88 episodes

On the Biotechnology Focus Podcast we bring you the latest news, insights, and interviews from Canada's Biotechnology sector.

Biotechnology Focus Podcas‪t‬ Biotechnology Focus

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On the Biotechnology Focus Podcast we bring you the latest news, insights, and interviews from Canada's Biotechnology sector.

    Q&A with Rory Francis PEI BioAlliance | 099

    Q&A with Rory Francis PEI BioAlliance | 099

    Q&A with Rory Francis PEI BioAlliance  

    099| Riding the biotech current to PEI 

    Welcome to another episode of Biotechnology Focus Radio. I am your host – Michelle Currie. Today, I am joined with a special guest, the executive director of the PEI BioAlliance, Rory Francis, who will be discussing what is happening in the PEI Cluster and with the PEI BioAlliance organization itself.  

    First, I think it will be important to state what the PEI BioAlliance is and the aim/vision of the organization. Perhaps giving a little bit of the history of the organization as well, then discuss a little bit about what the PEI Cluster is as well.  
    What is the scale and scope of the PEI Cluster?  Is there a focus of the PEI Cluster? I know that often animal health companies are recruited to the province. Is this something PEI specialises in? What are the incentives that you offer for companies to relocate? What has defined the success of the cluster thus far?  So, coming back to the PEI BioAlliance, what is your operating model? Do you have any strategic priorities? Who is in your company’s portfolio? Who are the major companies and partnerships that should be highlighted? Can you tell me a little bit about your innovation ecosystem? What would you say is the defining success of the organization?     What challenges and opportunities has the organization seen over the years?   What is your strategy for future growth? Does it vary from that of the cluster’s? Incentives? 
    What are the government’s initiatives? How do they aim to enhance PEI’s assets?   Have I missed anything that you would like to touch on? 

    • 21 min
    Q&A with CDRD’s President and CEO Gordon McCauley | 098

    Q&A with CDRD’s President and CEO Gordon McCauley | 098

    Q&A with CDRD’s President and CEO Gordon McCauley  

    Taking it up another notch: CDRD discusses the newest addition to their Academy 

    Welcome to another episode of Biotechnology Focus Radio. I am your host – Michelle Currie. Today, I am joined with a special guest, the president and Chief Executive Officer of the centre for drug research and development, Gordon McCauley, who will be discussing the recent addition of the Executive Institute to CDRD’s Academy.  


    I will start with asking about the highlights of CDRD – what CDRD does and what they are currently working on now, how they are translating discoveries, etc. (Feel free to elaborate and educate the listeners of Biotechnology Focus Radio of the success and potential of this centre for commercialization.)   
    I know that you made an announcement earlier this year about adding a new program to the CDRD Academy, but before we delve into that, could you tell me a little bit about the CDRD Academy in general? When and why was it started? What are the benefits of attending the Academy? How many graduates have there been? Is it available to everybody? What are the requirements? What are some of the companies that have arisen in the Canadian life sciences sector from previous graduates?   Now, in the Spring, CDRD unveiled the newest program to the Academy – The Executive Institute – could you tell me more about this latest addition? (What is the duration? How does the collaboration of global training leaders and the not-for-profit Center for Creative Leadership work?)   How is the program funded? (I know Pfizer is, but if you can explain the connection and why they are doing so.) What does Pfizer expect to achieve through this investment?  The members of the first inaugural cohort were released not long ago. I am sure it was a challenging task to narrow down to the 20 executive-level life sciences professionals who were accepted into the program. I am sure there were many great applicants. How did you choose the executives that you did? What was the application criteria and process?   I believe they met for the first time this September 12-13th in Vancouver. How did that first meeting go? Was there a lot of excitement, especially from being chosen in the first cohort? How many times a year will the cohort meet? Will it always be in Vancouver? 
    What can we expect to see from this executive development program? How will this benefit the life sciences sector and Canada as a whole?   Have I missed anything that you would like to touch on? 

    • 21 min
    Revolutionary research breaks the frontline against HIV and cancer | 097

    Revolutionary research breaks the frontline against HIV and cancer | 097

    Welcome to another episode of Biotechnology Focus radio! I am your host – Michelle Currie – here to give you the Canadian biotech rundown from coast to coast. This week there has been some revolutionary research in HIV, and natural killer cells. FACIT – the fight against cancer innovation trust – has invested in three novel cancer therapeutic discoveries, and Oncolytics Biotech enters a clinical collaboration to combat breast cancer. Keep listening to find out more details! 


    Researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), in partnership with University of British Columbia (UBC) and Western University, develop a way of dating “hibernating” HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research in the province. 

    Published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the BC-CfE’s first major scientific contribution to the area of HIV cure research confirms that dormant HIV strains can persist in the body for decades. 

    Dormant HIV strains, embed their DNA into the body’s cells, tucking themselves away for years – but can reactivate at any time – and are unreachable by antiretroviral treatments and the immune system. This is the reason why HIV treatment needs to be maintained for life. 

