Manitoba Life Science News for 2010- A Look Ahead

Jan 8, 2010 | Corporate Member News

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2010- AN EXCITING YEAR AHEAD 

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Life Science Manitoba News issue of 2010. This newsletter was started last year as a way for LSAM to keep the life science community in Manitoba connected through updates on events, initiatives, training opportunities, conferences and on-goings in the industry. Our readership has crossed the 700 mark and continues to grow weekly. 

2010 promises to be an exciting year for LSAM and the life science industry and you will see that reflected in the newsletter. As LSAM members, life science students and industry leaders you are encouraged to contribute to the newsletter. If your company has information it would like to share or your association has an upcoming event please pass that information along to [email protected] and we will have it placed in the newsletter. 

The Board of Directors and staff for LSAM are energized for the year ahead and look forward to working with each of you to grow the life science sector in Manitoba. 

LSAM EVENTS COMMITTEE:

One of the areas of success for LSAM in 2009 was the expansion of our events. From the Annual Life Science Association Dinner & Life Science Awards which featured over 200 guests to the 10th Annual Golf Tournament, our events grew in both size and scope. There was also the addition of new events for LSAM last year such as our Day of Advocacy at the Manitoba Legislature which featured industry roundtables with government ministers and the Investor Boot Camp which offered members insight into the investment community for life sciences. 

As the size and scope of these events continues to grow LSAM would like to invite interested LSAM members to become a part of the brand new special events committee. This committee will only be responsible for assisting with the planning and execution of the larger LSAM events such as the dinner, the golf tournament and National Biotechnology Week. It is a great opportunity for you to become active in the life science community and assist LSAM with its activities. We are looking forward to relying on your skills and expertise to make our events for 2010 even better. 

If you are interested in being a member of this committee or would like more information please contact Jonathan Frate at (204) 272-5094 or by e-mail at [email protected]

UPCOMING EVENTS:

2010 MANITOBA VENTURE CHALLENGE 

The Manitoba Venture Challenge (MVC) is a province wide competition open to new and existing businesses seeking outside investment or in need of advice in order to launch or expand their businesses. The MVC is a partnership between ETT, the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Asper School of Business, and the private sector. The MVC will offer three Streams to entrepreneurs depending on the stage of development of their venture.  The Streams are: 

Stream 1 – Idea to Product

This stream will allow entrepreneurs to pitch their business idea to a panel of industry experts and receive feedback on how to proceed with the development of their idea. The Stream anticipates about 60 applicants that will present to a panel of industry experts. Stream 1 will take place on April 8th where each participant will present their idea before a panel of experts. The presentation will take place in the absence of other presenters. This will allow the presenter to pitch their idea without fear of others stealing the idea, and create a private comfortable atmosphere. The panel will then select 10 finalists based upon the likelihood of their idea being turned into a venture. Each of the 10 finalists will receive a $500 prize to be awarded at the finals luncheon in June.  

Stream 2 – Launch Pad

This stream is open to entrepreneurs who are at the start-up stage and are looking for their first round of financing from angel investors, lenders, or government sources.  A two day training session (April 14th & 15th) will describe various financing options, how to prepare the correct business plan, and venture mentoring to launch the venture and move it to Stream 3 in the following year. 

Stream 3 – Business Accelerator Financing

Stream 3 is open to entrepreneurs who to date have raised $300,000 (“A” Round) in start up financing and are seeking additional financing to grow their venture.  Emphasis will be on helping entrepreneurs develop an elevator pitch and presentation. This will be accomplished through the delivery of entrepreneurship boot camps and venture forum simulations that will show participants how investors evaluate ventures and how to present in a format that is attractive to investors.  Participants will have an opportunity to have their business plans evaluated and mentored by real investors. 

If you are interested there is an information session in Brandon on January 11th at the Victoria Inn at noon and in Winnipeg on January 12th at the Canad Inns Polo Park at noon. Complete details are available here

LEARN ABOUT NSERC OPPORTUNITIES- January 19th to January 22nd, 2010 

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports university students in their advanced studies, promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects. NSERC researchers are on the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence. 

Gillian Cooper, the Program Officer responsible for the NSERC Industrial Scholarships and Fellowships program will be in Winnipeg from January 19th to January 22nd. Both Gillian and Irene Mikawoz, Research and Innovation Development Officer for NSERC-Prairies will be available to meet with individual companies or with a group of companies. 

They would present information about the Industrial Scholarship and Fellowship program as well as the new Interaction and Engage program. These discussions can focus on answering questions concerning company eligibility, identifying possible partners for companies or basic program details. For more information please contact Jonathan Frate at [email protected] or contact NSERC-Prairies directly by e-mailing Irene Mikawoz at [email protected]

Business of Science in Manitoba: Life Science Careers & Entrepreneurial Skills Workshop- February 10th, 2010 

The Health Sciences Graduate Student’s Association (HSGSA) and LSAM are proud to present the first Business and Science Workshop at the University of Manitoba.  

