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Tumour-killing tech nominated

Winnipeg developers vie for $100K prize

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Mark Torchia, above, and Richard Tyc are Manitoba's only nominees for the national Manning Innovation Awards.

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Mark Torchia, above, and Richard Tyc are Manitoba's only nominees for the national Manning Innovation Awards. Photo Store

Local research scientist Mark Torchia is hoping he'll be second-time lucky when they pick the winners for this year's national Manning Innovation Awards.

Torchia and Monteris Medical Inc. co-founder Richard Tyc were announced Thursday as Manitoba's only nominees for this year's Manning awards, which recognize Canadians who have developed and successfully marketed a new concept, process or procedure and whose work demonstrates intellectual achievement, uniqueness and originality, development, commercialization and economic and/or social impact.

Monteris successfully developed a revolutionary technology, called AutoLITT, to treat deep-seated brain tumours that would typically be considered inoperable. The technology has successfully been used on more than 230 patients in the United States since receiving regulatory approval in 2009.

This is the second time Torchia has been nominated for a Manning award, which is presented annually by the Ernest C. Manning Foundation. He said the first time was more than a decade ago when he was involved with another local company -- Intelligence Hospital Systems -- which successfully developed a product which is now used by hospital pharmacies to automatically and accurately prepare IV syringes and IV bags.

'It's the Canadian award for recognizing entrepreneurs and investors. So there's no question it would be wonderful to win it'

-- Mark Torchia

Torchia said he didn't win that time, but he's hoping it will be a different outcome this time around.

"It (winning an award) would be indescribable. It's the Canadian award for recognizing entrepreneurs and investors. So there's no question it would be wonderful to win it."

Harry Schulz, a local trustee of the Manning Foundation, announced Torchia's and Tyc's nomination at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. He said in a later interview he thinks they have a good shot at winning one of the awards.

"What they've accomplished is very impressive."

The top Manning award -- Canadian Inventor of the Year -- includes a prize of $100,000. There are two secondary awards for $25,000 and $10,000.

Schulz said in a typical year, Manitoba has three or four nominees.

"It just happened that this year there is just one (Torchia and Tyc together)," he added. With the AutoLITT system, neurosurgeons can insert a thin laser probe into a tumour through a small hole in the skull. Specialized technology enables them to manipulate the probe to heat and kill the tumour cells without damaging surrounding brain tissue.

Torchia said although all the successful applications of the system have taken place in the United States, talks are underway to have systems installed in hospitals in Winnipeg and Vancouver.

About 320 people attended Thursday's chamber luncheon, which featured Jobs and Economy Minister Theresa Oswald as the keynote speaker.

As reported in Thursday's Free Press, Oswald announced after almost a decade on the sidelines, the Manitoba government is getting back into the venture-capital game with the creation of a new $4.5-million Manitoba Innovation Growth Sidecar Fund (MIGSF).

The fund is aimed at early-stage, established businesses that need additional capital to grow. It will invest in approved businesses by matching private-sector investments in the companies under the same terms and conditions negotiated by the private investors.

In addition to creating the new fund, the government is accelerating implementation of changes to the small-business venture-capital tax that were announced in this year's budget. Those changes increase the tax credit to 45 per cent from 30 per cent, increase the maximum amount that can be raised, and loosen the eligibility of the credits for founders and larger shareholders.

"It's a beginning, admittedly," Oswald said of the new fund, "but I believe this is going to be the bulls-eye we've been trying to hit for some time."

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 B6

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