Media Coverage

Pet oncology specialist Torigen triumphs at KC Investment Forum

Aug 24, 2018 - Animal Pharm
By Daniel Willis

This year saw the 10th annual Kansas City Animal Health Investment Forum host a wide array of companies yearning to innovate and disrupt the animal health market. Animal Pharm analyst Daniel Willis gives an overview of the start-ups on display.

At this year's investment forum, there were 12 emerging animal health companies from across the US, Canada and Europe that showcased their ideas. Entrepreneurs had 15 minutes to present their projects, with the presenting companies seeking from $500,000 to $20 million in prospective funding.

The event was attended by more than 400 venture capital funds, investment firms and potential partners. The innovations at the forum focused on global challenges facing the animal health industry, ranging from advanced vaccination systems for day-old chicks to addressing antibiotic resistance and developing breakthrough treatments for cancer in companion animals.

Torigen Pharmaceuticals won the judging panel's votes and was awarded the 2018 innovation award, alongside a cheque for $10,000.

The Farmington, Connecticut-based company impressed judges with its autologous immunotherapeutic canine cancer vaccine, VVax-001. The vaccine is specifically developed for individual animals by using their own tumor cells to create the therapeutic vaccine. 

Ashley Kalinauskas, founder and chief executive of Torigen, said the candidate is "able to treat solid tumours in the dog, where 75% of it can be excised".

Torigen claims its product has been "evaluated nationwide in over 250 patients in 50 veterinary clinics to date", with it "demonstrating safety and efficacy against a number of cancers in the dog".

Additional KC Investment Forum competitors

Other start-ups that took part in the investment forum included Chalante from Cambridge, UK. The company is developing bioactive, nature-inspired molecules that can be manufactured economically for animals. Chalante is targeting the largest sectors of animal health such as antibiotics and parasiticides for its development programs.

Applied LifeSciences & Systems Poultry from Raleigh, North Carolina has developed an advanced vaccination system for day-old chicks. This technology is designed to both identify healthy chicks and deliver injectable vaccines. The company aims to reduce the number of unhealthy chicks, as well as decrease the need for antibiotic use.

Also working to tackle the growing issue of antibiotic over-usage is Halifax, Canada-based Chelation Partners, which is developing a high-affinity, iron-specific chelating polymer. This technology is designed to deny pathogens access to iron, rendering them more susceptible to existing antibiotics.

Missouri native Genoscopy is developing a diagnostic tool that can extract biomarkers from feces. The firm's lead product is a method to differentiate gastrointestinal lymphoma from inflammatory bowel disease in a cat.

Harvard, Massachusetts-based company Innogenics offers a new service model in animal health testing that provides genomic and molecule-based diagnostics, as well as precise medical information for companion animals suffering from cancer.

MBF Therapeutics from Ambler, Pennsylvania is developing and commercializing proprietary check-point inhibitor, immunotherapy technology. This work will lead to vaccines and vaccine adjuvants for treatment of a variety of infectious diseases and neoplasia in animals. The firm gained a small portion of funding earlier this year from Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners.

Santa Rosa, California-based Scollar is creating the first open platform smart collar, mobile app and cloud service for the animal care industry. This platform will enable multiple functionality in one smart collar that can be flexible with the changing needs of the animal and owner.

Forza10 Discoveries from Orlando, Florida offers dietetic, nutraceutical pet food. The company said its portfolio represents alternatives to conventional prescription diets that are formulated to solve specific pathologies.

Scullion Strategy Group from Greensboro, North Carolina is developing a mobile diagnostic test to determine semen quality using a smartphone-based device and aims to replace the current need for a microscopic examination by a technician.

WoofTrax, an Easthampton, Massachusetts company, provides a way for brands to effectively market to pet owners through effective digital targeting.

Completing the list is Illustris Pharmaceuticals – based in Palo Alto, California. This start-up is marketing technology that enables the delivery of large molecules through tissue structures and optimizes the absorption of compounds typically delivered through skin, hair, eyes and mucosal surfaces.

Companies at the previous nine KC Animal Health Investment Forums include Nexvet Biopharma, Advanced Animal Diagnostics, Mazen Animal Health, Avivagen, ViroVet, Quantified Ag, VitamFero, Aptimmune Biologics, VetDC, AgLogica, Kane Biotech, Likarda, Magnomics and Babelbark.

Since it was established, firms presenting at the investment forum have collectively raised nearly $300 million in funding and have secured numerous licensing or development agreements.

Reprinted with permission of Animal Pharm News







Selection Committee

Judging Panel


Conference Materials

Business Partnering

Venue/ Accommodations