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Life sciences news briefs (November 20, 2003)


Ottawa, ON – November 20, 2003 – The following Life Sciences news briefs were published by Industry Canada this week:

1) Pharmaceuticals Update

Vasogen announces new class of pharmaceuticals

Vasogen (Mississauga), which develops immune modulation therapies for treating cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory disorders, today announced that it has identified a new class of pharmaceuticals targeting chronic inflammation. The company’s first drug candidate in this class, VP025, is being developed for the treatment of neuro-inflammatory conditions, with first research findings presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans this past weekend. Neuro-inflammatory conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), are estimated to affect more than five million people in North America, with the total cost of care exceeding $75 billion annually.

YM BioSciences signs agreement for cancer drug

YM BioSciences (Mississauga), a cancer drug development company with an advanced-stage portfolio, announced the signing of a development and licensing agreement for TheraCIM hR3, the company’s EGF receptor antibody therapeutic for the treatment of cancer. Under the terms of the agreement, Oncoscience AG of Wedel, Germany will be responsible for all expenses associated with the development, clinical trials and regulatory processes required to bring this product to market in Europe. Oncoscience was founded in 2001 by Ferdinand Bach, previously managing director of Medac, Hamburg. Oncoscience has identified three clinical indications where the antibody will be used to enhance the effectiveness of conventional radiation therapy, and plans to start trials in the second quarter 2004. Given the typically short trial times required in the lead indications, it may be possible to achieve regulatory approval for TheraCIM hR3 in 2006.

DELEX receives approval for Phase II clinical trial of AeroLEF

DELEX Therapeutics (Mississauga) announced it has received approval from the Therapeutics Product Directorate of Health Canada to initiate a Phase II clinical trial of AeroLEF. The trial will evaluate the effect of AeroLEF (aerosolized liposome encapsulated fentanyl) in the treatment of acute, post-operative pain in adult patients undergoing elective knee surgery. AeroLEF has been shown to be safe and well tolerated in a series of Phase I trials in healthy volunteers. These clinical trials, including single, multi-dose and device performance studies, demonstrated that AeroLEF administration is associated with rapid and prolonged circulating levels of plasma fentanyl normally associated with pain relief.

2) Diagnostics and Therapeutics Update

BRHC and Gowlings join forces in partnership

Biotechnology Human Resource Council (BHRC) and Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP announced a partnership agreement to deliver intellectual property protection training to Canada’s biotechnology sector. Beginning on December 8, Gowlings and the BHRC will offer educational courses in major centres across Canada. The initiative addresses proprietary issues facing many scientists in Canada’s growing research sector. Protecting the country’s valuable discoveries will help ensure the sectors’ growth and continued health.

Paladin and Meda announce Canadian distribution agreement for Cortifoam

Paladin Labs (Montreal), a Canadian specialty pharmaceutical company, and Meda, a Swedish specialty pharmaceutical company, today announced that they have entered into a Canadian distribution agreement for Cortifoam, a local anti-inflammatory therapy for the adjunctive treatment of ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Under the terms of the Agreement, Paladin shall become Meda’s exclusive Canadian distributor for Cortifoam. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Canadian sales of Cortifoam amounted to approximately $1.5 million in 2002. Cortifoam competes in the topical steroid market, valued by IMS Canada at $3.9 million of sales during the same period.

Growth factor drug helps heart heal

A growth factor drug that stimulates bone marrow to produce stem cells also helps regenerate damaged heart muscle, says a Canadian study. The study of the drug granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) is one of the first of its kind. “Research has shown that there are cells in the heart that come from bone marrow stem cells. We hypothesized increasing these cells after a heart attack may help the heart regenerate heart muscle cells, and this is supported by our results,” says researcher Dr Chris A Glover, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Heart Institute, in prepared statement.

Medicure strengthens proprietary position

Medicure (Winnipeg), a cardiovascular drug discovery and development company, is pleased to announce that it has been issued patent No. 6,605,612, “Cardioprotective Phosphonates and Malonates”, by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The newly issued patent, the company’s eighth, covers composition of matter claims and compound claims in a series of novel therapeutics in the treatment of cardiovascular and related diseases. Medical uses in this patent include treatment of cerebral and myocardial ischemia, hypertension, myocardial infarction, ischemic reperfusion injury and other metabolic and cardiovascular conditions.

