February 25, 2010
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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.
* occasional contributors to this publication.
November 6, 2009
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Just two stories this week – a cancer pathway and innovative dipsticks…
New Relationship between Tumour Suppressor Genes: Knocking out genes in mice believed to play a tumour inhibiting role would intuitively result in rapid cancer development. However, it was a surprise to McGill researchers that mice lacking the tumour suppressors 4E-BP1 and 4E-BP2 were refractory to cancer growth. When they deleted another well known tumour suppressor, p53, then they observed enhanced tumour growth more aggressive than knocking out p53 alone. These results demonstrate for the first time a cooperative effect between 4E-BPs and p53 and highlight the advantages of indentifying individual molecular profiles to predict responsiveness to therapeutic strategies. Dr. Nahum Sonenberg, who led the research team at McGill University remarks “this is another fine example how basic research, which intends to provide answers to fundamental questions about molecular mechanisms of cell proliferation, leads to unexpected findings that advance our ability to understand and cure human disease.” The study appears in this week’s issue of Cancer Cell.
Bioactive Paper Sensors: A simple and rapid method to detect pesticides or toxins in food using innovative test strips was recently developed at McMaster University. These “dipsticks” can sense the presence of small amounts of pesticides in food and within five minutes, a colour change indicates the level of the contaminant. Future applications of this technology, with a few tweaks, include detecting for the presence of food borne bacteria such as E.coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. The practicality, ease of use without the need for large equipment, and the ability to get almost immediate results are huge advantages of the dipsticks to provide rapid screening and could play a role in curbing future outbreaks. Dr. John Brennan’s team describes their research in the latest issue of Analytical Chemistry.
September 4, 2009
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Potential future therapeutic options…
Dabigatran versus Warfarin: Dabigatran (PRADAX®, Boehringer-Ingelheim) was compared with warfarin (a commonly used anti-coagulant) in a large scale study for the treatment of patients with atrial fibrillations. The trial demonstrated that the group of patients taking the higher dose of Dabigatran had significantly reduced risk of stroke compared to patients on warfarin but with similar risk of hemorrhaging. With a lower dose of Dabigatran, they achieved protection from strokes that was similar to that afforded patients using warfarin but with a significantly reduced risk of major bleeding. Dabigatran is the first alternative therapy option to warfarin treatment showing efficacy and improved safety to patients. The global study was headquartered out of Hamilton at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Science Centre and appears in this week’s The New England Journal of Medicine.
Drug combo for Bell Palsy: Combinatorial therapy may be a better treatment method to improve the facial paralysis symptom of Bell Palsy patients. In the study lead by Dr. John de Almeida at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, they compared the standard treatment with corticosteroids alone versus corticosteroids supplemented with antiviral drugs. It is thought that a herpes infection is likely the cause of the disorder. As the patients appeared to have experienced a slight incremental benefit from the combo therapy, the researchers will continue their study to provide a definitive answer. The report was published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Key finds from studying protein structure:
- The RAF family of proteins is an integral component of the RAS signaling module involved in cell growth, differentiation and survival. This new structural study on BRAF revealed that its catalytic function is regulated by a “side-to-side” dimerization mode. Interestingly, a mutation found in oncogenic versions of BRAF is located in this dimerization interface and promotes aberrant activation. Surely, the side-to-side dimer interface of BRAF will be a potential target for therapeutic intervention against BRAF-dependent tumorigenesis. This exciting research was lead by a collaborative effort between Dr. Frank Sicheri at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto and Dr. Marc Therrien at Université de Montréal and published in the early edition of Nature.
- New insight into how bacteria can steal iron from its host was revealed through structural studies of the bacteria’s transferrin receptor. The bacterial transferrin receptor binds to the host’s iron containing transferrin protein, extracts the iron and transports it across the membrane. When they mutated a critical residue at the interface of this interaction, binding was completely abolished. Perhaps these results from Dr. Anthony Schryvers’ research team at the University of Calgary will lead to future directions for antimicrobial therapeutics. The study was published in the recent edition of Molecular Cell.
Nervous system development in today’s issue of Cell…
- Researchers revealed how the neural-specific SR-related protein of 100 kDa (nSR100) is responsible for facilitating alternative transcript splicing specifically in the nervous system. nSR100 is required for neural cell differentiation and contributes to the greater complexity of the vertebrate nervous system. The research was lead by Dr. Benjamin Blencowe at the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research.
