PlantForm and UBC researcher receive GlycoNet funds to develop novel treatment for Type-2 diabetes

PlantForm Corporation has teamed up with a University of British Columbia research group led by Dr. Joerg Bohlmann to develop a novel plant-based treatment option for Type-2 diabetes and obesity, with support from GlycoNet (Canadian Glycomics Network).

Bohlmann is a GlycoNet investigator and renowned leader in plant specialized metabolism, especially the genes and enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of high-value plant bioproducts. In particular, the Bohlmann lab has characterized the entire biosynthetic pathway of Montbretin A (MbA), a small molecule found in montbretia (Crocosmia), an ornamental plant of the Iris family.

Because of its unique pharmacological properties, MbA is being developed as a treatment for Type-2 diabetes and obesity, and it has been approved by Health Canada for Phase 1 clinical trials. However, MbA is only found in very small amounts and during limited periods of montbretia’s annual cycle. For clinical trials and commercialization to be feasible, researchers need a reliable, economical way to produce large quantities of MbA.

This collaboration is focused on using PlantForm’s plant-based vivoXPRESS® manufacturing platform to produce a stable and scalable supply of MbA.

“PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS platform is highly versatile and uniquely suited to meeting the need for cost-effective, large-scale production of proteins, enzymes, antibodies, vaccines and other molecules used in a wide range of healthcare applications ,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s President and CEO. “We’re very excited to be collaborating with the Bohlmann lab and leveraging funding from GlycoNet to develop a better way to treat a devastating disease and improve quality of life for millions of people.”

Type-2 diabetes affects half a billion people worldwide and is one of the top 10 diseases causing premature death. Previous research has shown that MbA selectively inhibits human pancreatic α-amylase — a critical enzyme involved in breaking down starches and controlling blood sugar — without the side-effects of existing diabetes medications.

“Assuming a daily dose of 200 mg per patient, treating all Canadians with Type-2 diabetes would require more than 100,000 kg of MbA every year,” said Bohlmann. Proof-of-concept work using vivoXPRESS has already generated yields of MbA 10 times higher than could be obtained from montbretia plants. “The outcome of this strategic partnership will be a scalable production system, which is essential for the successful development and future commercialization of MbA.”

The immediate aim of the project will be to optimize the vivoXPRESS system to maximize yields of MbA while reducing production of unwanted co-metabolites. The long-term goal is to bring MbA to the mass market as either a pharmaceutical therapy or functional food / nutritional supplement.

“Scientifically, this project builds upon years of cutting-edge work by each of the partners,” said Stewart. “Commercially, it’s tremendously exciting because of the potential to provide a new and effective treatment for a chronic disease that affects so many people.”

PlantForm, Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz sign new agreement to develop biosimilar pembrolizumab cancer drug and additional products

Canadian biopharmaceutical innovator PlantForm Corporation and Bio-Manguinhos / Fiocruz (Health Ministry of Brazil) have signed a collaborative research and development agreement to develop a biosimilar pembrolizumab and up to five future products for the Brazilian and other world markets.

Pembrolizumab is widely used alone or in combination with other drugs to treat a variety of cancers including certain types of breast cancer, skin cancer (including melanoma), non-small cell lung cancer and more than a dozen other types.

The collaboration expands upon an agreement signed in early 2021 to enable scientific and technical cooperation aimed at bringing low-cost pembrolizumab to Brazil and to develop future products to meet the demand for more affordable drugs for the Brazilian healthcare system.

“We’re very pleased to continue working with our Brazilian colleagues to advance our strategy for making effective, affordable cancer drugs available to millions of Brazilians. This updated agreement is a clear sign of their faith in our low-cost, plant-based vivoXPRESS® manufacturing platform,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s President and CEO. “It will also allow Bio-Manguinhos to develop up to five future drugs using the platform.”

The brand name version of pembrolizumab — Keytruda® by Merck — is on track to be the world’s best-selling drug with annual sales expected to top $35 billion by 2028, when it will lose key patent protection in Brazil.

Bio-Manguinhos is a Brazilian government organization responsible for technology development and production of vaccines, reagents and biopharmaceuticals to meet the country’s public health needs. The collaboration with PlantForm will culminate with Phase 1 and Phase 3 clinical trials of biosimilar pembrolizumab. Following successful completion of clinical trials and entry into the Brazilian market through Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz, PlantForm will take biosimilar pembrolizumab to world markets.

Stewart said the pembrolizumab research program has been making excellent progress and the development pathway puts the PlantForm-BioManguinhos product in a solid position to be one of the first biosimilar pembrolizumab on the market in 2028.

“This project further validates the versatility and capabilities of our plant-based system for developing a variety of protein drugs and vaccines for tackling major diseases that afflict millions of people every year,” he said. “Our vivoXPRESS manufacturing platform is made-in-Canada innovation with the potential to make these important biologic drugs more accessible and affordable worldwide.”

