Four years after winning first prize in the 2007 New Ventures BC competition, Augurex Life Sciences Corp. is on the brink of huge opportunities.

The Vancouver company has just completed clinical studies proving that its patented biomarker test for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) identifies patients who have early onset of the disease. Researchers involved in the clinical tests say it captures an additional two out of every 10 patients with early-onset RA who are missed by other tests. They say this is hugely beneficial because the disease can cause irreversible joint damage within two years of symptom onset.

Augurex is now in the midst of negotiations with diagnostic companies around the world to commercialize and distribute the test. It measures a newly discovered protein that is elevated in the blood of patients with RA but is relatively absent in healthy people and those with other types of arthritis and autoimmune conditions.

Norma Biln, CEO of Augurex, says the test could become a disruptive technology in terms of advancing patient management and possibly changing the course of the disease.

“Our next challenge is to ensure there’s a successful uptake of the product,” says Biln. “You can launch it, but you need to ensure it’s properly promoted, since the test uses a novel protein that most people have never heard of.”

Augurex still has five employees and contracts out its research to Canadian research organizations. To date, the company has received about $4.5 million in funding from shareholders and government.

Now, Biln hopes to use the funds from impending commercialization agreements to pursue four more applications based on the same novel protein, for which several patents have been filed.

Two of the new patents focus on measuring the patient’s own immune response to the novel protein. The other two patents focus on therapeutically targeting the protein to eliminate it from the patient’s body, potentially treating RA.

“When we started, we had no idea where this would take us,” says Biln. “It took a lot of hard work and creativity to make these other discoveries and learn about where we could move things forward.

“It has turned into a much bigger opportunity than we expected.”

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