Manitoba Life Science News for week-ending December 18, 2009

Dec 21, 2009 | Corporate Member News

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Happy Holidays And Best Wishes In The New Year- Message From Interim Executive Director, Darren Fast

As we come to the end of the year, I’d like to thank you for your involvement with and support of LSAM.  It’s been a year of significant transition as we’ve focused on our three core activities of sector promotion, training and advocacy.  We’ve made some good progress in each of these areas including a very successful trade mission to Life Science Alley with 14 Manitoba companies, training more than 600 people in 2009 and a very productive advocacy session with Ministers Rondeau and Wowchuck in September that included members of the Agricultural and Industrial Biotech sectors.  

We’ve got an exciting 2010 planned as we continue to build value for our members.  We’ve got a number of events ranging from small gatherings of subsectors to advocacy events and of course, our training program will continue to grow.  Our goal is to grow the life science sector here in Manitoba. 

I’m grateful to the board for allowing me the opportunity to serve as interim Executive Director.  I also wish to thank the LSAM staff, Jonathan and Norma for so graciously welcoming me to the role and for all their hard work throughout the year. 

I wish you and yours a most wonderful Holiday season and look forward to working with you in the New Year. 

Darren Fast, Ph.D., Interim Executive Director 

Please note: This is the final LSAM Newsletter for 2009…look for it to return to your inbox on January 4th. 


BIOTECanada press release: New Fund Expands Options for Cash-strapped Biotech Industry

LSAM would like to share with you BIOTECanada’s press release (click here) regarding the recently announced $300 million Tandem expansion fund. The fund will invest in emerging technology including life sciences firms, and is open for applications. This is a positive step from the federal government in making funding available to the industry. 


Membership Renewals 

Last week LSAM sent out its 2010 membership renewals. The renewals included your 2010 invoice, details of upcoming LSAM events, and an outline of LSAM membership benefits. 

In the New Year, LSAM will be sending out a sponsorship opportunities package. 

Please make sure to send in your membership dues for 2010 to ensure you take advantage of the LSAM benefits package that includes training opportunities, access to exclusive networking events, business discounts and so much more. 

New Members 

As we end 2009 LSAM would like to welcome four new members. This year LSAM has added 13 new companies to our membership ranks.


Through their commitment to excellence over the last eight years, Pinnacle has become Manitoba’s largest recruitment firm with eighteen specialized recruiters, headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Pinnacle’s U.S. Executive and Professional Search Division is located in San Diego, California.  Pinnacle’s mission is simple – supply only top companies with top talent.

Their success is built on developing long-term respectful and productive partnerships, providing Manitoba companies with top talent, and now a full range of human resources, and labour relations services.

LSAM would like to welcome Heather Allan, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

RBC Life Sciences

For more than a decade, RBC Royal Bank has been the leading Canadian financial institution dedicated to providing financial solutions and support to Canada’s Life Sciences & Health Services industry. They help the industry by providing services such as: borrowing & credit, asset-based finance, cross-border capabilities, cash management, investment services, and foreign exchange.

By working with their Life Sciences & Health Services experts about your business, you will receive the support you require based on a combination of products, services and network connections tailored specifically to your needs. 

LSAM would like to welcome Mark Saidi, Account Manager, Commercial Financial Services & Tyson Jones, Account Manager – Life Science.

Sable Martlet Consulting

Sable Martlet Consulting partners with individuals and client companies to plan, initiate and execute strategies that launch your company on a winning trajectory. Whether your business is still in incubation and needs help planning for exponential growth or has already achieved growth, but needs to connect better with customers and get to the next level, they have the solutions that will help. 

Companies today are scrambling to re-invent themselves in order to remain competitive in a tough and complicated economy. Sable Martlet Consulting provides up-to-date strategies to assist those companies in their efforts. Whether you want to enhance your Sales or Management Team with one-on-one customized training, improve customer service with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation, or leverage social networking sites to increase market penetration, they have the answers for you. 

LSAM would like to welcome Bill Rutherford from Sable Martlet.

SciMar Limited

At SciMar Ltd., they are driven by the exciting potential of breakthrough science: the unparalleled health benefits for consumers; the tremendous business opportunities; and the chance to make a positive impact in our world. 

Their featured discovery is SAMEC (S-adenosylmethionine + vitamin E + vitamin C). SAMEC is a cocktail of three active ingredients that, when combined, show a synergistic action to prevent the onset of Pre Diabetic Insulin Resistance (PDIR), a condition associated with normal aging1 and from diets high in sugar. 

LSAM would like to welcome Mick Lautt, Chief Executive Officer from SciMar. 

