Coming up on this week’s show: Pfizer partners with a Canadian biotech on a new therapeutic antibody discovery project, Quark Ventures keeps rolling out the dollars and Bloom Burton & Co. to host its first award gala. We have all this and more on this week’s Biotechnology Focus Podcast.
Welcome to another episode of Biotechnology Focus Podcast. I’m your host Shawn Lawrence, here to give you a rundown of this week’s top stories on the Canadian biotech scene.
Story 1 Our first story this week takes us to TORONTO, ON- where Canadian healthcare investment banking firm Bloom Burton & Co., has announced that it will host its inaugural Award Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, ON on September 14, 2017. As part of this special event, the firm also plans to recognize Canada’s Healthcare Industry biggest star with its newly minted ‘Bloom Burton Award.’ According to the firm, it plans to bestow this award annually to an individual scientist, inventor, executive, entrepreneur, industry leader, or policy maker who has made the greatest impact in Canada’s innovative healthcare industry. Bloom Burton & Co president Brian Bloom commented that it’s time to celebrate those who advance medical science, attract and provide risk capital, launch new products and companies on the world stage or announce significant monetization events, with The Bloom Burton Award celebrating today’s finest. Nominees will all healthcare subsectors including biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic/imaging, research instrumentation, consumer health, healthcare services or healthcare IT sectors. The judges include respected international leaders in healthcare investment, entrepreneurship and journalism. Among them are Karen Bernstein, Co-Founder and Chairman, BioCentury Inc.; Terrence Connolly, Executive Director, Global Alliances and Business Development, Celgene Corporation; Carl Gordon, Partner and Co-Head of Global Private Equity, OrbiMed Advisors; Andrew Hack, Chief Financial Officer, Editas Medicine; Oleg Nodelman, Founder and Managing Director, EcoR1 Capital; Melinda Richter, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS; and Avik Roy, Opinion Editor, Forbes; President, The Foundation for Research and Equal Opportunity. narrowed list of three finalists will be announced at the Bloom Burton & Co. Healthcare Investor Conference, taking place May 1-2, 2017. For more information, visit www.bloomburton.com.
Story 2 Vancouver-based ProNAi Therapeutics has changed its corporate name to Sierra Oncology. According to company president and CEO Dr. Nick Glover, the name change is about better reflecting the company’s oncology focus, specifically its pipeline of therapies that target the DNA Damage Response (DDR) network. The company believes there is a significant opportunity for therapeutics that target the DDR network to have broad potential in the treatment of cancer. Additionally, the company has successfully in licensed sponsorship of two ongoing Phase 1 clinical trials evaluating its Checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1) inhibitor, SRA737, from the Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development, where it was discovered and initially developed. In accordance with the license agreement for SRA737, a $2.0 million fee is due to CRT Pioneer Fund LP for the achievement of this milestone. According to Glover, SRA737 targets Chk1, a key cell cycle checkpoint and central regulator of the DDR network. The company is concurrently also conducting preclinical research evaluating SRA737 in combination
with other DDR agents including PARP inhibitors and Sierra Oncology’s proprietary Cdc7 inhibitor, SRA141, as well as with immuno-oncology therapeutics. Finally, as of January 10th, company shares started trading on the NASDAQ under the symbol ‘SRRA.
Story 3 In Venture capital news, Canadian VC-firm Quark Venture Inc. along with its partner, Chinese investment bank GF Securities say they are investing US$25 million in Microbion Corp. through the firm’ss $656-million Global Health Sciences Venture Fund. Microbion, co-located in Vancouver, BC and Bozeman, MT, is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company specializing in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. Its lead compound, MBN-101, is the first in a new class of products to treat infections by attacking both bacteria and related microbial biofilms. Among other advancements, the investment will go towards enabling Microbion in the initiation and completion of a Phase 1B/2A study in diabetic foot ulcer infections, the study will evaluate both safety and efficacy endpoints including eradication of infections and of biofilms. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted MBN-101 Qualified Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) and Fast Track designations for adjunctive treatment of moderate and severe diabetic foot ulcer infections. According to Karim Lalji, chairman and CEO of Microbion Pharma Corp, and former Simon Fraser University graduate, that in addition to proceeding with the Phase 1B/2A study, the investment will also allow the company to continue a Phase 2a trial in orthopaedic infections as well as to advance its development of an inhaled formulation of MBN-101 to treat cystic fibrosis related infections.
