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Cancer research saves lives

When Dr. James Robar joined Dalhousie's Faculty of Medicine, Departments of Radiation Oncology and of Physics & Atmospheric Science in 2003 no one could foresee the level of impact his research would have on the lives and treatments of cancer patients around the world and on Dalhousie University and its students.

Pursuing his research interests in computational methods in oncology and imaging physics, Dr. Robar, together with collaborators and his students, developed 2 technologies that were taken beyond the lab and publications with the help of Dalhousie's Industry Liaison and Innovation office (ILI) and Springboard Atlantic.

The 3D Bolus technology is a software application which improves the accuracy and efficiency of cancer treatment by putting the power of 3D printing into the hands of radiation oncology practitioners. #springboarding forward with the support of Springboard's Innovation Mobilization funding program, the Proof of Concept, the Patent & Legal Funds and the Industry Engagement Fund, Dalhousie's ILI office was able to help Dr. Robar protect the invention and to facilitate the introduction to Bruce Ross who provided crucial support during the spin-out and formation of 3D Bolus Inc. Bruce Ross, now a board member of 3D Bolus Inc. made the essential introductions to the business and technology team responsible for bringing the application to market. The product is now beginning to roll out commercially. Beyond the obvious impact on cancer patients everywhere, the formation of 3D Bolus has also led to new jobs, new licenses and the international recognition of the world-class science being done in Halifax, NS.

Other technologies developed by Dr. Robar and collaborators are Four-Pi (including Master's student Lee MacDonald from Dal's Medical Physics program) and Capacitive Patient Monitoring are also improving the treatments of cancer patients significantly. About 53% of all cancer patients receive radiation treatments and Four-Pi is an algorithm that helps guide the precise delivery of the radiation to drastically reduce the risk of damage to the surrounding tissues. The Capacitive Patient Monitoring system provides sensitive readouts many times a second about where a patient is during the treatment to ensure the accuracy of treatment delivery. To commercialize and deliver the Four-Pi technology to patients around the world, Dalhousie University signed its first licensing agreement with Brainlab AG, Munich Germany in early 2016. However, the relationship with Brainlab did not stop there. Fast forward about a year later, NSHA and Brainlab just announced the award of a $2.1M Atlantic Innovation Fund from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA), which will further develop the Four-Pi and capacitive radiation monitoring, along with three other technologies that will further the state of the art.

What sounds so easy and fast, has taken a lot of work, funding and dedication—and Dalhousie's ILI & Springboard Atlantic played a crucial role with their support. Springboard's Innovation Mobilization Funding for Industry Engagement allowed Dr. Robar and Dr. Syme to travel to the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology meeting in October of 2015 as well as the European Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology meeting in 2016 with the support of Springboard's IM IE funding. These opportunities to meet face-to-face were invaluable in terms of establishing a partnership with industry partners.

Find out more about how the region is #springboarding here.

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