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

Tag Archives: MaRS

Monday Deal Review: April 29, 2013

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for April 29, 2013! This week saw Ergoresearch and Amorfix close their previously announced private offerings. Trimel, meanwhile, has raised $40 million from their public offering of 50,000,000 common shares. On the acquisition front, Valeant received approval from Uklraine’s anti-monopoly authority, after extending the deadline for their tender offer for Obagi, which has now closed.  Get the details on these key transactions, as well as the rest of the week’s major news, by clicking through!

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UK Invests £200M In Technology Innovation Centres, Goes with Fraunhofer Model

Prime Minister David Cameron recently made an announcement outlining the UK government’s plan to allocate £200M for the development of a series of technology innovation centres. They will be designed around the Fraunhofer model implemented in Germany with the vision of creating a multitude of specialized incubators each with a unique technological interest. The announcement comes after an address made by former UK business secretary Peter Mandelson to the Work Foundation earlier this year. In this address Mandelson made it clear that deficit reduction would not only require spending cuts, but would necessitate new modes of spurring economic growth. A top priority was a comprehensive evaluation of technology innovation in the UK. Mandelson pointed out that a “basic skeleton of an industrial innovation system” had been established in the UK, but it would need to be bulked up to increase competitiveness on the international stage and further encourage external collaboration with UK health research centres. Mandelson stated:

“Our challenge now is to build and consolidate that innovation landscape into something like the Fraunhofer network in Germany which actively connects industry and the German research base. With this objective in mind I have asked technology entrepreneur Hermann Hauser to undertake an urgent but systematic evaluation of the UK’s existing innovation network to see how Britain can best emulate the outcomes of the Fraunhofer model.”

Hermann Hauser founded the tech company Acorn Computers (broken into several operations in 1998) and is a partner with the venture capital firm Amadeus Capital Partners. It was Hauser’s recommendation to Mandelson to establish intermediate technology innovation centers in the UK similar to those in Germany. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft was founded after the Second World War to bring industry and research in Germany closer together to drive economic growth. Institutions within the Fraunhofer network have traditionally focused on the applied sciences but have also incorporated basic sciences into their agenda, including many areas of biology. There are well over 60 centres in Germany and seven in the United States (Fraunhofer USA) with a diversity of specializations spanning everything from manufacturing technology and advanced materials to marine biotechnology and experimental medicine.

The proposed institutions, tentatively being branded as Clerk Maxwell Centres, will encourage intensive collaboration between academia, industry, and the National Health Service (NHS), and act as translational channels to bring university-level innovations through to market. They will also act as staging grounds for start-ups providing access to equipment, lab space, and supportive expertise that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to obtain. Another key responsibility will be disseminating information related to funding sources to ensure that industry is aware of all its options in trying to secure funding for early development.

In many ways the centres will be to the UK what MaRS Innovation is to Toronto – with a fundamental mandate of nurturing early stage innovations and guiding them forward to commercial exploitation. The primary differences, of course, being the subdivision of technological interests and national scope in the case of the Fraunhofer model. Hauser foresees a small handful of centres being developed at first, each costing in the vicinity of £50M – £100M over 10 years, and proposes that the UK leverages strengths it already has. Given the depth of stem cell research underway in Britain, an obvious choice for the first Clerk Maxwell Centre is regenerative medicine. As Hauser put it:

“It’s obvious that something exciting is happening in regenerative medicine; we produce more quality stem-cell papers than anywhere else in the world and it has the potential to completely restructure the pharma industry.”

One-third of funding for Clerk Maxwell Centres will come from industry, so the focus of these institutions will have to align with industry interests. Additional funding will come from government and be dispersed over the coming four years. A Technology Strategy Board will then decide how to stream the funds into businesses and research projects at each centre. With each Clerk Maxwell Centre focusing exclusively on one (bio)technological area, companies in industry will have the opportunity to associate with institutions that are more closely tailored to their requirements than would be a general technology hub. By the nature of the model, research and industry will be united, accelerating the commercialization process in select technological areas.

In a similar initiative designed to foster public-private relationships, the UK government plans to support a “UK Life Sciences Super Cluster” with the introduction of a Therapeutic Capability Clusters program. In July of 2009 the UK government published the Life Sciences Blueprint, an expansive document outlining a novel approach to collaboration in the life sciences industry. The integrated approach outlined in the blueprint is expected to generate the critical mass required to develop new therapeutics and “support economic growth and strong healthcare delivery”. It was from this overarching plan that the therapeutic clusters program was born.

Like the new technology centres, each therapeutic cluster in the program will have a discrete specialization. They will be composed of centres of excellence with complementary capabilities, enabling technologies, and commercial goals. Importantly, the formation of clusters will provide a single point of contact for industry through collective organization of cluster activities at one interface. The first two pilot projects, announced by UK Science Minister David Willetts on October 25th (follow link to his speech), will be a cluster for inflammatory respiratory diseases, and another for joint and related inflammatory diseases. Initially, the focus will be on translational medicine, particularly early stage clinical trials where industry has historically had strong interest in collaborating with academia. The fate of the program will be dependent on the success of these initial projects, but if they are successful, and the UK government decides to give the greenlight, it could be the world’s first large scale effort to set up clusters of this nature.

