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Tag: Pharmaceutical R&D

Biotech innovators see ‘growing opportunity’ in Alberta’s drug and vaccine industry

Alberta’s world-class talent and expertise, as well as its biotechnology infrastructure, will help the sector thrive through COVID-19 and beyond, a panel said this week.

Representatives of Entos Pharmaceuticals, Providence Therapeutics, and Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API)discussed the province’s strengths in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals during an online conversation hosted by Lynette Tremblay, vice-president of strategy for Edmonton Global, on March 22.

The industry is at a turning point, said API CEO Andrew MacIsaac.

“We do have phenomenal anchor companies within the region, and a lot of companies are showing a whole bunch of promise, such as Entos and Providence,” he said. “The next three to five years, what I think we will start to see is the development of a very mature and robust industry around drug development and life sciences much more broadly.”

Entos Pharmaceuticals has developed a DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently awaiting approval from Health Canada to begin clinical trials.

“Companies like Entos and Providence have a very bright future with safe and effective vaccines,” said Dr. John Lewis, CEO of Entos. “The estimated worldwide market for COVID-19 vaccines is 73 billion by 2027, and if we build this industry in Alberta, we are looking at, from COVID alone, a huge market opportunity.”

The same infrastructure used for COVID-19 can be used to help with other programs, said Providence Therapeutics president Jared Davis, whose company recently started clinical trials for its Alberta-made COVID-19 vaccine.

“The infrastructure we are building, both manufacturing-wise as well as development programs, is going to allow us to go to other infectious disease, to go to gene medicine, gene therapies, to look at gene editing,” he said. “It’s all the same types of technology — DNA or mRna technologies that are used for those.”


Alberta and Canada have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this industry, said Lewis, whose company is also conducting multiple clinical trials that promise treatment options for cancer patients.

“The pandemic has really brought out this new platform technology, the genetic medicines, for instance, that Providence and Entos are working on that can rapidly respond to new virus threats, but also really usher a new area of genetic medicines for gene therapies,” said Lewis.

Last week, the provincial government announced that it is seeking proposals to develop and manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in Alberta.

During the virtual discussion, panelists highlighted other key strengths of Alberta, like being a cost-effective province and a place where employees would stay with the company as it continues to grow.

MacIsaac also talked about the significance of creating industry partnerships, noting that API is working with companies like Entos and Providence to help them bring drugs beyond the clinical trial stage and into the market.

Aurora Cannabis and UFC® Launch Clinical Research on Use of Hemp-Derived CBD Products by MMA Athletes

New studies to advance the science on CBD use and athlete health and wellness and to drive product development under new U.S. sports performance brand, ROAR Sports

LAS VEGAS, July 24, 2019 /CNW/ – Aurora Cannabis Inc. (“Aurora” or the “Company”) (NYSE: ACB) (TSX: ACB), the Canadian company that’s defining the future of cannabis worldwide, and UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, are proud to announce the launch of a joint clinical research program that will produce multiple studies under the terms of their recently announced partnership.

The research will examine the use of hemp-derived CBD as an effective treatment for pain, inflammation, wound-healing, and recovery on MMA athletes.

The ground-breaking research partnership is aimed at understanding key health and recovery needs of elite athletes in such a highly physical and competitive sport as mixed martial arts. Research data will then be used to drive the development of science-backed, hemp-derived CBD topicals that will be safe and reliable. These new products will help combat the rapidly growing market of untested CBD treatments currently being used by high-performance and non-professional athletes.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (CNW Group/Aurora Cannabis Inc.)

Once research is complete, any resulting product will come to life in the U.S. under the new high-performance sports brand ROAR Sports, a portfolio of high-quality, hemp-derived CBD topical treatments scientifically formulated with elite athletes in mind. Through analysis of athlete needs and scientific data, ROAR Sports will challenge the status quo, seek to alleviate the stresses of competition, and earn designation as the “Official CBD product of UFC.”