LSAM Member Update:

Cangene Announces First Quarter Financial Results for Fiscal 2010

Last week Cangene Corporation reported its financial results for the first quarter ended October 31, 2009.

Revenues for the first quarter of 2010 were $42.0 million, 20% lower than the $52.2 million recorded during the same period last year. The lower revenue in the current quarter reflects the fact that there was reduced R&D-services revenue due to reduced R&D activity on the U.S. government stockpiling contracts and the conclusion of joint R&D projects with Apotex during fiscal 2009.

In total, R&D-services revenues have declined from $15.6 million in the prior-year quarter to $7.8 million in the current quarter. Consistent with the first quarter of the prior year, the current quarter included one product delivery on the U.S. government stockpiling contracts as per the current delivery schedule. Overall, $21.2 million in revenue was recognized on these stockpiling contracts in the current quarter, compared with $25.6 million in the first quarter of 2009. In addition, biopharmaceutical product sales have declined by $3.7 million relative to the first quarter of 2009, primarily due to the receipt of a non-recurring US$3.0-million milestone payment in the first quarter of 2009 under the terms of the WinRho(R) SDF distribution agreement with Baxter Healthcare Corporation. When the impact of that milestone payment is excluded, WinRho(R) SDF revenues in the U.S. market have increased in the current quarter.

“The financial results for the quarter continue to reflect our delivery on the biodefence contracts in accordance with established schedules,” said Dr. John Langstaff, Cangene’s president and CEO. “We have also begun to focus more directly on the U.S. commercial markets, beginning with our acquisition of the U.S. commercialization rights for HepaGam B(R) from Apotex, effective November 1, 2009. We believe this is a growing market, which is why we made the decision to build a small U.S. sales force. In concert with this, we are changing the name of our Baltimore-based subsidiary, Chesapeake Biological Laboratories, Inc., to Cangene bioPharma, Inc., to better align it with the strong Cangene brand,” he said.


Ottawa Accepting Bids on CANDU Reactor Division

Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt announced last Thursday that investors will be given the opportunity to submit proposals for the commercial division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

It’s a move the government is billing as “the next step in restructuring” the Crown corporation.

“Nuclear energy is an emission-free source of power that is experiencing a renaissance around the world,” Raitt said in a statement released last Thursday, which invited investors to submit proposals.

“AECL’s CANDU Reactor Division needs strategic investors to take full advantage of this opportunity, strengthen its global presence and reduce the financial risks carried by taxpayers.”

In response to an inquiry from, Natural Resources Canada said that “the Government is open to a range of options for up to, and including one hundred percent” ownership by investors, depending on the proposals that are submitted.

“The Government will continue its role in maintaining safety, security and environmental stewardship as they relate to nuclear energy,” the government department said.

There are three basic business lines that make up the CANDU Reactor Division — new-build projects, life-extension or refurbishment projects, and general services. Together, this division employs approximately 1,800 full-time staff members.

Thirty-two CANDU reactors are currently in operation worldwide, including 20 in Canada, according to government figures. The others are located in Pakistan, Argentina, Romania, South Korea, China and India.

According to a government media release, any successful proposal for the CANDU Reactor Division will be expected to meet several objectives: The government needs to control costs while maximizing the return on investment to taxpayers, and to keep the Canadian nuclear industry in a position of strength.

Ottawa also wants to see a proposal that will ensure that “Canadians have nuclear (power) as a safe, reliable, and economic clean energy option.”

“This industry employs 30,000 highly skilled Canadians, and our Government is committed to making sure these jobs are retained and more are created,” Raitt said.

“The Government of Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, will continue its role in maintaining the safety, security and environmental stewardship of the nuclear industry.”

Any incoming proposals for the CANDU Reactor Division will not affect AECL’s Research and Technology Division, which includes the Chalk River Laboratories, as the government is not seeking proposals for that part of the Crown corporation.

At present, the Research and Technology Division is working to get the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, Ont., up and running as quickly as possible.

The NRU reactor, which is not part of the proposed sale, previously supplied about one-third of the world’s medical isotopes. However, a radioactive water leak caused it to be shut down for repairs in mid-May. It is not expected to be up and running again until the first quarter of 2010.

According to a government backgrounder, the restructuring of AECL began in November 2007, when the Minister of Natural Resources announced a review of AECL to determine if it needed restructuring.

That review was completed in May 2009, when it was decided that AECL would be restructured.

Canadians Find Clue That Might Explain Severe H1N1 Flu

Canadian scientists have helped make a discovery that might explain why some people develop severe illness when infected with H1N1 flu and others don’t.

The researchers from Toronto’s University Health Network found high levels of a molecule called interleukin 17 in the blood of severely ill H1N1 patients, and low levels in patients with mild forms of the disease.

