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

Tag Archives: Canada

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. 

Some Top-Line Numbers From 2011 For Public Canadian Healthcare Companies

The numbers have been crunched in preparation for the 2011 Canadian Healthcare Annual Review, which I co-author with Ross Marshall, Senior Vice President at The Equicom Group. Prior to its publication later this month, we are going to give you a look at some of the top-line numbers.

The biggest concern in the sector is financing, both in Canada and globally. Two groups of numbers are shown below for our universe of public Canadian healthcare companies (132 companies to start 2011) – total equity and convertible debt financings by the group, and financings by development stage companies only (shown in millions of dollars). The 2011 total for the development stage companies is about the same at it was for the prior two years but is less than half of the average raised in 2005-2007.

Another major concern for both companies and shareholders is share price performance. We monitor share prices of a group of companies which started 2011 with a share price of $0.10 or higher and also look at two sub-groups. There were 104 companies in this group to start 2011 but only 97 companies actively trading as healthcare companies at the end.

The Equicom 2011 Canadian Healthcare Annual Review will look more closely at these numbers and the events from 2011, and discuss the results of its recent investor survey.

Canadian Biotech and Healthcare Licensing Trends in 2010

I was fortunate this week to host the Canadian Healthcare Licensing Association‘s (CHLA’s) annual holiday get-together on behalf of Ogilvy Renault at our Toronto office (we hosted a parallel CHLA event in Montreal earlier this week). I presented a short slide deck on licensing trends in 2010, with data drawn from our Monday Biotech Deal Reviews and from Wayne Schnarr’s quarterly reports. For your viewing enjoyment,the slideshare version is below. You can also download a pdf of the presentation here.

Cephalon-Ception’s Canadian Connection: Great News for Lumira Capital and McMaster in $250 million Option Deal

At the beginning of 2009, when Ception Therapeutics was working on mid-stage trials of its lead compound, it struck an option deal with Cephalon (NASDAQ: CEPH): $100 million up-front, and an option to acquire the rest of Ception for $250 million more. 

This week, Cephalon exercised the option after taking a look at Phase II results for Cinquil (reslizumab), a novel biologic that could potentially be used to treat asthma and Pediatric Eosinophilic Esophagitis. 

Among many other beneficiaries, foremost among them hopefully being patients, this deal is great news for Canadian-based VC firm Lumira Capital*, which co-led the deal, and for McMaster University, which did some of the clinical work on the drug. 

According to FierceBiotech, the $350 million paid so far is not the end of the story either, as Ception shareholders will benefit from future clinical and regulatory milestones.

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* occasional contributors to this publication.

Three Need-To-Know Canadian Patent Decisions That Impact Pharma, Biotech and Generics Companies

In Canada, linkage regulations similar to the Hatch-Waxman Act in the U.S. ensure that generics manufacturers have to address relevant patents listed on the Patent Register (the analog to the Orange Book) if they want to market their product prior to the expiry of listed patents.   Generics manufacturers can do so either by accepting the terms of the patents, or by filing a Notice of Allegation (NOA) alleging, amongst other things, that they will not infringe the patent or that the patent is invalid.

Three recent decisions litigated in this context contain important notes for pharma companies, biotech companies, generics companies and their patent attorneys and agents. 

  1. The Patent Act (post-1996) Imposes a Duty of Candour and Good Faith. In Lundbeck Canada Inc. et al  v. Ratiopharm Inc., Lundbeck’s patent was invalidated because the patent agents failed to “fully and fairly describe[]” the prior art in responding to an obviousness rejection raised by the patent examiner.  This decision may take on a broader impact, particularly if it is interpreted to require Canadian applicants to affirmatively inform examiners of aspects of the prior art that are both favourable and unfavourable.
  2. Formulation Patents Must Claim All Medicinal Ingredients.  In Bayer Inc. v. Canada (Minister of Health) et. al., Bayer’s patent was held to be ineligible for listing on the Patent Register, despite reading on the product.  Where the approved product contains a formulation with more than one medicinal ingredient, only patents that claim formulations containing all of the approved medicinal ingredients may be listed on the Patent Register, regardless of whether the product is covered by the patent claims.
  3. Disclaimers Can Be Validly Filed After Receipt of a NOA.  In sanofi-aventis Canada Inc. v. Hospira Healthcare Corporation, sanofi responded to Hospira’s NOA by filing a disclaimer in respect of a portion of one of sanofi’s listed patents.  Hospira argued that the Court should consider the sanofi patent as it read on the date the NOA was served and not as it read after the disclaimer was filed.  Although the court held (in favour of sanofi) that the patent should be read as of the date of the hearing, it also held that sanofi’s particular disclaimer was invalid because the patentee had not unequivocally testified that the disclaimer was a result of claiming too broadly in the patent as issued. Such an admission was necessary to the validity of the disclaimer.  The court also held that having attempted a disclaimer, sanofi could not subsequently assert against Hospira the portions of the patent it had attempted to disclaim.

