Manitoba Life Science News for the Week Ending December 4, 2009

Dec 6, 2009 | Corporate Member News

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This week LSAM staff and several LSAM member companies will be attending the 8th Annual LifeScience Alley Conference in Minneapolis, MN.

As the largest gathering of life science professionals in the Midwest, the LifeScience Alley Annual Conference & Expo provides access to top industry leaders, opportunities to build business through education and high-level networking, and insights into current trends, regulations, research and emerging technologies. For more information on both LifeScience Alley and the conference please visit

This year LSAM in cooperation with its partners in the life science sector is proud  to be part of the largest-ever Manitoba contingent to LifeScience Alley. For LSAM the conference is an opportunity to promote the sector and assist our attending member companies with finding new clients, new business partners and new opportunities.


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.

Join the Movement to Promote Biotech – Win a Free Trip to 2010 BIO International Convention

Every day, the men and women in the biotech industry work to solve our most daunting challenges. From the fight against deadly diseases to feeding a growing world population to stopping global warming, you are there on the front lines.

To support your work and connect you with others across the industry, BIO International launched a new website this past year:          

Join the IAmBiotech community today, and you’ll be entered to win free roundtrip airfare and a complimentary registration to the 2010 BIO International Convention in Chicago.

To sign up and enter to win, visit:

As part of the biotech industry, you are at the forefront of the innovation economy. 

In order to build a better future through biotechnology, we must come together online and offline to collaborate, network and tell our stories. That’s what IAmBiotech is all about.

Join now and add your voice to the discussion.

By signing up, you’ll gain access to some great features including:

  • Insider insights on the direction of the industry from top CEOs and thought leaders;
  • Networking events in your area and the latest tips on how to make connections both online and offline;
  • News and alerts about the legislation and regulatory issues that could impact your business;
  • Social media resources, including advice on how LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help your bottom line;
  • And opportunities to educate the public about how you’re helping to heal, fuel and feed the world.

Sign up today to be entered to win a free registration to the 2010 BIO International Convention:


DiaMedica Proposes to Expand into Neurological and Other Disorders Through Acquisition of Sanomune

Last week, DiaMedica Inc. (a biopharmaceutical company that has discovered and is developing a novel approach to treating diabetes), announced it has entered into a non-binding letter of intent to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Sanomune Inc., a privately held biopharmaceutical company developing treatments for neurological, autoimmune and other indications.

Sanomune was named a Top 10™ Canadian Life Sciences Company for 2008/2009 and its pipeline includes a promising neuroprotective protein that also triggers neural stem cell proliferation and an attractive monoclonal antibody program.

“The proposed Sanomune acquisition will allow us to take advantage of a unique opportunity to strengthen our patent portfolio and expand the indications targeted by our DM-199 program by gaining access to Sanomune’s complementary SAN-61.  Furthermore, we expect to capitalize on increased product development opportunities while bringing together two of Canada’s Top 10™ life sciences companies,” stated Rick Pauls, President and Chief Executive Officer of DiaMedica.

Collaborative Research Program Between Health Sciences Centre & IBD

The Kleysen Institute for Advanced Medicine Cyclotron Facility, where the Health Sciences Centre cyclotron is located in the basement level, was officially opened on September 14, 2009. The cyclotron has been fully operational since August 2009 while the application for Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) licence was in progress. The cyclotron is a Siemens eclipse-RD negative ion accelerator with one multi-target carousel; it has been commissioned to produce fluorine-18 and carbon-11 radioisotopes. The fluorine-18 radioisotope is used in the manufacture of 2-[18F]Fluoro-2-Deoxy-D-Glucose (FDG), the radiotracer or radiopharmaceutical that is widely used in clinical Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging.

Last week, the first batch of FDG produced for PET imaging was delivered to the Institute for Biodiagnostics (IBD) for a cardiac stem cell study – a collaborative research program between Health Sciences Centre and the IBD. Drs. Shadreck Mzengeza, Andrew Goertzen, and Esmat Elhami from HSC and Bo Xiang, Jixian Deng, Chris Stillwell, Crystal Fulton, Fei Wang, and Hong Tian from IBD are major players in this program. Results obtained with the first batch of FDG demonstrated that stem cells could be reliably labelled with the radiotracer. Moreover, the radiotracer does not significantly affect function and viability of the stem cells.


