The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

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

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Friday Science Review: September 28, 2012

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a mainstay model organism for molecular biology, where dissection of its signaling pathways and interaction networks are used to build models that can be extrapolated to other higher organisms. Closer to home, S. cerevisiae shares many conserved features with other yeast species, such as Candida albicans, which can be opportunistic human pathogens. The virulence of C. albicans has been correlated to its ability to switch between budding yeast to filamentous forms, an ability that is shared by S. cerevisiae. Therefore, understanding the genes involved in the different morphologies of S. cerevisiae, which includes distinct forms of filamentation, can therefore lead to an increased understanding of the pathogenesis of opportunistic fungal infections – a growing problem amongst immunocompromised patients

In an international collaboration, led by the Boone lab at the University of Toronto, a global gene deletion approach was used to explore the genes required for the filamentous growth programs. In their paper published in Science, they show that unique genes appear to underlie each filamentation program, but that some key genes are important across filamentous growth. These core genes include MFG1 (YDL233w), whose gene product acts as a regulator of filamentous growth by binding to Flo8 and Mss11, transcription factors previously found to have morphogenetic roles. With the identification of MFG1 as a key regulator of filamentation, the potential for a novel therapeutic strategy to prevent the invasion of human tissues by filamentous fungal species like C. albicans arises.

Monday Deal Review: September 24, 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for September 24, 2012. A busy week in investment stories includes Valeant’s launch of unsecured notes through its subsidiary VPI Escrow Corp, and MedX Health Corp.’s plans to offer 15,000,000 in common shares. Read on to learn more.
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Friday Science Review: September 21, 2012

Left-sided congenital heart disease (LS-CHD) is one of the most commonly seen forms of cardiac malformations. Affected individuals suffer from a spectrum of cardiac issues that include bicuspid aortic valves, aortic valve stenosis, narrowing of the aorta  and underdevelopment of the left side of the heart (hypoplastic left heart syndrome). Several lines of evidence indicate that LS-CHD is due to genetic factors, but the specific genetic causes are not currently known. An international collaboration, headed by the Andelfinger lab at the Université de Montréal, set out to explore the role of structural genomic variations by searching for copy number variants present in only affected individuals and not other family members.

Their study, reported in PLOS Genetics, revealed 25 new candidate genes for LS-CHD. The genes had diverse functions and included the SMC1A gene, involved in sister chromatid cohesion, MFAP4, believed to be involved in in cell adhesion or intercellular interactions, and CTHRC1, which is involved in vascular remodelling. Together it builds a picture that suggests broad alterations in angiogenesis may be the root cause of at least some of the incidences of LS-CHD. This work is part of the first steps in determining the detailed molecular pathophysiological mechanism of LS-CHD, an important part of understanding the diversity of patient outcomes and of developing therapies.

Biotech Capital Markets – Who are the players? Part 20 of Valuation and Other Biotech Mysteries

[Ed. This is the twentieth part in Wayne's series. You can access the whole thing by clicking here. Please leave comments or questions on the blog and Wayne will address them in future posts in this series.]

I am starting the final part of this blog series with a description of the main players in the capital market – what do they do, who do they interact with and how do they generate revenue. These blogs will be written for the person who has little or no knowledge of capital markets. For simplicity, I am only going to deal with equities (stocks) in the public market.

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Monday Deal Review: September 17, 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for September 17, 2012. This week’s big news includes Valeant’s plans to syndicate an additional $1,000,000,000 of incremental term B loans, and Cangene’s sale of 3 plasma centres to U.S-based Grifols.  Read on to learn more.
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Monday Deal Review: September 10, 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for September 10, 2012. This week’s highlights include Zymeworks Inc.’s completion of a common share offering, as well as their achievement of a major research milestone with Merck.  Read on for more.
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Friday Science Review: September 7, 2012

This week saw the publication of two important papers on protein-protein interactions. The first paper, from a collaboration led by Andrew Emili at the University of Toronto, was published in the journal Cell and details a census of soluble protein complexes from human cells. In a second complementary paper, published in Nature and led by Jack Greenblatt also at the University of Toronto (and also involving their next door neighbours, the Emili lab), the first global, high-confidence physical interaction map of membrane proteins from Saccharomyces cerevisiae was developed.

Both of these studies produced a wealth of information and provide important resources to identify candidate disease genes, as well as to predict the function of individual proteins within their respective complexes. Indeed, the human cell census identified over 300 previously un-annotated protein complexes, that comprised over 1,000 proteins, some of which are have already been linked to human disease. Similarly the membrane protein study identified more than 1,700 membrane protein-protein interactions and 500 putative protein complexes that involved a membrane protein. On this later point, it is important to remember that membrane proteins represent the majority of drug targets, but have been notoriously difficult to study due to their amphipathic nature.

In addition to the identification of new protein complexes, both papers allowed the exploration of the evolutionary conservation of protein complexes across different species that emphasizes a generally high degree of conservation, but that could ultimately reveal the dangers and limitations of using simpler organisms as models of human diseases.

Monday Deal Review: September 3, 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for September 3, 2012.  A slow week was capped by today’s announcement that Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. will acquire dermatology specialist Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  The deal, which pushes Valeant’s total 2012 acquisition spending to over $3.5 billion, continues Valeant CEO Michael Pearson’s strategy of “using M&A as a surrogate for R&D.” Read on to learn more.
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