or g

n Summer 2009 n vol u m e 3 n is s u e 2

Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network

McMaster gets nuclear medicine aid
A federal-provincial investment of $22 million will help McMaster University upgrade its nuclear reactor and nuclear research building to provide new labs and research space, as well as to increase commercial production of medical and industrial isotopes. The money, part of an overall $38.5 million in infrastructure funds, will also help the training of personnel for the nuclear industry and health-care sectors where nuclear medicine is involved. Besides the reactor-related money, the two governments also announced a $16.5 million investment for two centres aimed at innovation in helping people devastated by spinal cord injuries or cancer.

McMaster Park progress remains on track
Today’s global economic virus has infected financial and business activities around the world. And McMaster Innovation Park is not immune to the uncertainty. But prospects for the 37-acre site at Longwood Road South and Aberdeen Avenue – in the heart of what Hamilton hopes will be an innovation district – still appear bright. Occupancy of the first building, a four-storey complex, likely will be in the 90 per cent range by the end of the year. “I have a very positive feeling about that,” says Zach Douglas, president and chief executive at the park. “Not all innovation parks are successful ... but our affiliation with a university that has significant strengths in research and the ability to develop significant new products and innovations is a good sign for the future.” Douglas expects that, by mid-2010, some equipment might be arriving for the CANMET materials technology lab facility. That project will bring about 100 jobs from Ottawa. And he is hopeful a hotel proposal – an earlier deal fell through – will materialize. What remains a question mark, however, are research units planned by the domestic auto industry. General Motors, a company in the throes of massive shrinkage, and Ford Motor Co. have each planned a presence at the park. GM had talked about a corrosion research centre, perhaps working hand-in-hand with McMaster’s own steel research centre, and Ford had discussed a diesel engine lab. Now, both projects may be on shaky ground. “We’re anxiously watching to see if those things do materialize in the wake of what’s happening,” said Douglas. It may well be that some aspects of what was conceived as an emerging technologies centre, with a strong automotive focus, will get rolled into the 186,000-squarefoot, four-storey existing structure now being redeveloped. The 155,000 sq. ft. CANMET facility will house high-end industrial technologies, such as materials characterization and imaging, industrial radiography, analytical testing labs, hydrogen sulphide high pressure labs, and computer modeling operations. Of course, the innovation park (MIP) had lined up financing well before the current economic troubles began drying up credit and financing lines for many businesses. And the redevelopment, utilizing an existing shell, has reduced costs. Douglas estimates MIP’s construction costs at $120 a square foot, versus perhaps $250 for a new structure. MIP backers foresee as many as 3,000 jobs there over the next decade or so. By 2011, the park – developed in a north-south direction – may contain as many as five buildings, comprising a total 500,000 sq. ft. Plans call for a life sciences building, including an incubator for business start-ups, that would be located closer to Aberdeen. When completed, the park – formerly the home of a Camco appliance plant – will house laboratory, office, teaching, training and conference facilities in advanced manufacturing and materials, in nanotechnology and bio-technology, and in other areas in which McMaster has recognized research strengths. The city envisions the park as the anchor for its west Hamilton innovation district, with Frid Street being extended southerly into the research complex. MIP’s convenient exposure, just off Highway 403, means that “we have not seen a dramatic dropoff in recent interest” on the part of prospective tenants, said Douglas. n
CANMET building fronts rendering held by Zach Douglas

Inside –
n Affinity for success
[page 2]

n Biotech at Mohawk
[page 3] [page 4]

n Recession hurt n The ‘doctor’ is in... the cellar
[page 5]

n Upcoming events
[page 6]

