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Life sciences news briefs from Industry Canada (March 26, 2004)


Ottawa, ON – March 26, 2004 – The following life sciences news briefs were published this week by Industry Canada.

1) Pharmaceuticals Update

Schering Canada Caelyx demonstrates efficacy

Schering Canada (Pointe Claire) reported that results of a randomized Phase III clinical study demonstrated that Caelyx (pegylated liposomal doxorubicin hydrochloride) provided comparable efficacy in the first-line treatment of metastatic breast cancer with significantly reduced cardiac toxicity compared to conventional doxorubicin, one of the most active drugs in the treatment of breast cancer. The study results were published in the latest edition of Annals of Oncology(1). “These results with Caelyx in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer represent an important advance in chemotherapy, where significant reductions in side effects such as hair loss, nausea and vomiting can improve the life of the cancer patient,” said Mary O’Brien, MD, lead author of the study and consultant oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, UK. “The reduction in risk of cardiotoxicity with Caelyx monotherapy along with its established efficacy may allow physicians to administer a full course of Caelyx in patients who were previously considered unfit for anthracyclines, for example, the elderly. The lower risk of cardiotoxicity also may allow patients who previously received conventional doxorubicin or another anthracycline the chance to be retreated, where this was not previously possible, thereby adding another treatment option for this disease,” O’Brien added.

Viventia and ESBATech enter collaboration to enhance antibodies

Viventia Biotech (Toronto) and ESBATech Zurich, Switzerland, announced that they have entered into a license agreement and research collaboration. The goal of the collaboration is to investigate whether ESBATech’s unique antibody stabilization and expression technology can enhance the characteristics of certain antibodies discovered through Viventia’s proprietary antibody discovery and screening platforms Hybridomics and ImmunoMine, with a view to the development of drug candidates in the field of oncology. Under the terms of the agreement ESBATech will receive an upfront payment and research funding. At the end of the collaboration, Viventia has the option to license the ESBATech technology for clinical development, with milestone payments and royalties due to ESBATech. As part of the research collaboration, ESBATech will utilize its proprietary technologies to investigate whether these technologies have the potential to enhance the stability, binding and yield of certain recombinant antibody fragments engineered by Viventia. Dr Nick Glover, president and CEO, Viventia Biotech said, “Viventia seeks partners, such as ESBATech, who can complement our own discovery platforms and help us deliver on our goal of creating safer and more potent therapeutics for the fight against cancer. I look forward to a mutually beneficial collaboration with them.”

2) Diagnostics and Therapeutics Update

QLT announces Centers for Medicare and Medicaid exception

QLT (Vancouver) and Novartis Ophthalmics, the eye health unit of Novartis Pharma announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has raised the Medicare allowable reimbursement rate for Visudyne. Effective April 1, 2004, the rate moves from approximately $1,304 to $1,404, as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 — this rate was determined using the average selling price for Visudyne in Q4 2003 +6%.

Tests prove Viralex kills bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ Disease

ALDA Pharmaceuticals (New Westminster) announced that its lead product, Viralex with T3 6, has proved to be 100% effective against Legionella pneumophilia, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Tests were conducted at an independent laboratory in the United States, in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements. These test results will be included in the company’s EPA and Health Canada submissions for further regulatory approval. The effectiveness of Viralex can now be expanded to include Legionnaires’ disease. The results of these tests are significant because this important infectious organism is a great concern in the cruise ship industry, which represents another major market opportunity for the company.

3) Medical Devices

ATS showcasing new aseptic robotic technology

ATS Automation Tooling Systems (Cambridge) announced it is showcasing a prototype of its new, ultra-clean, aseptic robot at Interphex, the pharmaceutical industry’s annual equipment exposition in New York City. The new robot technology – vaporous hydrogen peroxide (VHP)-compatible robotics (VHP Robot) – is believed to be the first automated robotic solution capable of withstanding the harsh sterilization treatment required by aseptic process environments. “The pharmaceutical industry needs VHP compatible robotics and we’ve been working on developing this innovative automation technology over the past year,” said Klaus Woerner, ATS president and chief executive officer, “We expect our VHP robot development will be completed and FDA validated by the end of calendar 2004. We expect our first sale of the VHP robot will be to a global pharmaceutical customer who is already an ATS customer. They are keenly interested in the technology and in fact they have already provided real life applications requirements to assist us during the development stages. As such, the first application for our VHP robot is expected to be in automated batch sterility testing, a slow and laborious process that is nevertheless critical in releasing every drug production lot to market.”

