A Ballarat company is making big waves in the global medical scene with the development of new technology to increase the success of preserving biological matter.
Vitrafy Life Sciences co-founders Sean Cameron, Brent Owens and Brian Taylor have been working behind the scenes over the past three years to develop algorithm and cryopreservation technology.
They are now preparing to go public on the ASX, raising $7.9 million through investors in an Initial Public Offering, far exceeding their $3 million aim.
The company is rapidly expanding its staff team and research partnerships, all from their lab based in Ballarat.
2014 Masterchef winner Mr Owens, originally from Melton, has been in the United States setting up work for Vitrafy to preserve cancer treatments and drugs.
The team is working with the Royal Women's Hospital to preserve ovaries for the first time and the technology is being used by the Red Cross to preserve blood products.
We have been able to attract the medical scientists we need and the world class engineers we need and create partnerships with the best research institutions in the world.Sean Cameron, Vitrafy Life Sciences co-founder and chief executive
It is also being used in animal reproductive science.
Mr Cameron said Vitrafy's point of difference was in its high cryopreservation success rate.
"Where current technologies you might only have 50 per cent cell survivability of what is stored from sperm through to a stem cell, we can get 90 per cent plus," he said.
"That is pretty much unavailable and unachievable around the world to our knowledge," Mr Owens said.
Mr Cameron said the Vitrafy journey began three years ago with an initial focus on preserving food products for export.
Mr Cameron who has a background in manufacturing engineering and Mr Taylor who owns Ballarat hospitality venues Hop Temple, Aunty Jacks and Roy Hammond connected with Mr Ownens while in China.
Mr Owens was making travel documentaries at the time but was passionate about addressing the issues of food insecurity, malnutrition and inequality.
"That was my motivation to take this path we are now on because we originally started in the food space," he said.
Mr Owens and Mr Cameron said they put almost every other element of life on hold to focus all their attention and resources on Vitrafy.
"Brent and I locked ourselves away for six or seven months doing algorithms and computer modelling on how to preserve different biological products," Mr Cameron said.
"Once we did that and realised we could be successful in it, we built a whole new refrigeration system to be able to undertake the cryopreservation process."
The first step was to develop algorithm, which is mathematical equations, to preserve any product at any quantity.
The next step was to build the refrigeration solution, because an engineering solution to be able to implement the algorithms did not exist.
"It is amazing the depth of knowledge you get in that area when you fully immerse yourself in it for six or 12 months and don't do anything else other than focusing on getting that solution," Mr Cameron said.
Mr Cameron said they were driven to achieve results when they realised the potential to have big social impacts through preserving biological material like stem cells and ovaries.
"It really gives you that additional drive to go all in on it and make it work," he said.
In-vitro fertilisation pioneer John McBain joined the Vitrafy board and former Bellamy's Organic chairman Rob Woolley joined as chairperson.
Mr Cameron said the team was recruiting consistently over the past few months to fill the Ballarat lab, with medical scientists including an IVF and blood specialist now on board.
There are now 14 employees in the company and a range of clinical trials are set to begin in the coming months.
The team plans to expand into Sydney and locations across the world, including in the United States.
But Mr Cameron said the company base would remain in Ballarat.
He said their journey was proof Balarat could become a leader in medical innovation.
"We are living that journey now. We have gone from start up to a public company within three years," he said.
"We have been able to attract the medical scientists we need and the world class engineers we need and create partnerships with the best research institutions in the world."
Mr Cameron and Mr Owens said they were excited about the future of the company.
"It is the time of our lives. Working 10, 12, 14, 16 hour days is a joy. Look at what we are doing," Mr Owens said.
"It is easy to come into work when you know you are achieving things. It is rewarding knowing you are developing something that has a good social impact," Mr Cameron said.
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