August 7, 2009
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Gut Check I: A novel function for the gut hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) was discovered by Tony Lam’s research team at the Toronto General Research Institute and made the cover story in Cell Metabolism this week. Activation of the CCK hormone sends a signal to the brain and then to the liver to trigger lower sugar production. However, resistance to CCK occurs following high-fat feeding and corresponds to elevated blood sugar levels. This work follows a series of ground-breaking discoveries by Tony Lam’s group over the last few years identifying a novel gut-brain-liver neuronal circuitry regulating glucose production, which presents an alternate approach to combating obesity and diabetes.
Gut Check II: There are trillions of friendly bacteria in our lower intestines that play an important role in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system. Our innate immune system, which includes Toll-like receptor signaling, detects and keeps these microbes compartmentalized in the gut. But what would happen if this innate immune system is compromised? A study published in this week’s issue of Science by Dr. AJ Macpherson at McMaster University used a mouse model deficient in innate immune responses (i.e. lacking Toll-like receptors) to demonstrate that intestinal bacteria escapees into the body trigger a cooperative response from the adaptive immune system (e.g. antibodies) to compensate and maintain the host-bacteria mutualism.
My Space – for Stem Cells: Stem cells need their personal space too. Some important signaling pathways are regulated by the size of the colony and niche and can influence stem cell fate. Peter Zandstra’s Stem Cell Bioengineering Lab at the University of Toronto completed an intricate study that defined the spatial parameters of the stem cell microenvironment and hinted that these factors should be considered when planning experiments and interpreting results.
Muscle wasting in Cystic Fibrosis: Patients with Cystic Fibrosis usually experience muscle atrophy and it was previously thought to be a secondary effect of the disease. New evidence presented in this PLoS – Genetics article by Dr. Basil Petrof’s group at McGill University Health Centre shows that muscle loss may be predisposed, a direct symptom of mutations in the CFTR gene in muscle cells. In addition to abnormal calcium levels, CFTR-deficient muscle cells exhibit an elevated inflammatory response and upregulation of genes associated with protein degradation or muscle atrophy. These results have implications for current treatments to more aggressively control inflammation and target calcium homeostasis.
May 22, 2009
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Some interesting clinical studies in the New England Journal and in JAMA this week from Canadian researchers show the importance of timing interventions and medications properly. Read on after the jump…
April 10, 2009
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March 6, 2009
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Cool Canadian science stories this week…
Stem Cells: The big Canadian science news this week was the report by Dr. Nagy’s lab at the Lunenfeld that they have found a much safer way to make pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue. Their publication (co-authored with Keisuke Kaji’s team at the University of Edinburgh) appeared in Nature this week.
Also on the stem cell front, Dr. Kremer, the co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, used Interferon gamma to induce the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into osteoblasts in vitro, and that IFNγ knockout mice also show reduced bone density and that isolated mesenchymal stem cells from the knockout mice show a differentiation defect. Long story short: a potential new target for improving bone density.
Clinical Trials: Good news for GSK and for scientists at McMaster University, who showed that GSK’s Mepolizumab (pdf), an anti-IL5 humanized antibody that blocks eosinophil production, helps severe asthmatics improve asthma and reduce their need for prednisone by close to 90 per cent, a result that was seconded by a group in the UK.
Nanotechnology Costs: We noted a few weeks ago that there were changes coming to nanotechnology regulatory environment, and now researchers in BC and Minnessota estimate that testing the toxicity of existing nanomaterials in the United States could cost between $249 million and $1.18 billion and that full-scale testing could take decades to complete. They propose a tiered approach, similar to the EU’s REACH program for testing toxic chemicals, to define priorities. Hat tip to ScienceInsider.
Hosted Services: Canadians, being hospitable types, are hosting World Diabetes Congress in Montreal in October, as well as a new Occupational Cancer Research Centre – charged with “improving knowledge and evidence to help identify, prevent and ultimately eliminate exposures to cancer-causing substances in the workplace.”
Musical Chairs: A group at Ryerson University’s centre for learning technologies in conjunction with the science of music, auditory research and technology (SMART) lab have developed a chair that allows the hearing-impaired to experience music by using the skin as a hearing membrane.
Global Issues: An Amazon drought caused a major release of carbon dioxide; but don’t worry, because we’ll find a new planet in no time. Sound painful? Don’t worry – a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
February 27, 2009
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Cool Canadian science developments this week:
January 30, 2009
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Interesting science developments in and from Canada this week:
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