A Winnipeg biotech company is on the verge of introducing its novel skin-cholesterol test to the general public, although Winnipeggers will likely have to wait until early next year to try it out.
Miraculins Inc. announced Monday it has struck a deal with Vancouver-based London Drugs to begin offering its new PreVu tests, which will be administered by a pharmacist or pharmaceutical technician, this October in up to 10 of the retail chain's stores in Vancouver and the lower mainland area of British Columbia.
If everything goes smoothly and the tests go over well with the public, London Drugs plans to begin offering them in all 74 of its western Canadian stores early in 2013. That includes its lone Winnipeg store in St. Vital Centre.
The PreVu technology, which Miraculins acquired two years ago from a Toronto research firm, can detect high levels of cholesterol in patients by scanning the skin on the palm of their hand. A high reading can be an indicator the patient is at risk of developing coronary heart disease.
"This is the first time our test will be made available to the public, so it's a major milestone for us," said Miraculins president and CEO Christopher Moreau. "But it's just the first step."
Moreau said Miraculins hopes to strike a similar deal with an eastern Canadian drugstore chain within the next few weeks and to launch a similar pilot project there this fall.
After that, it hopes to make the technology available to any drugstore chain that wants to offer it in Canada, as well as to retailers in the United States and Europe, where it is also approved for use.
Moreau said because London Drugs was the first retailer "to step up," it initially will have exclusive rights to market the skin tests in Western Canada. How long that exclusivity lasts is still under negotiation, he added.
John Tse, London Drug's vice-president of pharmacy, said the retailer is anxious to see how the public responds to the new test.
"We think people will like the fact we don't have to break the skin or take any vials of blood," he said.
He also predicted they'll like not having to fast beforehand, that the test only takes a couple of minutes to do and they can get the results within about five minutes.
If the tests do strike a chord with consumers, Tse said, they'll provide a new source of revenue for London Drugs and give consumers another reason to shop at its stores.
He said the company will first test it in a small number of stores to make sure the in-store clinics conducting the tests are running smoothly and to gauge the public's response.
Consumers will have to pay a fee to have the test done. Tse said London Drugs hasn't decided how much, but it will be affordable and less costly than a regular blood test for cholesterol.