The multi-phase clinical study at the UFC Performance Institute® in Las Vegas will be led by Dr. Jason Dyck, Chair of Aurora’s Global Scientific Oversight Committee; Dr. Kelly Narine, Aurora’s Vice President Global Research and Medical Affairs; and the team of sports performance experts at the UFC Performance Institute, led by Dr. Duncan French, UFC Vice President of Performance. Using active UFC athletes on a strictly voluntary basis, the study will help establish peer-reviewed, publishable research in this area. Products will be developed in full compliance with U.S. federal law and with UFC’s anti-doping program, which adheres to WADA and USADA regulations.

“Our partnership with UFC is about committing to the science that will educate and advocate,” said Aurora CEO Terry Booth. “We are going to work together to change the way people think, to change the industry, and to launch the first hemp-derived CBD products that are backed by scientific research. The brand-building and product development are all part of our move into the U.S., and in collaboration with UFC, and we intend to play a major role in that market.”

“We know anecdotally that professional athletes across sports disciplines are turning to hemp-derived CBD treatments to assist with physical recovery, with varying degrees of success,” added Jason Dyck, Chair of Aurora’s Global Scientific Oversight Committee. “The work we do in partnership with UFC will create an evidence-based, science-backed pipeline of consistent, and ‘clean’ hemp-derived CBD topicals that the high-performance athletes of UFC can rely on to treat the pain, inflammation, injury and other conditions associated with competing at such a high level.”

“Collaborating with Aurora is the best way to educate ourselves and our fighters about the impact of CBD on MMA athletes and our sport,” said Dr. Duncan French, UFC’s Vice President of Performance. “We want to apply science and see where it leads us.  Ideally, these studies will give us the clarity we need to determine n the effectiveness of hemp-derived CBD on athlete health and injury recovery.”  

“Although CBD is allowed under USADA and WADA regulations, we want to be the leaders on educating UFC athletes on CBD use,” said Jeff Novitzky, UFC Senior Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance.  “Athlete safety is a top priority for UFC, and we will collaborate with Aurora to ensure that any new products are third-party tested for all WADA-prohibited substances to make certain they meet WADA standards.” 

About UFC®

UFC®, is the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization and the largest Pay-Per-View event provider in the world. UFC boasts more than 300 million fans worldwide, including 70 million social media followers across all its digital platforms, and its programming is broadcast in over 170 countries and territories to one billion TV households worldwide in 40 different languages. UFC produces more than 40 live events annually and consistently sells out some of the world’s most prestigious arenas. Since 2001, UFC has been proudly headquartered in Las Vegas, supported by a network of employees around the world. UFC’s current roster of athletes features more than 590 men and women representing over 60 countries. UFC FIGHT PASS®, the world’s leading digital subscription service for combat sports, delivers exclusive live events, thousands of fights on-demand, and original content to fans around the world. UFC was acquired in 2016 by global sports, entertainment, and fashion leader Endeavor, along with strategic investors Silver Lake Partners and KKR, in what is among the largest transactions in sports history. For more information, visit UFC.com and follow UFC at Facebook.com/UFC, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram: @UFC.

About Aurora                    

Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with funded capacity in excess of 625,000 kg per annum and sales and operations in 24 countries across five continents, Aurora is one of the world’s largest and leading cannabis companies. Aurora is vertically integrated and horizontally diversified across every key segment of the value chain, from facility engineering and design to cannabis breeding and genetics research, cannabis and hemp production, derivatives, high value-add product development, home cultivation, wholesale and retail distribution.

Highly differentiated from its peers, Aurora has established a uniquely advanced, consistent and efficient production strategy, based on purpose-built facilities that integrate leading-edge technologies across all processes, defined by extensive automation and customization, resulting in the massive scale production of high-quality product at low cost. Intended to be replicable and scalable globally, our production facilities are designed to produce cannabis of significant scale, with high quality, industry-leading yields, and low per gram production costs. Each of Aurora’s facilities is built to meet EU GMP standards. EU GMP certification has been granted to Aurora’s first production facility in Mountain View County, the Aurora River facility in Bradford, Ontario, and its wholly owned European medical cannabis distributor Aurora Deutschland.

