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Sudbury med-tech company partners with McMaster University

Collaboration will advance Verv Technologies' home blood-testing device toward market launch next year
Jeff Sutton Verv 2
Verv Technologies founder Jeff Sutton (Supplied)

Verv Technologies, a Sudbury medical technology company, is teaming up with McMaster University in making accretive steps to bring a transformative home blood testing kit to market. 

The company announced last week it’s received $314,000 in federal NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) funding to work with researchers at the Hamilton university to further take its blood analyzer product down the commercial development path.

Verv will be working with a team fronted by Dr. Leyla Soleymani, a McMaster engineering physics professor and a Canada Research Chair in miniaturized biomedical devices. The Hamilton-based university has the world-class research infrastructure and testing facilities in place to help develop medical diagnostic devices.

Formed in 2012, Verv has invented a method and device, dubbed Vi, that, with a finger prick of blood, separates the plasma from whole blood and conducts an analysis of the different biomarkers in your blood to deliver the results to your smartphone within minutes.

The easy-to-use disposable testing device will help people measure a wide range of important analytes such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA), vitamin levels, cholesterol, glucose, and hormones.

Verv founder Jeff Sutton said Dr. Soleymani has invented a unique lab method for quantifying certain types of biomarkers, such as PSA. which is indicative of prostate cancer. He said it’s a “perfect fit” for their Vi analyzer. 

The NSERC money is to primarily fund the labour costs to adapt Soleymani’s PSA test into Verv’s disposable test chip.

“With this new method, we may be able to perform other, really sensitive, assays, (while) also making them available commercially,” said Sutton.

The company remains on track for Vi to hit the market in 2023, he confirmed. 

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The first blood test offered on the device will be for cholesterol, but the company hopes to eventually roll out more home testing options to check for COVID-19, to measure the amount of Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids, and to conduct a protein test to assess the risk for coronary artery disease.

Sutton said the PSA test requires a “more rigorous certification once we have it working.”

Verv is a growing company occupying space at the Health Sciences North Research Institute on Walford Road in the city’s south end. It’s targeting a commercial launch in the States, where it’s been presenting its technology before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Verv has been adding to its team this year by naming Martin Gurbin as its new CEO, allowing Sutton to shift and become chief technology officer.

“Partnering with Dr. Soleymani and her team at McMaster ensures we have access to the advanced expertise that will drive new aspects of Verv’s offering,” Gurbin said in a news release. “The convenience of at-home testing is the future of healthcare as it can help facilitate timely decision making between users and health care providers.”

Earlier this year, Verv snagged $3.8 million in capital from Randox Laboratories of the United Kingdom to help them down the final stretch of their path to commercialization. The investment allows them to take their innovative product to an advanced stage to where it’s ready for regulatory approval and then small batch manufacturing.