    Dr. Zabrina Brumme, director, Laboratory with BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and lead author on the study says that, “If you can’t identify it, you can’t cure it. This research provides further essential clues in the pursuit of an HIV cure—which will ultimately require the complete eradication of dormant or ‘latent’ HIV strains. Scientists have long known that strains of HIV can remain essentially in hibernation in an individual living with HIV, only to reactivate many years later. Our study confirms that the latent HIV reservoir is genetically diverse and can contain viral strains dating back to transmission.” 

    Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS  says that, “The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS  has consistently been a national and global leader on research on HIV and on the implementation of its pioneering Treatment as Prevention® strategy. The addition of molecular biologist Dr. Zabrina Brumme as director of the innovative BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS Laboratory ensures the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS  will play a significant role in HIV cure research. Curative strategies will need to address this new study’s key findings. I want to acknowledge the study participants and thank them for helping to increase our knowledge on the origins of the latent HIV reservoir.” 

    Brad Jones, a Ph.D. student with the University of British Columbia (UBC) at BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the first author on the study says that, “By creating family trees of viruses using a technique called molecular phylogenetics, we can reconstruct the evolutionary history of HIV within a person. In essence, we created a highly calibrated ‘time machine’ that gives us a specific time stamp for when each dormant HIV strain originally appeared in a person.” 

    Through advances in antiretroviral therapy, an individual living with HIV can now live a longer, healthier life on treatment. Treatment works by stopping HIV from infecting new cells. On sustained treatment, individuals can achieve a level of virus that is undetectable by standard blood tests. An undetectable viral load means improved health and that the virus is not transmittable to others—the concept behind Treatment as Prevention®. 

    Dr. Jeffrey Joy, research scientist at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and co-author on the study says that “Previous research had already revealed that th

    • 15 min
    With great growth, comes great responsibility | 096

    With great growth, comes great responsibility | 096

    Welcome to another episode of Biotechnology focus radio! I am your host – Michelle Currie – here to give you the rundown on what is happening in the life sciences sector from coast to coast. This week brought new collaborations, new cohorts, and new research. Keep listening to find out more! 


    As regenerative medicine grows around the world, topping a whopping $36-billion annually and only expected to rise, it comes as no surprise that more and more international collaborations are happening – especially within Canada. 

    CCRM and the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine (JSRM) liaise to advance the field of regenerative medicine (RM) and cell and gene therapies in Canada and Japan, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this week at the Annual Meeting of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) in Kyoto, Japan. 

    Michael May, president and CEO, CCRM says that CCRM’s mission is to generate sustainable health and economic benefits through global collaboration in cell and gene therapy, and regenerative medicine. CCRM is catalyzing a global network of highly integrated commercialization centres working together to enable viable and cost-effective patient access to revolutionary new treatments. The Memorandum of Understanding with Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine, through its vast research network and industry-enabling activities, is a positive step in that direction.” 

    The Memorandum of Understanding has been put in place to promote academic and industry partnership in Japan, Canada and internationally to advance the field of regenerative medicine and cell and gene therapies. This will include supporting knowledge translation about technologies, policies (e.g., regulatory and health economics), legal and ethical issues. 

    Prof. Sawa, president of Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine.  Says that “There are many obstacles to establish a sustainable business model for regenerative medicine in Japan, as it requires a whole new value chain. Canada’s CCRM has been fostering and promoting a successful commercialization model since its launch. JSRM is proud to announce that we have entered into a partnership with CCRM to develop sound industrialization pathways, learning from CCRM’s excellent model to make regenerative medicine an available treatment worldwide.” 

    Regenerative medicine – that can be a bit of an umbrella term – includes cell and gene therapy, stem cells, biomaterials, molecules and genetic modification to repair, regenerate or replace diseased cells, tissues and organs. This approach is disrupting the traditional biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries with the promise of revolutionary new cures for devastating and costly conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. 

    This sector represents so many potential untapped possibilities. Forecasted to grow to US$49.41-billion by 2021, there were 977 clinical trials in cell, gene and tissue therapy underway worldwide at the close of the second quarter of 2018. The sector achieved the first global approvals and reimbursements for major cellular immunotherapies and gene therapies in 2017, that resulted in record-breaking investment and acquisitions in the sector. This field encapsulates the phrase “the world is truly their oyster”. 


    The Centre for Drug Research and Development, Canada’s national life sciences venture, announces the first cohort of the CDRD Academy’s Executive Institute. 

    Earlier this year, CDRD and Pfizer Canada announced the launch of the Executive Institute under the umbrella of The CDRD Academy. The Institute is a 10-month, focused executive development program open to a limited number of senior-level life sciences professionals annually. It was made possible by

    • 16 min
    Even at the forefront of change… what’s next? | 095

    Even at the forefront of change… what’s next? | 095

    Welcome to another episode of Biotechnology Focus radio! I am your host – Michelle Currie – here to give you the rundown on what is happening in biotech across the country from coast to coast. There have been some interesting developments in the last couple weeks that are changing the scope of the life sciences industry. Some of which I get the pleasure to share with you today. As a first for Canada, Concordia University now houses a facility that will change how synthetic biology research will be conducted; Bioasis Technologies’ promising drug development may have found a way to cross the blood-brain barrier; the Centre for Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics invests in ImmunoBiochem to advance their therapeutic candidate; and the Canadian government, as well as other investors, allocate $8.8 million to three projects in Ontario.  

