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Bioscience company Scimar a strong leader in research and development

Earlier this month, the Bioscience Association of Manitoba (BAM) named Scimar Ltd. the emerging bioscience company of the year.

The fact that Scimar has been around since 2009 and is still considered an “emerging” company says a lot about the pace of bioscience commercialization and the kind of stick-to-it-iveness required in the space.

Scimar is developing a whole new approach to the understanding and treatment of Type 2 diabetes that 600 million people are suffering from around the world.

Their research and their development of a therapeutic revolves around their discovery of a hormone that the liver produces, called hepatalin.

During his acceptance speech at the BAM awards dinner, Mick Lautt, Scimar’s CEO, said how much the support was appreciated but also made an appeal.

“The room was full of influential people and I said it’s time to move away from conversation and to do the work and invest in innovation in Manitoba,” he said.

Scimar is essentially a family business. Mick’s father Wayne Lautt — professor emeritus of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Manitoba — effectively discovered the hormone and was doing the science for about 30 years before Mick started working on the project.

They bootstrapped the company for several years and started raising money in 2018 and have successfully attracted about 95 investors who have put up about $17 million dollars towards the effort.

But it is a big project looking to solve a big problem. That means a lot of time and effort is spent raising money.

Like everyone else, their plans were knocked off the rails by the pandemic, but Lautt figures they are three years behind where they would otherwise be if funding was in place.

Because it is a whole new way of approaching diabetes keying on the production of hepatalin, even before the actual pill is produced and trialled, Scimar had to get its diagnostic protocols in place.

A couple of small proof-of-concept trials on the diagnostics have been completed but another 300 person trial has been designed and approved and now needs the money — about $2 million — to get it launched.

Lautt refuses to believe that fundraising is curtailed by the fact that Scimar is based in Dauphin. It has a lab at the Albrechtsen Research Centre at the St. Boniface Hospital and has developed a “fanbase” of 500,000 listeners to its podcast called Inside The Breakthrough – How science comes to life. It also has a fully developed program to deal with lifestyle implication of Type 2 diabetes called the Wellness Transformation Network and has been doing plenty of community work with partnerships lined up with a couple of First Nations.

“We are taking a holistic approach to dealing with health and wellness,” Lautt said. “That’s because we are a mission-driven and not a profit driven enterprise. With are prepared to tackle the problem where it hits the hardest. We are prepared to go to the frontline and to work in the trenches.”

That’s not necessarily the kind of message that makes investors looking for a quick return to magically appear.

“The innovation funding space in this country is incredibly challenging,” Lautt said. “We’ve got people in the U.K., Australia, China, the Middle East and Africa all asking us to work in their jurisdictions. We don’t want to leave Canada but it’s something we may have to do.”

Lautt is anxiously awaiting the formal operation of the Manitoba First Fund, Manitoba’s new provincially funded venture capital organization.

“We’re ready. We could be the first win,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Scimar is in the process of becoming the first Manitoba company registered in the U.S. to raise money through a relatively new process called Regulation A, which allows non-accredited retail investors to invest in a private company like Scimar.

There are still expensive and time-consuming clinical trials ahead before a therapeutic is approved by Health Canada and the FDA in the U.S., but the stakes are so high — Type 2 diabetes is a multitrillion-dollar health challenge — that Lautt is confident that everything will eventually fall into place.

Scimar’s mission to create a whole new paradigm for the treatment of diabetes may sound audacious.

Their commitment to doing it in Manitoba may prove even more challenging.

“We have fought hard to stay in Winnipeg,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere. But it would be helpful to have a few folks step up and give us a hand. It is a hard slog doing it alone.”

News source: Winnipeg Free Press