KMT Hepatech – 20 years
February marks 20 years since KMT Hepatech (now part of the PhoenixBio Group) was incorporated. It has been a long journey and a great success story for the Edmonton-based company. Now the company keeps expanding its capabilities in improving the worldwide supply of in vivo and in vitro preclinical research tools.
The company was founded in 2001 by Dr. Norman Kneteman, Dr. David Mercer and Dr. Lorne Tyrrell as a spin off company from the University of Alberta. It was named after Drs. Kneteman, Mercer and Tyrrell (letters “KMT” in the company name).
As Dr. Kneteman explains, they were the first research group in the world to find a way to support human liver cell growth and proliferation in a small animal model and then to achieve a long sought goal of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in mice. This model system was eventually used to test more than 150 potential pharmacological compounds in search of a cure for HCV.
This work (performed jointly with PhoenixBio) was a major contribution to one of the biggest disease treatment success stories of the past decade. Today, the treatment for hepatitis C achieves a 99 per cent cure rate with a short treatment course and virtually no side effects.
Since 2006 KMT Hepatech was the only preclinical development contractor worldwide for the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) / National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to provide in vivo testing of antiviral agents for viral hepatitis. In 2011 KMT Hepatech achieved BioAlberta’s Company of the Year award, and in 2012 the company received the ASTech Foundation Award for Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology.
In 2017, seeking to capitalize on growing business opportunities and to maximize international reach, KMT Hepatech merged with PhoenixBio Group, an international conglomerate headquartered in Hiroshima, Japan. After joining the PhoenixBio team, KMT Hepatech brought the novel technology of PXB-cells® production to Edmonton. Currently, these fresh human hepatocytes of superior quality and improved culture potential are produced in Edmonton, and, per our knowledge, KMT Hepatech is the only commercial supplier of fresh human hepatocytes in Canada.
Supported by continued investments from PhoenixBio Group, KMT Hepatech set an ambitious goal of expanding production capacity and upgrading the quality of its products by building a new cleanroom facility. In the summer of 2020, this milestone was achieved, and the new production facility is up and running in Edmonton. With this development KMT Hepatech is well-positioned to increase its production and expand the supply of preclinical in vivo and in vitro tools to clients in North America and Europe. This facility upgrade supports KMT Hepatech to achieve the same highest quality operational standards set by PhoenixBio Group.
KMT Hepatech has access to a strong talent pipeline in Edmonton through the highly ranked University of Alberta and other Alberta post-secondary educational institutions, from which numerous graduates have been recruited. A positive work environment has resulted in most KMT staff building over 10 years of experience with the company, while ongoing expansion provides opportunities for hiring new scientific and technical staff.
On December 1, 2020 the company announced an executive management changes. Dr. Norman Kneteman retired from his position as President and Dr. Masakazu Kakuni was appointed as the President of KMT Hepatech. Under his renewed leadership the company is moving to the next level of planned growth and increased production capacity and quality for both PXB-mouse® and PXB-cells®.
What Does the Future Hold?
Since the beginning of KMT Hepatech’s journey, the opportunities for the technology of the chimeric mouse with a humanized liver has expanded dramatically. It started with highly successful applications in viral hepatitis and now is enjoying important expansion. Prediction of the impact of chemicals and drug candidates on human-type metabolism prior to human trials is a critical development that enables more accurate and timely preclinical assessments. The technology has been used not only for small molecules, but also for human specific nucleic acids, antibodies, or polypeptide-based drug candidates. Importantly, PhoenixBio Group is well positioned to help in a new challenge for 21st century drug development: genetic manipulation and gene-editing reagents that enable medicine and treatments tailored to the individual.
A genuine Edmonton success story, KMT Hepatech keeps on undertaking the role of North American production facility of PXB-mouse® & PXB-cells® in PhoenixBio Group and highlights the happy convergence of academia, science, international public and the private sectors, and the entrepreneurial spirit that, functioning at its best here, credits Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) as an important place to learn and grow.