The technology is designed to dramatically increase the accuracy of identifying the early spread of solid tumour cancers, including those in the head and neck, prostate, breast, colon, cervix, and lung of which there are over 10 million new cases globally per year.
Ferronova’s nanoparticles are injected around primary tumours where they then travel to nearby lymph nodes, following the same pathway as cancer cells. The lymph nodes are imaged using MRI and detected using intraoperative surgical magnetic detectors or infrared cameras, including those on robotic surgery equipment. After surgery, the remaining nanoparticles are designed to be rapidly excreted from the body.
Ferronova Chief Executive Stewart Bartlett says the company was fortunate to have the support of the University of South Australia and access to their world class GMP facility.
“Ferronova was formed as a spin-out company by UniSA Ventures and VicLink, with seed investment from Powerhouse Venture and sophisticated investors. The support from UniSA Ventures and the University of South Australia continues to progress.
“Injectable nanoparticles need to be manufactured in the highest standard of clean room under strict quality control, and the University of South Australia facility is one of the few in Australia built to the required standard.
“For many cancers if the tumour is detected early it can be cured by surgery alone. However, too many early stage solid tumour cancers reoccur because cancer cells in lymph nodes are missed.
“Our nanoparticles are designed to ensure radiologists, surgeons and pathologists have the technology they need to detect sub-millimetre metastasis in lymph nodes, which then accurately informs therapeutic treatment.”
Mr Bartlett said while the initial trials at the Royal Adelaide Hospital would focus on oral cancers, Ferronova was in discussions with leading cancer research centres in Australia, the US and Europe looking at other cancers. The company is currently raising investment to fund these additional trials.
Ferronova collaborates with University of South Australia experts PhD scientist Valentina Milanova, and Professor Benjamin Thierry.
Ms Milanova, who has been collaborating on manufacturing the particles for human trials, said working with Ferronova on new cancer technology was an outstanding opportunity for women in science.
“Being at the cutting-edge of nanotechnology in medicine is really exciting and it’s wonderful that we can be driving this innovation from South Australia. We’re building medical technology that is designed to help the diagnosis and treatment of many early stage cancers, and we’re helping to save people’s lives. That’s a great combination so I think I’ve chosen the right career.”
Ferronova is based at the UniSA Mawson Lakes Campus in Adelaide, Australia, and was formed in 2016 by UniSA Ventures, VicLink, and Powerhouse Ventures. The company has been the recipient of grants from BioInnovationSA and TechInSA, now managed by the Department for Innovation and Skills.
For more information:
Stewart Bartlett CEO Ferronova phone 0403 951 272.