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Replace the pills with a bandage? Avro Life Science thinks there's a patch for that

Shak Lakhani, the 21-year-old CEO and co-founder of Avro Life Science, 21, began researching biomaterials at the age of 15

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Every summer and after school, the teenager had to travel nearly two hours by bus and train from Toronto's Richmond Hill neighborhood where he was living at the Tissue Engineering Laboratory of Toronto. University of Toronto and develop three-dimensional in vitro models of tumors using biomaterials.

For three years, Mr. Lakhani worked in the laboratory before continuing his studies in nanotechnology engineering at the University of Waterloo, at a distance of 73 miles. It's here, in his first year, that Lakhani met another Richmond Hill resident, Keean Sarani, and launched Avro Life Science.

Sarani, also 21 years old, had his own life science story. A former epidemiologist who worked as a research assistant at the aptly named Hospital for Sick Children, Sarani spent her high school years working in community pharmacies before graduating with a degree in science and a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Toronto. University of Waterloo. from high school.

Sarani and Lakhani, who are related by marriage, met for the first time in the Village 1 dormitory complex of the university. A few months after their first meeting, the two decided to start working on the company that was going to become Avro.

They officially launched the company in January 2016, at a time when Lakhani said the two students would hold "start-up Sundays" where they would exchange ideas with each other in a dormitory on Sunday night, up to # That they find an idea. it seemed viable.

Given their experience – Sarani in pharmacies and patient treatment and Lakhani in chemistry and materials science, both hit on the idea of ​​drug delivery and patches.

Co-Founders of Avro Life Science Keean Sarani and Shak Lakhani

The two first played with a multivitamin patch for daily health, but through the sniffles, watery eyes and sneezes of people with persistent allergies, both hit the # 39; idea of ​​an antihistamine patch to cure their own ailments.

The two win their first pitch contest three months after touching the initial idea in March 2016, and formally incorporated their company in November 2016.

Fast forward two years and the two co-founders are about to make the final preparations for the first product with the help of a first round of investors led by Fifty Years, with the participation of Susa Ventures, Capital Garage, Capital Heuristic, Embark Ventures, Uphonest Capital and Buckley Endeavors. Individual angel investors also participated in the tour. In all, Avro has about $ 2.2 million in the bank.

According to Lakhani, the company has already developed a polymer that allows Avro to make patches capable of delivering hundreds of different drugs. Now, it 's only a matter of preparing for clinical trials that the company will launch before the end of the year.

The first product, says Lakhani, is "a medicated sticker for seasonal allergies". The company's marketing plan involves the revitalization of drugs that pharmaceutical companies have not been able to market because oral delivery is difficult, says Lakhani. .

"Really breakthrough is the [proprietary] combination of materials that can hold all these different drugs," he said. "The method of administering the drug is the same as in the nicotine patches.In our case as a result of the polymer and the method of manufacture …. [the drugs] do not bind with the polymer. These are micro-adhesives in the patch.The heat of the skin dissolves the polymer and allows the drugs to enter the bloodstream. "

Basically, there are tiny bubbles on the patch and contact with (and heat of) the skin causes the bubbles to break and deliver drugs in a non-adulterated form to the bloodstream, explains Lakhani.

Because the company uses generic drugs for its first tests, it hopes to have an easier way to access the market to prove the viability of its distribution system.

Later, the company also has pretty impressive pharmaceutical partners that it could exploit. Avro is already working with Bayer as part of its accelerator program in Toronto, which could lead to a deeper relationship, according to Mr. Lakhani

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The first drug that the company tests is Loratadine (a common antihistamine).

"In the coming years, we plan to market a number of other medications for neurodegenerative diseases, heart health, painkillers and many others to improve drug delivery and compliance. while revitalizing pharmaceutical pipelines, "wrote Lakhani. "One day, we hope to allow large pharmaceutical companies to" save "drugs that they have spent billions of dollars, but failed trials due to poor bioavailability, liver toxicity high of an entire pill being metabolized immediately. "

For Fifty Years co-founder, Seth Bannon, Avro technology is a "holy grail" for drug delivery that can save billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies.

"The market for this is absolutely massive: Avro can initially manufacture and sell patches containing generics directly to consumers to solve problems such as respect for children and the elderly," Bannon writes in an email. "Because Avro can deliver many medications transdermally … When you administer medications transdermally, you dramatically reduce liver toxicity and increase bioavailability." That means the pharmacy can save drugs that have just failed in phase 3. Pharma will pay a lot for that. "

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