Ferronova is a spin-off of the University of South Australia’s flagship Future Industries Institute formed through state government investment via a TechInSA innovation grant and private capital from Powerhouse Ventures (NZ) and in collaboration with Victoria University, Wellington.
The ‘Ferronova Probe’ was developed from the ground-up as a translatable solution to a problem facing clinicians. Current methods of detecting cancer spread rely on injecting radioactive tracers to map the migration pathways from a tumour site, through the lymphatics and into draining lymph nodes; however, these nodes can be difficult to isolate using radioactive techniques in cancers with complex drainage such as head and neck cancer – largely due to the poor spatial resolution of existing detection technologies. By replacing the radioactive with a magnetic tracer, surgeons can use the handheld Ferronova Probe to pin-point the location of potential spread with millimetre accuracy. This allows for the mapping to be performed in cancer types such as head and neck cancer which currently suffers from poor accuracy using radioactive tracers. Beyond this, removing the reliance on radioactivity significantly improve the logistics of the technique, potentially broadening patient access to the technique in rural communities. Pilot clinical trial is scheduled to begin in late 2017.