www.ghbn.or g

Duo has an affinity for success
Sometimes, success wells up not from a great original idea or technology but from seeing a niche that few recognize. The trick there is in acting on the opportunity . . . even if it means toiling at full-time jobs elsewhere while seeding and nourishing your fledgling niche at home. That’s the story of Affinity Biologicals: a company that climbed from a Kingston basement into a plant in Ancaster. And the team behind the climb – husband and wife Hugh and Patricia Hoogendoorn – are acting on opportunity again: they’ve just bought a new business. The pair have acquired the hemostasis reference lab at Henderson General Hospital, a service complementary to Affinity’s blood serum and coagulation lines, and a full-circle return to where they alighted when they left Kingston in 1993. They credit Drs. Jack Hirsh and Jeff Weitz for mentoring and entrepreneurial help as the Hoogendoorns planned their exit and spun off the Henderson business into a stand-alone Affinity operation nine years ago. Today, the company that began in the basement of two former Mohawk College lab technology grads has almost 20 employees and does more than $2 million in annual sales around the globe. It ships most of its product lines into Europe, the U.S., Australia, and other areas. And now China beckons. Broadly speaking, Affinity makes lab reagents and kits for research and diagnostics. The antibodies, conjugates, ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kits, and plasma products are used in the research pathology of diseases and in monitoring the efficacy of treatments. It was the antibody line, used in coagulation research, that the Hoogendoorns first picked up on. It was a niche market going unserviced. So they started their home-based business in 1987, even though both had other jobs in Kingston. More than two decades later, most of their customers are in academic and industrial research. Some buyers are manufacturers who rebrand Affinity staples or incorporate those products into their own separate commodities.

Affinity’s market sector – human health and safety – means the company must adhere to demanding and expensive audits and standards set by such bodies as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the ISO agency. Another demanding barrier is the U.S. border. Entry into the United States has gotten tougher, post 9/11 and post-Mad Cow disease. Often, it has meant that Patricia, the company’s chief financial officer, has personally taken shipments over to make sure they reach carriers or distributors. The risks and demands in a life sciences business are higher today, says Patricia. To which Hugh, the president, adds: “They (the hurdles) are second only to the drug development system. It requires a huge investment.” By broadening their offerings beyond plasmas and antibodies, the couple has so far weathered this economic collapse. But two years ago, it was the rapid rise of the Canadian dollar’s value, relative to the U.S. dollar, that hurt them. Affinity’s lines are priced in U.S. dollars; quotes are good for a year. Handsome margins crumbled then, and Affinity had to reduce R & D, cut back on heavy marketing, let some employees go. Today, the marketing is more likely to focus on email campaigns but there is still the occasional trade show. “We made it through (the soaring loonie),” said Patricia. “We live now like it’s at par and anything beyond is gravy.” n
Affinity Biologicals founders, Patricia and Hugh Hoogendorn.

Natrix now a well-read supplier
A company with roots at McMaster University has scored a distribution deal with prominent life sciences firm VWR. The VRW products catalogue will include gel-membrane products created by Natrix Separations. Research developed by McMaster professor Ronald Childs later moved to commercialization and formation of Natrix. The Burlington company, led by former university chemical engineering professor Lisa Crossley, sells internationally to biomanufacturing, nutraceutical and watertreatment industries. Natrix lab and processsystem products utilize membranes consisting of a polymeric hydrogel formed within a flexible porous support matrix.

