Winnipeg’s Cerebra Health, a world leader in digital sleep analysis, was one of 11 private-sector and not-for-profit organizations in Manitoba that benefited from close to $13.5 million in federal funding announced on Tuesday.
Cerebra has developed an in-home sleep-analysis kit that generates digital data that can identify sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, eliminating the need for patients to have to wait more than a year to utilize existing sleep labs.
Dawson Reimer, CEO of Cerebra, said the $900,000 in repayable funding will help the company complete its commercial launch of the company’s in-home diagnostic system, called MySleepStudy. The company is also working on digital-analysis software that has the potential to address all sorts of other conditions — such as anxiety and maybe even insomnia — that could be discovered during the sleep cycle.
The funding from Western Economic Diversification comes out of the department’s Grow West: The Western Canada Growth Strategy, which was released earlier this year. It’s part of a flurry of funding announcements over the past couple of weeks.
Regardless of the political points that may or may not be scored, the injection of capital for some of the individual recipients will be integral for their specific business developments and will undoubtedly result in the creation of new jobs.
For instance, Kane Biotech, a Winnipeg biotechnology company whose research and product development is focused on microbial biofilms, received repayable funding of close to $3.8 million. Kane is a publicly traded company whose total market capitalization is only $12.5 million, so the funding — specifically targeted at developing a wound-care formulation — is significant.
Ray Dupuis, Kane’s chief financial officer, said, "This is huge for us. It’s transformational for the company."
In addition to the repayable loans to Kane and Cerebra, the Bioscience Association of Manitoba received $300,000 and the Manitoba Technology Accelerator received $1-million grants.
Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid — who made the announcement on behalf of Navdeep Bains, the minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada — said the life-sciences sector is a critical part of the local economy.
"In my view, this sector has been undersupported in the past, and when you think that the science of today represents the economy of tomorrow... these really are the jobs of the future," he said.
The other seven entities are all digital-industry companies and provincial organizations that support the sector.
Considering the chronic lack of access to capital for technology startups and those companies looking to scale up, this kind of repayable financing is important money for these firms. It is a particularly beneficial type of funding as well, because it means ownership is not diluted, which would be the case if the companies were to raise new equity.
Four digital-industry companies received repayable funding to advance their respective innovation pursuits:
● Pricerazzi Inc., a company that helps consumers ensure they get retailers’ lowest-price guarantees, received $1 million in repayable funding to expand its digital price-protection service. The company recently pivoted to market itself to financial institutions as a loyalty and reward service for the financial institutions’ customers;
● Tangent Holdings received $784,000 to commercialize a cloud-based 3D animation system. Tangent is a Winnipeg digital-services company that does digital-effects work for major motion-picture productions;
● TRAINFO Corp. received $180,000 to help reduce traffic congestion at railway crossings using digital technology. This Winnipeg company is attracting a lot of attention for a new approach to an annoying occurrence in most cities in the world;
● 151 Research received $310,000 to commercialize grain-quality-monitoring technology that will allow agricultural producers to reduce the risks of spoilage.
"This non-dilutive funding will allow us to put gas in the tanks and go faster, including to start developing the European market where we have already found there to be interest," Declan McDonald, founder and CEO of Pricerazzi, said.
In addition to the private-sector operators, three industry-support organizations also secured federal funding:
● Economic Development Winnipeg received $689,814 to develop a talent-attraction and retention program for companies in advanced manufacturing and digital-technology sectors that are experiencing skills shortages;
● The Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba received $2.2 million to establish the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program in Manitoba, something like a digital-industry apprenticeship program;
● New Media Manitoba received $2.2 million to allow it to better deliver its industry business-development services by trying to increase the number of women in the field, as well as to do more outreach in northern Manitoba.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.