Manitoba Life Science News for week-ending December 11, 2009

Dec 15, 2009 | Corporate Member News

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EMPLOYMENT MANITOBA WORK INTERNSHIP PROGRAM 

The Manitoba Work Internship program is funded by the Government of Canada and The Manitoba Government to assist new Professional Immigrants obtain Canadian Work Experience in their field of expertise. It provides Employers access to a rapidly growing pool of well-educated and experienced workers.  

The Internship program provides Employers the opportunity to assess the skills, and knowledge of the intern at no cost for a 12 week period. This not only benefits the Employer but also provides the intern with 12 weeks of Canadian Work Experience to enhance their ability of locating employment in their field. 

Employment Manitoba is presently working with individuals with Science degrees, Pharmaceutical backgrounds and Sales and Marketing. If your company is looking for expertise in these areas and would be interested in providing an opportunity for a qualified new immigrant, they would be pleased to provide you with more detailed information.  

They are presently working on placements for mid January and February. Program Information can be obtained from LSAM and by contacting either: Kathy Hookham, Employment Advisor at (204) 669-6474, [email protected] or Linda Maxwell, Work Internship Coordinator at (204) 233-9244, [email protected]

The full details are attached here

EVENTS: 

national bioscience educators conference & student biotechnology conference- february 16-18, 2010 

LSAM is supporting MindSet, in partnership with Bioscience Education Canada and Red River College, in hosting the fourth National Bioscience Educators Conference at the Princess Street Campus of Red River College Winnipeg, Manitoba, February 16-18.   A student conference will be held Feb. 16-17 for high school students interested in careers in biotechnology and life science.  Educators need to be more aware of the possibilities of biotechnology.  Solutions to many of the critical issues in the next 50 years – hunger, disease, energy, sustainability – may be within the realm of biotech.  Canada currently is a world leader in biotechnology but needs to attract more scientists to the field to stay competitive. 

The conference features keynote sessions, tours, labs and concurrent sessions, designed to provide information and skills of immediate use.  Entertaining activities for the educator and student conferences include the BioOlympics and Dinner & a Movie.  

Speakers from a variety of organizations across Canada have been confirmed.  As the fourth annual conference, this event will have tours, labs, sessions and activities of interest to chemistry, physics, biology and general science educators at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.  In addition with bioscience being involved in a 1/3 of the world’s economy, bioscience is entering other areas such as human ecology (functional foods), vocational arts (biocomposites), agriculture, new media and information and communications technology (video games, bioinformatics).  Ethics will fit into many parts of the curriculum. 

For more information or to receive updates, please contact Norman Lee, Conference Co-chair, [email protected] or 204-269-3383. 

National Bioscience Educators Conference & Student Biotechnology Conference 

Princess Street Campus, Red River College 

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 

February 16-18, 2010 

LSAM Member Update: 

BCC (Biomedical Commercialization Canada Inc.) Has Secured a New Client!

BCC is pleased to announce that The CliniCard has been accepted into the BCC program. The CliniCard was founded by Doug Broeska and is a health IT firm.  

The first market that will be focused on with The CliniCard’s patented Smart Health Card is the health insurance industry. The CliniCard enables payments and reconciliation while also automating the adjudication process thereby reducing administrative expenses to both insurance companies and extended health service providers, while providing policy holders with an improved user experience. 

BCC expects to help The CliniCard: 

  • Secure a pilot project partner; 
  • Implement and execute a successful pilot project that demonstrates cost savings to insurance firms and health professionals;
  • and Secure investment. 

LIFE SCIENCE IN THE NEWS:

Inner-City Science Centre Has Official Opening

Last Wednesday, the Inner-City Science Centre at had its official opening.

The lab offers youth in Winnipeg’s inner city will have the opportunity to learn in a laboratory equipped with the latest in scientific equipment, developed through a partnership between the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine, the Winnipeg School Division and the Winnipeg Foundation.

The Winnipeg Inner-City Science Centre (ICSC), located in the Niji Mahkwa School on Flora Avenue, will bring students together with university professors, graduate students and science enthusiasts, using the same sophisticated equipment as the medical campus.

The Centre promotes science and medical literacy among the public, serving as an on-site teaching and training location for excellence in science and in the process, break down barriers for inner-city, Aboriginal and new Canadian students to explore the field of science.

In addition to being a wonderful resource, the lab was also the location of LSAM’s kick-off for National Biotechnology Week and was the site of several activities throughout the week.

Construction at the ‘Virology Lab’

On December 14th, the construction of a three-story 23,500 sq. ft. addition to the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health (the ‘Virology Lab’) at 1015 Arlington Street will begin.

This $24 million expansion, funded by the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, will provide some much needed additional support space to make sure the laboratories can continue to function in a highly efficient manner. Construction is scheduled to be complete in March 2011.

