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The micro medical device company that’s making major waves

District 3 startup ANANDA is heading to the regional finals of the international 1776 Challenge Cup
February 29, 2016
By J. Latimer

Since October 2015, ANANDA has been housed and mentored at Concordia’s D3 incubator, along with 65 other startups. | Image courtesy of ANANDA Since October 2015, ANANDA has been housed and mentored at Concordia’s D3 incubator, along with 65 other startups. | Image courtesy of ANANDA

They were one of 1,000 startups from 45 North American cities.

Now ANANDA, a medical device company hosted at Concordia’s District 3 (D3), is among just 34 teams heading to New York City for the 1776 Challenge Cup regionals on March 3.

The Challenge Cup is a high-profile worldwide tournament showcasing the most promising, scalable start-ups “poised to solve the major challenges of our time.”

The winners of each of nine regional events will fly to the Challenge Cup Global Finals in Washington, D.C. in June 2016. There, teams will compete for $175,000 in prizes and more than $1,000,000 in potential investments.

Since October 2015, ANANDA has been housed and mentored at Concordia’s D3 incubator, along with 65 other startups. The ANANDA team includes founder Margaret Magdesian and her chief operating officer Pieter Roos, manager of Concordia’s emerging D3 synthetic biology incubator at Loyola Campus.

Margaret Magdesian Margaret Magdesian

We spoke with Magdesian about her product, her pitch, her path to regionals and what she learned from D3’s founding director, Xavier-Henri Hervé:

What does ANANDA stand for?

It’s short for Advanced NANo Design Applications, and it’s also a Sanskrit word that means “bliss” or “extreme happiness” after the completion of a perfect job.

Tell us more about your product.

ANANDA uses nanotechnology to make drug discovery faster and more cost effective. Our mission is to improve biomedical research and diagnostics by applying micro- and nanotechnology to enable major breakthroughs in life science.

How are you going about this?

We develop micro silicone scaffolds — 2 cm x 2 cm round microfluidic chambers — for cells to grow in vitro exactly like they grow in vivo. Drug development is based on cell culture models that haven’t changed over the last 100 years. We are taking cell culture models to the next level. 

Our patented devices have been used to accelerate drug discovery in multiple sclerosis, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. They reduce reagent costs by 90 per cent and increase experimental yield by 200 times.

It’s now possible to grow mini spinal cords in the lab. The replica and miniaturization of tissues in our devices enable drug testing to become faster, less costly and less reliant on the use of animals for experimentation. 

Where did your business idea come from?

It evolved out of my spinal cord PhD research. I made the first device by hand, but then a friend connected me to someone who asked for 10,000 units. That’s when I knew I had to leave academia and create a company.

What did that transition look like?

I was lost and struggling with financing, but D3 really saved my life. I’m a neuroscientist with no previous business training. D3 helped me in all aspects of the business. We have classes every week in sales, marketing, finances and more. Major law companies, accountants and government agencies help us find the best path for our company. 

The other day I received an order from the United States, but how do we invoice the U.S.? What taxes are involved? Here at D3, you just need to ask the company next to you and they have the answer. This makes our lives much easier and less expensive too... I did not need to call the accountant.

Can you describe Pieter Roos’ involvement in the project?

Pieter is ANANDA’s chief operating officer and engineer. 

Pieter Roos Pieter Roos

His expertise is essential for scaling up manufacturing and developing new tools.

He mechanizes the production process so we can fill orders for 10,000 of our devices.

What is the role of your mentor at D3?

Xavier-Henri Hervé’s presence and pragmatism are essential to help us analyze each situation not as a problem but as a set of milestones we can reach with a very clear and objective path.

He is results oriented and helps us become better entrepreneurs. I learn more and more from him each day, not only on the business side but also on how to be a leader and a successful CEO.

Xavier sets the bar high for professionalism, ethics, dedication and excellence. More specifically, he was key in closing the financing, and teaching us how to fine-tune our presentation for different audiences.

The D3 team of mentors is excellent, very qualified and if they do not have an immediate answer to our questions, they find it and call us in the middle of the night or on the weekend with the information we need. It’s a very motivating environment.

Congratulations for making it to the 1776 Challenge Cup regionals. What did you learn at the local level of the competition?

That it is very important to transmit your idea well in the two-minute pitch. This is a challenge for a scientist. How do you explain nanotechnology, microfluidics and cellular organization in a few simple words? D3 was instrumental in helping us refine our pitch.

What’s next?

We’re waiting for our financing to do their due diligence, then we hope to move forward, scaling up even further and developing more products.

And if you win in New York City?

Then we join 44 other regional winners at the Challenge Cup Global Finals next June in Washington, D.C. There, we’ll compete for over $1,000,000 in prizes, as well as spend time with investors, customers, media and other key connections that can help us succeed on a global scale.

Learn more about the District 3 Innovation Center at Concordia.


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