The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

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

Tag Archives: Oncolytics

Q3 Canadian Healthcare Review – Weakness Continues BUT Some Bright Spots

Data in the Q3 2010 Canadian Healthcare Review from the Equicom Group (co-authored by James Smith, Vice President Healthcare at Equicom and myself) shows a continuation of the weakness in biotech financing which we have seen in 2009 and 2010.

Bounceback From the Financial Crisis May Have Masked 2009 Weakness

While the level of funding seen during 2009 was a concern, the problem may have been partially hidden by the many large share price increases from lows they hit as a result of the financial crisis in late 2008. The level of funding in 2010 is lower and the impact of lower funding is now being seen in share price performance. Lower cash resources have resulted in lower activity levels and survival concerns, which has probably been a factor in the 40% or greater share price drop in the first 9 months of 2010 for 31 of 105 healthcare companies in the share price performance assessment. The bright spot is that investors can still make money in the sector, as 13 companies had their share prices increase by greater than 40% in that same period.

Protox and Oncolytics Start Q4 With a Bang

The $35 million dollar financing by Protox announced in September did not count in the Q3 total because the financing was not closed by September 30. The first $10 million tranche of that financing and the recent $25 million dollar bought deal financing by Oncolytics Biotech are a good start for Q4.

Pending Regulatory News May Build Buzz

There are also some upcoming events which could help create a little momentum in the sector. While Cardiome has had a delay in a U.S. Phase 3 study of its iv vernakalant (already approved in the E.U.), the start of Phase 3 trials of the oral version by its partner Merck would be a good boost. Theratechnologies is still waiting for the FDA decision on tesamorelin after the unanimous recommendation from an advisory committee. Bioniche’s parter Endo is expected to both release results from the first Phase 3 study of Urocidin™ and also start the second Phase 3 trial.

Evolution at Valeant and Angiotech

Two large companies continue to evolve. Valeant is slowly exiting from the NCE business and going back to its specialty pharma roots as it gives back clinical programs which were acquired by the prior Biovail management. Angiotech has announced a major debt restructuring which will cut its ongoing financing costs but will also result in major dilution for current common shareholders.

More to Come on Profitable Canadian Healthcare Companies

My focus as a biotech analyst over the years has been the development stage companies. The Canadian healthcare sector also includes numerous companies which are not only profitable but also do monthly distributions to shareholders. I will take a look at these companies in a future post.

Friday Science Review: March 12, 2010

Good viruses, bad viruses, biomarkers and protein structures in this week’s research highlights…

Biomarker for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Subset: Using a high-throughput genomic approach to associate gene expression profile with treatment outcomes for Hodgkin lymphoma, researchers identified an overexpression of genes typically expressed by macrophages in samples from patients who had experienced a relapse after treatment.  This was confirmed histologically by looking at stained tissue samples and tallying the number of macrophages – high numbers of macrophages are associated with treatment resistance in Hodgkin lymphoma.  About 25% of patients fall into this category where a biomarker test could shuttle them into a more aggressive or experimental treatment option and may prevent them from being exposed to the side effects of primary treatments that are likely to fail.  The study, led by B.C. Cancer Agency researcher Dr. Randy Gascoyne, is reported in The New England Journal of Medicine with an editorial that is touting this as the “breakthrough we have been looking for.”

Immune System Boost for HIV Patients:  A very important molecular discovery may give a boost to restoring immune function in HIV infected patients.  Renowned HIV scientist, Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, and his cross-border research teams at the Université de Montréal and Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida identified that the protein PD-1 is up-regulated by the release of bacterial products from the gut.  Another factor, IL-10, is subsequently increased and together this is what shuts down the CD4+ T-cell immune system in HIV patients.  Therefore, the scientists suggest that new immunotherapies should aim to block PD-1 and IL-10 to help restore the debilitated immune system in HIV infected patients.  The research article appears in this week’s Nature Medicine.

Not All Viruses are Bad: The ubiquitous reovirus has oncolytic actions against different types of cancer when used as a therapeutic approach.  Now, prostate cancer may be added to the growing list of cancers, which includes ovarian, breast, pancreatic and gliomas, that may be treated with a reovirus based strategy.  In fact, the Calgary-based Oncolytics Biotech Inc. technology platform and pipeline are based on the reovirus and contributed to the prostate study.  In the prostate cancer clinical study, a viral concoction was injected into prostate cancer nodules and three weeks later, the prostates were resected.  There was evidence of cancer cell death and overall, the procedure was deemed safe with only mild side effects experienced by the patients.  The success of this pilot study should draw interest to expand the clinical trial novel treatment for prostate cancer.  Dr. Donald Morris led the research and medical team at the University of Calgary and reports the study in Cancer Research.