Thanks to Kavita Ramamoorthy and the whole Life Sciences team.

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Canadian Announcement on Merck–Schering-Plough Transaction Closing

Merck closed its merger with Schering-Plough yesterday, following regulatory clearance in China and Mexico.  They held press events yesterday and today, and this morning they appear to have released country-specific announcments.

Here’s the blurb on Canadian operations:

“Canada is an integral part of the company’s expanded global presence. Merck will now market over 530 pharmaceutical, consumer and animal health products, employ over 1800 people, generate over $1.2 billion in pharmaceutical sales and invest over $121 million in research and development in Canada. Merck operations in Canada include research, manufacturing, and sales.”

The Merck Canada website is still being updated.

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A New Online Resource for Canadian Patients: MedSchoolForYou.com

MedSchoolForYou LogomdBriefCase Inc., which provides online education for Canadian medical professionals, is branching out into the consumer market.  Their new website, MedSchoolForYou.com, will provide Canadian-specific online medical information for patients. 

With different drug nomenclature and different regulatory and reimbursement environments, a Canada-specific health resource could be extremely helpful.  At launch, the new site is limited to “Pain Management” information, but there are lots of “coming soon” labels (hopefully a better homepage design and a functioning search box are also pending).

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Trends Update — IP Constituencies: India’s Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Sets an Example for Canadian Innovation

This blog has been following the increasing innovative activity taking place in India’s and China’s biopharma industries, and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals is a great example of this trend.

Forbes profiled Glenmark this week (H/T FierceBiotech), noting that it started in 1978 as a generics firm but now has 7 clinical-stage compounds and has partnerships with Forest Labs in the U.S. and Teijin Pharma in Japan.

There are two really interesting points raised in the article:

  1. Glenmark is using its revenues from generics to fund its innovative R&D programs. Biotech business models have long incorporated quick revenue as a funding source for long-term R&D; but the typical focus for the short term is on services revenue (because it typically leverages the platform they’re building anyway).  For long-term survival, though, nothing beats tearing a page out of Big Pharma’s playbook.  In Canada, Bioniche’s tenacity is fueled in no small part by animal health revenues, mimicking the Big Pharma animal health divisions.  Glenmark, similarly, has ridden into R&D on the back of the other Big Pharma cash cow — generics.
  2. Glenmark saw a strong IP regime as an opportunity. I’ve been hypothesizing that more innovative activity will drive more support for IP protection in India and China; but Glenmark is an example of the opposite causal relationship:

    “During his time in the U.S., Saldanha could see that India was likely to join the World Trade Organization and that meant come 2005 it would have to respect patent laws: ‘Generics generate cash, but we needed innovation to take us into the future.’”

My bottom line: Glenmark is a great example of how to look to the future and build for it.  Canada has an opportunity now, on a national scale, to deploy its revenue both within the biopharma industry (from our generics companies) and outside it (from our natural resources) to build for the future Saldanha saw.  We’d better seize that opportunity while we can.

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Trends Update — IP Constituencies: Rotman Article Explores Canadian Biotech Collaborations with Developing Countries

A very interesting article in Nature Biotechnology from a group at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health provides some empirical support for a trend we’ve been following of increased innovative activity in developing countries

According to the article, over 25% of Canadian biotechs collaborate with developing countries.  Of these, however, the vast majority of companies do so alongside collaborations with other developed country partners — only 4% collaborate exclusively with developing countries.  Also, gaining access to developing countries’ markets is the most frequent (66%) reason cited for collaboration.

