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Life sciences news briefs (October 27, 2003)


Ottawa, ON — October 27, 2003 — The following life sciences news briefs were published recently by Industry Canada:

1) Pharmaceuticals Update

Altachem Achieves milestone with potential anti-cancer compound

Mr Warren Jackson, president and CEO of Altachem Pharma (Edmonton) announced that Altachem’s latest cancer drug candidate ACP 2127 has displayed impressive results on initial tests compared with other CDK inhibitors in its class. ACP 2127 is a novel immunomodulator with anti-cancer properties targeted to inhibit CDK functionality and prevent the growth of cancer cells. Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) are the proteins that control the growth cycle of cancer cells. By using small molecule CDK inhibitors to disrupt the cycle of a cancer cell, the growth and spread of cancer can be stopped.

Labopharm presents data from European Phase III clinical trial

Labopharm (Laval) presented the results of its European Phase III clinical trial for its once-daily formulation of the analgesic tramadol in a poster presentation at the prestigious OsteoArthritis Research Science International World Congress 2003 in Berlin, Germany. As previously announced, Labopharm’s once-daily formulation of tramadol achieved both the primary and secondary end points of the study.

Cardiome and Fujisawa sign US$68-million partnership agreement

Cardiome Pharma (Vancouver), and Fujisawa Healthcare, the US subsidiary of Fujisawa Pharmaceutical, announced execution of a US$68 million (C$90 million) strategic partnership agreement for the co-development and Fujisawa Healthcare’s exclusive commercialization of Cardiome’s proprietary intravenous antiarrhythmic agent, RSD1235, subject to customary regulatory approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

Medicure files for approval of phase II clinical trial

Medicure (Montreal), a cardiovascular drug discovery and development company, is pleased to announce that it has filed for regulatory approval with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Canada’s Therapeutics Product Directorate (TPD) to conduct a Phase II clinical study of the company’s lead drug candidate, MC-1, to evaluate the cardioprotective and neuroprotective effects of the drug in patients undergoing high-risk coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG). The objective of the trial is to assess the effects of MC-1 compared with placebo on cardiovascular events and neurological functions following CABG surgery and to determine the level of protection against ischemia reperfusion injuries during cardiac surgery.

2) Diagnostics and Therapeutics Update

WellSpring facility accepted by FDA

WellSpring Pharmaceutical (Oakville) announced its most recent milestone: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided a letter of acceptance to WellSpring Pharmaceutical Canada, its contract pharmaceutical manufacturing subsidiary, to manufacture solid and semi-solid dosage form products, such as tablets, capsules, creams, lotions, ointments, gels and non-sterile liquids for the U.S. market. This FDA acceptance enhances WellSpring’s ability to expand its customer base for the production of pharmaceutical products in the US and other international markets.

Canadian medical heroes named for 2003

Six Canadians were honoured in London, ON for their achievements in medicine and the health sciences at the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame’s (CMHF) 2003 Induction Ceremony. The 2003 Inductees are: Dr William Feindel, pioneer researcher in epilepsy and brain imaging; Dr Donald O Hebb, pioneer researcher in neuropsychology; Dr Charles H. Hollenberg, founder of Cancer Care Ontario and Cancer Care International; Dr Charles Huggins, Nobel Prize winner in medicine and physiology; Dr J Fraser Mustard, researcher who discovered the anti-clotting effects of Aspirin; and Sainte Marguerite d’Youville, founder of the Grey Nuns of Montreal and Mother of Universal Charity.

ID Biomedical receives approval to begin field trial of FluINsure

ID Biomedical (Vancouver) announced that it has received a No Objection letter from Health Canada conveying approval to begin its scheduled field study of FluINsure trivalent influenza vaccine, a non-living vaccine for intranasal administration. In addition, Health Canada has provided lot release for all of the test articles to be used in the trial, which allows administration of the vaccine to begin. Screening of potential subjects and shipments of study vaccine are underway.

Visudyne approved in Japan for treatment of AMD

QLT (Vancouver) and Novartis Ophthalmics, the eye health unit of Novartis AG announced that health authorities in Japan have approved Visudyne (verteporfin) for the treatment of the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over age 50. Specifically, Visudyne has been approved for the orphan indication of AMD with all types of subfoveal choroidal neovascularization. Patients with this serious condition lose their ability to read, drive and recognise faces in a few months.

