Radar: Local exec shares 4 BC life sciences startups to watch from LSBC’s Invest in BC event

RBC's Sean Azarshahi says the leaders of these firms "aren’t in it for money... but to help patients, their loved ones, our communities and our society."

As I’ve said before, even though I write about innovation every day, it’s not possible for me to know absolutely everything about BC’s 10,000-plus tech companies. That’s why I love it when readers tip me off to innovative or under-the-radar companies I should know about.

To my delight, Sean Azarshahi, a VP with RBCx, was once again in touch a few weeks ago to share four life sciences companies that caught his eye at Life Sciences BC’s recent Invest in BC event. Sponsored by Lumira Ventures, the Invest in BC event brings together entrepreneurs in the life sciences ecosystem, as well as 90 investors from 32 countries.

While Azarshahi said all presenting companies “had truly amazing technologies,” the following four really stood out for him.

Microbiome Insights

Microbiome Insights started at UBC under the Personalized Medicine Initiative where BC is a global leader. The scientific technology of the company was the work of UBC professors Dr. Brett Finlay, Dr. Bill Mohn and CEO Malcolm Kendall.

“Understanding the microbiome is one of the fastest-growing areas of life sciences, and a critical part of investigating how microbes function in and interact with their environments,” explained Azarshahi. Microbiome Insights have various tests to provide end-to-end service with comprehensive bioinformatics for clients interested in including microbiome analysis into their studies.

The company works with cosmetic/dermatology sectors as well as food/beverage, pharma and human health, animal health, natural resources, agriculture, academia and governments. “We have globally recognized scientists in this field here in BC and it is really exciting to see how they are adding value internationally to so many industries,” Azarshahi raved.


“Imagine that we could reverse osteoporosis. Imagine how we can help the elderly not to have broken bones when they fall. As our family physician put it years ago, ‘everybody falls (in reference to the elderly), it is just that you want to make sure when you do, nothing breaks, because if bones break at that age, the recovery is pretty challenged.’” Mesentech is working on a technology to deliver existing drugs that are too potent to the body as a whole to be delivered specifically and selectively to the bone.

As they put it simply, “Mesentech is developing innovative drugs that can selectively deliver drugs to the bone in order to rebuild bone lost to disease, trauma, and to reverse osteoporosis.” The founders are a team of globally renowned scientists (who include BC megastar Dr. Pieter Cullis). “This technology could truly change our world,” Azarshahi said.

Vesalius Cardiovascular

Vesalius Cardiovascular is a preclinical medical device company in the structural heart space. They are developing Transcatheter Mitral Valve solutions for common heart valve diseases. Basically, they are reproducing proven surgical results without the need for surgery, explains Azarshahi. “It is absolutely fascinating to see that the working to eliminate the burden associated with surgery and allow treatment of almost all patients suffering from the underlying heart diseases,” he said.

Vesalius’s chief scientific officer is Dr. Peter Skarsgard who is a Cardiovascular Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery at UBC, as well as Head of the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery at Vancouver General Hospital. The technology his company is building “could also have a profound impact on patients around the world,” Azarshahi suggested.

Oak Bay BioSciences

Oak Bay BioSciences is a relatively new company that is working to cure Stargardt disease. Stargardt disease is a horrific disease that causes progressive and irreversible blindness usually starting at very young ages and affects approximately 800,000 individuals worldwide.

“Currently, there is no cure,” Azarshahi noted. But the company aims to develop a definitive treatment that could prevent blindness for the lifetime of affected patients. “This makes me very eager to follow the company and their progression in what they are doing,” Azarshahi told me. “Their leadership and science team is made up of very accomplished professionals who really care and are passionate to help kids. I love these folks.”

Commenting on the full slate of companies, Azarshahi shared this: “I really just wanted you to be aware of them. They are great folks that aren’t in it for money (that would be a nice by-product), but to help patients, their loved ones, our communities and our society.”

Interested in more companies? Here’s the full list that presented at Invest in BC:

4M BioTech, AltumView Systems Inc., Axolotl Biosciences, Azor Biotek INC, Bold Therapeutics Inc., Clairvoyant Therapeutics Inc., Claris Healthcare Inc., Derm-Biome Pharmaceuticals Inc., HeadCheck Health, Herstasis Health Inc., HTuO Biosciences, Mesentech Inc., Mesintel Therapeutics Inc., Microbiome Insights, Microbion Corporation, NanoVation Therapeutics, NervGen Pharma Corp., Oak Bay Biosciences, Inc., Primary Peptides Inc., RepliCel Life Sciences, Rostrum Medical Innovations, SaNOtize, Sonic Incytes Medical Corp., Sustained Therapeutics Inc., Total Flow Medical, Variational AI, Vesalius Cardiovascular, VoxCell BioInnovation, XCO Tech Inc., YouCount Inc., and Zennea Technologies Inc.

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