Bridging science and business to bring new treatments to market

When Ricky Ghoshal was in his second year of undergraduate studies at McMaster University, his younger brother got sick with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. This complication of measles is so rare that many of the doctors had never even heard of it, and there is no dedicated treatment for it. As Ghoshal got to know the doctors caring for his brother, he realized how much they were being held back — not by any lack of skill or knowledge, but by lack of access to cutting-edge treatments. Although research breakthroughs happen all the time, it can be years before they are approved and broadly available.

When Ricky Ghoshal was in his second year of undergraduate studies at McMaster University, his younger brother got sick with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. This complication of measles is so rare that many of the doctors had never even heard of it, and there is no dedicated treatment for it. As Ghoshal got to know the doctors caring for his brother, he realized how much they were being held back — not by any lack of skill or knowledge, but by lack of access to cutting-edge treatments. Although research breakthroughs happen all the time, it can be years before they are approved and broadly available.

“It made me want to be involved in finding a better way,” said Ghoshal. “I wanted to be at the intersection of science and business to develop new treatments to help providers deliver better care.”

Thanks to BioTalent Canada’s Science Horizons wage-subsidy program, he was able to do just that.

 

EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES

After taking three years off to support his family, Ghoshal decided it was time to go back to school. McMaster’s new Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program was just what he was looking for. Through his undergraduate and graduate studies, he learned how to build the bridges between science and business that would help secure funding and get new, life-saving treatments into the hands of doctors faster.

Ghoshal’s program required an internship and he found himself gravitating toward smaller bio-health companies where his training could make the biggest difference. Mirexus Biotechnologies, based in Guelph, Ontario, was doing innovative research on how to extract nanoparticles from sweet corn — and Ghoshal was intrigued by the possibilities.

“Nanoparticles are usually synthetic or, if they’re natural, they’re usually neither uniform nor producible in large quantities,” said Ghoshal. “Sweet corn is renewable and sustainable, and this was the first time anyone had been able to source high-quality nanoparticles from a plant at a commercial scale.”

The glycogen-based nanoparticles developed by Mirexus and its biomedical subsidiary Glysantis have a variety of applications, ranging from personal care and nutritional products to biomedical treatments for human and animal health. One of the most exciting applications for Ghoshal is the nanoparticles’ ability to increase the yield of viruses during manufacturing, which could help vaccine developers get more antigens from cell cultures. This would reduce the biomanufacturing cost of vaccines, potentially making them more broadly accessible and affordable.

 

BROADENING HORIZONS, LAUNCHING CAREERS

As a start-up with limited resources, Mirexus took advantage of the Science Horizons program to get the financial support necessary to bring in Ghoshal as an intern.

“The position was a great fit for me,” said Ghoshal. “It allowed me to use my science background to get in the lab to confirm the validity of the biomedical application I was working on, as well as my business background to develop a commercialization strategy for it.”

Today, Ghoshal still works for Mirexus and was recently promoted to Director of Strategic Development. He says he wouldn’t be where he is without the Science Horizons program.

“If Mirexus hadn’t had access to this program, they wouldn’t have been able to hire me in the first place,” he said. “BioTalent Canada has helped make my career possible.”