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Biotechnology: SPI Bio closes $1.7 million financing round

Biotechnology: SPI Bio closes $1.7 million financing round

SPI Bio, a young biotechnology company based in Sherbrooke, announced Monday the closing of a new round of financing of $1.7 million.

The funds come from local and international investors such as Sherbrooke Innopole, Natural Products Canada, ACET National Bank and Capitall Investments.

SPI Bio has developed a device for the automatic detection of legionella bacteria in industrial, commercial and residential cooling systems.

This patented technology, called BioAlert, includes a biochemical analysis compartment and a data management system that allows daily testing and results to be obtained in less than three hours.

BioAlert simplifies the testing process by eliminating the need for manual sampling and shipping of samples to the laboratory, which can take up to two weeks to provide data.

This system does not replace the monthly tests required by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, but it does make it possible to predict the results that will come back from the laboratories in order to avoid any consequences associated with a bad analysis.

SPI Bio therefore believes that this connected solution helps to better manage microbiological risk and reduce the costs and impact of a potential legionella outbreak.

With more than 25,000 hospitalizations and nearly 4,000 deaths each year in North America, these bacteria are a major public health issue.

The capital raised should enable SPI Bio to accelerate the commercialization of the device. The company hopes to increase its production capacity and develop its distribution network to eventually break into the US and European markets.

SPI Bio also intends to prioritise the industrial, hospital and tourism sectors in 2020.

To deploy its commercial strategy, the company plans to hire five new resources for its administration, production and sales departments.

The team currently consists of 17 employees, all based at the Espace LABz multi-tenant centre in the Sherbrooke Science Park. SPI Bio assembles BioAlert devices on site.

“With this financing, we will have the opportunity to move more quickly towards achieving our corporate objectives. These funds will enable us to move from a start-up to a well-established SME, for which we are more than grateful,” said Étienne Lemieux, co-founder and CEO of SPI Bio, in a press release.

Article found here: https://www.directioninformatique.com/biotechnologie-spi-bio-boucle-une-ronde-de-financement-de-17-m/82366

Sherbrooke’s SPI Bio completes a round of financing, raising $1.7M

SHERBROOKE, Québec, Canada, December 4, 2019 – SPI Bio, a young Sherbrooke biotechnology company that has developed a device for automatically detecting Legionella bacteria, announced the completion of a round of financing that raised $1.7M thanks to the participation of Capitall Investissements, Natural Products Canada, Sherbrooke Innopole, ACET Banque Nationale and other private investors.

The funds raised will allow SPI Bio speed up the marketing development of its flagship product, BioAlert, the first and only integrated automatic detector in the world designed to continuously perform direct monitoring for the Legionella bacteria in industrial, commercial and residential cooling systems, commonly known as cooling towers.

“We were really pleased to see that so many people believe in the potential of SPI Bio. With this financing, we will be able to move more quickly towards attaining our business objectives. These funds will allow SPI Bio to move beyond the start-up phase and become a true small to medium-sized business with a firm footing in its area and we are more than thankful”, affirmed Étienne Lemieux, cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of SPI Bio.

Capitall Investissements is a fund operating in Montréal and created by specialized attorneys and seasoned entrepreneurs based in the Brittany region of France. It is their first investment in a Québec business project, in partnership with Sherbrooke Innopole.

“This is a strategic investment for the Brittany based group Capitall Investissements, which is putting up $750 000 in financing for the Québec start-up SPI Bio, a company that is destined to take on the world with its innovative concept for detecting Legionella bacteria”, highlighted Frédéric Burot, associate attorney with STRATEYS and representative for Capitall Investissements.

“We have quickly built strong business relationships with Capitall Investissements and its representative Frédéric Burot after our first meeting in January of 2018”, related Josée Fortin, Executive Director of Sherbrooke Innopole. “Right from the start, the group demonstrated a keen interest in investing in local area technology businesses, so much so that only 20 months later, we are tremendously proud to be finalizing this first joint investment in a business with great potential, SPI Bio. This young business, operating in the key Cleantech sector, has the technology, the talent and the ambition to make its mark on the global market. Sherbrooke Innopole is proud to offer its support and financing, through its innovative business investment fund – Fonds d’investissement pour entreprises innovantes.”

Over the course of the last year, the partnership between Sherbrooke Innopole and the group of French investors has also resulted in the establishment of a mentorship programme for setting up technology businesses in North America, whether they are in the start-up phase or already well established. Offered in collaboration with the private entrepreneurship office LEDEN, this programme helps foreign businesses to evaluate and begin their expansion at competitive costs. “Of course, a reciprocal service is offered to Sherbrooke businesses wanting to explore the European market”, highlighted Ms. Fortin.

“It’s encouraging to see a highly innovative Canadian company like SPI Bio solving a critical health and safety issue,” said Shelley King, CEO of Natural Products Canada. “We are thrilled to be a part of the ecosystem supporting them in their development and growth.”