Interleukin 17 is a cytokine, a kind of molecule that helps regulate the body’s white blood cells which fight viral, bacterial and other infections.

But interleukin 17 can also go “out of control” in some cases and has been linked with such inflammatory autoimmune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

In the cases of respiratory infections, cytokines plays a part in a potentially fatal immune reaction called a “cytokine storm,” in which the immune system of a healthy person goes haywire and “overreacts” to an infection. The cytokines command a patient’s body to flood the lungs with fluids and mucous, which can eventually block off the airways and “drown” the patient.

Cytokine storms are what are thought to have caused many of the deaths in the SARS outbreak, bird flu, and the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed a disproportionate number of otherwise healthy adults.

For this latest study, to be published in the journal Critical Care, the Toronto researchers joined a team from Spain to examine a group of otherwise healthy Spanish patients who became infected with H1N1 during the first wave, in July and August 2009. The group included 20 hospitalized patients, 15 outpatients with mild forms of the illness, and 15 control subjects who weren’t infected.

The researchers focused on 29 cytokines and analyzsed them to find any patterns among the study volunteers.

They found that those with severe symptoms from the flu had elevated levels of interleukin 17, while patients with the mild form of the disease had low levels.

Dr. David Kelvin, the leader of the Canadian team and the head of the Experimental Therapeutics Division at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, says the discovery is the first clue about what could be causing some patients to develop potentially fatal lung inflammation and pneumonia.

Kelvin said it is still not known whether high levels of interleukin 17 are always present in patients, or if they are overproduced only in response to the virus. But he told the Globe and Mail that IL-17 levels are likely high in patients who develop other lung infections.

“It’s probably not an isolated example that is specific for H1N1, and it probably spills over to other types of respiratory illness,” he said.

Kelvin said his team believes the discovery could lead to preventive therapies that would target IL-17 in future flu pandemics and other outbreaks, potentially speeding recovery.

As well, a test to determine who has high levels of the molecule could be possible in the near future.

“A diagnostic test could let us know early who is at risk for the severe form of this illness quickly,” he said, noting that high levels would indicate a failure of the immune system to eliminate the virus.

He cautioned, though, that the clinical application of this work is still many years away.

Researchers are now expanding on the study to look for similar patterns in people living in other countries, such as China.

B.C. Clinic Planning to Research MS Vein Theory

A medical centre in British Columbia says it wants to become the first in the country to test the controversial theory that multiple sclerosis patients have blocked veins, preventing proper blood flow from the brain.

“There’s a large demand for us to look into this,” Dr. Anthony Traboulsee told CTV News. “Patients are very excited. We are very interested ourselves, and we want to meet the demand of our patients.”

A group of researchers at the University of British Columbia MS Clinic, part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, are planning to study the theory, using a variety of imaging techniques. If it gets approval and funding, it appears to be the most comprehensive examination of this novel theory in the world.

They will be studying the findings of Italian researcher Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who believes that blocked veins in the neck and chest of MS patients lead to blood drainage problems and triggers the immune responses that mark the disease.

Zamboni contends that angioplasty surgery on these blocked veins, a procedure he calls the Liberation Treatment, can then open them. A preliminary study of the treatment in 65 patients showed it improved the quality of life for many patients, and as long as the veins remained open, symptoms of MS were reduced and new attacks were halted.

The BC team envisions a study that begins with MS patients being scanned for abnormalities, likely using the ultrasound test pioneered in Italy. They would also be given MRI scans, to see how the different tests detect possible problems. The prevalence of vein problems would also be assessed in MS patients and in normal healthy control patients. Data would also be blinded to minimize the risk for bias in the research.

Once these non-invasive scans have been done, test patients would proceed to the angiography suite. There they would undergo a venogram. That’s where a probe is inserted, from the groin, into the vein system that travels through the chest and into the neck. Doctors inject a dye and watch the blood-flow. This is also, according the University of Ferrara team, the definitive way of seeing blockages in the jugular veins in the neck and the azygos vein in the chest.

And if there are blocked or narrowed veins, the UBC researchers want to open them up to see what happens.

The Vancouver researchers want to determine the prevalence of the vein abnormality, which Zamboni has dubbed CCSVI — or chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency. They also want to know how easily it can be detected with ultrasound and MRI testing.

N.S. Lab Gets Green Light to Test Cancer Vaccine

A small Halifax laboratory has received permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct human trials on a cancer “vaccine.”

Immunovaccine Inc., a publicly-traded biotechnology company created 10 years ago at Dalhousie University, will test the therapeutic cancer vaccine, which has been dubbed DPX-0907.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells in patients with breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

Genevieve Weir, a research project manager for Immunovaccine, emphasized that the vaccine is unique both in its content and oil-based delivery system, called DepoVax.

