Manitoba Life Science News for week-ending November 27, 2009

Nov 30, 2009 | Corporate Member News

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Life Science Association of Manitoba Annual Holiday Party A RESOUNDING SUCCESS

Last Wednesday, the Life Science Association of Manitoba held its Annual Holiday Party at Nicolino’s Restaurant. Attracting close to 150 guests, this year proved to be one of the most well attended holiday receptions in the association’s history. 

Guests were treated to a wonderful selection of appetizers and wine. In addition LSAM members were given a special presentation by the organizers Centrallia which promises to be a very exciting event for Winnipeg and for Manitoba. For more details on Centrallia please visit

LSAM would like to extend a special thank you to our event sponsors AstraZeneca and Centrallia. 

We are looking forward to seeing everyone again next year. 


Tax Credit Workshop: December 11, 2009 

The Manitoba Innovation Council invites you to take part in a workshop to discuss the direction and development of the Manitoba Research and Development Tax Credit, and more specifically the transformation of the credit into one that is refundable.  

The purpose of the workshop is to gather corporate and research leaders in a discussion of the parameters and merits of the new Tax Credit, and to receive any feedback that you may have on this issue. The workshop will not be used to discuss the general issue of R&D in Manitoba. 

The workshop is set to take place on December 11, 2009, at the Robert Schultz Lecture Theatre in St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba.  The event will run from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. 

As part of the agenda, three speakers will help set the stage for the open discussion: a representative from the Canadian Revenue Agency will provide an overview of the R&D Tax Credit; John Clarkson, Deputy Minister for Innovation, Energy, & Mines will talk about the importance of the tax credit towards advancing Manitoba’s innovation capacity; and Richard Groen, Manager Business Taxation, Manitoba Finance will provide details on the refundability portion of the tax credit. 

Please RSVP to Jo Ann Van Santen at 945-8221 or [email protected] by Tuesday December 8, 2009.

Membership Renewal 

Just a friendly reminder that December is LSAM Membership Renewal Month. 

Please watch your mail for your 2010 Membership Renewal Package. 

LSAM Member Update: 

BCC (Biomedical Commercialization Canada Inc.) Has Another Successful Client Graduating from the Program!  

BCC announced last week that YRT has successfully exited the BCC program. 

YRT is developing a software program to aid in the scoring of sleep data. YRT joined the BCC program in June 2008 and reached their success event milestones October 2009. During their 16 months in the program, YRT: 

  • Secured $100,000 in external investment for their project;
  • Reduced their prototype’s processing time from 40 minutes down to 4;
  • Built from scratch a Quality System;
  • And passed their pre-Audit and formal ISO Audit.

The company is now receiving their Health Canada, FDA, and CE Mark designations. Their next steps are to secure a full time sales and marketing manager with expected revenue is expected in 2010.  

BCC wishes YRT continued great success and takes great pride in the accomplishments YRT has achieved during the past 16 months. 

Silvia de Sousa Nationally Recognized as a Woman of Influence  

LSAM would like to congratulate Silvia de Sousa on being nationally recognized as a Woman of Influence. Silvia’s practice is concentrated in the area of business law with an emphasis on intellectual property law, life sciences law and technology law.

On November 27th, the Deloitte Women of Influence Luncheon Series hosted its first event in Winnipeg at The Fort Garry Hotel. Silvia was the keynote speaker and spoke about balancing community and success; a topic she is well qualified to speak on.

Silvia is a Partner at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman, Chairperson of the Technology & Intellectual Property Law Section of the Manitoba Bar Association, Treasurer of the National Intellectual Property Section of the Canadian Bar Association, a mother of two young daughters and a member of a number of professional and community boards and associations. 


Experimental MS Surgery Draws Canadian Interest

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada will finance some research into an experimental Italian treatment but urges patients not to stop treatment until more is known about the procedure.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada will be asking Canadian scientists to propose their own research into a procedure that has ignited the hopes of patients in Europe and North America. 

The procedure is known as chronic cerebro spinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, and involves removing a blockage in the veins that carry blood to and from the brain. 

An Italian vascular surgeon, Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, has reported success in reducing the symptoms of people who suffer from multiple sclerosis. 

The Canadian MS organization has reacted to Zamboni’s research with caution. Last Monday, however, the society said that after receiving so many inquiries about the procedure, it has decided to offer a grant to researchers in Canada. 

In the meantime, the society urged people with MS to be patient and continue with their regular treatment until there is more evidence about the experimental procedure. 

Multiple sclerosis is considered a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing inflammation and damage that can lead to paralysis and sometimes blindness. Nerve fibres that send electrical signals in the brain are coated in a fatty sheath called myelin. Myelin acts as an insulator, like a plastic coating covering a copper wire. 

