Groundbreaking N.S. nanotech company finds new home in Dartmouth

A groundbreaking Nova Scotian nanotechnology company now has a permanent home at the Innovacorp Technology and Innovation Centre in Dartmouth.

Sona Nanotech is an innovative life sciences firm that manipulates nanoparticles of gold for health and environmental applications. It uses a synthesized format of nanoparticles called nanorods, which can carry medicine into the cells and tissues, and assist in the detection of various infections and medical conditions.

“This means a lot to me,” said Sona’s chief technology officer Kulbir Singh at the opening of the new lab in Darmouth on Friday.  “I’ve been with Sona since the original idea conception of making gold nanorods to the setup of the lab, and it’s a very emotional time for me.”

The company’s scientists were the first to produce gold nanorods without their signature toxin, which makes them safer to inject into the body.

To get a better idea of what a gold nanorod really is, Sona production scientist Chris Yourth recommends a bird’s eye view.

“Say you’re flying in a plane at around 30,000 feet, if you placed a penny on the ground – that’s what a nano particle is. Within a couple of millilitres, there’s billions of nanoparticles.”

The company distributes its products around the world. Among them are different colours of gold nanorod solution that are used in diagnostic tests to reveal medical conditions, just like the strip on a pregnancy test.

“On one stick you can have multiple lines that will tell you about multiple biomarkers,” Singh explained. “You can test for AIDS, you can test pregnancy, you can test cortisol levels.”

In the process, he added, using one device to test for multiple conditions can eliminate millions upon millions of single-use plastics.

Eventually, Sona Nanotech hopes to use gold nanorods for treating cancer patients. Scientists would inject the nanorods into tumours and zap them with infrared lasers. The particles would convert the light into heat, and kill cancer cells without any of the skin damage caused by radiation treatment.

The company was first created in 2013 in Antigonish, N.S. by St. Francis Xavier University chemistry professor Gerrard Marangoni.

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