The UK’s drive for self-improvement is impressive. At the end of the day the described technology innovation centres and therapeutic capability clusters come down to public-private relationship building and a trend towards full integration to support commercialization and economic growth. With the proper execution and allocation of funds, these initiatives have the potential to profoundly impact innovation in the UK and reaffirm Britain’s role as a fierce competitor in life sciences innovation.

Biotech Bailout: Five Reasons Ontario Needs to Do More to Support Bioscience Companies in 2010

As we head into another budget cycle here in Ontario, there has been a flood of news showing that other jurisdictions are investing heavily in recruitment and stimulus for biotech companies.  Each one of these investments raises the bar for what has to be done in Ontario to build our own companies and capitalize effectively on our R&D resource base:

  1. Close to home, Quebec’s recently-announced $122 million Biopharmaceutical Strategy is expected to match Ontario’s OTEC tax holiday (not so useful for biotech) and adds $30 million for R&D credit monetization (fantastically useful for biotech).
  2. Across the border in the U.S., things have been even busier.  The Senate version of the health care reform bill includes the famous (/infamous) 12-year exclusivity period for biologics, but according to a BioWorld article the bill also includes “a therapeutic discovery project tax credit.”  Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) also reportedly offered a measure that would create a translational science grant program through the National Institutes of Health, called the Cures Acceleration Network, and that would aid in expediting the FDA review.
  3. Add to the federal stimulus an array of state-level initiatives:
  4. Even the traditional U.S. biotech hotbeds are not standing still:  North Carolina’s $250 million innovation fund is almost up and running, with an RFP out for a fund manager. (h/t @GenomicsLawyer)
  5. And in case you still think we can afford to rest on the laurels of the OETF and OVCF, take a look at John McCulloch’s post on the MaRS blog about his trip to the Suzhou New District in China, which has already incubated NASDAQ-listed solar power company Canadian Solar.

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Image from User:Bdk on WikiMedia under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Biotech Trends in 2010: Top Three Reasons Why Biotech Companies Should Use Social Media

Tech startups use social media avidly [rabidly?], but biotech companies? Not so much.  Biotech companies should be blogging, tweeting and linking in like mad, though.  Here’s why:

  1. Your customers (pharma companies) do it.  More and more pharma companies are active in social media. Take a look at this article in the December issue of Life Science Leader (h/t @FiercePharma) or read the Dose of Digital blog any day of the week and you’ll be directed to interesting information about how products are being developed, tested and marketed. These are things you need to keep in mind as you move through your own product development process. Also, lots of pharma folks are on LinkedIn, so if you are as well, you’ll maximize your ability to reach out through personal connections when you’re building a constituency for your partnering deals.  Here’s my Twitter list of BioPharma news and analysis.
  2. Your investors do it.  Check out this Twitter List of Canadian VCs, Angel investors and other funders.  Look at what they’re talking about, and you’ll see you don’t have to tell people what you ate for lunch (or disclose your latest lab results) to convey that you’re doing something interesting that other people are interested in.  Check out the CVCA’s blog, Capital Rants or the Maple Leaf Angels blog.  In Toronto? Stop in at the MaRS blog or the R.I.C. blog to see where investors will be and what they’re thinking about.
  3. Your peers (other startups) do it.  If you’re not participating in online conversations, you’re missing a world of good advice and perspectives.  Click over to Rick Segal’s blog or  StartupCFO, Mark MacLeod’s Blog. It doesn’t really matter that these guys aren’t involved in biotech. Lots of startups are facing similar issues to yours — funding, staffing, etc. and getting out of the biotech bubble from time to time can be a good thing.  Plus, being at a startup is isolating, particularly in biotech with its strong incentives to run a virtual company, so go online to find peers, mentors and other resources.

If this all sounds reasonable, but you’re still skeptical, or not interested, then find someone in your organization who’s excited about it, regardless of their actual job, and set him/her loose.  [Not totally loose, of course. Common sense is critical online because it’s hard to hit “undo” on the web, and appropriate confidentiality remains key to biotech ventures.  But all your people have common sense and discretion, right?]

We’ll be keeping an eye out for biotechs and other bioscience companies that are making good use of social media as part of our Biotech Trends series this coming year.  Other suggestions for 2010 biotech trends?  Let us know

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Monday Biotech Deal Review: December 7, 2009

This was a fairly busy week for Canadian biotech deals, including a new brain-y collaboration for MaRS; peace at Patheon; some overallotment and some underallotment; some diversification by Canadian pharma (even if not on quite the scale of Pfizer’s deal with Protalix); and some trans-Atlantic acquisitiveness of a Canadian company’s own devicing [sic., sorry].  Don’t stop now… Read more of this post

New MaRS Innovation CEO Rafi Hofstein Will Lead Products to the Promised Land

B&W_rafi_hofsteinRafi Hofstein has joined MaRS Innovation as its new CEO.  He was previously the President and CEO of Hadasit Ltd., the technology transfer company of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, and since 2005, Chair of Hadasit BioHolding Ltd. (TASE: HBL).  In this role, he oversaw:

the commercialization of intellectual property emerging from the Hadassah Medical Organization, clinical trials with industry partners, as well as the launch, development and strategic oversight of a series of medical devices, biomedicine and diagnostic equipment spin-off companies.

