Kane Biotech (CVE:KNE) is looking to fill a gap in the healthcare market with its products developed to break down and disperse biofilms, taking an innovative approach to eradicating the nitty-gritty bacteria that are a major cause of serious infections.
"Bacteria are very sociable little bugs. They like to live together in communities called bio films, like ants getting together and building an ant hill," says president and CEO, Gord Froehlich, describing the formation of a biofilm from microbes.
Biofilms are any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface, with the task of killing bacteria embedded or hidden in this becoming all the more difficult.
"Antibiotics are effective against planktonic, or free-floating bacteria, but when the bacteria form of biofilm is kind of the house they live in, it is very difficult to kill that biofilm-embedded bacteria," says Froehlich, who spent 25 years in the biotechnology industry at Monsanto Canada.
"It's like an infection that never goes away, as the bacteria keep re-seeding themselves from the bacteria hidden in the biofilm."
Indeed, while the word "biofilms" may not be familiar, their presence surely is. Froehlich says biofilms can be anything from the plaque in your teeth, to the lysteria found in meat processing facilities, when "the cleaning agent does a good job of cleaning the planktonic bacteria but not the biofilm-embedded bacteria". They can also develop on surfaces such as catheters, prosthetic implants, teeth, lungs and the urogenital tract, with around 80 per cent of all human bacterial infections estimated to involve biofilms.
"When you combine a hard surface and moisture, you get a biofilm forming," he affirms.
The company's patented technology is based on attacking this biofilm, or the environment in which the bacteria thrive. "We're not out to develop a new antibiotic. If you can alter or remove the environment a species thrives in, the species will not survive," Froehlich explains.
Kane has three focuses for its technology -- oral care, disinfectants and wound care -- with the company's most advanced product dubbed StrixNB, a drinking water additive to help maintain good dental and oral hygiene for pets.
"We just did a trial launch of the product through veterinarians in Manitoba, and are working with vets in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan to launch in marketplaces there." The company earlier this year appointed Pacific Veterinary Sales of Abbotsford, B.C. as a distribution partner for the upcoming StrixNB pet oral care product launch in Western Canada.
The response in Manitoba from the test launch was indeed what the company was looking for, and hopefully an indication of things to come, with over 84 per cent of the veterinary clinics signing up for Kane's promotional campaign and most of these clinics placing orders to regularly carry StrixNB in their clinics.
The chief executive says the product is unique as it works to break down the plaque on the teeth, and improve bad breath. "There are hundreds of oral care products for pets, but quite frankly, none work very well. Those that are on the market and do work only kill planktonic bacteria, not biofilm."
The xylitol-free product, made of 100 per cent human food grade ingredients, is registered with the interim notification program of Health Canada for low risk veterinary health products. During testing, the company says veterinarians found that 92 per cent of dogs using StrixNB showed "significant improvement in their dental and oral hygiene", including breath freshening, while in vitro testing of StrixNB showed "excellent efficacy" against key oral bacteria tied to dental plaque and periodontal disease.
"Our overall strategy is to license our intellectual property and to continue to develop new products. We want to work with players that are already in the industry," says Kane's CEO.
In keeping with this commercialization strategy, the company is looking at partnerships in the U.S., Canada and abroad as it aims to move its products internationally.
It will have several products going for it, including its KBI disinfectant product, designed to kill microbes from hotel rooms to restaurants by breaking down the biofilm and exposing the bacteria. "We have appointed a Canadian manufacturing distributor for marketing the product, and have already received a number of approvals from Health Canada, with a few more approvals to go before the launch," says Froehlich.
The third area of focus for Kane Biotech is the wound care market, for which the company is currently developing products for anything from diabetic foot ulcers to combat wounds.
"Our strategy is to find partners to license to and work with them -- companies with big marketing teams, huge sales forces. Our strength is innovation and new technology," affirms the chief. "We want to take our products to market with partners," he adds.
For a small company with a market cap of less than $10 million, Kane has seen some strong trading volumes on its stock, with an average volume, measured over the last 30 days, of some 410,409 shares. It was even named one of the top ten companies in the biotech industry by Fast Company, in an annual list of the world's "Most Innovative Companies".
Cashed up for the remainder of the year and "sitting comfortably", the Winnipeg-based biotech company has both institutional and retail investors, ranging as far wide as Europe, with management and insiders holding a 15 per cent stake. There are no plans as yet to go back to the market for more funds, but this could change dependant on the success of its product launches, says Froehlich.