In addition to the Company’s rapid organic growth and strong execution on strategic M&A, which to date includes 15 wholly owned subsidiary companies – MedReleaf, CanvasRX, Peloton Pharmaceutical, Aurora Deutschland, H2 Biopharma, Urban Cultivator, BC Northern Lights, Larssen Greenhouses, CanniMed Therapeutics, Anandia, HotHouse Consulting, MED Colombia, Agropro, Borela, ICC Labs, Whistler, and Chemi Pharmaceutical – Aurora is distinguished by its reputation as a partner and employer of choice in the global cannabis sector, having invested in and established strategic partnerships with a range of leading innovators, including: Radient Technologies Inc. (TSXV: RTI), Hempco Food and Fiber Inc. (TSXV: HEMP), Cann Group Ltd. (ASX: CAN), Micron Waste Technologies Inc. (CSE: MWM), Choom Holdings Inc. (CSE: CHOO), Capcium Inc. (private), Evio Beauty Group (private), Wagner Dimas (private), CTT Pharmaceuticals (OTCC: CTTH), Alcanna Inc. (TSX: CLIQ), High Tide Inc. (CSE: HITI) and EnWave Corporation (TSXV: ENW).

Forward looking statements

This news release includes statements containing certain “forward-looking information” within the meaning of applicable securities law (“forward-looking statements”), including, but not limited to, statements with respect to the performance of the Company. Forward-looking statements are frequently characterized by words such as “plan”, “continue”, “expect”, “project”, “intend”, “believe”, “anticipate”, “estimate”, “may”, “will”, “potential”, “proposed” and other similar words, or statements that certain events or conditions “may” or “will” occur, and include, but are not limited to,  the successful completion of the  clinical research program and the development and commercialization of  hemp- derived CBD topical products . These statements are only predictions. Various assumptions were used in drawing the conclusions or making the projections contained in the forward-looking statements throughout this news release. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the statements are made, and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. The Company is under no obligation, and expressly disclaims any intention or obligation, to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as expressly required by applicable law.

Neither TSX, NYSE nor their applicable Regulation Services Providers (as that term is defined in the policies of the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange) accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

U of A researchers developing new treatment that could help protect people with cardiovascular disease

New medical therapy for treating cardiovascular disease being commercialized through a biotech startup.

Cardiologist Gavin Oudit (right) and research assistant Wang Wang in the lab. Oudit’s team is developing a new treatment that could eventually help protect people from cardiovascular disease, particularly abdominal aortic aneurysms. (Photo: Jordan Carson)

New University of Alberta research is paving the way for the first medical treatment to help protect people from cardiovascular disease by boosting the body’s natural defenses.

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U of A cardiologist Gavin Oudit and his research team found a link between a peptide called apelin and a reduction of abdominal aortic aneurysms that was shown to dramatically reduce mortality in mice.

What is abdominal aortic aneurysm?

The abdominal aorta is part of the largest artery in the body, carrying
blood from the heart to everything below. When a part of the artery is
enlarged to more than one and a half times its normal size—which can be caused by smoking, high blood pressure or genetic factors—the
enlargement is an aneurysm. Most aortic aneurysms don’t cause any
symptoms, but can become more painful as they go untreated and
expand. Ruptures of the abdominal aorta account for approximately
15,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Oudit’s team is hoping to replicate those results in patients suffering from, or at risk for, cardiovascular disease, particularly abdominal aortic aneurysms—and has established a biotech startup to commercialize their discovery.

In a series of tests using mice with aortic aneurysms and aneurysm specimens from humans, the team—which also includes U of A scientists John Vederas and Zamaneh Kassiri—found a significant health improvement for mice treated with apelin versus those who were not: none of the mice that were treated died, whereas 50 per cent of the untreated mice did.