www.ghbn.or g

Employers wanted for Mohawk biotech grads
The first graduates of Mohawk College’s health biotechnology technician program are entering the work world. But the downturn in the economy has made it tough to find full job placements as well as co-op work terms in their chosen areas. About 35 students are getting their health biotechnology diplomas this month (June). They are part of a two-stream program that takes in health biotechnology technicians and the more established biotech technicians course that began in 2004. For many grads in both streams, the problem is securing full-time positions and putting Mohawk programs on employers’ radar screens. “It’s an awareness thing, really – what our students can provide them at the entry-level (technician) positions,” said Dan Wilson, professor and coordinator of chemical, environmental, and biotechnology programs at the college. As of April, more than 150 students were either at school or in co-op job placements. Their training orients them toward careers in the vast biosciences arena – everything from biologics, which are replacing synthesized drugs; biofuels, the ‘green’ hope of energy; animal and plant genomes; biosensors; and biosecurity innovations. And, of course, part of the interest in biotech has been the television celebrity of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation). The various CSI spinoffs have been an accelerant in firing up interest in college and university forensic sciences programs. Mohawk began offering its own forensics course last fall. “I’ve never taught a program where there is so much change,” says Wilson. “Every two weeks, it seems there is a new vaccine coming out or a new bacteria eating up an oil spill or something.” Biotechnology technicians might work in such settings as laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, in food processing, agricultural products, plant or livestock genetic engineering and environmental engineering. Health biotechnology technicians are more likely found in such areas as bio-medicine, genetics, forensics, agricultural and food production, bio-pharmaceuticals, and medical device firms. Mohawk is looking at the potential for a threeyear technology study program, said Wilson. Down the road, a degree program might even be possible, perhaps in concert with a school such as Australian-based Charles Sturt University, which has a campus in Burlington. Among the skills and tasks that students learn to perform are: DNA and protein absorption spectrophotometry; agarose gel DNA electrophoresis; ion exchange and thin layer chromatography; basic techniques in microbiology; and, micropipetting, extractions, titrations, centrifugation and pH measurements using Good Lab Practices (GLP). Mohawk officials plan to continue meeting with employers and biosector representatives to get the marketing word out about their technician courses. That’s important both for final job placements and for interim co-op positions. “We’ve seen it (the impact of the downturn). It has hit us and (some students) had to come back to Mohawk when they couldn’t get a job. ... Without (the co-op aspect), the program founders,” says Wilson. “We’re hurt with the economy like everybody else, so we’re looking for more (employer) partners.” Mohawk is also working with SISO, the Settlement and Integration Services Organization, to assist immigrants and refugee communities. The college has created a bridging program that would help applicants who might be interested in biotech technician employment. This bridge would offer candidates, some of whom may already have a biotech background, an overview of the sector. It would also provide training in sector terminology and familiarize SISO students with issues and trends in the Canadian-based biotech segment of the economy. n

Eat Greek, be healthy
Want to be healthy? Eat Greek. That’s the simplified version of a McMaster University study that looked at six decades of research on diet and heart disease. The study results, which appeared in April’s Archives of Internal Medicine journal, showed that a typical Mediterranean diet that features tomatoes and other vegetables, fruits, almonds, whole grain breads, and such monounsaturated fat produce as avocados and feta cheese was a hearthealthy eating regimen. As expected, the research summary trashed fatty meats and processed foods but also was tentative on the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, except for those found in fish, and of vitamin E and C supplements.


www.ghbn.or g

Recession hurts bioscience sector
The global economic crisis has hit several industry sectors hard. In Canada, companies in the biotechnology arena – there are more than 500 life sciences firms, many of them small and private operations – are among the victims of this recession. The collapse has fueled fears that some life sciences businesses will disappear or be snapped up by American interests. And once again, the spectre of a brain drain of scientists fleeing south has been raised, as more stimulus money is allocated in the U.S. The downturn has accelerated cash burns and aggravated existing strains in lending. It has dried up liquidity lines, ratcheted up some rates, led to the insolvency of some non-bank lenders, and has cratered venture capital and private equity funding. “I think we’re noticing certain longstanding, faithful customers are in a bind,” says Hugh Hoogendoorn, president of Affinity Biologicals in Ancaster. “And so, you have to make certain concessions (in sales orders and accounts receivable situations).” Some financiers – competing in a market where IPOs and mergers have dried up, and where pension funds, insurance firms, or limited partnerships are reluctant to fund VC operations – are content just to wait out this global crisis. That’s bad, a senior Business Development Bank of Canada official warned in early spring. Edmée Metivier, BDC’s executive vice-president of financing, told a House of Commons subcommittee that the crunch will hobble technology entrepreneurs. “It breaks my heart because if we let go of these technology companies, once this recession is over, you will have lost all this (new) technology. You will have lost a decade,” said Metivier. Studies repeatedly stress the need for capital in the industry. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2009 Canadian Life Sciences Industry. Forecast found that almost 80 per cent of 167 biotechnology firms surveyed listed the ability to access capital as their key issue. BIOTECanada has asked Ottawa for relief. The national voice for the biotech sector has suggested one-time cash refunds on tax losses, capital gains tax exemptions on investment, and breaks in the Scientific Research and Experimental Development credit program. To be fair, venture capital fundraising in Canada was sliding before the recession. Four years ago, the industry raised $1,718 billion, according to the Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA). Last year, the total fell to $1,028 billion – a 41 per cent drop. That’s the fundraising side. VC investing in all companies, not just life-sciences firms, has also plummeted. The amount of VC infusions in this year’s first quarter, at $275 million, was the lowest on a quarterly basis in almost six years. Governments and their funding/banking agencies have been criticized for being slow to react to tighter conditions. For example, critics have hit at the Ontario Venture Capital Fund for being too deliberative, taking too long to put money into play. And earlier this year, several bioscience / biotechnology groups and officials took shots at the Harper government’s budget. They criticized its directing of federal funds more to infrastructure than to actual hands-on research work. But Quebec and Ontario – to name just two provinces – have ponied up money of late. In March, Ontario announced its $250 million Emerging Technologies Fund, to be matched with private investments, for cleantech, IT, and life sciences startups. A month later, Quebec launched a private-public sector $700 million fund of funds. CVCA president Gregory Smith called the fund “a shining example” of collaboration between both sectors. Some VC and equity players think the slowdown may well promote a clearing of the decks. Lumira Capital head Peter van der Velden notes on a blog: “Today’s market represents an outstanding time to cull the weak and underperforming from our herds...” n