The workshop will provide students the opportunity to interact with industry professionals and entrepreneurs to find out what they need to know when applying for a job with a life sciences company, or starting their own business within the life sciences sector. 

The life sciences sector encompasses all medically related business ranging from development of diagnostic tools or medical treatments, new chemicals/materials, innovative biological products, nutritional foods to developing more environmentally friendly means of energy production and sustainable medical research. 

The Business of Science in Manitoba: Life Science Careers & Entrepreneurial Skills Workshop will introduce students to the various aspects of starting a business, where to apply for funding, intellectual property and venture capital. Finally the day will round with a presentation from industry leaders in Manitoba on what they are looking for when hiring employees, what gives applicants an advantage and where they can go with a career in industry. 

At the end of the day, all participants are invited to attend the Wine and Cheese Mixer, during which time industry professionals will be present to talk to students one-on-one regarding job opportunities and  what they are looking for in an applicant.  All participants will be encouraged to network, and get to know the faces of industry in Manitoba.   

Presentation Schedule:

1-1:15: Introduction and overview of the life sciences industry in Manitoba and the globally

1:15-1:45: Life cycle of a life sciences company

1:45-2:15: How to start a business

2:15-2:30: Questions

2:30-2:50: Refreshment break

2:50-3:20: Intellectual property and venture capital

3:20-3:50: Government funding and programs

3:50-4:30: Job market skills – what you need to know when applying for a job with a life sciences company

4:30-7:00: Wine and Cheese Mixer – opportunity to chat one-on-one with industry professionals 

This event is offered free of charge by LSAM and the HSGSA, and we encourage all students to take advantage of this rare opportunity. Space is limited, so register early to reserve your spot. To register or for more information please visit http://lifesciencebizz.eventbrite.com

Centrallia- October 20-22, 2010 (Connect your business to opportunity worldwide) 

From October 20-22, 2010, more than 500 small to medium sized businesses from around the world will gather in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, during Centrallia to form new business relationships of mutual benefit. This global business to business forum is your company’s opportunity to forge profitable alliances with companies located in the Americas and across the world. Also present will be chambers of commerce, economic development agencies and government trade representatives from around the world, making this an excellent opportunity to learn about the nuances of exporting to numerous global markets. 

Centrallia is based on the internationally recognized business to business match-making forum called Futurallia, which has successfully brought thousands of businesses together since its founding in 1990. At the core of the concept are a series of 30 minute, pre-programmed, one-on-one meetings that allow businesses to quickly connect and find ground for common opportunity. It is an intense, yet friendly and cooperative environment, that allows delegates to meet with up to 12 potential trade partners over two days. Further opportunities to meet and network are abundant through Centrallia’s tradeshow and social events. It is simply one of the fastest, most efficient ways to expose your business to new markets and opportunities worldwide. 

For more information or to register please visit http://www.centrallia.com

LSAM Member Update: 

Membership Renewals 

Just a friendly reminder that LSAM has sent out its 2010 membership renewals in mid December. The renewals included your 2010 invoice, details of upcoming LSAM events, and an outline of LSAM membership benefits. 

Later this month, 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. 

Miraculins Announces Partnership with Inverness Medical Innovations to Develop a Diagnostic Test for Preeclampsia 

Miraculins Inc. is pleased to announce that it has entered into a partnership with Inverness Medical Innovations, Inc., a global leader in the convergence of medical diagnostic testing and health management, to advance and commercialize Miraculins’ preeclampsia technology. 

Miraculins’ preeclampsia technology is based on a suite of 35 novel biomarkers involved in the development of the placenta and the biology implicated in the development of preeclampsia, a debilitating and potentially fatal complication of pregnancy. The goal of the partnership is to commercialize Miraculins’ biomarkers for worldwide distribution. Through a Collaborative Research and Option Agreement, Inverness, through its Biosite division, will develop tests for Miraculins’ biomarkers and will evaluate their performance in large cohorts of patient blood samples. The biomarkers will also be assessed for their utility in detecting intrauterine growth restriction and other diseases of pregnancy. 

In addition to its research and development commitment, Inverness will pay a non refundable fee to Miraculins for the exclusive option to license and commercialize any biomarkers of interest from the program. Miraculins retains certain commercial rights to pursue complementary commercial strategies for the markers and receives from Inverness a secure supply of reagents and certain rights to intellectual property related to the biomarker endoglin. 