Still, some of the data reflects the growing importance of developing country collaboration (China and India in particular):

  • Canadian firms’ collaborations with India (17) and China (22) nearly equal the number of collaborations with Japan (18) and Germany (23); and
  • Accessing knowledge from developing countries’ partners (24%) is approaching providing knowledge to developing countries’ partners (37%) as a reason for collaboration.

How do these collaborations look overall?

Collaborations article - nbt0909-806-F4

The figure from the paper on the left shows the geography of, and rationale for, the collaborations. Part “a” shows marketing and distribution collaborations, and part “b” shows those involving an R&D component.

 

What is the effect of all this activity?

Well, it’s hard to quantify, but the authors review revenue data from public company respondents and find that:

“average total revenues of firms that have North–South collaborations are nearly four times higher than firms that do not have such partnerships.” 

My bottom line: causal or not, that’s a correlation that should cause all biotech companies to take note.

What Makes MIT So Good at Entrepreneurship

I joined the NCET2 webinar of Edward Roberts’ presentation last week — “Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT” — to see what I could glean for Toronto’s benefit as we work toward creating a more entreprenuerial environment on University Ave. 

The webinar homepage has the audio of the talk and a link to the slides.

Some of the most interesting bits to me were:

  1. Literal tech transfer is a very small part of the innovation ecosystem:  although 30 startup firms got licenses from the MIT tech licensing office (TLO) in 2000, over 1,000 companies were started up by MIT alumni that year.
  2. The benefit of immigration: “~30% of foreign‐student alumni become entrepreneurs vs. ~20% of U.S.‐born alumni; half of the foreign‐student entrepreneurs remain in the U.S.” Roberts suggests a selection bias (the act of emigrating for school is itself entrepreneurial), but the take-away remains that these immigrants are good at creating jobs and we should encourage as many as possible to stay.
  3. Suggestions for other institutions:
    • Institutional leadership and senior role models are required.
    • Remove barriers to entrepreneurship in rules and regs.
    • Consider supplemental incubator resources or even seed funding directly from universities.
    • Engage alumni.
    • Build internal entrepreneurship education programs, with integrated academic and practitioner faculty participants.
    • Hold business plan competitions.
    • Realign tech transfer offices: fewer lawyers, more project managers.*
  4. The value of VC alumni — although it’s not what you might expect — data from China suggest that connections will get a meeting with VCs but will not affect investment decisions.

*Note: A slip of the tongue, or an easy scapegoat: as Roberts no doubt knows, the best lawyers are excellent project managers.

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UPDATED Merial in Canada: Sanofi-Aventis to Buy Merck Out for $4 Billion, May (Re)Combine with Intervet Post-Merger

The New York Times’ DealBook blog reports that regulatory concerns about Merck’s purchase of Schering-Plough, presumably Schering’s Intervet animal health subsidiary, required Merck to divest its stake in Merial – its animal health JV with sanofi-aventis.  Sanofi is kindly obliging, for $4 billion.

Interestingly (given DealBook’s reporting that the JV divestiture is antitrust-driven), Merck, sanofi and Schering also entered into  a call option agreement (pdf), giving sanofi-aventis the option to combine Intervet with Merial following the Merck-Schering merger to form a new animal health joint venture with post-merger Merck.

The blurb on Merial Canada, which has what appears to be a small presence in Baie D’urfé Québec, is available for your viewing pleasure after the jump…

Trends in 2009: Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests Come to Canada

B&W_DNA_sequenceThis week saw the introduction of what I believe is Canada’s first personal genomics service offering.  Toronto’s Medcan Clinic paired up with California-based Navigenics to scan individuals’ genomes for a variety of disease markers.

Personal genomics is a burgeoning trend this year, which according to a special report in April’s Economist, will only be further boosted by a Moore’s Law-type improvement in sequencing power and price.  Available service offerings range from whole genome sequencing (e.g., Illumina and Knome) that costs tens of thousands of dollars to targeted scans typically offered for under $500 by a much wider variety of providers (Navigenics, 23andMe, deCODE and Pathway Genomics).

