By Peter Moreira
Halifax-based PhotoDynamic Inc. will put its plaque-killing oral health product through clinical trials in the next month, the outcome of which will shape its strategy for the next few years.
The company will test its product with 20 patients at the Forsyth Institute in Boston, one of the world’s most prestigious research facilities in the field of oral health. If it gets good results from these tests, the company plans to work closely with a Fortune 100 consumer products company to bring the product to market.
That product — called PD Foam and PD Tray — is a system that kills plaque buildup on teeth through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. Because the plant is known to be safe for human consumption, the product has a relatively simple regulatory path. Its initial target market is the one-fifth of the population who suffer from excessive plaque buildup on their teeth regardless of how much they brush.
“We’ll start in a few weeks and have the results by January,” said CEO Martin Greenwood in an interview. “If the results are good, it will be easy to raise our next round (of financing) and then we’ll be moving on to a larger trial.”
In the spring of 2016, PhotoDynamic raised $250,000 in equity funding through the First Angel Network, and supplemented that capital with money from government programs. The company, which grew out of research by Acadia University professor Sherri McFarland, has remained lean with four employees and used the FAN money to build a working prototype.
PhotoDynamic has developed foam made from the plant extract, which the user places in the top and bottom trays of a special mouthpiece, like a mouthguard a hockey player would wear and which contains LED lights. Users turn on the lights, place the device in their mouth for one minute, and the plaque is gone.
So far the system has killed plaque successfully in a petri dish and in animal tests, but surprises can crop up in human trials, Greenwood said. For example, 10 subjects will be given the PhotoDynamic device and the other 10 a placebo, to establish a clear gap between plaque buildup in the two groups. If a few of the 10 placebo-takers obsessively brush their teeth all day, it could skew the results.
Greenwood feels confident in the PD Foam and Tray and believes the company has positioned itself to proceed promptly with its commercialization. It has built up a strong working relationship with its multinational partner (whom Greenwood declines to name publicly), and that could help bring the product to market.
PhotoDynamic has also strengthened its board, recently adding former Johnson & Johnson consumer products CTO Neal Matheson and Barry Turner, a former vice-president of global complimentary medicines with Warner-Lambert.
Assuming the trials are successful, Greenwood plans to raise about $1.5 million to take the company through the next two years. In that period he hopes to fine-tune the engineering of the product and carry out more thorough clinical trials, involving about 75-125 people over six months.
Then Greenwood plans to sell the oral health product to a large company that can develop it, and PhotoDynamic will use the proceeds to work on other applications for the plant extract.
“The way to really grow this company is to say, ‘We’re the people that can really take this technology to its potential,’” he said. “Let us be the R&D hub. . . . What we want to do is hit a home run and take the funds and reinvest them into the next one.”