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

Tag Archives: OICR

Two MaRS Innovation Transactions Take Off

MaRS Innovation, the “integrated commercialization platform” responsible for commercializing inventions from 16 Toronto academic institutions, announced two deals last week. One spin-out and one out-license (pdf links).

The spin-out: MI put $500,000 into Prof. Shana Kelley‘s new company, Xagenic, alongside a $300,000 loan from HTX; $200,000 from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research; and $40,000 from the OCE Centre for Commercialization of Research. The notable part of this transaction is the launch of a University spin-out with pre-built seed funding. The structure of MI’s “investment” was not disclosed.

The out-license: A sustained‐release form of nitric oxide (NO) from Prof. Ping Lee’s lab at U of T was out-licensed to San Diego-based Cardium Therapeutics (AMEX: CXM), which will pay undisclosed amounts for the technology. One form of consideration that is disclosed: a nice endorsement for MI from Cardium’s CEO, Christoper J. Reinhard, who said “MI brought great business understanding to the process. The team understood our needs quickly and they worked efficiently to get the deal done.”

The bottom line: These are two interesting and positive deals from MI, executed in pretty short order for a new organization, that deserve congratulations. We look forward to future MI deals that disclose more some detail on business terms and valuations.

Monday Biotech Deal Review: May 3, 2010

I guess the excitement of BIO was driving deals this week. To the delight of the economic development folks, government was in on the action — Ontario announced a BIP investment and announced a whole new strategy, and OICR funded three equity deals. The private sector was also out in force, with four new licensing deals (including some interesting structures) and more securities than the week might otherwise … warrant. Keep reading after the jump…

Friday Science Review: April 16, 2010

An amazing week of Canadian research advancements…

Cancer Genome Project is Well Underway: The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), who is leading the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), published a report this week in Nature outlining the international effort to sequence 25,000 cancer genomes – 500 genomes from each of the 50 most common cancers such as breast, colon, liver, lung, and pancreatic cancers.  Some partial datasets are already available to the global research community at www.icgc.org.  This is truly a Herculean effort that is only possible because of the international collaborative effort of over 200 members around the globe.  Whole cancer genome sequencing will provide a fundamental base to advance personalized medicine to the next level.  Here is the original OICR press release and you can read a more comprehensive ‘Scientific American’ style news feature article on the cancer genome project here in the same issue of Nature.

Seek and Destory: Non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer is taking a big hit from a newly discovered compound that destroys lymphoma cells.  The small molecule compound targets and blocks a transcription factor called BCL6, which is responsible for half of non-Hodgkins lymphoma cases.  Scientists started with the 3D structure of the BCL6 protein and used computer-aided drug design to perform in silico screening of over a million compounds.  They eventually narrowed it down to this one compound that proved to be efficacious and also non-toxic.  Dr. Gilbert Prive at the University Health Network led the innovative project that demonstrates the success of a computational approach to drug design and the ability to target transcriptions factors with minimal side effects.  Read all about it! – in the free full text article in Cancer Cell.

Divide and Conquer: Cell division is a complicated process with the synchronized dance of chromosomes segregating to each new cell.  It is a poorly understood process but research is this field is advancing with the discovery of new essential proteins involved in cell divisionDr. Laurence Pelletier (Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute) and his collaborators in Europe used a combination of RNAi tools and mass spectrometry techniques to identify the components of protein complexes involved in cell division.  As cancer cells are hyperactive dividing cells, this new information will also aid in the advancement of cancer targeting therapeutics.  The study appears in the journal Science.

The Missing Link: Many have suspected that there must be some link or relationship between stress, anxiety and depression.  Now there is molecular evidence that this is true.  The connection involves the interaction between corticotropin releasing factor receptor 1 (CRFR1) and certain types of serotonin receptors (5-HTRs).  CRFR1 activity leads to stress related anxiety and it also stimulates an increase in the number of 5-HTRs in the brain, which can lead to signaling abnormalities causing depression.  The team headed by Dr. Stephen Ferguson at the University of Western Ontario also developed a small molecule inhibitor that blocks 5-HTRs.  Let’s hope this inhibitor and knowledge of the molecular links lead to more effective treatments for these disorders.  Check out the free full-text article in Nature Neuroscience.

Smart Buggers:  Understanding how bacteria become resistant to last-resort antibiotic drugs just got a boost from a McMaster University study.  Vancomycin resistant methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (VMRSA), also known as the hospital superbug, is a rapidly growing problem with limited effective solutions.  The research team identified the histidine kinase VanSsc protein as the direct vancomycin detector in bacteria, which then triggers the expression of three genes that provide the drug resistance.  This is the first important step in redesigning antibiotic drugs to effectively fight these little buggers.   Dr. Gerry Wright and his collaborators published their exciting work in Nature Chemical Biology.