Regulation of DTC Testing:

In the U.S., the regulatory environment has settled down somewhat over the last 6 months, with most U.S. states regulating DTC genetics companies as clinical labs and the providers registering as such on a regular basis, including CLIA certification.  However, the HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society is due to meet in October to further discuss whether DTC genetic tests should be regulated as medical devices.  The CDC has released a report entitled “Good Laboratory Practices for Molecular Genetic Testing for Heritable Diseases and Conditions” setting out best practices both for testing and interpretation.

In Ontario, there are a number of regulatory considerations (thanks on these points for input from Will Chung, of our renowned Life Sciences team):

  1. Private labs and specimen collection centres require licenses and are governed by the Laboratory and Specimen Collection Centre Licensing Act (LSCCLA). However, blood collection at such facilities is governed by separate legislation which controls who may draw blood and for what purpose.
  2. The LSCCLA requires that only “legally qualified medical practitioners” are permitted to examine specimens, which means that patients may not directly order testing of their own blood at private licensed labs.
  3. Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act stipulates that communicating a “diagnosis” is a “controlled act” which may only be performed by a person authorized by a health profession Act, although it is not clear that DTC genomics results are a “diagnosis.”

Medscan seems to have navigated the regulatory waters, but time will tell how these laws are applied and/or modified.

In the EU, the European Society for Human Genetics advocates for pre-market review for “truthful labeling and promotion” as well as post-market evaluation of DTC genetic tests. In May, Germany passed a law restricting the availability of DTC genomics services by requiring testing to be carried out by a licensed doctor following the patient’s consent.”

How much protection do consumers need?

Many commentators are concerned with the public’s ability to understand these tests and distinguish between those that are clinically meaningful and those that are more … snake-oily.  Others object on the basis that there is little value added absent any available treatment — many preventive measures are things we already know we should do, like eat well, exercise, etc.  A number of groups, including advocacy group Genetic Alliance and the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University have called for a national registry of DTC genetic tests that would include performance data.

Others (and not just 23andMe’s founders) take a more libertarian view.  Ronald Bailey, the science columnist at Reason, agrees that people probably don’t need to be “protected against learning such information without the guidance of a knowledgeable physician or genetic counselor.”  In fact, a lawsuit in May brought by a girl born with Fragile X syndrome against the sperm bank that didn’t test for the predisposition may drive  higher demand for genetic testing in the fertility context which may in turn drive supply of services and diagnostic tools and may contribute to normalizing broader parental testing and pre-implantation screening.

Interestingly, a NEJM report a couple of weeks ago showed no lasting psychological damage from a genetic prognosis of increased Alzheimer’s risk.  By the time a year passed after the results, subjects who had an increased Alzheimer’s risk were no more depressed, anxious, or distressed than when they started the study.

Most importantly, 98% of patients in the Alzheimer’s study who tested positive said they would still get tested if offered the choice again.  98% is a lot. It suggests that DTC services will be increasingly popular, particularly as the price drops and the quality of the data, the analytics and the available counseling continue to improve.

Stay tuned to this page for further DTC genetics news and analysis.

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Canada’s Data Protection Regulations Upheld Against Court Challenge

Scale_of_justiceJPEGLast Friday* the Federal Court of Canada upheld the constitutional validity of Canada’s Data Protection Regulations, dismissing the applications of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association and Apotex Inc.

Canada’s data protection regime provides innovative drugs with:

  • a six-year data exclusivity period;
  • an eight-year market exclusivity period; and
  • an additional six-month period of market exclusivity in some cases for pediatric applications.

The Data Protection Regulations were enacted in 2006 to bring Canada into compliance with its TRIPS and NAFTA obligations.  Here’s today’s press release from Rx&D.

*The decision has not yet been posted. The citation will be 2009 FC 725.

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New Data Shows 70% of Canada’s Biotech Companies Have Under 12 Months’ Cash. BIOTECanada’s New Ask: Government Loans.

Canadian moneyA Canwest story today highlights new BIOTECanada data showing 70% of survey respondents have under 1 year of cash, up from 50% in January.  FierceBiotech picked it up as well, guaranteeing a full dose of international attention.  