He has Ag experience too, having been the Vice President Business Development for Ecogen, Inc., a subsidiary of Monsanto.  He was also at the helm of Mindsense Biosystems, and has his Ph.D. from Weizmann.

Well, Dr. Hofstein, welcome to Canada and to our little University Avenue (and Bay Street) slice of innovation heaven.

For those who aren’t in the know, here’s the scoop on MaRS Innovation:

MaRS Innovation provides an integrated commercialization platform that harnesses the economic potential of the exceptional discovery pipeline of 14 leading Toronto academic institutions.  MaRS Innovation is a non-profit organization with an independent industry-led Board of Directors, funded through the Government of Canada’s CECR Program and contributions of its member institutions, as well as support from the Province of Ontario.

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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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Canada — and MaRS — Draw Notice on List of Biotechnology Clusters

world_map_2002A report at Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, picked up today by FierceBiotech, discusses emerging biotechnology clusters.  It’s worth excerpting the whole bit on Canada:

Both Toronto and Vancouver have good, small companies, but they’re struggling for capital. They have the benefit of government support and strong universities, particularly the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph, and the University of British Columbia. Entrepreneurship skills need to be honed, however.

In the heart of Toronto, the MaRS Center incubates a host of companies within about a mile of five teaching hospitals, the University of Toronto, the provincial parliament, and the financial district. The local government takes a close interest in the Center’s success, and several promising research projects are moving toward commercialization.

Vancouver, on Canada’s west coast, consistently ranks as a fast-growing cluster, attracting more than 90 companies, some with late-stage trials. The University of British Columbia has an active tech-transfer department that has spun out several companies.

The report also discusses innovative activity in China and India, among others, that fits with the trend we have observed.  Read the whole report here.

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Some Good Clean Tech Synergy: Biotech + Cleantech + Nanotech = $

A story today at GenomeWeb shows a collaboration among biotech, cleantech and high-tech interest groups successfully generating government support:

Illinois life-science industry advocates for the second straight year are urging state lawmakers to set aside $25 million in grants and tax credits to assist biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical-device startups commercialize new technologies.

Unlike last year, when the proposal died in a state House of Representatives committee, the state’s life-sci industry group expects this year’s version to pass. One key reason: The legislation … would award cash to other tech industries, including alternative-energy, or so-called “clean,” technologies, and the state’s fast-growing nanotech sector.

This type of cross-tech synergy has contributed to government support for other funding initiatives as well.  Look no farther than MaRS, or go as far afield as the UK; common needs for tech commercialization build stronger constituencies.

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We’ll See What VC

A post on Capital Rants this morning says the Mayfield Fund will be the Ontario Venture Capital Fund’s first investment, that it will be in the range of US$5 – US$7.5 million, and that Mayfield will open a one-person office in Toronto.  Mayfield’s investments page shows they invested in biotech and device plays in the past: Amgen, Genentech, Heartstream, Immunex, Intuitive Surgical, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Orquest, Radiant Research, Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Tularik, Velocity11 (and one cleantech company: PolyFuel). 

However, the list is sortable by categories, all of which are IT focused, and tech investments account for 145 out of the 158 listed investments.  As they say, though, past performance does not guarantee future results, so we’ll see what Mayfield does in Canada.

If Mayfield wants a glimpse at some of the Toronto community, they could check out the Entrepreneurship 101 lectures, which have recently included conversations about venture capital from the VC side and from the company side.

There’s also the recent CVCA Report (pdf), and a summary post at Capital Rants.

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Bailout Update: UK and Canada

Two bailout developments to report yesterday:

In the UK, the science minister Lord Drayson is championing a call by Imperial College London and the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford to create a £1bn fund to finance the early stages of university spin-outs:

Medical research was given as an example, but Drayson is said to be pushing for the £1bn fund to finance ideas from all areas of science and engineering.

Here in Canada, the MaRS Blog posted yesterday about BIOTECanada’s Parliamentary Quarterly (pdf), which reiterates BIOTECanada’s previous bailout asks and includes some new data on the Canadian biotech industry, as well as some information on bailouts in other jurisdictions.

I would guess that some of the support apparently being generated by the UK proposal is due to the breadth of the project, with the potential to stimulate a wide range of innovative industries.  With so many common needs and challenges among biotech, cleantech and high tech, I would like to see further collaborative efforts in Canada as well.  Hopefully the Ontario Venture Capital Fund, which appears to be set up along the lines being proposed in the UK, will invest in all three areas and create a foundation for future collaboration.

Update: for some sense of common ground, see this NY Times blog post.

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