Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trials funded for firm's heart-health technology

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Arterial Stiffness Inc. may not be the catchiest name for a technology startup, but it might provide key diagnoses that could prevent a heart attack caused by a pre-existing condition that does not have any symptoms.

ASI, a small Winnipeg-based medical-device company, has developed proprietary technology that measures the amount of plaque in the arteries, a condition that leads to hardening of the arteries or arteriosclerosis, and potentially heart attacks.

ASI, part of the Manitoba Technology Accelerator, has just closed a $200,000 round of private investment with the Manitoba Knights, a Winnipeg-based group of angel investors who have funded other companies developed at the accelerator run by Marshall Ring.

Ring believes there is a promising future for this technology, whose research has been led by Michael Zhang, the scientist-founder of ASI.

"There are about 100 tests for cancer. How many tests are there for heart attacks?" Ring asked rhetorically. "There are very few screening tests that deal with heart health."

The ASI device uses a finger clip that produces pulse contour wave forms. The company has proprietary technology that interprets the waveforms. The $200,000 equity injection will allow ASI to put a framework in place to start clinical trials leading to U.S. regulatory approval of the product. David Asper was one of the primary investors from the Manitoba Knights and will sit on the ASI board.

"We all believe ASI is on the right path to success," Asper said. "Our group (the Manitoba Knights) is attracted to the possibility of providing capital to Manitoba companies that are in the startup phase that are dealing with innovation and life-sciences and technology. Part of the evolution of a business is that you need seed capital. It has to start somewhere. Hopefully, these companies will continue to grow and build a base of innovations and life-sciences businesses in Winnipeg."

The timing of the investment coincides with the realization that ASI's proprietary computer algorithms may also be able to detect heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats).

That was determined when ASI was conducting equivalency trials in which they tested their device against three U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared devices at the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre. The ASI technology fared well against equipment that is far more costly, another advantage of the ASI system.

Ring said the clinical trials of the technology will be designed to detect both arterial stiffness and arrhythmia.

Ring said work is still needed to determine the best business model if the technology gains regulatory approval.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 18, 2013 B7

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