Even though the remaining 30% of respondents likely include some with big recent successes — Bioniche, Allostera and Zymeworks – and some with creative approaches — ConjuChem, Neuromed, etc. — the top-line number is grim indeed.  Plus, as Kasia Majewski points out:

“Most firms have found away to extend their cash, but they’ve done that by massive layoffs, by shutting done operations to the bare bones. So essentially the lights are on but there’s one guy home.”

Given that there has been no systemic cash infusion, it’s not surprising that the number of firms in trouble has gone up since January. 

On the other hand:

There is a bolus of fund-of-funds and direct capital waiting to be deployed, including:

Plus, Lumira Capital’s Q2 newsletter (pdf) points to the new BDC money, Alberta Investment Management Corp’s PE plans and the new Alberta Enterprise Corporation as potential additional sources of funding in the medium term.

BIOTECanada bottom line:

In the winter, the organization was focused on tax initiatives.  Yesterday, though, the focus was entirely on

“negotiations with Industry Canada to obtain a loan program for Canada’s biotech sector that can hold the industry over until capital markets rebound. … [Specifically,] government loans to be repaid after a two- year period at six per cent interest.”

Maybe it’s the new money looming on the horizon, or the seeming lack of traction for the tax policy asks, but the focus has definitely shifted.

My bottom line:

Even the new loan program advocated by BIOTECanada will not help if the other government funding doesn’t make it to biotech companies and VCs. We’ve been keeping an OVCF scoreboard that still shows a goose-egg for biotech investments.  It may be early days for these new capital sources, but the hour is late for Canadian biotech companies.

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New Funding for BDC Says Venture Capital in Canada “Tastes Great!”; Kedorsky Says “Less Filling!”

Horse's MouthYesterday Tony Clement announced an additional $450 million in funding to BDC:* $100 million in credit guarantees, $260 million for follow-on investments in companies where BDC is already a direct investor, and $90 million to invest in venture funds.  The follow-on money and the LP money will be spent over 3 years. (On purpose. (Ha.))

All the more topical, then, that in a recent WSJ VC Blog post on Canada’s venture capital industry Paul Kedorsky is quoted as saying that Canada’s industry won’t be helped by “government want[ing] to goose things.”  Paul, who used to be at Ventures West, authored a Kauffman foundation report saying the U.S. VC industry needs to shrink (check!), and thinks the industry on both sides of the border needs “a kind of restart.”

Personally, I vote “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

*H/T Mark Macleod and @chrisarsenault.  Pic from thelivingdead531.

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Flow-Through Shares for Cleantech and Biotech in Canada

800px-SieveRick Sutin, a partner at Ogilvy Renault (my home-away-from-home), has a post up at Cleantech in Canada singing the praises of flow-through shares.

So far, the flow-through program in Canada has been available (mainly) to resource exploration and development companies, but we have been arguing for a while that the program would be ideal for Cleantech and Biotech as well.

Why? See if any of these points sound familiar to a Biotech audience:

  1. Success comes from discovery and development programs, and relies on large amounts of high risk venture capital where revenues are uncertain and remote; flow-through shares filled the gap for resource exploration by providing venture capital at premium valuations through the public markets.
  2. Flow-through shares have made Canada’s capital markets the recognized global leader in resource finance and home to more resource companies than any other country in the world. The Canadian industry now develops and attracts the top resource management talent in the world.
  3. Government participates not by picking potential winners, but by giving private sector investors a tax incentive to make those choices and take those risks.

Here’s how flow-through shares work:

A company that issues flow-through shares must spend the proceeds on qualifying expenditures in Canada.  The expenditures are then renounced by the issuer to its investors, who can treat the expenditures as if they made them themselves.

How does it look from government’s perspective?

The government incurs an expense by foregoing tax that would otherwise be paid by the investors. However, the government recoups tax revenues from the recipients of the expenditures that would otherwise not have been made without this program and on the subsequent sale of shares, as the tax cost of shares is reduced to zero in the hands of the investors.

This is one of the few government programs that has successfully run for 20 years, contributing to Canada’s dominance in a significant sector without any problems or abuse.

A good deal all around.