John Brash

John Brash gets top honour
He is an engineer who also happens to be an authority on blood and biomaterials. John Brash was honoured in April with the Founders Award at the annual meeting of the Society for Biomaterials in Texas. Dr. Brash, director of the School of Biomedical Engineering at McMaster University, is only the second Canadian to receive the award, given for long-term, landmark contributions to the field of biomaterials. His four decades of study and innovation have led to improvements in vascular stents and grafts, heartassist devices, and heartlung bypass systems. His expertise is recognized in several areas, including protein adsorption and blood compatibility, thrombus formation on artificial surfaces, and biocompatible polyurethane-based materials.


www.ghbn.or g

The ‘doctor’ is in... the cellar
At Gaspereau vineyards, near Wolfville, Nova Scotia, the grapes spring from the soils of the Annapolis Valley. But the wines made by Gina Haverstock have some of their roots in the Niagara peninsula. The native of Cape Breton Island, who had originally planned to study the science of medicine and become a doctor, switched instead to the science of oenology and viticulture. After taking her early biochemistry education at the University of New Brunswick, she packed up and went to Brock University. Four years after graduating from Brock – preceded by internships at wineries ranging from Germany to New Zealand – she’s back home, the winemaker at one of her province’s newest wine operations, as Annapolis builds a profile based on grapes as well as apples. Just as Niagara was known at first principally for its whites, Nova Scotia – now with 10 wineries – is gaining a small reputation for varieties such as New York Muscat, L’Acadie, Seyval and Riesling – ideal since the province is known for its marvellous seafood. At Gaspereau, they also grow l’Acadie Blanc, a dry white hybrid developed years ago at Vineland Station just down from Brock. But there are also reds, such as Marechal Foch, Lucie Kuhlmann, and DeChaunac varieties, that do well in the maritime province. It was more than a decade ago that Haverstock, working her way through a biochem degree in New Brunswick, spent some time at the family cottage. That retreat just happened to be near Jost Vineyards, in the same family business as the newer Gaspereau winery. She took a summer job at Jost.