Not Just a Bad Golf Shot: Scientists have identified mutations in the SHANK3 gene that are associated with schizophrenia.  SHANK3 is a scaffolding protein involved in the formation of the synapse and maintains the structure of nerve cells.  Dr. Guy Rouleau’s team at the Université de Montréal discovered the new mutations (R1117X and R536W) in two families with schizophrenia patients where one of these families had three affected brothers.  Further molecular and genetic studies in zebrafish models confirmed that the R1117X mutation causes behavioural defects.  Earlier studies linked SHANK3 mutations to autism, which suggests that there is a molecular connection between the two neurological disorders.  The findings are reported in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gene Therapy is Still Alive: The promise of gene therapeutics to cure diseases may not have lived up to the hype presented a decade ago but there are still some hopeful successes using gene therapy.  One recent example comes from Laval University where researchers repaired the defective dystrophin gene responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). In some cases of DMD, the dystrophin gene is misread causing a frame-shift mutation.  These frame-shift mutations may be targeted and repaired by enzymes called meganucleases.  A proof-of-principle project by Dr. Jacques Tremblay demonstrated that expression of specific meganucleases in the muscle of a DMD mouse model can restore the normal reading frame of a mutated dystrophin gene.  More details in this week’s edition of Gene Therapy.

Monday Biotech Deal Review: April 12, 2010

This week deals are back in full force, despite the fact that Tengion’s IPO was less popular than expected and Neovacs scaled back its planned IPO.  Highlights include Patheon raising $280 million from its note placement, Verio Therapeutics getting phagocytosed by Fate (but remaining in Ottawa) and Lorus Therapeutics’ F-1 filing for a $17.5 million unit offering. Read more of this post

Monday Biotech Deal Review: March 22, 2010

Bought deals are all the rage this week, with BioExx and Osta Biotechnologies both heading in that direction.  Also, everywhere we look, warrants are being exercised and debentures are being converted. We even noted the green shoots of a new Canadian listed biotech company poking through the ground via a CPC transaction.  Is there a Spring thaw in Canada’s biotech capital markets?  Read more of this post

Boosting Canadian Commercialization at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research

Alex Philippidis ran a great story at GenomeWeb last week on the OICR’s plans for 2010, which include hiring 40 more staff, growing informatics capabilities and providing additional support for its Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization program.

On the commercialization front, the news is particularly exciting.  OICR has already been willing to participate in novel initiatives like POP-CURE, and has now hired two executives with extensive industry experience:

Franklin Stonebanks, the new chief commercial officer, “founded global life-science advisory firm Blackcomb Advisors; served as president and CEO of Cynvec; and held managerial positions in the venture funds of Johnson & Johnson and IBM, where he also led its healthcare and life science mergers-and-acquisitions effort.”

Nicole Onetto, the new deputy director, was “senior VP and chief medical officer of ZymoGenetics, and earlier served as executive VP and chief medical officer of OSI Pharmaceuticals. She was international project leader for Taxol, and led the clinical development of Tarceva (erlotinib) for non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Canada.”

The OICR team has already invested over $5 million in 12 startups, three of which have since been acquired.  The funded projects include imaging technologies, biomarkers and new therapeutics.  These two should be great additions, and together with Rafi Hofstein, are raising the international profile of Canadian innovation.

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Friday Science Review: October 2, 2009

Prostate cancer and H1N1 updates…

Nanotechnology is Coming:  A research study by a group of University of Toronto engineers, nanoscientists, and pharmaceutical specialists has garnered a lot of media attention this week describing the use of nanomaterials in microchip technology to create a highly sensitive biosensor.  In the more technical report published in Nature Nantotechnology this week, they describe a special nanostructuring technique arranged in an array architechture to expand the dynamic range and sensitivity of the system for nucleic acid and protein biodetection.  The microchip is small, fast, and super sensitive.

In an earlier publication in ACS Nano, they applied their nanotechnology to detect prostate cancer biomarkers.  They demonstrated the accuracy, sensitivity and speed of the non-invasive test, which they are trying to package into a small hand-held device that can readily conduct testing at the point-of-care.  Of course, the application of this technology goes far beyond prostate cancer and can be adapted to detect other cancer biomarkers, HIV and other diseases.   Nanomaterial, nanotechnology, nanomedicine – these are hot words that you will hear about more frequently in the near future.