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Human Swine Flu Ontario Update May 14: Tracking the Ontario Numbers Plus Vaccine Updates

Ontario reported 36 new cases of Swine Flu today.  All cases are still considered mild, although one patient was hospitalized for unrelated reasons. 

I thought this would be a good time to look back at the Ontario press releases and plot the number of new cases reported since Ontario started releasing numbers on April 28th.  When I did that, the plot was very erratic, so I took a 3-day rolling average.  Here it is:

Ontario Swine Flu cases

We’ll see where this goes over the next few days.

Meanwhile:

What is the State of Canada’s Biotechnology Industry?

There have been a lot of opinions over the last couple of weeks, with little consensus.

On the pessimistic side:

  1. E&Y’s annual biotechnology report was released a week ago, and the reported taglines ranged from “time of reckoning” to “biotech business model crumbles“. 
  2. The first report from Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Research Council said that Canadian businesses are stingy in funding research and development.

On the other hand:

  1. The BIO SmartBrief story on E&Y’s report noted the E&Y data showing that mergers and acquisitions had a near-record year in 2008, amounting to $28.5 billion in the U.S. alone.
  2. And, Rx&D’s response to the STIC report notes that pharma R&D investment, MaRS and Montreal’s biotech/pharmaceutical cluster are all highlights of the report.
  3. Finally, BIO President and CEO James C. Greenwood said that most biotech firms likely will survive the financial crisis despite a shortage in cash assets and the lack of investments brought about by the deep freeze in initial public offerings.

My take?

E&Y’s 2008 data is consistent with the PwC-BIOTECanada report and likely reflects extra pessimism because it cuts off before the latest stimulus investments, including over $1 billion in Ontario and Québec.  As that money, plus the Ontario Venture Capital Fund, gets deployed, I think Greenwood is likely to be right and things will start to look up. 

Although Q1′s venture capital and private equity numbers still look grim, the Monday Deal Review is showing increasing activity the last few weeks and even a few offerings by public companies.

Swine Flu Update Monday May 11: Ontario, Canada and Colbert Nation

antigenicshift_hirescrop1Ontario has reached a total of 110 confirmed human swine flu cases, all still considered mild.  The age range is between 1 and 62.  Canada reported its first swine flu fatality, an Alberta woman with asthma.

ScienceInsider has had outstanding coverage, and I’m adding their swine flu RSS feed to the sidebar on the right side of this page.  Interesting extracts from today:

  • Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London estimates an R0 of about 1.5 (consistent with last week’s report).
  • Based on available data, Ferguson estimates a case fatality rate of 0.4%, with a range between 0.3% and 1.5%. That’s far less than the 1918 pandemic, and likely to decrease as more mild cases (less likely to have been reported or tested early) are confirmed.

Also, Colbert had author Laurie Garrett on his show last week talking about the Swine Flu outbreak.

You can watch here from the U.S.:  http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/226864/may-06-2009/laurie-garrett

And here from Canada:  http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/the-colbert-report/full-episodes/may-6-2009/#clip169176

You may also apply a level of skepticism appropriate for listening to someone who has their own eponymous website.

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Trends Update — Electronic Medical Records: Telus/Microsoft and GE’s Global Healthcare Initiative Come to Canada

floppy-disk1Two Canadian developments on the electronic medical records front:

Telus-Microsoft:

Telus and Microsoft are developing a patient-centred system that would allow individuals to access and manage their medical records and would interface directly with health care providers’ systems to gather and share the data.  Canada Health Infoway wants to make sure it’s secure.  The CBC story mentions that the IBM/Google Health team is looking at a Canadian implementation as well.

GE Healthcare:

GE held an event today at MaRS launching a global healthcare initiative — called “healthymagination” — with announcements in 4 other cities around the world including Washington

GE is devoting $6 billion over the next 6 years to meet three goals by 2015: reduce the cost of healthcare by 15% (focusing on procedures and processes); increase access by 15% (to services, technologies and health education); and improve quality by 15% (partner with physicians and stakeholders to simplify procedures and accelerate adoption of standards of care). 

