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Torigen wins Investment Forum’s Innovation Award

The developer of the VetiVax cancer vaccine was among 12 emerging companies presenting their ideas to judges and investors.

Torigen wins Investment Forum’s Innovation Award
Torigen Pharmaceuticals CEO Ashley Kalinauskas, second from left, accepts the $10,000 check that goes to the top presenting company at the Investment Forum.

Torigen Pharmaceuticals Inc., whose autologous immunotherapeutic vaccine is touted as a lower-priced option for canine cancer treatment, was named the Innovation Award winner at the KC Animal Health Corridor Investment Forum.

Company founder and CEO Ashley Kalinauskas, MS, outperformed 11 other presenters Aug. 21 in her 10-minute address to a panel of judges and hundreds of potential investors and business partners. The annual “Shark Tank”-like competition has served as a stepping stone for young companies such as FitBark, Prommune, Jaguar Animal Health and Nexvet Biopharma.

Torigen’s patent-protected VetiVax cancer vaccine starts with a veterinary specialist or general practitioner shipping a surgically excised tumor to the company, which then uses deactivated tumor cells to produce a personalized vaccine within 72 hours. The vaccine is injected once a week for three weeks at a cost of $1,500 to the pet owner — thousands of dollars less than radiology and chemotherapy treatments, Kalinauskas said.

Torigen, founded in 2013, is pursuing a conditional license for the experimental vaccine through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Here is a look at all 12 presenting companies.

Torigen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Farmington, Connecticut)

  • Product: Autologous immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine, VVax-001, created from a dog’s own tumor cells
  • Funding to date: $810,000
  • Presenter: CEO and founder Ashley Kalinauskas, MS
  • Quote: “We have developed a pipeline of personalized cancer immunotherapeutics aimed at really targeting the patient’s own tumor in order to create a tumor-specific response against the cancer.”

Applied LifeSciences and Systems Poultry Inc. (Raleigh, North Carolina)

  • Product: Mechanical vaccination system that identifies unhealthy chicks
  • Funding to date: $3.5 million
  • Presenter: CEO and founder Ramin Karimpour
  • Quote: “What it brings to the game of poultry production is a significant increase in immunization, significant reduction in cost of feed … and a reduction of all the feed additives and other chemicals that go into the process.”

Chalante Ltd. (Cambridge, England)

  • Product: Cattle parasiticide and canine heartworm preventive
  • Funding to date: $2.5 million
  • Presenter: Co-founder and general manager Simon Aspland, Ph.D.
  • Quote: “We are at an early stage of research and development. If all this goes well, we hope our molecules will end up in two products around about 2023. We will be looking to do corporate deals before that.”

Chelation Partners Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)

  • Product: Iron-sequestering polymer for the management and control of bacterial and fungal infections
  • Funding to date: $6.5 million
  • Presenter: Co-founder Bill Cheliak, Ph.D.
  • Quote: “We own all of the intellectual property that is associated with this [and] two families of patents covering the compositional matter, methods of use and manufacturer.”

Forza10 USA Corp. (Orlando, Florida)

  • Product: Fish-based nutraceutical food for dogs and cats suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases
  • Funding to date: $110,000
  • Presenter: Sergio Canello, DVM
  • Quote: “If the food is contaminated, you cannot start with the medicine. You have to change the food.”

Geneoscopy (St. Louis)

  • Product: Non-invasive test to diagnose gastrointestinal lymphoma in cats
  • Funding to date: $1,423,000
  • Presenter: CEO and co-founder Andrew Barnell, MBA
  • Quote: “We plan to sell the test wholesale to the veterinarian at $300. Given that this is a significant discount to the cost of invasive procedures, we believe that provides ample room for them to mark up the test and drive additional revenue into their practice.”

Illustris Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Palo Alto, California)

  • Product: Physiological permeation technology that allows active agents to penetrate between cells rather than through them
  • Funding to date: $10 million
  • Presenter: President and CEO Mark Prygocki
  • Quote: “Our solution: Apply oral or injectable drugs topically. … Because of the efficiency of our delivery technology, we can substantially reduce the amount of drug needed to get the same clinical effect, which actually reduces the cost of goods and enhances the safety of the applicant as well as the patient.”

Innogenics (Harvard, Massachusetts)

  • Product: Genomic-based diagnostics and targeted therapies for companions animals diagnosed with cancer
  • Funding to date: $620,000
  • Presenter: President and CEO Barbara Davis, VMD, Ph.D., DACVP
  • Quote: “With investment we would like to … scale our laboratory and really execute a marketing plan that we haven’t done previously. We would also like to do things like automate our reporting and continue to outreach and expand to our veterinary colleagues both in the U.S. and internationally.”

MBF Therapeutics Inc. (Ambler, Pennsylvania)

  • Product: Gene-based checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy technology
  • Funding to date: $1.55 million
  • Presenter: Thomas Tillett, CEO and president
  • Quote: “By 2020 we expect to have at least six products in full development. We expect that our lead product will be ready to submit to the USDA for a conditional license.”

Scollar Inc. (Santa Rosa, California)

  • Product: Cloud-enabled smart collar for companion animals and livestock large animals to monitor vital signs, location and movement patterns, medication protocols and other aspects of animal care
  • Funding to date: $1.4 million
  • Presenter: CEO and co-founder Lisa Tamayo, MBA
  • Quote: “For production animals, we will scale the Scollar down and make it simpler and use solar power for charging, because our job is to get that collar under $50 per head. And because Sollar is designed to be used for many years, it can be used over and over by the producer long after it’s paid for itself.”

Scullion Strategy Group (Greensboro, North Carolina)

  • Product: Automated smartphone-based diagnostic assay for point-of-care semen analysis
  • Funding to date: $32,000
  • Presenter: President Sherry Scullion, MBA
  • Quote: “This technology will work for basically any species, but we as a team identified the four largest opportunities … and that’s beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine and equine. We believe that in the equine industry, they will be the early adopters of this technology and it will in the future become the gold standard.”

WoofTrax Inc. (Easthampton, Massachusetts)

  • Product: Mobile app for dog owners to track walks and simultaneously raise money for local animal shelters or rescues
  • Funding to date: $312,000
  • Presenter: CEO and founder Doug Hexter
  • Quote: “WoofTrax is a mobile ad platform that makes the simple act of walking your dog impactful and helpful for pet owners, pet brands and thousands of animal organizations. We make money by connecting these groups in a mutually beneficial way.”
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