    Keep on listening to find out more details! 


    A new facility at Concordia is about to change history. It will house robots that will bring a whole new concept of speed and scale to synthetic biology research. 

    The Genome Foundry is the first Canadian laboratory of its kind, and amongst only a handful at leading institutions around the world. By automating notoriously labour-intensive lab work, it will eliminate bottlenecks in a rapidly evolving field where the design principles of engineering fuse with the tools of biology to create meaningful synthetic biological systems. 

    Christophe Guy, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies at Concordia says that the Genome Foundry solidifies Concordia’s position as the Canadian leader in synthetic biology research and will enable their scientists to work at the cutting-edge while facilitating partnerships with other institutions. Given that Concordia researchers are already engaged internationally in defining the future of this field, they are eager to witness how this new facility will support the transformative work being done at the university. 

    At the moment, much of the lab work done by synthetic biologists involves moving and combining small amounts of liquids and cells. The Genome Foundry’s robotics will allow for speed and absolute precision, thus greatly increasing the variety and number of experiments that can be completed, and the accuracy with which they can be reproduced. 

    The Genome Foundry was established with funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the government of Quebec and is part of Concordia’s synthetic biology hub along with the Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology (CASB), the SynBioApps NSERC CREATE program and the soon-to-be-inaugurated District 3 Innovation Centre science hub. 

    Vincent Martin, co-director of the Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology says that they are thrilled to open the doors of our Genome Foundry. That this is a monumental addition to Canada’s synthetic biology ecosystem. It empowers researchers to navigate uncharted waters alongside international colleagues, and to incubate the future leaders of the field. 

    The Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology aims to develop high-value applications in human health, agriculture, chemicals and environmental technologies. It also provides a broad range of unique opportunities — such as the recently announced NSERC CREATE SynBioApps program — for training leading experts in the field. 

    Launching this technology platform also marks Canada’s participation in the next generation of synthetic biology, with Concordia now engaged in directing how this infrastructure will be developed and used on a global scale. 

    This facility will have real world, potential life-saving capabilities that deliver an innovative scientific approach to create genetic blueprints for individuals, bring more knowledge to researchers on a fas

    • 17 min
    Shining the spotlight on Global Biotech Week Interview with Andrew Casey, BIOTECanada | 094

    Shining the spotlight on Global Biotech Week Interview with Andrew Casey, BIOTECanada | 094

    On the line, I have Andrew Casey who is the president and CEO of BIOTECanada. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the association and is the primary spokesperson for Canada’s biotech industry communicating on the industry’s behalf of government, regulators, international bodies, media and the Canadian public.
    He joins us today to share his expertise and what we can expect to see this year during Global Biotech Week.
    Show Notes:
    1. Canada has always been a powerhouse in biotechnology. The life sciences sector has had such an overwhelming impact on the Canadian economy and shows no sign of slowing down; and with a rapidly growing population and a high demand for resources and better health care, novel ideas are necessary to keep the economy on its feet.
    Is this something Canada foresaw in 2003 when it created Global Biotech Week? What was the reason Canada created Global Biotech Week initially? 
    2. Since then it has snowballed to several other countries. Do you expect to see it grow traction in more in the upcoming years? Where has it spread to thus far? Do you find that it brings the global economy together?
    3. What can we in the industry expect to come out of this year’s BIOTECanada event? A little birdy told me that BIOTECanada will be announcing the Gold Leaf Awards winners – which are very prestigious – that represent the companies and individuals who have made significant contributions to Canada’s biotech ecosystem. Any chance you could give us a sneak peak at some of the nominees? 
    4. Gauging by how Canada has done so well in the past, but now has more extensive global competition, how can Canada prove that we are at the forefront of this monumental shift to
    feed, fuel and heal the world? And how do you think the world can conjoin together to face and find cures for some of the world’s most devastating and debilitating diseases?
    5. When Budget 2018 was released, Bill Morneau, the Canadian minister of finance, stated that that was the largest investment in fundamental and discovery research in Canadian history. What have you seen come from that so far? What do you think we can expect to see? How does this position Canada as a world leader in biotechnology? What do you predict to see happening in the future?
    6. Is there anything else I have missed that you would like to touch on?
    Well that concludes another episode of Biotechnology Focus radio. I would like to thank our guest again, Andrew Casey for being with us today and thank our listeners for their continued enthusiasm of the life sciences sector in Canada. I hope you all have a wonderful week. From my desk to yours – this is Michelle Currie.

    • 21 min

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