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Life sciences news briefs (February 16, 2004)


Ottawa, ON – February 16, 2004 – The following life sciences news briefs were published this week by Industry Canada:

1) PHARMACEUTICALS UPDATE

Ecopia cancer drug candidate effective against brain tumour

Ecopia BioSciences (Montreal) announced that its lead cancer drug candidate, ECO-04601, showed significant inhibition of tumour growth in an animal model of glioma, a form of brain cancer that is virtually incurable with current therapies. The anticancer efficacy of ECO-04601 was tested in animals against C6 glioma tumour cells in a xenograft mouse model. Tumour growth in this exceptionally aggressive model was significantly reduced by ECO-04601. Dr Francois Berger presented the data at the ANOCEF (Association of French-speaking Neuro-oncologists) conference held in Monaco on Saturday, January 31, 2004. During his presentation, Dr Berger made the following statement: “ECO-04601 is an innovative anticancer agent showing activity in cancers that are hard to treat. Its novel mechanism of action seems to have a synergistic effect on various targets and opens the door to developing new therapies.” Dr Berger is a leading neuro-oncologist and professor of cellular biology at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France and is conducting preclinical studies on ECO-04601.

Micrologix acquires clinical-stage hepatitis C drug candidate

Micrologix Biotech(Vancouver), a developer of anti-infective drugs, has acquired the global rights to celgosivir (to be designated as MBI-3253), a phase I/II clinical-stage compound, from Virogen (UK). Celgosivir, which has been in over 600 subjects in human clinical studies to date, is a novel, oral antiviral agent under development for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infections. Micrologix intends to initiate phase II clinical development with celgosivir in calendar 2004.

BCY LifeSciences provides clinical summary report

BCY LifeSciences (Toronto) announced that it has completed the clinical summary report from its phase II trial for DCF 987 and is making it available, under a confidentiality agreement, to potential development partners. The company had previously supplied the raw trial data to interested parties in order to facilitate the review process. The report is a formal summary of the trial results. The document was prepared by internal scientific staff and qualified persons employed by the company, in conjunction with the clinical advisory board. The report states that, “(i)n consideration of all of the data available at Day 28, the overall conclusion that may be drawn is that the primary outcome measurement, FEV1-AUC ((forced expiratory volume in one second), a measure of lung function), combined with absolute and relative differences in % predicted FEV1 from baseline, suggest a slight trend towards clinical efficacy for DCF 987.”

AnorMED initiates fourth phase II trial in cancer patients

AnorMED (Vancouver) announced the initiation of its fourth phase II clinical trial to evaluate AMD3100 as a new stem cell transplantation drug candidate for cancer patients. Clinical data to date in cancer patients shows AMD3100 effectively increases the number of stem cells available for transplantation. The strongest predictor of success in stem cell transplant is the number of stem cells available for transplantation. This phase II trial will be conducted at multiple centers in the United States and will enroll up to 30 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma patients. The objective of this study is to determine if patients who are given AMD3100 plus a mobilization regimen of chemotherapy and granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) have more stem cells available for transplantation.

Abbott and Caprion announce drug discovery collaboration in oncology

Abbott Laboratories (Abbott Park, IL) and Caprion Pharmaceuticals (Montreal) have announced a research collaboration applying Caprion’s quantitative proteomics platform, CellCarta, for the discovery of novel antibody targets and the development of therapeutics for the treatment of lung cancer. Under the terms of the collaboration, Abbott will non-exclusively evaluate a number of drug targets for non-small-cell lung cancer previously discovered by Caprion, as well as a number of additional targets that Caprion discovers in its ongoing lung cancer program. Abbott will obtain exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize therapeutic applications for its selected targets. Caprion will retain rights to certain other targets for pursuit of internal or partnered product development efforts.

2) DIAGNOSTICS AND THERAPEUTICS UPDATE

Transition reports positive pre-clinical data

Transition Therapeutics (Toronto) announced positive pre-clinical efficacy data for a second Islet Neogenesis Therapy, GLP1-INT. Following a short course of treatments, blood glucose levels normalized and remained normal for six weeks post-treatment in diabetic animals. GLP1-INT combines the diabetes drug candidate, Glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), with Transition’s gastrin analogue (G1). This proprietary combination utilizes the proliferative and blood glucose control properties of GLP-1 together with G1’s ability to differentiate and regenerate new insulin-producing cells from islet precursor stem cells. These studies were conducted in collaboration with Dr Alex Rabinovitch, a world leader in diabetes research at the University of Alberta. Non-obese diabetic mice received GLP1-INT treatments for 18 days and were monitored for six weeks following treatment. One week following the completion of treatment, the fasting blood glucose levels of GLP1-INT treated mice returned to normal and remained at such levels through to the end of the study at six weeks post-treatment. In contrast, the fasting blood glucose of GLP-1 alone treated mice returned to diabetic levels. The untreated control group of animals had to be sacrificed prior to the scheduled end of the study due to the severity of disease.