“It contains seven different antigens to target seven different pathways in cancer,” she told CTV Atlantic in Halifax. “The vaccine itself will stay in the body for two weeks, but the immune response is long-lasting and will be maintained over several years.”

With the administration’s approval, Immunovaccine will conduct the first phase of human clinical trials in five cities in the U.S., said Brian Lowe, the company’s vice-president.

“If we can have success through phase one of human clinical trials, that will prove that our technology is safe on humans,” he told CTV Atlantic.

After the safety testing phase, the vaccine will then need to pass two more levels of testing to be approved. If there are no problems, it may available on the market by 2015.

Twenty patients whose cancer is in remission will participate in the first phase. They will test the safety and tolerability of Immunovaccine’s patented DepoVax delivery system and its seven antigens.

If these trials are successful, then the number of tested patients will increase in the second phase, which Lowe said will cost from $22 million to $25 million. The third and final phase will be the most expensive, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lowe said he is confident that the vaccine will be successful.

“We feel after a phase two and proven success, we will be able to partner with Big Pharma (the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S.) with an enhanced value proposition,” he said.

Wier added that she is encouraged by the FDA’s support.

“For them to say… ‘it meets the standard, it looks promising, go ahead and inject into humans; we’re confident in you,’ it’s wonderful,” she said.

Climate action: Canada’s farms part of solution

All eyes last week were focused on the climate change summit in Copenhagen – an event billed by many as the conference that must change the world.

If that is the case, then agriculture and food security should have risen to a higher place on the agenda. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations thinks so. It has been lamenting for some years that agriculture is largely exempted from the climate financing equation now being discussed.

The FAO’s brief to the summit says farming practices that capture carbon and store it in the soil “offer some of the most promising options for early and cost-effective action on climate change in developing countries, while contributing to food security.”

FAO notes that 14 per cent of global carbon emissions emerge from agriculture, but this sector also offers the best options for carbon mitigation.

The FAO is correct to advance the view that agriculture should be an important part of Copenhagen. Agriculture should neither be excluded from the discussions nor considered as separate from wider climate change issues.

However, the summit should address the role of developed nations, not just developing nations, in food security and carbon capture. Only developed economies can act on the climate change agenda. Developing economies, where food security is an issue, are simply fighting for survival.

Canada’s delegates to the summit should be arguing for the inclusion of Canadian farmers in any scheme that supports carbon sequestration.

Many farmers here already have adopted excellent practices that create carbon sinks. They seed into stubble, use biotechnological crops that don’t need herbicides or pesticides (thus reducing the use of fuel-burning machinery), and use straw mulch to cover their fields.

Biotech could take us a long way down the path of emission reduction. For example, the 2007 reduction in emissions from adopting biotech canola in Canada was equivalent to removing 781,000 cars from the road for a year.

Farmers should be rewarded for such contributions to the environment — quite apart from their contributions to feeding the world.

Canada’s message at Copenhagen should also encourage trade, but not just the usual dollars-for-wheat variety. We must put forward mechanisms to entice trading among nations, sharing technology, and creating innovation capacity that developing economies need to create wealth for themselves.

While it is true that international trade will increase the carbon footprint of some nations, it will support developing countries to build agricultural production capacity and improve food security.

In essence, dealing with climate change could potentially create the perfect catalyst to tackle food security.

Climate change should also have the effect of making exporting countries like Canada more responsible, strategic and ecologically coherent. Canada today can not be considered a sophisticated international player, since it often simply sells its commodities as a rudimentary price-taker.

Achieving a more strategic level of food trade will require some investment. For example, our logistical infrastructure is highly inefficient although it’s slowly improving. In building more intermodal hubs, inland ports and efficient transport corridors, we can trade more using less energy.

Droughts are another issue that must be addressed.

Conscious of the increasing pressure on limited water resources, many nations have identified water scarcity as a critical piece to their agricultural puzzle. Water shortages in parts of Australia, Canada, China, Fiji, Kuwait, Liberia, Malawi, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda and the United States have been reported in the last five years.

Canada needs to invest in technologies to address our looming droughts. We can then sell (or share) this know-how. A Canadian-based global grain handling company is doing that now with Australia by sharing some of its intellectual property.

Such corporate behaviours should be encouraged.

In other words, the answers to climate change will come from the private sector, not government. But that doesn’t get governments off the hook in Copenhagen.

Agriculture in developing countries will likely get more attention than agriculture in developed nations, if it gets any serious attention at all. However, Canadian farmers, and their counterparts in other developed nations, would be in a better position to contribute to climatic healing if they got some much-needed regulatory and systemic support out of this important summit.

Contact Information:

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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