Technology incubator Powerhouse Ventures is backing a new company developing a cancer-detecting magnetic probe based on collaborative Australia and New Zealand university research.

Wellington-based nanoparticle specialist Boutiq Science and researchers from the University of South Australia have developed a device that helps surgeons detect the spread of a patient's cancer using magnetic tracers.

Now working in Australia, Professor Richard Tilley is the founding scientist of Boutiq, which is a spin-off from his research performed at Wellington's Victoria University and the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

The collaboration began after Tilley contacted Australian researcher Associate Professor Benjamin Thierry who had already developed a magnetic probe as part of his interdisciplinary research focused on developing novel cancer biosensing technologies.


They're setting up a new 50:50-owned company, Ferranova, in which Powerhouse plans to invest several hundred thousand dollars to help commercialise the research.

A working prototype will be refined with surgeons over the next year and Powerhouse chief operating officer Colin Dawson said human clinical trials will then be held in south Australia next year.

If successful, the company will seek regulatory approval for the medical device before being able to sell it globally.

This is Powerhouse's first collaboration with an Australian university and comes ahead of its planned ASX listing in August.

It raised $15 million earlier this year through crowd-funding and from institutional investors ahead of the initial public offering.

A prospectus for the listing is due out this month and the company plans to raise a further $15 million to $25 million in the IPO. It's likely to have a market capitalisation of between $40 million and $50 million, which precluded a dual listing on the NZX main board, Dawson said.