Current treatment for aortic aneurysms is limited to behaviour changes like quitting smoking, or surgical repair. There are no medical or pharmaceutical treatments that have been effective at reducing the growth rate of aortic aneurysms, but Oudit is hoping to change that with a synthetic form of apelin that can be delivered to patients intravenously.

For Oudit, who is also director of the Heart Function Clinic at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, the fight against cardiovascular diseases can be broken down into ‘good guys’—like apelin, a naturally occurring peptide found in several organs such as the heart, liver, brain and lungs—and ‘bad guys,’ hormones or chemicals in the body that may need to be reduced or blocked so a patient can be healthier.

“We’ve become very good at blocking the bad guys, particularly using drugs like ACE inhibitors or beta blockers, to treat symptoms,” Oudit said. “But our research has focused on developing a method to enhance the good guys, to make them work better and protect people from cardiovascular disease in the first place, including heart attacks and heart failure.”

Overcoming challenges

Although apelin showed promise as a treatment option, the team had to overcome the challenge of creating a stable version that wasn’t immediately broken down by other enzymes in the body. The team identified the enzymes that attack and degrade apelin and then developed a way to protect the apelin molecule to prevent the enzymes from breaking it down too quickly. That process took the team five years, Oudit said, and it resulted in a synthetic version of apelin that went from taking minutes to break down, to days.

“This is chemical engineering at its best,” he said. “We’ve engineered this analogue that is markedly resistant to breakdown and when we use it in our animal models, we’ve shown we can completely protect them from (cardiovascular) disease. Zero mortality.”

While Oudit’s team focused on abdominal aortic aneurysms in the study, the researchers say they’ve seen evidence that the apelin analogue can help in other areas of the body as well.

“We’ve seen (the analogue have) exciting effects in the kidneys for renal failure, in the heart for heart failure, in the rest of the cardiovascular system and in pulmonary arterial hypertension (vascular disease in the lungs),” Oudit said.

“What we’ve created is essentially the insulin for the cardiovascular system.”

Commercial road

Oudit predicts that in as little as two years, his team will have a version of the apelin analogue they will be able to test on humans. It is the driving force behind PEARKO Therapeutics Inc., a new U of A spinoff Oudit founded with help from TEC Edmonton. Currently, the company is seeking investors and promoting the clinical applicability of the apelin analogue.

“We’re on a mission to get this to patients as soon as possible,” Oudit said. “It’s exciting because we completely drove the discovery and design of these apelin analogues.

“I think this is a great example of how translational research can start from the molecule and progress to the animal model so we can get an understanding of its clinical applicability, and from there hopefully turn it into new therapies for our patients.”

The study was supported by an operating grant from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, a grant from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and two grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Gavin Oudit holds the Canada Research Chair in Heart Failure.

Can cannabis cure what ails you? Alberta pot producer teams up with Harvard to find out

An Edmonton company is teaming up with Harvard University in hopes of proving the purported healing powers of cannabis.

Atlas Biotechnologies announced Tuesday that it is a founding partner of Harvard’s new International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute, where clinical trials will be done to test the efficacy of various cannabis formulations for treating specific ailments.

Atlas, which owns Atlas Growers Ltd. and has a licensed production facility west of Edmonton, will provide up to $3 million over three years in product and research grants for the university in Cambridge, Mass., to use in trials on patients with chronic pain and neurological conditions.

“Everybody thinks it can cure everything. But the problem is you don’t have the scientific evidence for all of this yet,” said Wil Ngwa, director of Harvard Global Health Catalyst and a professor in radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School.

Ngwa said he is particularly excited about the potential effectiveness of cannabis in managing the side-effects of cancer treatment.

He believes all licensed producers should follow the lead of Atlas and put money into funding scientific research.

“If you are a grower and you’re not doing this, you’re going to be left behind. Because you have to do this,” Ngwa said. “Really, it is time. You cannot keep just using something blindly. You want to have that evidence.”