“ACET, who has been mentoring SPI Bio for almost six years now, is quite pleased to be a co-investor, through their ACET Capital S.E.C. fund, in a business that is young and dynamic just like its founders and employees. Their high-tech product, BioAlert, has generated a lot of interest in the marketplace. We are convinced that SPI Bio is looking at a very bright future”, affirmed Ghyslain Goulet, President and Chief Executive Officer of ACET Banque Nationale.

Marketing development phase 

This round of financing will allow SPI Bio to structure their marketing development channels, increase their production capacity and deploy validation showcases across North America in order to continue documenting the advantages of its patented technology.

Recall that SPI Bio benefitted from Sherbrooke Innopole’s commercialization support programme VITE (Validation d’innovation technologique à l’essai) in 2018. The Sherbrooke business was at the time able to have a technology showcase at the Palais des sports Léopold-Drolet, in partnership with the City of Sherbrooke.

For 2020, SPI Bio will prioritize developing the industrial, hospital and tourism sectors, in Québec and Ontario among others. The company will also work to develop its distribution network, with a view to making inroads into the American and European markets in the future.

In order to implement its business strategy, SPI Bio foresees hiring five new employees, who in the short term will be assigned to the sales, production, and administration departments. Currently they have 17 highly qualified employees, all based at the multitenant science building Espace LABz, in Sherbrooke’s Parc scientifique. At that location, SPI Bio assembles the BioAlert devices, as well as the associated analysis cartridges.

The BioAlert device consists of a self-loading biochemical analysis compartment as well as a data management and communication system which allows it to conduct daily tests and provide the results in less than three hours. The device makes the analysis process easier by eliminating the need for manual sampling and expediting those samples to a laboratory, which may take up to 14 days before getting the results. While the BioAlert device does not replace the monthly tests required by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, it does allow users to foresee what the official laboratory results will be and take timely action in order to avoid any fallout of a failed test.

Thus, SPI Bio’s innovative and connected solution allows for better management of biological risks at reduced cost, as well as managing or reducing the consequences associated with a potential Legionella outbreak. Legionella bacteria are a serious public health issue, causing over 25 000 hospitalizations and nearly 4000 deaths each year in North America.

About SPI Bio

Created in 2014, SPI Bio launched its first pilot project in the fall of 2017 in order to validate the BioAlert technology under real usage conditions. The benefits of the technology were quickly recognized by their industrial and financial partners, thus equipping the company with the necessary resources for quickly bringing the product to market. Currently, SPI Bio has a multidisciplinary team combining biotechnology and engineering experts, as well as sales and marketing specialists. spibio.ca

About Capitall Investissements

Capitall is a successful French individual and family fund for entrepreneurs, among which some have become leaders in their field of activity. More specifically, our fund allows us to act as a strategic and financial partner with start-ups as well as small or medium-sized businesses to contribute to accelerate their development on the international level. We have a value-added creative vision and a smart money approach to business. Capitall Investissements has a double objective. On the one hand, we aim to facilitate access to venture capital to innovative Canadian businesses in the technology sector at the prestart and premarketing phases, then to mentor and coach them in setting up shop abroad, more precisely in France, thus allowing them to benefit from the strength of our networks and experience, and have a quick and efficient access to European markets. On the other hand, we aim to foster the attraction of and support to French businesses in Canada, more precisely in Québec, following the same active involvement logic. 

About Natural Products Canada

Natural Products Canada (NPC) is the driving force behind Canada’s Natural Product Innovation Cluster–a strategic community of SMEs, research institutes, corporations, investors, government departments, and service providers who support the development and commercialization of naturally-derived products and technologies in health and life sciences, natural resources, agriculture and agri-food, and sustainable bioproducts. As part of its role in the Cluster, NPC offers a suite of Commercialization Programs to help companies and researchers advance high-potential products and technologies; provides connection and innovation scouting services to industry and investors through its Innovation Hub; and leverages its Investment Fund to help develop and de-risk promising Canadian opportunities. NPC has over 500 opportunities in its pipeline, has completed seven investments, and has already experienced two exits. Established in 2016, NPC is funded by a range of public and private investors, including the Government of Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Commercialization and Research (CECR) program, administered by the Networks of Centres of Excellence. Visit www.naturalproductscanada.com

About Sherbrooke Innopole

Sherbrooke Innopole is Sherbrooke’s economic development arm whose mission is to accelerate the development of businesses in five key sectors – Advanced Manufacturing, Cleantech, Information Technologies, Life Sciences and Micro-nanotechnologies – and to work to make Sherbrooke an attractive and innovative business environment.

sherbrooke-innopole.com

About ACET Banque Nationale

Over the years, ACET has garnered a solid reputation and firsthand expertise in the start-up and development of technology businesses, most of which have arisen from research by students and professors at the Université de Sherbrooke. Since its creation in 2011, ACET has supported 90 business ventures in various technology sectors and those projects have generated more than 400 jobs. For more information about ACET and its unique support model, check out acet.ca.