Procyon reports favorable resistance profile for protease inhibitor

Procyon Biopharma (Montreal) announced that it has successfully completed a resistance profile study for its PL-100, a protease inhibitor (PI) for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. This preclinical study supports the company’s earlier claims that PL-100 possesses a favorable resistance profile based on in vitro susceptibility testing. The research was conducted in collaboration with ViroLogic, a South San Francisco-based company developing and marketing innovative products to guide and improve treatment of AIDS.

3) Medical Devices

Angiotech Announces 12-month follow-up data from Taxus IV clinical trial

Angiotech Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver), developer of the paclitaxel-coated stent technology, was notified by its corporate partner, Boston Scientific Corporation, of the 12-month follow-up data from its TAXUS IV clinical trial. The benefits reported at nine months for patients who received a paclitaxel-eluting stent compared to patients who received a bare-metal stent were maintained at 12 months. Boston Scientific made the announcement at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions in Orlando.

Quebec firm invents the VPS, a wireless cardiac alert system

After three years of intensive research and in collaboration with a cardiologist and heart surgeon, Medical Intelligence, a Quebec firm specializing in human tele-security, unveiled a wireless portable automatic cardiac alert system. The VPS (Vital Positioning System), is a device that automatically detects when a heart attack is occurring outside the hospital environment and alerts emergency services to the condition and location of the afflicted. The portable cardiac alert system, hooked up by GPS, instantly alerts the 911 service the patient is not required to do anything after it automatically detects a major cardiac incident in the making or that has already occurred. The GPS is used to track the exact location of the victim in record time.

MDX Medical completes 3D testing of Avid Phantom

MDX Medical (Vancouver) announced that it has successfully completed a key stage in the development of the universal AVID System. Dr Karl Otto, a medical physicist and independent consultant to MDX, conducted a series of tests at the BC Cancer Agency that confirmed the accuracy and efficiency of the AVID Phantom in the measurement of 3D images of radiation therapy treatment plans. During these tests AVID performed to the stringent specifications required for use as a dose verification device for IMRT (intensity modulated radiation
therapy). IMRT is the latest development in high-precision radiation therapy that is used for many types of cancer, but requires accurate treatment verification procedures before patients can be treated. The AVID System is being developed as a tool to verify these patient treatment plans to ensure the radiation treatment to be delivered to the patient precisely matches the oncologist’s intended plan.

4) Industry Update

Pharmaceutical developer Dimethaid Research (Toronto) has filed a preliminary short form prospectus relating to the previously announced private placement of 14,377,688 special warrants. The special warrants were sold on October 30, 2003 at a price of $1.00 per special warrant, providing Dimethaid with C$14,377,688 million in gross proceeds.

Cedara Software (Toronto), a leading independent developer of medical software technologies for the global healthcare market, announced that it has signed an agreement with Cerner to supply certain of its medical imaging technologies and related support services. The agreement is valued at a minimum of C$7.1 million, substantially all of which will fall within the current fiscal year.

PanGeo Pharma announced that on November 5, 2003 the Quebec Superior Court issued an order sanctioning the plan of arrangement submitted by PanGeo Pharma and its various subsidiaries to its creditors. The plan called for the liquidation of the PanGeo Group with the proceeds being distributed among the creditors of the PanGeo Group in accordance with their relative priority.

Neurochem (Montreal) announced that it will be added to the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index on Monday, November 24, 2003. All securities in the index are listed on the NASDAQ National Market and meet minimum requirements, including market value, average daily share volume and seasoning as a public company.

Andromed (Montreal), a high-tech medical company, announced that it will refocus its activities in order to increase value to its shareholders. Andromed will emphasize on its Androsonix technological platform, while developing additional commercial partners for its Androscope family of products. The Androfact system will be divested. These decisions require a restructuring and rationalization of staff, which will result in a non-recurring charge of approximately $750,000, and will result in annual savings of around $2,300,000.

International Wex Technologies (Vancouver) announced the filing of a clinical trial application with Health Canada for patients suffering refractory severe chronic pain where treatment with current analgesics has failed. This study will be an open-label protocol to assess the safety and therapeutic exploratory of Tectin in this target population.

Angiotech Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver) announced that it has entered into an agreement and plan of merger to acquire all of the outstanding shares of STS Biopolymers, for cash consideration of approximately US$23 million. STS is a privately owned company located in Henrietta, New York, specializing in the development and manufacture of state-of-the-art biocompatible coatings for medical devices. The transaction is expected to close by the end of December 2003 and is subject to the approval of STS’s shareholders as well as other customary closing conditions. The acquisition will be accounted for using the purchase method of accounting.

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).