The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Monday Deal Review: August 27, 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for August 27, 2012.  Highlights from the previous two weeks include Miraculins Inc’s grant of stock options and distribution agreement with London Drugs, Microbix Biosyetem’s licensing of a thrombolytic biopharmaceutical to Zydus Cadila, and BIOREM’s closing of its private placement.  The Monday Deal Review for August 13, 2012 also marked the last Review authored by Jacob Cawker.  We’d like to thank Jacob for his hard work and years of service! For more about me, please see my Bio, here.  Read on to learn more. Read more of this post

Friday Science Review: August 24, 2012

Reduced blood flow to organs and peripheral tissue, as might be expected, leads to cell necrosis and death. The nature of the resulting ischemic disease depends upon the specific tissue affected and spans the range from acute conditions such as acute coronary syndrome or acute kidney injury, to chronic conditions such as peripheral artery disease and angina. Despite the development of both pharmacological and surgical treatment strategies, ischemic disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. As such, therapies that will reduce ischemia by promoting the regeneration of damaged vasculature are an active area of active research and cell-based therapies represent one avenue being pursued.

In a paper in Stem Cells, researchers at the University of Western Ontario show that by selecting for a rare population of aldehyde dehydrogenase expressing cells from human umbilical cord blood they could promote vascular regeneration in an animal model of ischemic disease. This rare population of cells (<0.5%) is enriched for early myeloid and stem cell-associated cells and displays a pro-angiogenic transcription profile, including the hallmark angiogenic signaling factors ANGPT1 and VEGFA. In vitro cell culture efficacy was demonstrated in experiments that showed that this cell population was able to promote human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) survival and tube-like cord formation, both being indicators of pro-angiogenic activity. Interestingly, permanent engraftment of the cells was not required for the vascular regeneration, which increases the clinical development potential by potentially avoiding the need for long-term immune suppression of a patient receiving this allogeneic cell therapy approach.

Financings by Public Canadian Healthcare Companies in H1 2012

Public Canadian healthcare companies raised over $1 billion in equity and convertible debt financings in the first half of 2012. Before anybody wonders whether another biotech boom has suddenly appeared, a closer look at the details shows a different reality.

Large equity and convertible debt financings by profitable Canadian healthcare service companies in the first half of 2012 totaled $1,048 million. These are profitable companies, three of which do monthly distributions to shareholders. These companies fit the current risk profile of many investors, who are looking for profits, value and yield.

  • SXC Health Solutions                                      $541.8 million
  • Chartwell Seniors Housing REIT                $339.3 million (equity and convertible debt)
  • HealthLease Properties REIT                      $110.0 million (IPO)
  • Leisureworld Senior Care                             $  56.4 million

The total for the rest of the sector was about $288 million for equity and convertible debt deals closed in H1 2012. A financing over $10 million indicates that a company, especially one developing a novel therapeutic, may have a chance to plan its future, as opposed to just survive. This list includes:

  • YM BioSciences                            $80.5 M
  • Novadaq Technologies              $40.3 M
  • Oncolytics Biotech                      $21.3 M
  • Bioniche Life Sciences               $20.0 M (debt)
  • BELLUS Health                              $17.3 M (includes plan of arrangement proceeds)
  • Merus Labs                                     $17.3 M (equity plus debt)

Removing these large financings leaves about $127 million for the remaining over 100 companies in the sector to share. A small amount of additional funding came from exercise of warrants, government grants and milestone payments from partners.

The financing numbers in this post were compiled from the Q2 2012 Canadian Healthcare Review (pdf), co-authored by myself and Ross Marshall, Senior Vice President, The Equicom Group Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMX Group Inc. 

Monday Biotech Deal Review: August 13, 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for August 13, 2012.  Highlights from the previous two weeks include the announcement of an interim order for a plan of arrangement between QHR Technologies Inc. and Open EC Technologies and the announcement of a support agreement for the takeover of Life Bank by Insception Biosciences.  Read on to learn more. Read more of this post

Friday Science Review: August 3, 2012

Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly pressing public health problem. While the prevalence of resistance is increasing, there is a simultaneous dearth of newly approved or in development drugs. For those that are in development the majority are natural products or derivatives thereof. Most of these represent improved variants of marketed compounds rather than a new mechanistic class, which increases the risk of the rapid appearance of resistance. The small pipeline and current lack of diversity therefore means the identification of novel antibiotics is an important task.

Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) represent one such class and are produced by all living species. These peptides have varied structures, but share the feature of a segregation of cationic and hydrophobic resides and it is this gross physiochemical property that underlies the antibiotic effects. Multiple mechanisms can be involved in the bactericidal activity, including membrane disruption, binding of DNA and other cellular components. However, the ability to translate the promise of CAMPs into antibiotics is hampered by their pharmacokinetic properties and especially their susceptibility to degradation by serum proteases.

Various strategies are available to address the stability problems of potential peptide therapeutics and this week’s paper by the Schweizer lab at the University of Manitoba focuses on examining the potential of the incorporation of peptoid residues into CAMP’s to improve their stability. Encouragingly their peptoid analogues had similar activities to the parent peptides, again supporting the idea that CAMPs work through gross physical chemical properties rather than specific structural features. The next step for the researchers is to show that the retained activity is bolstered by improved serum stability.

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