ARCHIVED - Fertile ground for biotech firms

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October 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

On July 9, 2007, Chemaphor Inc. officially opened its research quarters, the first of four biotech startups to reside in NRC's latest industry partnership facility (IPF). The new facility is located at the NRC Institute for Nutrisciences and Health in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

When new firms rent space, they "incubate" in a full-service R&D laboratory with access to NRC expertise, technical information, business planning services, and opportunities to benefit from research collaborations. The four current occupants of the Charlottetown facility are Chemaphor, Neurodyn, the Atlantic Centre for Bioproducts Valuation, and Nautilus Bioscience Canada. Each is focusing on a different but complementary aspect of health-related research.

"By co-locating with us during their formative years, these firms benefit from the shared infrastructure and research programs resulting from NRC's partnership with the University of PEI and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada," comments Paul Neima, who manages the NRC partnership facility.

From left to right: Graham Burton, CEO, Chemaphor; Richard Brown, Minister of Development and Technology, Government of PEI; Janusz Daroscewski, Senior Research Officer, Chemaphor ; Roman Szumski, VP Life Sciences, NRC; and Patrick Dorsey, VP PEI and Tourism, ACOA.
From left to right: Graham Burton, CEO, Chemaphor; Richard Brown, Minister of Development and Technology, Government of PEI; Janusz Daroscewski, Senior Research Officer, Chemaphor ; Roman Szumski, VP Life Sciences, NRC; and Patrick Dorsey, VP PEI and Tourism, ACOA.

"Chemaphor management was delighted when the opportunity arose to become part of the industry partnership program, because NRC provides scientific strength and an understanding of the business opportunities Chemaphor is addressing," says David Hankinson, Chairman of the Board and Director of Nutrisciences, Chemaphor. "NRC staff linked us with other agencies within the PEI Biosciences cluster and with the University of PEI. We have several collaborations underway that would not have materialized without help from NRC."

Chemaphor, an NRC spin-off, develops premium products for the animal health, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and specialty chemical markets. It recently won funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to research the potential human and animal health benefits of carotenoid compounds. Such compounds could be used in pet products, growth-promoting livestock feed, and even anti-ageing skin creams.

"We have several collaborations underway that would not have materialized without help from NRC."

David Hankinson, Chemaphor

"Young companies simply don't have the resources and connections to begin a demanding R&D program on their own," says Mr. Neima. "We provide access to the sophisticated tools, equipment and scientific support they need, while opening doors to funding and assistance from other sources. For example, we connect them with the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program and help them develop a research plan for submission to programs such as the Atlantic Innovation Fund run by ACOA.

Another tenant, Neurodyn Inc., is developing products to detect and treat neurodegeneration resulting from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. The company has developed an animal model capable of replicating neurodegeneration from its earliest stages, making it an excellent tool for testing potential new diagnostics and therapeutics. Neurodyn intends to operate as a clinical research organization at the service of pharmaceutical firms.

Incorporated in July 2007, Nautilus Bioscience Canada moved into the NRC partnership facility the same month. Working hand-in-hand with the University of PEI (UPEI), this firm explores natural products found in the ocean, focusing on biocompounds that could lead to new medications. One of its main areas of focus is terpenes, a class of compounds highly valued for their anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.

The Atlantic Centre for Bioproducts Valuation — a collaboration between NRC's nutrisciences institute and UPEI's Atlantic Veterinary College — has also set up quarters in the facility. By conducting preclinical studies and providing tools to screen compounds, the Centre will contribute to new treatments for strokes, neuroinflammation and metabolic disorders. It may also offer its services to the other three firms, helping their research along.

By the end of their three-year tenancy, Neima expects these firms will have validated their technologies, obtained intellectual property protection, and attracted venture capital to take their business to the next stage. In the meantime, these companies are benefiting from a thriving research community that has a vested interest in their success.


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