The initiative was introduced in Toronto by Elyse Allan, President & CEO of GE Canada, and by Peter Robertson, General Manager of GE Healthcare Canada, who did a good job of speaking to Canadian-specific issues.  One program that was heavily discussed was the Pan Northern Ontario PACS Project (PNOP) agreement with GE Healthcare for the creation of a Diagnostic Imaging Repository (DI-r) and longitudinal patient records across northern Ontario.  The program is being funded in part by Canada Health Infoway and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s eHealth Program.

 

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H1N1 Human Swine Flu Wednesday Update: Ontario, Genetics and Sanofi News

antigenicshift_hirescrop1Ontario confirms 13 new cases as of Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total to 49 in the province, all considered mild.  A lot of the public health messaging over the last 48 hours has been advising people not to relax too much.

Today also saw an interesting Canadian development on the scientific front.  Although commentary around the different numbers of flu deaths in Mexico versus other areas has included the possibility that there are genetic variations in the virus, genetic differences do not appear to be  responsible. Researchers at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg sequenced Mexican and Canadian isolates and found no significant differences. According to Dr. Frank Plummer, the chief science adviser of the national lab:

“Essentially, what it appears to suggest, is that there is nothing at the genetic level that differentiates this virus that we got from Mexico and those from Nova Scotia and Ontario, that explains apparent differences in disease severity between Mexico and Canada and the United States.”

Also, speaking of not relaxing too much, the FDA just announced that they have approved a new Sanofi Pasteur vaccine manufacturing facility in Swiftwater, PA.

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Trends Update — Electronic Medical Records: Health IT and EMR Have an Advocate in New OMA President Suzanne Strasberg

floppy-disk1Dr. Suzanne Strasberg took over as the incoming president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) Saturday night at their annual gala.  The OMA press release headlines Dr. Strasberg’s call for access to family physicians, but health IT also figures prominently. Dr. Strasberg indicated that she would focus on a number of initiatives, including “expansion of the use of IT and eHealth” and cited support for “Electronic Medical Records, which have enhanced patient safety and improved the quality and continuity of care, as examples of where further expansions should be made immediately.” 

Click here for our other posts on electronic medical records.

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Brain Drain and Ontario Genomics Funding: Globe and Mail Prefers to Hear the Bad News First

On the front page of the Globe and Mail this morning: Top AIDS researcher lured away, urges Harper ‘soul-searching’, citing $148 million in cuts to the Canadian funding agencies.

Buried several links down below the fold in the National section: Ontario to provide major new research funding – in fact, $100 million to retain researchers, which makes up fully two-thirds of what the Harper budget cut.  Something we mentioned here a month ago when it was announced in the budget.

That’s more than a silver lining, it’s a whole different perspective.  Enough with the doom and gloom.  There’s money out there.  Go get it.

Update: at least the Globe has added the Ontario story as a “related” link under the Sékaly story.

Update2: Here is the MRI press release. The funding is directed to genomics research.

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Human Swine Influenza: Understaffed

The volume of Human Swine flu info has exceeded my ability to keep up.  I will try to post sporadically on interesting scientific, political or business implications.

In the meantime, I have added two widgets on the right side of this page:

  • Google news RSS for “swine”
  • Twitter RSS for #swineflu

That should help visitors keep up with the news and help me get back to my day/night job.

Also keep in mind:

  1. The CDC Swine Flu Page
  2. The WHO Swine Flu Page
  3. You can not catch swine flu by eating pork

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Human Swine Influenza Update: Canadian Cases Confirmed, Public Health Emergency Declared in U.S.

CDC transcript from today’s briefing.

White House Press Briefing transcript.

New York Times story:

  • Mexico data: 1,300 infected, 80 dead.
  • U.S. data: 20 infected, one temporarily hospitalized now recovered.
  • Canada data: 6 infected, all linked to travel to Mexico. 2 in BC, 4 in Nova Scotia.
  • No WHO decision on pandemic alert level until Tuesday.

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Canada’s First Subsequent Entry Biologic!

Guest post from Jill Daley, part of our all-star life sciences team at Ogilvy:

Today, Sandoz Canada announced that Health Canada has granted it a market authorization for Omnitrope™.

This announcement marks the approval of the first subsequent entry biologic (SEB, also known as a “follow-on biologic” (FOB) in the U.S. or a “biosimilar” in the EU) of a previously approved recombinant biotechnology drug by Health Canada.