John Wallace

Gina Haverstock

Wallace gets Premier’s award
The head of McMaster’s digestive centre has been awarded the Premier’s Summit Award in Medical Research. Pharmacologist John Wallace, a global star in gastrointestinal research, received the honour in a Toronto event in May. The award is worth $5 million, with half of that from the Ontario Government and half from McMaster, the home of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, headed by Dr. Wallace. An entrepreneur who has founded at least two pharmaceutical companies, he focuses on understanding, preventing and treating diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and colon cancer

“I was basically a blank slate when I went to Jost,” says Haverstock, 31. As Gina became a student of the vines, she “quickly fell in love with wine.” And she became a Sommelier. She looked to Brock University to learn more. “Brock was the only place – I think it still may be the only place in Canada – where you can get a bachelor of science with an Honours in Oenology and viticulture.” (Her fiancé, Sean Myles, a former McMaster University student, is now doing post-doctoral work on grape genetics at Cornell University in Ithaca.) Her wine efforts have won acclaim. Reislings have won both gold and silver medals at the AllCanadian Wine Championships. She has crafted the difficult Pinot Noir grape. Her Niagara roots have made wines with “a Nova Scotia twist.” n


www.ghbn.or g

20th AnnuAl ConferenCe of the Canadian Bioethics Society Date: June 11-14, 2009 Location: Hamilton Convention Centre Address: Hamilton, ON For more information visit: www.ghbn.org

McMASter innovAtion ShowCASe 09 Date: June 18-19, 2009 Location: McMaster Innovation Park Address: 175 Longwood Road South, Hamilton For more information visit: www.ghbn.org life SCienCeS – Partner across the border Date: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 Location: Adam’s Mark Hotel Address: 120 Church Street, Buffalo, NY For more information visit: www.thepartnership.org/events or www.ghbn.org world CongreSS – the world Congress on industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing Date: July 19-22, 2009 Location: Montreal, Qc For more information visit: www.bio.org/worldcongress

Events listing

Brock gets big federal donation
Ottawa has boosted the construction campaign for Brock University’s research complex by investing $38 million in the project. The federal money follows a $33.5 million provincial contribution, plus $2 million from Niagara Region. The 142,000-square-foot Niagara Health and Bioscience Research Complex will focus on bringing bio-innovations to market and will be home to labs and greenhouse space, classrooms, a business incubator and other units. Construction of the $109 million facility is expected to begin this summer.

food MeetS funCtion – the science and business of functional foods Date: June 17-18, 2009 Location: Best Western Lamplighter Inn & Conference Centre Address: London, ON For more information: www.foodmeetsfunction.ca trAnSlog 2009 ConferenCe – transportation and logistics Date: June 17-18, 2009 Location: McMaster University Address: Hamilton, ON For more information visit: www.mcmaster.ca/ translog/index.html??? foodS AS nAturAl heAlth ProduCtS Date: Thursday, June 18, 2009 Location: Guelph Food Technology Centre Address: Guelph, ON For more information visit: www.gftc.ca

n Massive study will track health of aging Canadians Feature research
McMaster University leads a cutting-edge national study on aging and health that will follow 50,000 Canadians of boomer-age and beyond for the next two decades. Researchers with the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging will collect information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social and economic aspects of subjects who take part in the study. The study team intends to examine health trends and directions over a longer-term period – data that will increase the understanding of health problems that beset seniors. The $30 million study, announced by the federal government in May, will be led by McMaster’s Parminder Raina, professor in the Department Contact of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics. “Some people age in a healthy fashion despite many physical health challenges, while others who are in good physical health age less optimally,” he said after the announcement. “The (study) will answer questions that are relevant to decision-makers to improve the health of Canadians.” Among other things, the comprehensive study will provide age-related information that will benefit government health and medical programs and services for aging Canadians. In addition to starting at human mid-life, the study is the first to collect social and economic retirement factors, as well as clinical and biological measures. n

Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network
McMaster University, Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery 5105-1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA L8N 3Z5

n Ana Paredes Office Administrator/Incubator Assistant – Tel: 905-525-9140 Ext. 26602 Fax: 905-528-3999 n Darlene Homonko Executive Director – Tel: 905-525-9140 Ext. 26609 Web: www.ghbn.org

Bio-Matrix is a quarterly newsletter published by GHBN. Director and editor: Darlene Homonko
Writer: Mike Pettapiece Graphic Design: Nadia DiTraglia

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful