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Researchers create new company to help stroke patients

QuikFlo Health Inc. based on research led by university’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute
October 2, 2015

A new company that aims to revolutionize the way stroke patients around the world are assessed and then treated has been launched using research led by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary.

QuikFlo Health Inc. plans to help reduce disability and death caused by strokes by potentially cutting the time it takes to triage patients with stroke.

The company was launched with the help of Innovate Calgary, a technology transfer centre for the university. QuikFlo will further develop technology created by HBI researchers from the university’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“Innovate Calgary has worked with us every day for the last several months,” says Dr. Bijoy Menon, an assistant professor in the departments of clinical neurosciences, community health sciences and radiology, and a member of the HBI at the Cumming School. “We appreciate the tremendous support we have received in the difficult process of transforming our ideas into a commercially viable product.”

Artery suddenly blocked

The technology shows particular promise in determining which patients are candidates for endovascular treatment, a clot retrieval procedure that can dramatically improve outcomes after an acute ischemic stroke. Such strokes are caused when an artery to the brain is suddenly blocked, depriving the brain of critical nutrients.

The researchers at QuikFlo were involved in ESCAPE (Endovascular treatment for Small Core and Anterior circulation Proximal occlusion with Emphasis on minimizing CT to recanalization times), an international clinical trial published online Feb. 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients in the study arrived within 12 hours of their stroke. Image-guided approaches were used to quickly help insert a thin tube into the artery in the groin up through the body into vessels in the brain. Clots were removed by a retrievable stent, restoring blood flow. Instead of suffering major neurological disability, many patients went home to resume their lives.

“This is the most significant and fundamental change in acute ischemic stroke treatment in the last 20 years. These results will impact stroke care around the world,” said HBI member Dr. Michael Hill in an earlier interview.

Seed money raised

QuikFlo aims to rapidly provide relevant imaging information to physicians in an easily interpreted manner. With the help of Innovate Calgary, the company has raised seed capital through a group of investors to develop the technology and take it through clinical trials.

Besides Menon and Hill, the other researchers include Dr. Mayank Goyal, Dr. Andrew Demchuk and Dr. Nils Forkert, all HBI members along with Dr. Ting Lee, an adjunct professor of radiology at the University of Calgary and a professor at the University of Western Ontario. Close collaborators include Dr. Tolulope Sajobi, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary and Dr. Christopher d’Esterre, a postdoctoral fellow working with Menon.

When Innovate Calgary first met with the researchers, “our goal was to license the technology to an existing company, but after a review of the opportunity, we felt they would be better served by investment toward a spin-off company,” says Ken Porter, vice-president, intellectual property management, at Innovate Calgary.

“We were able to make connections for the inventors to seasoned investors, and together, they are now moving the technology toward clinical practice.”