Omnitrope™ has received similar treatment in the United States and in Europe where it has been approved as a “follow-on protein” and a “biosimilar”  respectively.

Interestingly, today’s announcement came less than one month following Health Canada’s issuance of the Draft Guidance for Sponsors: Information and Submission Requirements for Subsequent Entry Biologics.  The Ogilvy Renault bulletin analyzing the draft guidance is here.

The draft guidance is open to consultation until May 26, 2009. Interested stakeholders are invited to submit written coments via email (BGTD_PPD_DPP@HC-SC.GC.CA), mail or fax (613-952-5364).

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New Data in Canada: BIOTECanada-PwC 2009 Life Sciences Forecast

The BIOTECanada-PricewaterhouseCoopers 2009 Canadian Life Sciences Forecast was released today.

The Forecast was produced from data gathered in October and November 2008, so is (unsurprisingly) a bit bleak, but there are a few bright spots to be found:

  • Canadian companies are increasingly flexible about exit scenarios.  In the 2009 Forecast, 66% of firms looked to mergers (down from 80% in 2007), while 48% looked to co-development partnerships and 46% saw licensing or selling IP as their success strategy.
  • Some problems were reduced from levels reported in 2007:
    • Only 26% of respondents identified “attracting and retaining key employees” as one of the three most challenging issues, down from 39% in 2007;
    • In 2007, 33% of respondents identified “attracting a licensing or strategic partner” as most challenging, which was down to 22%  in 2009; and
    • 21% instead of 29% of respondents cited “managing the regulatory process.”
  • Finally, there was a 66% increase in the number of respondents who believed “protecting intellectual property” would be a top-three challenge, which is excellent news … at least for lawyers.

The predominant issue weighing on the minds of respondents was clearly access to capital:

  • Sixty-one percent of respondents ranked “increased Canadian venture capital” as critical to the industry; and
  • While the overall percentage of companies expecting to raise between $10 million and $100 million in their next round remained the same as it was in 2007, the percentage expecting between $10 and $25 million tripled while the percentage expecting betwen $25 and $100 million was cut nearly in half.

The really good news about this, though, is that since the survey was taken last Fall, over $1 billion in venture investment funding has been budgeted in Ontario and Québec, and the Ontario Venture Capital Fund has already made several commitments … some of which are bound to end up with biotech VCs, right? Right?? Stay tuned.

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Canadian Science Funding Update — Open Letter From Canadian Scientists Generates Equal, Opposite Open Letter from Gary Goodyear

Canadian scientists, dismayed by cuts of $113 million to the three primary granting agencies in this year’s federal budget, sent an open letter of protest to PM Harper last week that collected 2,000 signatures.

The response, from Minister of Industry Tony Clement, was certainly better pitched than the response at budget time from the government’s initial spokes-o-practor, Gary Goodyear.   Mr. Goodyear also responded to the protest letter — penning a letter to Nature – and succeeded in not igniting any additional controversy.

I have three points in reaction to the budget and the protest letter:

  1. The federal government clearly chose an investment in infrastructure and training at the expense of basic research, but is clearly embarrassed to say so in light of peer country decisions.  The U.S. has prominently featured major increases in research funding, and the UK has pledged not to let science be a victim of the economy (though we will see Wednesday if they put their money, or their foot, where PM Brown’s mouth is).
  2. The Ontario government has done significant work to close the gap in research funding and infrastructure matching funds left by the federal budget
  3. We are starting to see local impacts of the funding decisions generate pressure on individual MPs.  For example, the federal minister of public works, Christian Paradis, was “angry” and said he will do everything he can to ensure that the famous Mont Mégantic Observatory, which is in his riding of Mégantic-L’Érable east of Montreal, receives funding to remain open.  The NSERC, which decided to drop the observatory’s funding, has cut a number of projects to cope with a $70-million drop in its budget.

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Wednesday Brain Dump: Things that Might Surprise You Edition

Things that surprised me this week:

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Canadian Life Sciences VCs Lead the Realization Parade

Liquidity Shrivels Up For VCs in First Quarter” was the banner screaming across the wire services earlier this week. While true, what was lost in the subtext were a few important observations for Canadian VCs, particularly those focused on life sciences:

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