AEterna signs partnership with Roche in Brazil

Roche (Frankfurt) and AEterna Laboratories (Quebec City) announced a partnership for the marketing in Brazil of Impavido (Miltefosine), the breakthrough oral therapy of leishmaniasis. The agreement was signed between Produtos Roche in Sao Paulo and Zentaris in Frankfurt, a 100% subsidiary of AEterna Laboratories Under this agreement, Roche will support Zentaris in the registration process and will market the product for Zentaris in Brazil. Furthermore, Zentaris will supply Impavido to Roche. Brazil is the country in South America that is most affected with the deadly visceral leishmaniasis (black fever) and the painful cutaneous leishmaniasis (parasitic skin disease). Both parties will immediately start clinical bridging trials, as requested from the Brazilian health authorities.

3) MEDICAL DEVICES

eXI successfully concludes testing of its RFID asset tags

eXI Wireless (Richmond), a leader in radio frequency identification (RFID)-based asset management and security solutions, announced that its subsidiary, eXI Systems, has successfully completed its RFID asset tag trial program with 22 hospitals in the US, including the Wuesthoff Medical Center and Maui Memorial. The trial program demonstrated the ease of use of the asset tags and the robustness and multi-use capability of eXI’s RFID infrastructure, combining in a single system the ability to protect, locate, and track equipment and concurrently provide eXI’s HALO infant protection solution. Hospitals that participated in the trial program are already using eXI’s HALO infant protection system to prevent infant abductions.

ORTHOsoft releases new surgical navigation system technologies

ORTHOsoft (Montreal) a specialist in computer-assisted orthopedic surgery (CAOS), released the next version of the Navitrack TotalKnee image-less solution for total knee replacement surgeries, and announced the availability of the next generation of 3-D image-guided technology for pedicle screw placement, Navitrack PSP 4.0, part
of the Navitrack spine product family. These two advancements in surgical navigation systems are designed to improve implant placement accuracy and outcome, and to potentially reduce recuperation time for patients following an orthopedic surgical procedure.

4) GENOMIC

Chromos and AviGenics sign licensing deal

Chromos Molecular Systems (Burnaby) and AviGenics (Athens, GA) announced that they have signed a license agreement under which AviGenics has acquired exclusive rights to Chromos’ ACE System to generate transgenic avians for the development of protein therapeutics and other applications in the avian transgenic field. Under the terms of the agreement, AviGenics will combine the ACE System, Chromos’ chromosome-based gene delivery and expression technology, with its transgenic platform to develop new protein therapeutics. Chromos will receive upfront and annual license fees, milestone payments, and collect royalties upon commercialization of ACE System-derived products as well as from revenues generated from services provided to third parties by AviGenics. Further terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

5) INDUSTRY UPDATE

Theratechnologies (Montreal) announced that it has entered into an agreement with a syndicate of underwriters to issue and sell 3,950,000 common shares of Theratechnologies at a price of $3.45 per share. Gross proceeds of this transaction will be $13,627,500.

Pharmaceutical developer Dimethaid Research (Toronto) has announced changes to the makeup of its board of directors. Brian Walsh and Glen Sather have resigned, citing time constraints in meeting their commitments to the company. Corporate finance specialist John M Wiseman is joining the board after 35 years in public accounting.

Vasogen (Mississauga) announced that it has been granted CE mark regulatory approval in Europe for its lead product, Celacade (immune modulation therapy), for the treatment of chronic heart failure.

Andromed (Montreal) announced that it has granted on January 28, 2004, a total of 200,000 stock options to three of its officers and to one of its employees pursuant to its stock options plan.

Labopharm (Laval) announced that it has signed an agreement with Gruppo Angelini under which Labopharm will formulate a once-daily version of the anti-depressant trazodone hydrochloride (trazodone) for global commercialization.

Forbes Medi-Tech (Vancouver) announced that dosing of subjects has been completed for the phase II clinical trial of its novel cholesterol-lowering pharmaceutical, FM-VP4. The phase II trial to measure the drug’s efficacy and safety is being conducted at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam, a centre for the management and research of dyslipidaemia.

ALDA Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver) announced the appointments of Dr Brian Conway and Dr Michael Wilby to its scientific advisory board.

Response Biomedical (Vancouver) announced the appointment of Mr Stan Yakatan, chairman of US-based Katan Associates International, to the company’s board of directors.

Trillium Therapeutics (Toronto) announced that the company has raised an additional $6 million, bringing the total of its series A financing to $13.5 million.

Bioniche Life Sciences (Belleville) announced that it has entered into an agreement with three agents for a private placement offering of 5,000,000 units at a price of $2.00 per unit for gross subscription proceeds of $10,000,000.

Life Sciences News Briefs 2004 is prepared by Armar International for the Life Sciences Branch of Industry Canada (contact: Paul Vaillancourt; Tel: 613-952-7700; E-mail: vaillancourt.paul@ic.gc.ca).