Helix opens new oncology research laboratory

Helix (Aurora) has opened a new research laboratory in Edmonton, Alberta to accelerate the development of its potential cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. This research laboratory, under the direction of Dr Wah Wong, PhD, is located at the research transition facility of the University of Alberta. The laboratory will help develop Helix’s drug candidate, DOS 47, and related compounds, as potential treatments for breast and other cancers. The laboratory will also conduct research on novel proteins discovered by Helix in cancerous prostate cells as part of the development of potential new therapeutics and diagnostics for prostate cancer.

ProMetic life sciences sets up of company in Tunisia

ProMetic Life Sciences, (Montreal) the Institut Pasteur de Tunis and the Tunisian state corporation La Pharmacie Centrale de Tunisie are proud to announce that they have entered into a strategic alliance to up of a biopharmaceutical company in Tunisia to manufacture and commercialize affordable high-value drugs for 500 million people in Africa, the Middle East and part of Europe. They says the transfer of technologies necessary for the manufacture of biopharmaceutical products by emerging countries is a world first. This project, whose estimated value is C$60 million, will initially produce four drug which are designed to combat destructive diseases common to Africa and the Middle East.

3) Medical Devices

CryoCath’s Freezor MAX and Freezor Xtra successes

CryoCath Technologies (Montreal) producer of cryotherapy products to treat cardiovascular disease, says that two abstracts pertaining to the ablation of atrial flutter using the company’s Freezor MAX and Freezor Xtra catheters were presented in Venice, Italy at the Eighth Annual International Workshop on Arrhythmias. Atrial flutter is the second-most commonly ablated arrhythmia in the world, with an estimated 55,000 procedures performed each year. The abstracts summarized a single Italian centre’s experience with cryoablation. At the time of presenting the abstract, 143 patients had been treated with no complications. Of the 143 patients, 130 had what is referred to as typical atrial flutter (103 treated with Freezor Xtra; 27 treated with Freezor MAX). The results showed Xtra had an acute success rate of 90%, on par with radiofrequency (RF) ablation of Atrial Flutter. The centre was able to improve the success rate to 100% with MAX, exceeding any published RF data.

Cedara signs agreement with major Chinese X-ray company

Cedara Software (Toronto), an independent developer of medical software technologies for the global healthcare market, today announced a distribution agreement with Shanghai Medical Equipment Works (SMEW), one of the largest medical equipment companies in China. This agreement allows Cedara to broaden distribution of its popular I-Acquire/DR acquisition console software, I-So
ftView diagnostic review workstation, and I-Store image and distribution archive into SMEW’s network of more than 5,000 hospitals.

4) Genomic Update

Genetic difference discovered in people with depression, suicide

After a pioneering seven-year study, Canadian scientists have discovered a new genetic difference in people suffering from severe depression and in those who have committed suicide. The findings by collaborative researchers at the University of Ottawa and the Institute of Mental Health Research, and McGill University’s Douglas Hospital, Montreal represent a significant step forward in identifying individuals at risk for debilitating depression or even death. The study, called Impaired repression at a 5-hydroxytryptamine -1A receptor gene polymorphism associated with major depression and suicide, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, showed the same genetic difference or ‘single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in a gene that contributes to the serotonin system which regulates mood cycles in human beings. This SNP in the serotonin-1A gene was two-fold enriched in people with depression, and four-fold enriched in those who had completed suicide, as compared to normal control groups

5) Industry Update

Oncolytics Biotech (Calgary) announced that it has closed its previously announced bought deal financing and issued 1,200,000 units, each unit consisting of one common share and one-half of one common share purchase warrant, for aggregate gross proceeds of $6 million.

VSM MedTech (Vancouver) announced that the agents of its recent $30.55 million prospectus offering have exercised their over-allotment option in full, purchasing an additional 705,000 common shares at a price of $6.50 for gross proceeds to VSM of approximately $4.58 million.

G Donald Love, a director of Neuro Discovery (Vancouver), passed away over the long weekend. Mr Love, founder and former chairman and CEO of Oxford Properties Group, was a founding director and investor in NDI.

VSM MedTech (Vancouver) received notice that its CTF Systems subsidiary has been selected to provide a 275-channel OMEGA magnetoencephalography (MEG) system to Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Munster (Munster University). Completion of the final agreement on the MEG sale is anticipated within 30 days.

Cangene (Toronto) announces that it has signed a research and development contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop a hyperimmune specific for the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. NIAID will supply the plasma and funding for the project.

Life Sciences News Brief is prepared by Armar International for the Life Sciences Branch of Industry Canada (contact: Paul Vaillancourt; Telephone: (613) 952-7700; E-mail: vaillancourt.paul@ic.gc.ca)