The symptoms of MS are caused by the breakdown of myelin, which leads to problems in how messages are transmitted to the central nervous system. 

Conventional wisdom suggests multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder caused by immune cells attacking neurons and the brain. 

But Zamboni thinks a drainage problem is to blame and that the condition can be treated or prevented by surgically unclogging veins to get blood flowing normally again. 

So far, Zamboni has performed the angioplasty-like surgery, known as “la liberation” in Italian, on 120 MS patients, including his wife, whose multiple sclerosis provoked his interest in tackling the disease. 

Yves Savoie, president and chief executive officer of the MS Society, said he’s aware of the “tremendous interest across Canada and around the world caused by the recent news coverage of the CCSVI study,” and shares the public’s excitement and hope following the preliminary findings. 

Dr. Robert Ziva dinov of the University of Buffalo is leading a study that hopes to enroll more than 1,000 MS patients from the United States and Canada to undergo ultrasound and MRI neck scans to detect blocked or twisted veins. 

Canadians with multiple sclerosis who want to know more about the procedure can go through St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, where researchers are able to analyze blood flow in and out of the brain. 

Feds Form $30M Partnership with Diabetes Foundation

The federal government is announcing a $30-million partnership with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada toward combating the disease. 

In making the announcement at the University of Waterloo last week, Gary Goodyear, minister of state for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, says hundreds of high-paying, highly skilled new jobs will be created. 

He says the partnership will expand diabetes research in southern Ontario and bring new technologies to market. 

Ottawa will invest $20 million while the foundation will contribute $10 million. 

Goodyear says the money will support the launch of a clinical trial network in southern Ontario, expand diabetes research, and help bring new technologies to the marketplace.

Among other things, the partnership will help support the foundation’s artificial pancreas project and regenerative medicine technology program.

“This investment will advance diabetes research and make sure that southern Ontario continues to be a leading destination for world-class research and commercialization opportunities,” Goodyear said in a statement.

Foundation president and CEO Andrew McKee said in a statement that the “investment comes at a critical stage internationally, as we look to quicken the pace of research leading to cures and better treatments.” 

Lung Disease Experts Gather

The Lung Association of Manitoba and the Canadian Thoracic Society last week hosted a two-day conference in Winnipeg to highlight advances in treating lung disorders and lay out a treatment road map for the future.

Held at the University of Manitoba’s downtown campus, the conference examined the $12-billion impact lung disease has on the Canadian economy and health-care system. 

At least six million Canadians, or one out of every five people, suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, sleep apnea or other forms of lung disease. 

Despite the prevalence of pulmonary illnesses, the federal government has only committed four per cent of its research dollars to lung disease, according to conference organizers. By comparison, other diseases have received a greater proportion of funding, including diabetes (23 per cent), cancer (15 per cent), cardiovascular disease (14 per cent) and HIV/AIDS (five per cent).

Alberta Scientist Uses Stem Cells to Heal Lungs in Rats

An international team headed by a University of Alberta researcher has used stem cells to heal and protect the lungs of newborn rats – research that could help premature babies with chronic lung disease.

Dr. Bernard Thebaud’s team injected stem cells from bone marrow into the rats’ airways. Two weeks later the rodents were running twice as far on treadmills and had better survival rates.

The stems cells acted like tiny damage control factories, pumping out a healing liquid that scientists are working to understand.

“That healing liquid seems to boost the power of healthy lung cells and helps them to repair the lungs,” said Thebaud, who is also a specialist at Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit.

“The human implication is that we envision a stem cell-based treatment for these babies that suffer from chronic lung disease.”

Babies who are born extremely prematurely can’t breathe on their own and need help for their lungs to develop properly. About half of babies born before 28 weeks get chronic lung disease, a condition that can affect lung capacity as they grow up.

Thebaud and his team’s findings are to be published Dec. 1 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and are already attracting international attention. The team included researchers from Montreal, France and the U.S.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Thebaud and his team,” said Dr. Roberta Ballard, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California. “In a few short years I anticipate we will be able to take these findings and begin clinical trials with premature babies.”

Stem cells can develop into different cell types in the body. They can act as an internal repair system, dividing to replenish other cells.

The team, which is partly funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, is now looking at the longer-term safety of using stem cells for lung therapy. There is some concern that stem cells could transform into tumours because they have the potential to become any type of cell.

Researchers want to see if the rats show any signs of cancer after they are treated.

The team is also studying the healing liquid produced by the stem cells.