Angiotech licenses technology from the University of British Columbia

Angiotech Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver) announced that it has licensed several novel technologies from the University of British Columbia (UBC) to further strengthen the company’s portfolio of next-generation drug-loaded medical devices and biomaterials. Included in this agreement is technology that was jointly developed between Angiotech and UBC for a next-generation stent endograft program designed to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). Angiotech’s next-generation stent endograft technology is designed to overcome the most common failures associated with current devices used for the treatment of AAA; vascular leaks and migration. By coating stent graphs with therapeutic agents that promote the growth of fibrous (scar) tissue, it is possible to biologically anchor the stent graph to the aortic wall and fill the aneurysm sac with scar in a controlled manner. Angiotech’s comprehensive drug screening of therapeutic agents designed to alleviate common medical device problems has identified several proprietary lead compounds for application on stent grafts. Two clinically proven agents have been tested successfully in animal models and the company will seek a stent graft partner to co-develop the coated commercial product.

4) Industry Update

Procyon Biopharma (Montreal) announced that is has filed a preliminary short form prospectus in connection with a proposed public offering of units in Canada. Procyon has entered into an agreement with a syndicate of underwriters led by Dundee Securities and including Canaccord Capital, Loewen, Ondaatje, McCutcheon and Research Capital to effect the financing. The proposed offering of units will provide the company with the necessary resources to complete the development of its three near-term value drivers, namely PCK3145, Fibrostat and PL-100. The offering is subject to the approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange and all necessary regulatory approvals. The financing is expected to close on or about March 30, 2004.

EraGen Biosciences, (Madison) a rapidly growing life science company driving a new era in genetic diagnostics and drug discovery, announced they have signed a distribution agreementwith Inter Medico (Toronto) Canada’s leading independent distribut
or of advanced clinical in-vitro diagnostic products.

Diagnos (Longueuil) announced a proposed private placement of up to 2,500,000 units issued at $0.30 per Unit, for gross proceeds of up to $750,000.

MedMira (Halifax) announced that the company has appointed (subject to the approval of the TSX Venture Exchange) Mr Giles Crouch to the position of vice president marketing & business development. Mr Crouch has over ten years experience in senior marketing positions in a variety of industries.

TSO3 (Quebec City) announced that it has won a prestigious award at the Fidides 2004 Excellence in Business Gala for the second year in a row, this time in the “High-Tech” category.

Dr Lisa McKerracher, chief scientific officer, BioAxone Therapeutic (Montreal) announced the appointment of Dr Henry Khouri to the position of vice-president, clinical development.

MDS Diagnostic Services (Toronto) has sold its laboratory operations in Poughkeepsie, NY and Atlanta, GA, to Laboratory of America Holdings in an asset purchase transaction, effective March 15, 2004. Financial terms of the transaction have not been disclosed. LabCorp immediately assumes responsibility for these operations, including employees and facilities in both locations, and will work with MDS to ensure a smooth transition for customers and employees.

Millenium Biologix (Kingston) is very pleased to announce the appointment of Ian Malone to the position of chief financial officer.

MedMira (Halifax) announced that it has closed an additional $350,000 from seven private investors, of the debenture financing announced on February 17, 2004. This brings the total amount raised to date to $850,000.

MedcomSoft (Toronto) announced that it has closed the second and final tranche of its private placement equity financing originally announced on February 19, 2004. This closing consists of the issue of an additional 458,321 units for gross proceeds of approximately $252,000 in cash. Including the equity private placement closed on February 19, 2004, the total units issued were 2,633,813 for gross proceeds of approximately $1,449,000.

BioMS Medical (Edmonton), a leading developer in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, today announced that it has completed the sale of 2,821,526 units of the company at a price of $3.30 per unit for gross proceeds of $9,311,000.

Alda Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver) is pleased to announce the appointment of Cibron of Vancouver, BC as an exclusive manufacturer’s representative in Canada.

As previously announced the common shares of World Heart (Ottawa) will commence trading on the Nasdaq national market, under the symbol WHRT. The common shares will no longer be traded on the over-the-counter-bulletin-board market (OTCBB).

MDX Medical (Vancouver) is pleased to announce that Mr Barry Allen has joined the company as director and chairman of the board.

enGene (Vancouver) announced that Eric A Adams has joined the company as chief executive officer (CEO) and president.

ART Advanced Research Technologies (Montreal) is pleased to announce that the syndicate of underwriters led by BMO Nesbitt Burns has partially exercised the over-allotment option granted to them pursuant to the underwriting agreement dated March 2, 2004 and that they have purchased 920,000 additional common shares for a total amount of $1,840,000. This transaction brings to $16,840,000 the total amount of the offering.

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; Email: vaillancourt.paul@ic.gc.ca).