Researchers See Progress on Isotope Goal

A consortium of Manitoba researchers believes their quest to make medical isotopes for Canada got a boost last week in a report recommending solutions to the medical isotope shortage. The Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise’s proposal to make medical isotopes using an existing particle accelerator at the nuclear facility in Pinawa didn’t get the green light from Ottawa yet but it might get some research funding for further study.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Chris Saunders, chief executive officer of Acsion Industries.

Acsion is one of the main players of PIPE, along with the University of Winnipeg physics department, University of Manitoba department of medicine/radiology, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Canadian Light Source, Mevex Corporation, and the provincial governments of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Last Thursday the expert review panel commissioned by Ottawa to study options for the isotope shortage delivered its recommendations to Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt. Raitt has not yet said what the government will do.

Raitt was seeking solutions because of the ongoing shutdown of the nuclear reactor at Chalk River, Ont., which until recently supplied one-third of the world supply of medical istopes. The 52-year-old reactor was shut down in May because of a radioactive water leak. It isn’t likely to restart until early next year and some fear it might never come back online.

Medical isotopes are used for the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, heart disease and other ailments. Since the Chalk River facility shut down, supply of the isotopes has been unstable, leading to shortages worldwide. The expert panel noted Canada has reported as much as a 25 per cent reduction in nuclear medicine tests being ordered due to the shortage.

Bill to ease sale of HIV drugs passes vote

A bill that would make it easier to sell cheap HIV drugs to developing countries has passed second reading in the House of Commons.

Members of Parliament voted 143-127 last Wednesday in favour of sending Bill C-393 to committee.

New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis sponsored the bill, which is designed to reform Canada’s five-year-old access-to-medicines law.

Under Bill C-9, passed in May 2004, generic drug makers in Canada must obtain a special licence each time they want to sell a cheaper, generic version of a patented medicine to a developing country. They also have to pay royalties on any such sales to the patent-holding drugmakers, and the licence is good for only two years.

Wasylycia-Leis said the current law isn’t working. Since it was passed, the process has proved so complicated that only one order of HIV drugs for 21,000 patients was ever placed and sent. It reached Rwanda last year.

“We’re one step closer to fixing a relatively minor bureaucratic problem that’s costing people their lives around the world,” Wasylycia-Leis said in a release on Thursday.

Health, humanitarian and patient activists also urged parliamentarians to pass the bill.

“We continue to maintain that this legislation is a win for patients in the developing world who need medicines, a win for Canadian generic companies that can supply those medicines, a win for brand-name drug companies that would receive royalties and a win for Canada’s international reputation — all at no cost to Canadian taxpayers,” Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said in a statement. 

The Wasylycia-Leis bill would let generic drug manufacturers fill multiple orders of the same medication to different countries under one simple licence, without a time limit.

The bill will be referred to the House’s committee on industry, science and technology.

U.S. Buzz Gives Canadian Biotechs Hope

A flurry of U.S. biotechnology financings since August has broken the 18-month dry spell on biotech initial public offerings.

Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. was first raising about US$94-million in an IPO that saw heavy trading on secondary markets. Talecris Biotherapeutics Holding Corp. in Triangle Park, N.C., followed, bringing in US$850-million a few weeks later. In October, Seattle-based Omeros Corp. raised US$62-million.

Still, observers say the IPO window won’t open in Canada until there have been a few big drugs that make it to market without public money and then actually turn a profit for their developers.

That’s a tall order for anyone in the Canadian biotech sector. But biotech executives say other channels for raising money are opening up if Canadian companies can muster sufficient buzz in U.S. markets before trying to raise capital at home.

“Any serious company that wants to succeed needs to look south of the border. The opportunities are definitely south of the border,” says Mark Kaufmann, president and chief executive officer of Allostera Pharm Inc., which raised $17-million in Canadian venture financing in July, after building interest with U.S. investors.

Mr. Kauffman said he spent a lot of time on the road selling the idea to U.S. capital investors. Even though Allostera’s July financing deal came entirely from north of the border Mr. Kaufmann said creating excitement in the U.S. was a key driver of investor interest here.

While he was able to create some interest at home without an U.S. backer, it’s certainly easier to have one on board. One popular route for Canadian biotech companies looking for ways to fund their cash-hungry operations is to go to big U.S. health care funds to secure something called a lead order. These well -funded, highly sophisticated funds to put in the first order for shares in the company’s equity offering.

“Only if you have a lead order who has done the due diligence, who is excited about it, will you be able to raise money elsewhere,” says Graeme McRae, president and chief executive officer of Belleville, Ont.’s Bioniche Life Science Inc. “If you are looking for $50-million and come up with a lead order for $10-million or $20-million you won’t have a hard time raising the rest in Canada.”