Having Fun with Names: This study provides more molecular and structural details than you probably need to know but I want to point out the cool protein domain name: Really Interesting New Gene or RING domain.  It is an important component of a group of proteins that regulate the potent oncogene called eIF4E (eukaryotic translation initiation factor).  The details of the Université de Montréal study are described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pump It Up: Another structural study that I want to point out because of its importance: the V-ATPase.  This is a membrane proton pump that controls the acidity of the cellular environment and can play critical roles for the cell in promoting a diseased state.  SickKids Research Instiute scientist, Dr. John Rubinstein explains “In some types of cancer, the pumps are “hijacked” to acidify the external environment of tumours, allowing the cancer to invade surrounding tissues and spread throughout the body.  The cells that take up bone minerals also use V-ATPases to dissolve bone, a process that must be limited in treating osteoporosis.”  More details on the study are found here in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Paradoxical Signalling Interaction: The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway is a well studied signaling module and its aberrant activity is implicated in a number of diseases including cancer.  It is also the target of a handful of therapeutic drugs currently under study or in trials.  However, the new study led by Dr. Deborah Anderson at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency throws a new twist into the pathway.  Their data identifies a paradoxical interaction between the p85 regulatory subunit of PI3K and the PTEN phosphatase enzyme since these two enzymes have opposing actions.  This is certainly food for thought for researchers in this field to rethink their signalling models.  A recent news article headlines this study as the “on switch” for cancer cell growth but it is really a much more complicated puzzle than that.  The data is presented in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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

Monday Biotech Deal Review: November 30, 2009

It was a fairly quiet week last week, but you still have options (har) after the jump, as well as an equity line, a debt settlement, a rights offering, licenses, and deals closing in a reasonably timely manner.

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Monday Biotech Deal Review: November 23, 2009

A slightly delayed Deal Review this week because of some non-biotech deal activity.  Live, from New York, it’s the Deal Review!

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Monday Biotech Deal Review: November 9, 2009

B&W_BigNickelSome closings, some new deals, some MDS and some PBM all in this week’s deal review.

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Monday Biotech Deal Review: November 2, 2009

B&W_BigNickelIn this week’s Deal Review: SemBioSys hops on the SIFT Tax bandwagon; new deals from Microbix, OPMEDIC and GeneNews; and good updates from iCo Therapeutics, QLT, Noveko and Oncolytics. Read more of this post

Monday Biotech Deal Review: October 25, 2009

B&W_BigNickelA very busy deal week coincided with a very busy work week (for those of us with day jobs), so allow me a particularly grateful thank-you to Jacob Cawker, who’s been an invaluable help with the Deal Review this and the last several weeks.  After the jump, licenses both inbound, outbound and just tied up (optioned); securities extended and accelerated (plus an actual common share offering, with the word “units” banished for one special week); and last but not least, a good volume of Canadian M&A (M&Eh?) from private to public to “just browsing.”  Read more of this post

Monday Biotech Deal Review: September 28, 2009

B&W_BigNickelLots of deal news this week, including the Canadian action noted at the time: the iCo-CPDD deal and ethica’s in-license transaction.  Plus there was plenty of international excitement today (repentance notwithstanding) with Abbott’s $6.6 billion Solvay play and J&J’s new 18% stake in Crucell.  Keep reading for a securities-palooza and plenty more after the jump…

Monday Deal Review: May 18, 2009

bignickel1A fairly quiet week on the deal front, but if Becton Dickinson can sell $750 million of 10- and 30-year notes just for the heck of it, things in the market can’t be too bad, right?  Here’s what I saw on the wires this week…

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Monday Deal Review: May 4, 2009

bignickel1Canadian deal and company news this week:

Big drama at Patheon’s AGM, a public offering (!), some collaboration news and a completed private placement.

after the jump…

Monday Deal Review: April 13, 2009

M&A, scads of securities, and a real, live IPO in the Canadian deal news this week.

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Monday Deal Review: March 30, 2009

Monday Deal Review: March 23, 2009

A relativley light week for Canadian deal and company info this week, but we have all the news that’s fit to print (if not necessarily fit to distribute in the U.S.) after the jump…

Monday Deal Review: March 9, 2009

A big dose of Canadian deals and company info from this week after the jump…

Wendesday Brain Dump: January 28

Things that caught my eye this week:

The FDA made Geron very happy; Sarkozy made French scientists very unhappy.

Here at home, some regulatory milestones for Oncolytics, Welichem and Pfizer Canada.

Europe’s R&D intensity (spending as a percentage of GDP) was stagnant overall from 2000 to 2006, but at least a few detractors are out of commission.

And last, since we don’t want to dwell on the negative, some advice from PwC on transfer pricing and other more general approaches to weathering the downturn.

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