Escalating demands for infectious disease testing and research over the past 10 years have meant increased work and the need for additional staff at the lab. This has led to a pressing need for more space, particularly in the support areas required for processing incoming samples; preparing materials in which to grow organisms; sterilizing glassware; and storing samples. This addition will allow for the modernization and expansion of these areas as well as provide for more office space. The relocation of these units will in turn free up laboratory and office space in other areas for reallocation.

Some of these new support areas require laboratory space, all of which will be Level 2, similar to what is found in a medical clinic or hospital. This project will not include Level 3 or Level 4 labs.

This addition, along with the associated renovations, will help to ensure this world-class facility can continue its important work in limiting the effects of infectious diseases in Canada and globally.

Selinger Promises to Enhance Tax Credit

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is promising to set up the most generous research and development tax credit in Canada.

Selinger told a business luncheon of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce last Thursday that his government will enhance the current 20 per cent credit that companies can claim against corporate income tax for new technologies, and will ensure that it beats similar credits in all other provinces.

He said developments in biotechnology and other high-tech sectors will allow Manitoba companies to offer new goods for export around the world.

Selinger also spoke about the aerospace, mining, biotech and service industries being key parts of Manitoba’s economy, which he said has weathered the recession better than many provinces but is still fragile.

To help it along, the province is willing to forgo some tax revenue and intends to spend borrowed money, he said.

We recognize that we continue to have to play a role in stimulating the economy as we go forward. And there will be an increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio and there will be challenges on our rainy day [fiscal stabilization] fund, which is why we put it in place,” he said.

But he did not say whether that means withdrawing more than the $110 million he predicted in last spring’s budget when he was the province’s finance minister.

Cost of diabetes in Canada ‘an economic tsunami’

The number of Canadians with diabetes is likely to skyrocket in the next decade, new projections show, and that could set up what’s being called an “economic tsunami.”

The report from the Canadian Diabetes Association states that by next year, there will be 2.5 million Canadians with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes; by 2020, that number will rise to 3.7 million.

That means the number of diabetics in Canada in 2020 will have nearly tripled the numbers from 2000, when only 1.3 million Canadians were living with the disease. Today, nearly one in four Canadians either has diabetes or pre-diabetes, though many remain undiagnosed.

The rates are soaring because of Canada’s changing ethnic makeup, growing rates of obesity, sedentary lifestyle and aging population, write the authors of the report called “An Economic Tsunami: the Cost of Diabetes in Canada.”

Along with those rising illness rates, the cost of treating the disease – Type 1 and Type 2 – will also soar to $12.2 billion in 2010 and to almost $17 billion in the next decade – nearly double the costs of a decade ago.

Those costs include not just the medications and tests diabetics use to manage their condition, but the costs when patients don’t control it. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to nerve damage, lower limb amputations, kidney failure, blindness and heart disease.

Not only is diabetes a personal crisis for people with the disease, it’s “a financial crisis for the health-care system… consuming an ever-larger share of provincial and territorial health-care budgets,” the report states.

The Canadian Diabetes Association made their eye-opening projections based on a new tool called the Canadian Diabetes Cost Model. It’s the first diabetes model created using all Canadian data, rather than extrapolating numbers based on U.S. data.

“The results are a sobering reminder of the action required to reduce the burden of diabetes in Canada while improving the individual health for people living with the disease,” Ellen Malcolmson, the president and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association, said in news release Monday.

If diabetes rates continue to rise unchecked, the burden of diabetes will continue to grow so that: 

  • the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Canada will nearly double between 2000 and 2010, from 1.3 million to 2.5 million (a rate that climbs to more than 3 million when you include Canadians with undiagnosed diabetes)
  • the total population with diabetes will rise from 4.2 per cent in 2000 to 7.3 per cent in 2010, to 9.9 per cent by 2020
  • the cost of the disease will rise by another $4.7 billion by 2020

While some of the factors leading to rising diabetes rates cannot be controlled – such as an aging population – many others can, say the report authors. The key, they say, is diagnosing the disease early and managing it properly so complications can be averted.

To stop the growth of the disease, the report calls for more resources to help patients manage their disease, a new Canadian diabetes strategy as well as an aboriginal diabetes initiative, and more investment in high-quality research.

They also want a revised tax strategy that addresses the out-of-pocket costs for people living with diabetes.

Many patients spend between $1,000 and $15,000 a year on products such as test strips and medication, forcing some patients to abandon aggressive treatment. Those decisions end up costing the public health system, since it can lead to expensive complications and even more expensive medication costs.

U.S. may be shutting door on our prescription drugs

An attempt by a North Dakota senator to give Americans the right to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada could be on life support despite President Barack Obama’s onetime support of the idea.

An amendment to the health-care reform bill currently before the U.S. Senate would have allowed the reimportation of American-manufactured prescription drugs back into the United States at far lower prices – most of them from Canada. The proposal has the bipartisan support of more than 30 lawmakers in a country where citizens pay among the highest prices for prescription drugs than anyone else in the world.