The research was lead by University of Toronto scientists, Drs. Shana Kelley and Ted Sargent.  A spinoff company based on the molecular diagnostic platform, tentatively called GenEplex, is in the works with the support of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research’s Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization Program.  Also, the Ontario Genomics Institute is funding a microRNA application of the technology to the tune of almost $1 million.

In other prostate cancer research news:

Targeting IGF-1R:  Researchers targeted the Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) with antisense technology to suppress IGF-1R expression in prostate cancer cells.  They found that by inhibiting IGF-1R signaling activity, the cancer cells grew more slowly but also increased their rate of cell death.  This is the first preclinical proof-of-principal that antisense therapy targeting IGF-1R in prostate cancer may be a viable treatment route and warrants further investigation.

The study was conducted by Dr. Michael Cox at the Vancouver Prostate Centre and published in this week’s editon of The Prostate.

Fatty Acids Promote Prostate Cancer: The hormone androgen, and its androgen receptor partner, have been shown to contribute to prostate cancer progression.  In this research report, researchers at the University of British Columibia suggest that elevated fatty acid (arachadonic acid) levels in the tumors may lead to increased activation of steroid hormone synthesis and contribute to the progression of the cancer.  Therefore, they recommended that fatty acid pathways should also be targeted as part of a therapeutic approach to treating prostate cancer.

Dr. Colleen Nelson led the research team at the Vancouver Prostate Centre and published the report also in this week’s edition of The Prostate.

H1N1 Update: Following last week’s “seasonal flu vs. swine flu” vaccination story, the Public Health Agency of Canada reviewed their own data and soon declared their position on the yet unpublished study saying that “there is no link between having a seasonal flu shot and developing a severe bout of pandemic flu.”  More to follow on this as the controversial study should become public next week.

In other H1N1 news:

Big Pharma gets Immunity: As increasing H1N1 cases emerge and Health Canada is being encouraged to expedite the approval of H1N1 vaccines, the Public Health Agency of Canada is following other countries in stating that they will protect GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the vaccine, from any lawsuits arising from potential side effects.

Surgical Masks are Adequate: Healthcare workers should be encouraged by a study comparing standard surgical masks versus N95 respirator in protecting against flu viruses (swine included).  In the randomized controlled study, conducted by flu expert Dr. Mark Loeb at McMaster University, 446 nurses from eight hospitals in Ontario were equally distributed to wear either sugical masks or fit-tested N95s.  The results showed that there was an insignificant difference (23.6%, surgical mask vs. 22.9%, N95) in the number who contract the ‘flu’ during the course of the season.  However, this study is sure to raise more debate within the healthcare community as unpublished work in China found that N95 masks can cut the risk of catching the flu virus by 75% while surgical masks offer no protective effect.  Dr. Loeb’s study is published in the early edition of JAMA.   A commentary on this issue is also provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Benefits of Handwashing? And if you are not confused enough about how to avoid catching the virus, consider this article in CMAJ questioning the benefits, due to lack of scientific evidence, of hand washing in preventiing the transmission of influenza viruses.

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Monday Deal Review: June 15, 2009

B&W_BigNickelAnother active week for Canadian deals, headed by Merck’s new deal with Xenon, along with some new funding, some new collaborations, and some new products coming to, and going from, Canadian companies all for your easy-reading pleasure after the jump…

BIO 2009: Ontario Premier’s Breakfast

BIO 2009The speeches (s-peach-es?) just finished this morning at the Ontario Premier’s breakfast.

Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson announced that Ontario has recently completed 2 new BIP investments:

Ontario’s Premier — Dalton McGuinty, winner of BIO’s second annual International Leadership Award — spoke next, highlighting the Ontario Innovation Agenda, including BIP, business tax reductions and recent funding in the Emerging Technologies Fund and the new $100 million for genomics research.

Dr. Nagy also spoke, emphasizing the $100 million of new funding and the value of a peer group of 95 P.I.’s in Ontario working on stem cells and regenerative medicine. Current work focuses on cell type switching without regression to pluripotency.

On to the omelet…

P.S.  First time here at the Cross-Border Biotech Blog?  Welcome! Check out who we are, check out our Trends in 2009 series, or hit the search and navigation tools on your right and see if you see anything interesting.

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Monday Deal Review: April 27, 2009

Biotech deal activity in Canada was back on the upswing a bit this week, with some private placements, issuer bids, and an equity line of credit…

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Friday Science Review: January 30, 2009

Interesting science developments in and from Canada this week:

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