Biotechnology Focus, a compendium of the Canadian life sciences industry, has published the following guest column by Dr. Raphael Hofstein, MaRS Innovation’s president & CEO, and Elizabeth Monier-Williams, director of…
MaRS Innovation enjoyed an exceptional year in 2014. Our team continues to collaborate with researchers within our membership to help bridge the commercialization gap between their world-leading research and creating successful start-up companies or licenses.
Here are our picks for the top 10 news stories from MaRS Innovation’s portfolio.
1. Triphase Accelerator Corporation, in which MaRS Innovation is an investor, started the year with a bang by signing a collaboration and option agreement with Celgene Corporation. In October, Triphase initiated a Phase I clinical study to evaluate marizomib in Glioblastoma (GBM) with Celgene, signed an agreement to provide Celgene with an option to acquire a new bi-specific antibody (licensed by Triphase from PharmAbcine) and closed the year by announcing that Triphase’s proteasome inhibitor, marizomib, demonstrates potent synergistic anti-multiple myeloma activity in combination with pomalidomide.
2. Flybits Inc., spun out of Ryerson University, announced a $3.75 million Series A financing with Robert Bosch Venture Capital to advance its context-aware mobile experience platform. The company was also named a Red Herring Top 100 North America winner.
3. XLV Diagnostics Inc., spun out from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, secured a $3 million Series A investment round with Boston-based Bernard M. Gordon Unitrust. XLV’s product will provide mammography image quality equivalent to top-of-the-line mammography machines currently in use, and will do so at a fraction of the cost of current generation systems. The funding will support continued product development and regulatory approval.
Vasomune Therapeutics, a MaRS Innovation start-up company from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Sunnybrook Research Institute, was featured in a BioCentury emerging company profile by Michael J. Haas.
The company is currently raising a Series A financing round and recently closed a seed investment with Genome Canada and an unnamed industry partner. MaRS Innovation also contributed a third of the investment, bringing the round’s total to $1.5 million.
Haas’ profile, “Vasomune: Lassoing Tie2,” is available behind a paywall on the BioCentury website.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Agonizing Tie2 could restore vascular integrity and limit tissue damage in kidney injury, but bringing together the four copies needed to activate the receptor is a job too big for small molecules or antibodies. Vasomune Therapeutics Inc. has shown its four-armed peptidomimetic, vasculotide, activates Tie2 and restores vascular integrity in [preclinical] models.
“Many renal diseases are ultimately characterized by a loss in vascular integrity that damages tubules in the kidney,” CEO Parimal Nathwani said. “Our idea is to use vasculotide to fix the problem and restore normal vascular integrity before it gets out of control.”
TORONTO (October 20, 2014) — Vasomune Therapeutics, a biotechnology start-up founded by Drs. Dan Dumont and Paul Van Slyke of Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) in partnership with MaRS Innovation, has received $1.5 million, in part through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP), to advance Vasculotide, the company’s lead Tie-2 activating agent, towards clinical development.
This announcement was covered in Biotechnology Focus.
The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) and Dr. Pierre Meulien, president and CEO of Genome Canada, announced the funding as part of 12 selected projects under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP), on October 15 in Wallenstein, Ontario.
“We believe that our technology is well positioned to accelerate from preclinical research into clinical development based on its strong data package,” said Parimal Nathwani, president and CEO of Vasomune Therapeutics. “This award, in combination with industry funding, validates the Vasculotide opportunity and gives us the required funds to advance the drug candidate toward the clinic.”
In preclinical studies, Vasculotide has shown to be an effective treatment for multiple renal diseases including acute kidney injury (AKI), which in humans is a possible outcome of kidney function loss that manifests in nearly a third of high-risk cardiac patients. AKI may result from short-term interruptions in blood flow during surgery; 11 percent of patients who develop AKI after bypass surgery will die. People who survive AKI are at risk of developing longer-term kidney complications such as chronic kidney disease or End Stage Renal Disease. Vasomune’s founders conceptualized and designed Vasculotide to bind to the Tie-2 receptor, which is responsible for maintaining vascular health (and thus blood flow).
With this new funding, a third from Vasomune and MaRS Innovation, a third from Genome Canada and a third from a leading multinational pharmaceutical company, Vasomune can transition its program into manufacturing optimization, pharmacokinetics and toxicology studies to prepare for clinical development in early 2016.
This op-ed on Canadian biotechnology and the knowledge economy appeared in The Hill-Times (subscription required), Canada’s politics and government newsweekly, September 9:
Obesity, cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or the more general stresses of an aging population: no matter which area of concern holds our collective gaze from moment to moment, improving health outcomes and healthcare is the No. 1 challenge for the world’s economy.
Canada has the holistic approach and translational research necessary to address health care’s pervasive challenges, with particular strengths in biotechnology.
In 2007, the Government of Canada made advancing translational research a top priority through the Science and Technology Strategy, with emphasis on cancer, metabolic disorders and, most recently, neurology, as part of the government’s response to the burdensome realities of neurodegenerative disorders.
Scientific research has made significant progress in unraveling the underlying causes of disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, but translating these findings into useful clinical treatments is the key to attaining meaningful accomplishments. Only clinical treatment successes will alleviate pressure on the economy.
Transformational research is the essential first step in this process, but even more importantly, it needs to be put in the hands of those who can translate it into realistic and useful outcomes for patients in particular and society in general.
Thanks to research analytics that capture publications, citations, and other significant metrics, we know Canadian researchers punch above their weight, particularly in medical research. Canada’s challenge is not the quality or quantity of our research ideas but our ability to commercialize those ideas and translate them into market-ready products.
Aware of and concerned by this gap between fundamental basic research and useful patient, social, and economic outcomes, the Canadian government established the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program in 2007. Part of the internationally-recognized Networks of Centres of Excellence suite of programs, the CECR program is a unique collaboration between the three federal granting agencies (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), along with Industry Canada, and Health Canada.
Designed to bridge the challenging gap between innovation and commercialization, the CECR program matches clusters of research expertise with the business community to share the knowledge and resources that bring innovations to market faster.
MaRS Innovation was among the first CECRs to be created in 2008, largely based on the founding belief of its members that Toronto is a fertile research land for precisely this kind of translational activity.
Every six weeks, MaRS Innovation’s marketing and communications manager writes a guest post for the MaRS Discovery District blog profiling MI’s activities or one of our start-up companies. You can read the original post on the MaRS blog.
Nearly 14,000 delegates—representing over 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centres and related organizations across the United States and more than 60 countries—attended the 2013 BIO International Convention from April 22 to 26, 2013.
The event drew biotechnologists, pharmaceutical industry executives and life sciences researchers, along with sector-based organizations and associations, to Chicago.
According to a press release issued by the conference organizers, BIO 2013 offered “a record number of partnering meetings and panel sessions on the latest science, policy issues and business opportunities and challenges facing the biotechnology industry.”