Currently, preeclampsia affects three million mothers worldwide every year and is associated with premature births and infant illness including cerebral palsy, blindness, epilepsy, deafness and lung conditions. There is no effective detection method for the risk of preeclampsia and the cause is unknown. It is estimated that preeclampsia costs the global health care system US$3 billion per year. 

 “Inverness is the ideal partner for the development and commercialization of a much needed test for preeclampsia”, said Christopher J. Moreau, President and CEO of Miraculins. “In addition to Inverness’ established expertise in women’s healthcare, pregnancy and fertility monitoring, we view Inverness’ unique antibody development capabilities, acquired through its 2007 purchase of Biosite Incorporated, as paramount to the value of this collaborative research program. We are pleased to have the development costs and responsibilities for this program supported by Inverness and we believe this deal demonstrates the significant value of both our business model and our preeclampsia technology.” 

LIFE SCIENCE IN THE NEWS: 

Canada’s Isotope Shortage Still a Crisis: Doctors

Whatever happened to the medical isotope crisis? The story dominated headlines back in the spring, as the shutdown of a key nuclear reactor turned into political hot potato as thousands of patients were left in the lurch. 

And then along came swine flu. 

Somewhere in the confusion over H1N1 and the politics of a pandemic, the isotopes story fell off the radar. But the crisis has continued for patients and likely will continue still even after the reactor gets back online next spring, doctors say. 

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s NRU reactor at Chalk River supplied a third of the world’s medical isotopes and 80 per cent of the isotopes for the Canadian market, before workers discovered a pin-sized hole in the reactor back in May. 

NRU was supposed to be shut down for a month for a quick fix, then that that turned into three months. Then, when the reactor was drained and more holes found, the reactor was shut down for a long-term repair. At the moment, AECL’s best estimate is the reactor will be back up in March. 

For the last seven months, nuclear medicine practitioners in Canada have been without their key supply of molybdenum-99 (mo-99), whose derivative, technetium-99m (Tc-99m), is the most widely used isotope in nuclear medicine scans. Only a handful of nuclear reactors in the world make mo-99 and most of North America’s supply came from Chalk River. 

Within weeks of the shutdown, medical tests were postponed and some cancelled, while Canada procured isotopes from a handful of other reactors around the world and doctors scrambled to make do with an erratic supply. 

None of that has changed over the last seven months, Dr. Jean-Luc Urbain, president of the Canadian Nuclear Medicine Association, told a Commons committee back in October.

Urbain said the supply of Tc-99m that Canadian hospitals have been able to get their hands on has varied from week to week, with most weeks seeing about half the supply they used to have access to. 

Doctors, technologists, and support personnel have had to work double shifts and juggle patient and physician appointments when supplies of technetium were good, then switch to different protocols and isotopes when they weren’t. 

They’ve have also had to rely on alternative and older isotopes as well – thallium-201 to image patients with cardiac diseases, as an example. 

“Over the past six months, we went back in time and we practise now nuclear medicine the way I was practising in the 1980s,” Urbain told the MPs. 

“So we went from a 21st-century type of service to a 20th-century type of service.” 

The results have meant increased costs, cancelled procedures (both treatment and diagnoses) and even a reduction in the enrollment for medical students into nuclear medicine. For those reasons, said Urbain, the true effect of the isotope shortage may not be seen for a few years yet, when patients are finally diagnosed with advanced heart problems or cancer. 

Meanwhile, there are still no clear answers on how long the reactor can be expected to last once it’s back up and running again, nor is it clear what Canada should do to replace it.

Dr. Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told a House of Commons health committee last month that while the health-care system has been “coping” with the isotope shortage, the ongoing problems with Canada’s supply cannot continue to be ignored. 

An Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production, created in the spring after the NRU reactor went down, released a report earlier this month recommending that the best long-term solution would be to build a new reactor, even though that could cost as much as $1.2 billion.

Whichever long-term solution Canada decides to go with, it should be chosen soon, say most observers. The current crisis has already been a black eye to Canada, compromised the health of too many patients already and hurt, perhaps permanently, the country’s reputation as a leader in nuclear medicine. 

Was Swine Flu Overhyped? Analysts Still Debating 

It’s hard to believe that 12 months ago, not many of us had ever heard the terms “swine flu” “H1N1” or even “adjuvant.” But in the last eight months, many Canadians learned more about influenza than they ever would have imagined, thanks to stern health official warnings and breathless media coverage. 

So with the dreaded “second wave” now appearing over, was H1N1 a “dud” of a pandemic, as Dr. Richard Schabas, medical officer of health for Ontario’s Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, declared earlier this year? 

Or did we escape a potential disaster, perhaps only because information campaigns and vaccine programs were so effective? 

Dr. Donald Low, a microbiologist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, says to blow off H1N1 as a blip would be irresponsible. 