But the amendment, spearheaded by Sen. Byron Dorgan – a longtime champion of the issue – is facing sudden obstacles from the Obama administration that could sound the death knell.

The White House’s tactics would “certainly impede the ability of Americans to import drugs from Canada,” Arizona Sen. John McCain, a co-sponsor of the amendment, said Wednesday during a Senate debate on the proposal.

McCain was referring to the Food and Drug Administration’s 11th-hour criticism of Dorgan’s proposal, saying it would be “logistically challenging” to ensure that imported medicines were safe, even though the drugs in question already have FDA approval.

In a letter to a Republican senator, Margaret Hamburg, the head of the FDA, said that overseeing the reimportation would be “resource-intensive” since the federal agency lacks jurisdiction over foreign drug supplies.

“In addition, there are significant safety concerns related to allowing the reimportation of non-bioequivalent products,” she wrote, adding that there could be potential “confusion” in the labelling and distribution of the drugs.

Under U.S. federal law, pharmaceutical companies are the only ones legally allowed to import prescription drugs approved by the FDA into the United States. Drug companies import more than

US$40 billion in drugs into the country, while drug wholesalers and consumers are shut out of the global marketplace.

Dorgan was livid about the FDA’s letter, calling it “completely bogus.”

The senator also suggested Obama was cowing to the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, which has vehemently opposed reimportation for years. The George W. Bush administration, influenced by drug companies, repeatedly slammed the door on the idea.

But Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Health Reform, cited the $5 million Obama proposed in his 2010 budget for the FDA to develop import policies. She said the agency will continue working on ways “to create a pathway to importing safe and effective drugs.”

Both Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, supported reimportation when they were Illinois lawmakers. But in July, the White House and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America – commonly known as PhRMA – said that reimportation wouldn’t be necessary if an effective health-care bill passed, resulting in lower drug prices.

The pharmaceutical industry is under fire this week, with congressional legislators investigating whether drug-makers artificially hiked their prices over the past year in anticipation of health-care reform.

Dorgan’s proposal is not only supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, but it’s also been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the American Association for Retired People.

However, it would require the White House to renege on a deal with PhRMA to achieve $80 billion in savings on drug costs over 10 years, money that would help pay for the legislation. The White House effectively promised to leave reimportation out of its health-care reform overhaul in a pact many top congressional Democrats derided as a deal with the devil.

While many Canadian wholesalers are keen to get further access to the lucrative U.S. market, pharmacists in Canada have raised concerns that reimportation could lead to drug shortages north of the border.

In the past decade, some U.S. drug companies cut off supplies to the Canadian pharmacies that sold prescription drugs to American consumers, resulting in Canadian shortfalls.

Canada Flax Not Shipping to EU, Key Port to Close

Canada has not shipped any of its new flax crop to its top market, the European Union, because of concerns about genetically modified (GMO) material, the Flax Council of Canada said last Wednesday.

And the window of opportunity is closing as the crop’s most important port nears closure for the winter.

The European Union, which traditionally buys 70 percent of Canada’s flax, first detected GMO material in a Canadian flax shipment in July. There is no GMO flax approved in the EU, where consumers are wary of long-term GMO effects.

Although the EU has not banned all flax imports from Canada, exporters deem shipments to the EU risky even with Canada and the EU agreeing on testing protocols.

Flax shipments travel from Western Canada to the Port of Thunder Bay, through which they reach the Atlantic Ocean. The port’s shipping season typically ends in late December when its harbor on Lake Superior and the Welland Canal joining Lake Ontario and Lake Erie freeze.

There has been talk in the industry about exporters making test shipments to Europe, but Flax Council president Barry Hall said he’s not aware of it.

“I don’t think anything has shipped at all.” 

Shippers could move flax by rail to the St. Lawrence Seaway or through Port Metro Vancouver on the Pacific Coast, Hall said, but added those options may raise concerns about logistics and distance. 

Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of flax – also called linseed – that produces oil for industrial use like linoleum flooring and seed for baked goods. 

Canadian farmers grew an estimated 930,000 tons of flax this year, according to Statistics Canada. 

GMO flax has also turned up in Japan, Canada’s No. 3 market, leading to checks of all flax for food use. 

With the key port to Europe about to close, farmers will store more flax than usual over the winter, said Allen Kuhlmann, chair of the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission. 

Longer storage times, plus cash prices that are C$3 per bushel lower than usual at C$8-C$9, means many farmers face hard times, he said. 

“People rely on flax as a cash crop in fall to pay their inputs. If they haven’t been able to move the product, then they’re sitting with their bills unpaid.” 

Farmers may also sour on flax enough that planted acreage could shrink next year, he said. 

FP967 is the only GMO flax variety ever produced. A Canadian university researcher developed it in the 1990s and officials in Canada and the U.S. authorized it for use in feed and food. The flax industry successfully lobbied the Canadian government to deregister it in 2001 and acquired most of the seed to be destroyed or crushed domestically. 

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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