We celebrated our newest spin-off company this year as Radialis was officially launched in February 2016. The company, founded in partnership with Lakehead University, is the culmination of Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute – Lakehead University Canada Research Chair Dr. Alla Reznik’s research to develop Positron Emission Mammography or PEM, a breast imaging alternative that addresses the shortcomings of mammography. It is also another step towards our goal of developing a cutting-edge medical imaging device industry in Thunder Bay.
Dr. Reznik’s research addresses several issues. Traditional mammography is not sensitive enough to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable. Further, X-ray technology can miss tumours in women with dense breast tissue.
There are also emotional factors involved with screening. “Mammography can be uncomfortable causing some women to avoid it,” Dr. Reznik said. “Also, women can endure days or weeks of waiting for the results of follow-up biopsies on suspicious lesions.”
Radialis will develop next-generation PEM imaging systems specifically designed for lower-dose imaging of breast cancer. Since PEM uses molecular imaging, it is able to detect extremely small tumours based on their metabolic activity. This can be important for monitoring the tumour’s responsiveness to treatment. By lowering the radiation dose for molecular imaging, it would make PEM safer for younger women at high risk of breast cancer that may be tested more often.
“It is important to keep Radialis in Thunder Bay,” Dr. Reznik said. “It makes sense from a research perspective to keep it near our Research Institute and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. It is also important because of the community support we have received – Radialis belongs in Thunder Bay.”
Radialis is now one of two companies in the budding medical device industry in Thunder Bay, joining XLV Diagnostics Inc., which was formed in 2011 by Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute. XLV Diagnostics Inc. will produce low cost digital mammography instruments and is currently completing its first clinical prototype.
Medical device manufacturing may be new to Thunder Bay, but in Ontario it is a $10+ billion industry. Our industry is growing thanks in large part to government partners including the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, FedNor, the City of Thunder Bay, and other partners including MaRS Innovation and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation. Dr. Reznik’s PEM research was also directly funded by contributions from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Ontario Research Fund.