BioteCanada, Canada’s biotechnology industry association, still sees a pretty bleak landscape for the industry.

About two-thirds of respondents to BioteCanada’s Q2 industry forecast survey say they are “somewhat to not at all” confident in the short-term outlook for Canadian life sciences.

A quarter of the respondents to BioteCanada’s survey believe it will take more than five years for their companies to start earning revenue and 73% say they are not expecting to have products for sale within the next two years.

IPOs from Cumberland, Omeros and Talecris have emboldened Atlanta-based Alimera Sciences Inc. and stem cell company Aldagen Inc., of Durham, N.C., to consider the IPO market again in 2009.

Both originally had filed to go public last year but later changed their minds citing poor market conditions.

“There’s been a number of financings that have been successful and a tremendous number of mergers and acquisitions,” says Gailina Liew, chief operating officer of GeneNews Ltd., a Canadian molecular diagnostics and personalized health-management company, which recently raised $5-million, half of which came from the U.S. market. “But Canada lags the U.S. and there’s no exception.”

Read more:

Long, Bitter Debate Ahead for U.S. Health Care Bill

Democrats called it a historic opportunity. Republicans called it a sham.

Long-awaited debate over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul kicked off in the Senate last week with lawmakers trading bitter partisan words over the measure to remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

The legislative struggle is expected to last for weeks in a test that pits GOP senators determined not to give ground against Senate Democrats determined to deliver on Obama’s signature issue.

The 10-year, nearly $1 trillion legislation includes a first-time requirement for most Americans to carry insurance, greatly expands the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for the poor, and would require insurers to cover any paying customer regardless of their medical history or condition.

On Monday each side offered the first of what are likely to be dozens of amendments, with the measures seemingly designed as much to court a sceptical public as to reshape Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s 2,074-page bill.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 31 million uninsured individuals would receive insurance if the bill were enacted, many of them assisted by federal subsidies. The legislation would be paid for through a combination of cuts in projected Medicare payments, a payroll tax on the wealthy and taxes on drug makers, medical device manufacturers, owners of high-cost insurance and others.

It has taken months to advance the legislation to the floor, as Democrats struggled with their own internal divisions as well as Republican opposition.

Democrats control 60 seats in the Senate, precisely the number needed to trump a promised Republican filibuster, and Reid’s ability to steer the bill to passage will depend on finding ways to finesse controversial provisions within the measure, such as a proposal for the government to sell insurance in competition with private firms.

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office on how the Senate bill would affect premiums gave both parties ammunition Monday.

Canada Looks at Soy as Omega-3 Source

Canadian health officials are considering genetically modified soybeans as an alternative source of Omega 3s, most commonly found in fish, whose supplies are dwindling. With the hunt for alternative sources of Omega-3 in full swing, Canadian health officials are considering genetically modified soybeans adapted to produce the essential fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most commonly found in fish, are important for cardiovascular health and brain development in humans.

For that reason, food guides in countries like Canada recommend people eat fatty fish twice a week.

However, this advice is unsustainable, researchers claim. That’s because, in the same way Canada’s East Coast cod fishery fell into decline, global fish stocks are falling. Researchers predict there will be a shortage of Omega-3s globally, likely by mid-century.

“It will really be helpful to find alternative sources of Omega-3,” Dr. Ussif Rashid Sumaila, director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, told CBC News. “That [genetically modified soybeans] is a possible source of dealing with this problem.”

The type of Omega-3s found in flax, or in the eggs of chicken fed flax, isn’t as easily used by the body as the type found in fish oil. But it is possible to modify soybeans so they make Omega-3s that would offer the same benefits as fish, says David Jenkins, a nutritional scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“This would mean you’ve got a sustainable source of Omega-3 that comes from a plant form and you’d not be destroying the ocean stocks of fish,” he says.

Recent research from the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota shows that oil from genetically modified soybeans significantly increased levels of Omega 3s.

While Canada considers how to proceed, the U.S. has already approved modified soybeans that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. But the issue could be controversial as many environmentalists are opposed to genetic modification of food. As well, many people suffer from soy allergies.

Researchers are also investigating other possible sources of Omega-3s from the ocean, examining algae or tiny zooplankton which are still plentiful.

For more information contact:  

Jonathan Frate
Manager, Membership Services
Life Science Association of Manitoba
1000 Waverley Street
Winnipeg, MB     R3T 0P3
Tel: (204) 272-5094
Fax: (204) 272-2961
Email: [email protected]

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