Story 4 Looking at our top R&D news story, Canadian and Australian prostate cancer researchers say they have discovered a key piece in the genetic puzzle of why men born with a BRCA2 mutation may develop aggressive localized cancers that resist treatment and become lethal for up to 50 per cent of patients within five years. Their findings, published online in Nature Communications, show that BRCA2-associated tumours are already pre-set to be aggressive, even before treatment. This is because the genes normally involved in regulating cell growth and division are abnormal in the BRCA2-associated cancers right from the get-go and therefore are resistant to therapy right up front, says co-principal investigator Dr. Robert Bristow, clinician-scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network. He talks about the research in the following audio provided by UHN: Insert audio from video…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXlntpaWtaI
In the published study, Dr. Bristow and co-principal investigators Dr. Paul Boutros at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and prof. Gail Risbridger at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, compared 15 patients with BRCA2-inherited prostate cancer with 500 prostate cancer patients from the general population with non-inherited (sporadic) prostate cancer. In the related study of 500 tumours from Canadian men with non-inherited prostate cancer also published in Nature, Drs. Bristow and Boutros analyses led to the discovery of a new genetic fingerprint that identifies when curable disease may turn aggressive. Although BRCA2-inherited disease affects less than two per cent of men with prostate cancer, Dr. Bristow says the research sets the stage to rethink ways to use other drugs differently to personalize treatment for more men. The next steps are to explore the use of novel therapies to offset the BRCA2-associated aggressiveness
earlier on in the treatment of these men and improve survival in an otherwise lethal tumour, and he says this might include different types of chemotherapy or the use of molecular-targeted drugs that specifically target the changes associated with BRCA2 mutation. Funding for this reasearch was provided by the Movember Foundation through Prostate Cancer Canada, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, CPC-GENE, and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
Story 5 Our final story this week sees drug giant Pfizer entering into a multi-year collaboration with Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics, Inc. As part of the collaboration, the two sides hope to generate lead antibody candidates using AbCellera’s mAb discovery platform, specifically AbCellera plans to apply its proprietary monoclonal antibody (mAb) screening platform to attempt to discover function-modulating antibodies against undisclosed membrane protein targets.
Carl Hansen, founding CEO of AbCellera commented that his company is increasingly being recognized as a leader in high-performance antibody discovery, and this deal validates this fact. He explains that what makes his company’s platform unique is that it is able to screen natural immune repertoires with unparalleled depth unlocking the most challenging discovery programs. Moroever he says this partnership not only reinforces his company’s business strategy but also brings an added benefit through the ability to work closely with the innovative team at Pfizer. Under the terms of the agreement, AbCellera will receive an upfront payment and research support, and will be eligible to receive up to approximately $90 million in contingent milestone payments, as well as tiered mid-to-low single digit royalty payments based on Pfizer’s development and commercialization of antibodies that may be generated under this collaboration. Further terms of the agreement are not disclosed.
With that we’ve come to the end of another program. A big thanks to our technical director and production manager Laskey Hart and to the rest of the Biotechnology Focus research team. Be sure to check back next week to see all the latest news happening on the Canadian biotech scene. And if you like our show, you can also listen to past episodes online via our podcast portal at www.biotechnologyfocus.ca .We’re also always looking for your feedback, story ideas and suggestions so we’d love to hear from you. Simply reach out to us on twitter: @BiotechFocus or by email Biotechnology_focus@promotive.net.
For all of us here at Biotechnology Focus, thank you for listening.