Article found here: https://www.naturalproductscanada.com/en/spi-bio/

Sherbrooke Start-Up makes its Presence Known

Étienne Lemieux, CEO and co-founder of the Sherbrooke-based company SPI Bio, won first prize in the PitchTech Competition. Mr. Lemieux and Dominic Carrier developed BioAlert, a device capable of quickly detecting the presence of legionella in industrial and commercial cooling equipment.

The competition was held as part of the fourth edition of Batimatech, an annual event that brings together several entrepreneurs from the building, technology and sustainable development sectors. Some 15 participants were asked to present the product invented by their company in the form of a sales pitch in front of 300 people and had to demonstrate why it is an innovation in the technological sector.

It’s the first automated on-site detector for legionella bacteria,” confirms Mr. Lemieux in an interview with La Tribune. It’s like a smoke detector, but for water contamination. It allows for absolute risk management. We’re thinking of changing the game because currently on the market these tests have a 14-day delay and we’re able to get a result the same day as the sample is taken. We are being proactive and reactive. »

“If an elevator kills a person, we shut down the building, if an airplane creates a risk, we’ll keep a whole fleet on the ground, but every year 4,000 people die because of legionella bacteria and we barely put rules in place to control the risk,” he imagines.

Legionella pneumophila is a bacterium that grows and multiplies in the water used to cool the air in industries and commercial establishments. A contaminated cooling tower discharges fine droplets of water outdoors, which are then inhaled by people within a 12-kilometre radius.

A person who is contaminated with this bacteria can get legionellosis, a disease that attacks the lungs in the form of pneumonia and in some cases can be fatal.

In July 2012, a single contaminated cooling tower caused an outbreak of legionellosis and more than 180 people in Quebec City were affected by it. Unfortunately, 14 victims died.

The young Sherbrooke company has already delivered six to the federal government. Étienne Lemieux ensures that its order book is well filled.

Article found here: https://www.latribune.ca/affaires/une-start-up-sherbrookoise-fait-sa-marque-9e745e2c2dbd3d14f8c2cf0248cebb72

The perfect combination of two expertises

In Quebec City in 2012, a single legionella-contaminated cooling tower infected 181 people and killed 14 of them. This situation, which required a major investigation, led to the provincial government’s adoption in 2014 of new regulations for cooling towers in buildings, where the bacteria can accumulate and be released into the ambient air. In 2017 in Granby, nine people were diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease. Although no one died, the Public Health Department in the Estrie region worked hard to find the cause, but to no avail. What if there was a device capable of quickly and automatically detecting the presence of legionella in cooling towers, the bacteria responsible for causing legionellosis, a potentially fatal lung infection in humans? That device now exists – the BioAlert, created by the young Sherbrooke-based company SpiBio. The idea for the device was born on a kitchen counter somewhere in 2010, thanks to the expertise of two roommates. Indeed, Étienne Lemieux was finishing his PhD in cellular biology, while his roommate Dominic Carrier was finishing his master’s degree in electrical engineering. So what are the links between cell biology and electrical engineering? In current practice, these two disciplines are rarely used in the same project. But to create a device capable of automatically treating legionella levels in water, it was the perfect mesh! “We had a lot of discussions together and came up with this idea,” says Lemieux. “It’s biochemical expertise coupled with engineering. Our two areas of expertise allowed us to think outside the box,” he adds. It took four years to launch the company SpiBio, which negotiated a few tight turns before it had the wind in its sails today. After working as hard as they did, it was in 2017 that the two friends and business partners were able to do their first technological validations thanks to partners with whom they installed the BioAlert. In 2018, commercialization began on a small scale. Today, the work team is growing and the order book is filling up quickly: in July, SpiBio has 12 employees and new employees will be hired shortly. For some time now, the company has been located in Espace LABz, a multi-tenant centre managed by Sherbrooke Innopole and aimed at companies working in the life sciences or clean technology sectors. The market for BioAlert is huge. In Quebec, there are an estimated 2,600 cooling towers. In the United States, there would be between 250,000 and 300,000. There are cooling towers in many residential towers, and the market is large, but to start with, it is the commercial market that SpiBio will tackle. “The commercial market is easier because managers know the significant costs associated with closing a cooling tower in a plant, for example,” says Étienne Lemieux. Interest in the Sherbrooke product – and a majority of its suppliers are Canadian – is starting to be felt by several customers who have a wide reach with several facilities around the world. So the future is bright for the two accomplices and business partners. A future fraught with many challenges, however. “We are fortunate to have very understanding spouses, because it’s not easy to live with an entrepreneur. It’s almost obsessive,” notes Étienne Lemieux. Both partners want to prevent the spread of legionella, given that a single cooling tower can contaminate a radius of three to 12 kilometres around it. That’s what happened in the case of Quebec City in 2012. “We have found a real problem, and it is a problem that matches our ambition. A lot of people have failed before us. Now we’re spreading our wings,” says Carrier, adding that the technology they developed to detect Legionella could be used to detect other bacteria. “Our ambition is to create something bigger than ourselves,” concludes Lemieux. Article found here: https://www.latribune.ca/actualites/merite-estrien/laccord-parfait-de-deux-expertises-974e9db4a3f578c5db8ecab75083a001