Use of medical cannabis is growing rapidly around the world, with patients claiming it helps with anxiety, chronic pain, seizures, side-effects from cancer treatments, and other conditions.

But with little hard scientific evidence to back their claims, the medical community remains skeptical, and many doctors won’t prescribe it.

Atlas president and CEO Sheldon Croome said during a tour of the company’s 38,000-square-foot Lac Ste. Anne facility Tuesday that he wants to create the world’s “most trusted” cannabis products, and doing so means proving they do exactly what they are designed to do.

“Those trials will either prove that our formulation works, or that it doesn’t,” Croome said.

“I think this is a truly massive relationship for us. It’s groundbreaking.”

Croome acknowledged that the process will be timely and expensive, but is confident the results will open new markets for Atlas around the world in the multibillion-dollar industry.

The lack of hard science on cannabis means producers are currently not allowed to advertise that their products can treat specific ailments.

“It’s going to take a few years to really prove the efficacy, I think, to the standard that doctors and pharmacists want to see. Which is ultimately what we’re trying to do,” Croome said.

“But we do believe that within a year we’ll have some really good efficacy data we can use that will push the envelope.”

Atlas got its initial sales licence from Health Canada in December to obtain, sell and distribute cannabis products, but the company chose to use that licence to sell exclusively to medical patients rather than enter the recreational market.

The company expects to produce 5,500 kilograms of dried cannabis annually at its Lac Ste. Anne facility, though its primary focus is on refining the plant in-house into pure, isolated cannabinoid concentrates and specialized medical formulations after its own polling found 80 per cent of customers are moving from smoking dried flowers to using extracts.

Croome said it’s not just doctors, but also potential patients who are waiting for the hard science before they trust medical cannabis.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t want to take something unless they know 100 per cent what it’s going to do,” he said.

This is not the first time Atlas has partnered with a post-secondary institution. In September, the company announced the Cannabis Waste Project partnership with the University of Alberta, which aims to develop strategies for converting cannabis waste into electricity on site and explore responsible water management practices in cannabis production.

Atlas plans to roll out its Lac Ste. Anne facility in three phases, with the potential to eventually exceed a million square feet. The company is also working on expanding into Europe, Croome said.

Overcoming the organ donor shortage

Research the key to boosting organ donation outcomes in Canada, says UAlberta’s Simon Urschel.

Simon Urschel will present new advances in organ transplantation at the third annual Festival of Health on May 25.

Organ donation is vital for saving the lives of thousands of Canadians every year. But low donor rates and a shortage of usable organs mean that each year, thousands more are left waiting for a transplant. In 2016, more than 250 people died waiting for a new organ. As Canada’s population ages, the need for transplanted organs continues to increase.

Simon Urschel, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and director of the Pediatric Heart Transplant program at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, believes new research is key to overcoming the issues of organ shortages, how to use donor organs more effectively, and improving patient outcomes. Urschel points to breakthroughs, like the ability to transplant organs between patients with different blood types, along with new technologies as important steps to creating a new future for organ donation in Canada.

“Take for example a lung transplant. We now have machines that can keep a lung functioning after the donor has passed away,” said Urschel. “Almost half of the donor lungs that previously would not be fit for transplantation can now be recovered for use. That’s huge.”

Urschel will be presenting a talk on the new frontier of transplantation at the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s third annual Festival of Health, taking place Saturday, May 25 at the U of A’s Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. In addition to the importance of research, he will discuss how a cross-discipline approach may dramatically improve medical procedures, harnessing lessons learned from organ transplantation in young children and infants.

“We have learned from the babies needing a heart transplantation that they can accept an organ much longer than any time later in life,” said Urschel. “The immature immune system requires less medication, can accept organs from donors with a different blood type, and leads to survival over several decades. Our research aims to reset the immune system of older children and adults to provide them with similar good outcomes and broader access to donor organs.”

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