Thebaud said it may be possible to use that liquid on its own to repair and heal the lungs, making the injection of the cells unnecessary.

“Now the million-dollar question is `What are (the cells) producing and can we harness that? can we use it as medication?”‘ he said. “We could take that fear out of the equation.”

During the research project Thebaud said he spent many hours peering through his microscope at rat tissue and watching the rodents running on treadmills.

But the image in his mind was always of the premature babies he has treated with damaged lungs that are kept alive on ventilators.

“You see those rats running on the treadmill and you think of a kid who could be able to run with his peers, play soccer or hockey,” he said. “That’s what matters.”

VCs Are Looking for Great Ideas

(The following news story is printed in its entirety from a the National Post article by Rick Spence) 

Equity financing has never been easy to source in Canada. But now it’s getting worse. 

Statistics from the Canadian Venture Capital Association show venture investing in the third quarter of 2009 fell 50% from the previous year, to just $191-million. In fact, total venture-capital investments could fall below the $1-billion mark this year for the first time since 1995 – the year Netscape went public and kicked off the Internet gold rush. 

But there is hope. The recession is easing, more Canadian cleantech companies are emerging, and the strengthening initial public offering market is restoring venture capitalists’ hopes for more successful “exits” from investments. (Ironically, the company that breathed new life into the IPO market last month is Dollarama, the low-end retail giant that’s the very antithesis of most VCs’ ideal investment.) 

And then there was the Ivey Venture Forum, co-presented in Toronto last week by the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School and its alumni association. More than 200 entrepreneurs, investors and executives came out to hear pitches for funding from eight plucky tech companies, selected from more than 100 eager applicants. 

The potential investees represented a range of industries: cleantech, business software, digital instrumentation, medicine, biotech and even e-commerce. Just as importantly, these companies had exciting stories to tell and a tight hold on an innovative niche (e.g., holographic microscopes, or laser-based cavity-detection systems for dentists) that most Canadian entrepreneurs would kill for. 

How can more companies cash in on vencap? According to a panel of experienced investors at the forum, it’s not much different than in good times: stock your team with experienced, professional management; create a compelling one-page summary of your company and the opportunities it seeks to exploit; and fill your Rolodex with the names of credible professionals who can connect you with the best VCs in your niche.

“The easiest way to get a meeting [with a VC] is to be referred to us through a trusted source,” said panelist Robert Antoniades, managing director with RBC Technology Ventures. “Use six degrees of separation,” he added. Find a lawyer, banker, accountant or similarly credible sponsor who knows the VC firm you’re targeting and is willing to make an introduction. “If you can get that person’s trust, that will be a hot lead for us,” Antoniades said. “That’s much better than emailing your business plan.”

You also have to be able to show a credible, hockey-stick-shaped growth curve that will assure untold riches for you and your backers. “You have to prove that you’re scalable,” said Andrew Wilkes, chairman of the National Angel Capital Organization. If you don’t foresee rapid market growth, why would early-stage equity investors — who want to at least quintuple their money — bother to invest in your company?

The key thing entrepreneurs should understand about venture capital is it is perfectly legitimate, indeed necessary, for investors to expect to make oodles of money from your idea or company usually by taking a generous share of equity in return for supplying money you can’t get anywhere else. Don’t look at it as the VCs helping themselves to value you’ve created. You have to buy into the notion they are enabling you to access the potential value your business, products or ideas have yet to create.

That’s a hard notion for many entrepreneurs to swallow. Oscar Jazdowski of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Bank said the biggest barrier to funding he sees is entrepreneurs’ insistence on overvaluing their companies when negotiating with potential investors. To find out what your business is really worth, he says, “You have to start with the principle that the investor wants five to 10 times their money back in five years.”

So entrepreneurs must figure out how big and how profitable their business will be in five years, if they get the capital they need now. “Work backwards from that to give you the valuation today that will give them that payback in five years,” Jazdowski advises.

That could be a humbling experience. But in return, entrepreneurs have the right to expect VCs to add real value to their investee companies, through their expertise and experience, strengthening the management team, facilitating useful contacts and attracting new customers. “You want to find investors that bring you value,” he says. “The best companies get their investors to really work.”

What industries are the panellists most interested in funding these days? Health care, social innovation (for-profit companies that solve nagging social problems), clean tech, social media and companies that generate recurring revenues (think of opportunities bore today’s VCs? The panellists cited manufacturing, seed-stage companies (pre-commercial operation) and media. “There are too many social networks, too many companies dependent on advertising,” Antoniades said. Even green energy may be nearing its best-before date, Jazdowski noted: “If I see another solar-panel company, I think I’m going to jump out the window.”

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