By Hermione Wilson

An estimated one in 10 deaths of Canadian adults is diabetes-related, according to Diabetes in Canada, a 2011 report from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The condition comes with a host of complications, including cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and non-traumatic lower limb amputation due to diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. There is no cure.

In the January/February 2016 edition of Bio Business, the opportunities that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty (TPP), if ratified, might provide to biotech-related industries in Canada were described. Our analysis also included a brief discussion of the impact that the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”) might have on implementation of the provisions of the TPP. On February 29, 2016, almost immediately after the earlier article was published, the federal government announced that a legal review of the English text of CETA was complete and the text of the final agreement was published. International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has said she hopes that CETA will be ratified later this year and come into force in 2017. We have reviewed the final legal text of CETA and can provide the following updates to the earlier article. We will also briefly describe some other provisions of CETA that are likely to be of interest to biotech-related industries in Canada.


The Garden State is known for being at the heart of a large concentration of government bodies and business centres, but when it comes to the life sciences, New Jersey has proven to be much more than a middle child to cities like New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. Known as the “medicine chest” of the world, New Jersey is fertile ground for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies looking to move from proof of concept to production.


SBI BioEnergy (SBI), with funding from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio), is establishing a biorefinery in Edmonton that will convert non-food canola oil and waste fats into renewable transportation fuels that can replace or blend with conventional fuels. Using SBI’s catalytic processing technology, the process creates no emissions, generates no waste and costs less than other alternative fuel technologies.


A study of the molecular mechanism behind the rare genetic disease, Jacobsen syndrome, may have implications for autism. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and collaborators at the University of Tokyo, developed a mouse model of the disease that exhibit autism-like social behaviours. About half of children born with Jacobsen syndrome experience social and behavioural issues consistent with autism spectrum disorders.


Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan has announced $4.2 million in federal investment for four new projects that will use genomic technologies. The University of Alberta is collaborating with DowAgroSciences to enhance the commercial use of canola oil and meal. The University of Manitoba is partnering with Winnipeg-based Composites Innovation Centre to develop and test a vehicle prototype using a novel biocomposite made of flax fibre and binding resin. The University of Toronto is partnering with Trillium Therapeutics Inc. to realize the commercial potential of a novel therapeutic that fights cancer. The Université Laval is partnering with GenePOC Inc. to develop a new instrument that can rapidly diagnose infections at the point-of-care.


CHEO, Ottawa’s children’s hospital, has reached a settlement of its legal challenge with Transgenomic, the owner of five gene patents related to the potentially deadly Long QT syndrome. Transgenomic has agreed to provide CHEO and all other Canadian public sector hospitals and laboratories the right to test Canadians for Long QT syndrome on a not-for-profit basis. “This agreement will act as a model for public access to future gene patents, so that Canadian hospitals are empowered to provide access to cutting-edge genetic tests,” says Nathaniel Lipkus, a lawyer at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. Lipkus and Sana Halwani, a lawyer at Gilbert’s LLP, represented CHEO as pro bono counsel in this case.


Université Laval microbiologist Sylvain Moineau will oversee the Canadian component of an international study aimed at understanding the role of bacteriophages (viruses that attack only bacteria) in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases. Increasingly compelling data indicates the composition of intestinal microbiota during childhood plays a key role in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases such as asthma, allergies and Crohn’s disease. The study will look at how bacteriophages affect the composition of intestinal microbiota.


Until now, finding new deposits of platinum group metals was becoming increasingly difficult due to a limited understanding of the processes that affected the way they were cycled through surface environments. Australian scientists, led by the University of Adelaide in South Australia, have linked specialized bacterial communities found in biofilms on the grains of platinum group minerals at three separate locations around the world. “This research reveals the key role of bacteria in these processes,” says lead researcher Dr. Frank Reith. “This improved bio geochemical understanding is not only important from a scientific perspective but we hope will also lead to new and better ways of exploring for these metals.”


A Canada-Netherlands international partnership, between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Reumafonds (Dutch Arthritis Foundation), and ZonMw (Dutch national organisation for health research and healthcare innovation), will fund health research in personalized treatment of debilitating inflammatory musculoskeletal diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriatic diseases). The partnership will also involve the creation of a network that gives researchers the opportunity to expand and strengthen their research data and resources, and stimulate collaboration among international scientists.