“This was not a dud,” he told CTV.ca by phone, noting that any form of flu can be a serious infection. 

He estimates that about 60 to 70 per cent of Canadians who were infected with H1N1 got sick enough that they had to stay at home, feeling miserable. Many were hospitalized, pregnancies failed, and of course, many died or ended up on ICU ventilators. And all of this occurred within a second wave that lasted just a few weeks. 

But Dr. Neil Rau is not convinced H1N1 was worth all the fuss it garnered, insisting the strain turned out not to be any worse a virus than seasonal flu. 

“This was the mildest of mild pandemics,” he told CTV.ca in an email interview. “It is surprising to still see this pandemic being labelled by the WHO as ‘moderate’ rather than ‘mild’ so many months after we first began to appreciate its severity.” 

The official number of deaths H1N1 has caused worldwide since April, according to the World Health Organization, is slightly more than 10,000. But that is almost surely an under-representation of the actual numbers, as many deaths are never tested or recognized as influenza related, particularly in countries with scarce medical resources. 

A British study estimated the pandemic killed about 26 out of every 100,000 people who became infected. And Dr. Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University told a meeting of flu experts held by the U.S. Institute of Medicine he thinks H1N1 had a death rate of between 0.007 per cent an 0.045 per cent. 

In contrast, seasonal flu has a death rate of less than 0.1 per cent. 

While much attention with this virus has focused on its unusual ability to infect children, who became infected at much higher rates than they normally do with season flu strains, in the end few children died of swine flu. It was those over 55 who had the highest mortality rates, even though they were least likely to become infected. 

Canada was at the forefront of the initial research into swine flu right from the start. The Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg was first to map the genetic code of the H1N1 virus in April, and officials then swiftly implemented their plan to develop a vaccine. 

Rau says in retrospect, the July decision to manufacture enough vaccine for all Canadians was the correct one. But once it became clear that H1N1 was not causing severe disease in healthy people, he thinks the plan should have been scaled back, since the mass vaccination program was neither necessary nor cost-effective, he believes. 

“A targeted vaccine program from the outset would have made more sense and might have been more successful,” he said. 

“The wrong people were encouraged to get the vaccine well before there was enough vaccine to fulfill demand for anyone and everyone.” 

Both Rau and Low agree — and probably most Canadians would as well — that the early distribution of the vaccine was a mess. Local public health units were ill-prepared to handle the demand, and every region had a different, confusing approach as to who should access the vaccine first. 

While lessons will be learned in that regard, Dr. Low says one decision that PHAC officials made early on now seems to have been the right call: the decision to add an adjuvant with the vaccine. 

The adjuvant boosted the vaccine’s immune response and allowed manufacturers to use a smaller amount of “pure vaccine” in each dose at a time when manufacturers were having trouble producing large amounts of vaccine quickly. 

“I think the right decision was made — and it’s being proven now — to use an adjuvanted vaccine. That was the right way to go,” Low says. 

Low concedes it was a tough call, because an adjuvant in a flu vaccine was something Canada had never used before and there were widespread worries that the vaccine wouldn’t be safe. 

“But at the end of the day, when we look to our neighbours to the south, they’re still trying to get out their vaccine — and not very effectively, while we pretty well have finished,” Low says. 

But Rau isn’t ready to say that the adjuvant decision was the right way to go. 

He’s not yet convinced that the adjuvant really improved immune responses compared with the non-adjuvanted vaccine. And he says the messaging about the unclear safety of the unadjuvanted vaccine only confused Canadians. 

“The communications regarding the safety of adjuvants became a nightmare for PHAC, and created a perception of lesser safety for the adjuvanted form than the unadjuvanted form, especially when pregnant women were offered the latter,” Rau says. 

“The ‘tried and true path’ is likely the better path to take in the midst of an emergency situation.” 

What really bogged down the vaccine rollout was the decision to suddenly stop vaccine production to focus on non-adjuvanted vaccine. The timing of that move could not have been worse, coming as it did during the peak of the second wave. 

“We had a good vaccine giving a good immune response and we got held up by a couple of weeks — if not more — because of that. We could have had the vaccine rolled out that much earlier,” says Low. 

Federal officials have reportedly learned from that mistake, with a source telling The Globe and Mail last month that when the time comes to renegotiate the pandemic vaccine contract, more than one manufacturer will be chosen.

What also needs to change in the future is Canada’s pandemic plan, Rau believes. He says the plan was too focused on a worst-case scenario, so that when it emerged this pandemic was milder than planned for, there was no way to “dial it down.” 

“We should not be patting ourselves on the back for having grotesquely over-estimated the burden of a problem. Over-estimation of the problem was incredibly resource-intensive,” says Rau.

“Too much planning is bad thing.” 

 

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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