. Daniel Boyd stands with the Bose 3510, which simulates performance of materials from his lab. The equipment is one of two vital pieces of infrastructure funded by NSRIT and CFI.

Boyd’s work, housed at Dalhousie University, studies applications of biomaterials, which were first considered in dentistry and are now being applied to other parts of the body, thus leading to innovative discoveries.

Boyd’s research for patients with osteoporosis is looking at a cement-like material that can stabilize fractured vertebrae in the spine. Boyd’s lab is creating the material from the “ground up”, after it was determined that a material used on hips was not conducive to the spine.

His goal is to find a material that is adhesive, injectible, and fully biocompatible that can repair the spine properly.  He said it would be nice to have it trigger the body to unlock its own powers of self repair.

Boyd’s lab also supports the development of a material that can be used to block blood flow to tumours and is visible on an x-ray.

A large portion of that research is focused on blocking blood flow to fibroid tumours, or uterine fibroid embolization, which has resulted in the creation of a new company in Halifax – ABK – set to launch on January 1, 2013 and employ seven people.

All of this was made possible by funding for research infrastructure in 2011 received from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) – $123,773 and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)- $123,773.

“Everything we do in the lab is designed to give patients results as soon as possible,” said Boyd. “What the NSRIT and CFI provided is two pieces of essential equipment that ensure we can complete a comprehensive spectrum of testing required to demonstrate safety of new medical devices.”

This new state-of-the art equipment is the Bose 3510 – which simulates performance to determine the mechanical properties of materials and how many times it can load, unload and load on the spine.

Secondly, the ICP equipment, allows researchers to measure the release of key components of materials used.

“We’re going to be able to look at different types of materials, see which ones perform best over a full lifetime, and make better materials going forward,” said Boyd.

He added this equipment is used for a standard set of testing that helps to study and better determine whether biomaterials are safe and effective for patients.

This qualified testing for medical devices enables discoveries to potentially move forward to commercialization opportunities.

As a result of putting in place this NSRIT/CFI funded equipment, Boyd has attracted additional funding resources for the creation of ABK. This funding totalled over $1.3 million, derived from a variety of sources including the ACOA BDP Program, CIHR and private investment. In addition, Boyd has secured $2.45M from ACOA/AIF to develop minimally invasive systems for bone augmentation – a project which is heavily dependent on the equipment provided by NSRIT and CFI.

Boyd, who is from Cork, Ireland, is clearly passionate about his research – specifically in the application of zinc-based glass products.

“If I look at a zinc-based glass or ceramic and can use it as a component of a medical device, or tailor it for a new application, I’m interested. If the indication is it’s minimally invasive, I’m super interested.”

He said he set himself big goals when he arrived in Canada – to help support the creation of at least two companies within seven years from starting at Dalhousie University. He says he feels that is well underway with one started and a potential other company underway in his just under three years in Nova Scotia.

The world class laboratory infrastructure will enable significant impact to Nova Scotians, now and into the future – an example of how provincial university research environments are attracting world class innovators to the province.

Boyd is also excited about the relationships he’s been able to build with clinicians and others who would benefit from his science, as they provide advice and feedback on ideas he and his lab develop.

“If you’ve got the right people and you’ve got support, the targets we can achieve are just phenomenal,” he said. “We have a lot done, but we have a lot more to do. Sometimes you don’t know what’s in front of you, you know?”

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