U.S. patent granted for Made-in-Canada ricin antibody technology

The U.S. Patent Office has granted a patent for a plant-based manufacturing process to produce an antibody for treatment of ricin exposure, an outcome of research and development by AntoXa Corporation under contract with Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC), an Agency of the Canadian Department of National Defence.

AntoXa, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian biopharmaceutical company PlantForm Corporation, has an exclusive license from DRDC to develop and produce the PhD9 monoclonal antibody treatment in plants for sale in markets worldwide. The process has received United States Patent No. 11,447,789, issued to His Majesty the King in Right of Canada as represented by the Minister of National Defence.

“Our plant-based, made-in-Canada manufacturing platform uniquely addresses the critical need for cost-effective, large-scale production of antidotes for ricin and other potential bioterrorism threats,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm President and CEO. “Safety and efficacy studies showed therapeutic efficacy against ricin intoxication and validate the capability of our proprietary vivoXPRESS® manufacturing platform to produce a best-in-class antibody treatment for ricin exposure.”

Ricin, a naturally occurring protein from the castor-bean plant, Ricinus communis, is extremely toxic to humans when inhaled or injected. It is listed as a Category B threat agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to its ease of production, worldwide availability, relative stability and extreme lethality. There is currently no approved antidote against ricin poisoning. It acts very quickly and leaves a short window for administering therapeutic antibodies.

The PhD9 antibody drug candidate prevents ricin from penetrating cells. The PhD9 anti-ricin antibody was developed, in part, through a collaborative effort by the Medical Countermeasure Consortium (MCMC) under the Chemical, Biological and Radiological Memorandum of Understanding (CBR MOU), which includes Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Next steps for the commercialization of PhD9 are to manufacture a GMP lot for further pre-clinical studies and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, which is dependent on raising the necessary funds for scale up and other activities necessary to obtain regulatory approvals, Stewart said. Medical countermeasures do not require Phase 2 and Phase 3 human efficacy trials for ethical reasons, therefore the path to regulatory approval is shorter than for other pharmaceuticals.

For more information, visit AntoXa Corporation's website.

Transport Genie launches reforestation initiative to lower agri-food sector’s carbon footprint

Canadian agri-tech start-up Transport Genie Ltd. announced plans to help customers in the farm animal transportation sector lower their carbon footprint by sponsoring global reforestation efforts.

The award-winning precision monitoring company, which makes sensors that monitor environmental conditions in livestock transport trucks, will donate a portion of sales from every Transport Genie system to support planting more trees.

“Last year was a great year for Transport Genie in terms of growing the business. This year, we want to give back to our customers and the animal protein industry by helping the planet and helping the agriculture sector lower its carbon footprint,” said Joel Sotomayor, Transport Genie President and CEO.

In 2022, Transport Genie experienced strong growth across all key metrics including customer acquisition, market penetration and transactional volumes. The company was also one of 10 global innovators chosen to take part in Startupbootcamp Australia’s FoodTech Tasmania, a three-month business accelerator program. Sotomayor aims to do even better in 2023.

“We’ve deployed thousands of sensors that have generated nearly 1.2 million data points related to microclimate conditions which we will use to continue improving farm animal health and welfare during transportation,” said Sotomayor. “At the same time,  supporting reforestation and biodiversity by planting trees is one way to help the planet and help our customers lower their carbon footprint at no cost to them.”

Transport Genie will also calculate carbon credits to show customers how much their support offsets greenhouse gas emissions. Transport Genie’s scientific advisory board is working with Canadian experts in carbon offsets to develop an algorithm that calculates how much carbon will be sequestered over time by the trees planted.

“This initiative aligns perfectly with our circular economy philosophy and sustainability goals,” said Klaire Libre, Transport Genie’s marketing manager. “All components of our sensors, including the batteries, are designed to be easily replaced and refurbished, minimizing waste and extending the lifespan of the technology. Ultimately, we want consumers to have the choice of selecting meat and poultry products in the grocery store with labelling that clearly shows their food was made ethically and sustainably at every step along the supply chain.”


WelTel CEO joins ‘Women Leading in Health Tech’ panel at UN

WelTel Inc. is on a mission to improve health equity through digital innovation, and the world is taking notice.

WelTel co-founder and CEO Dr. Gabrielle Serafini will join the “Women Leading in Health Tech” panel discussion at the upcoming Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO) Summit on May 20 at the United Nations in New York.

“I’m thrilled to be invited to contribute to this amazing event and meet inspiring women entrepreneurs whose companies are taking action to advance global health equity by harnessing the power of cloud technology,” Serafini said.

Sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS), the panel includes four other trailblazing women founders and CEOs, and is moderated by Maggie Carter, Global Lead AWS Social Impact.

At the summit, Serafini will discuss recent work with First Nations and Maori communities in Canada and New Zealand, where WelTel’s text-first, multilingual platform is promoting health and language equity by ensuring everyone has access to timely, appropriate and culturally-safe virtual health care in their language of choice. She’ll also touch on WelTel’s role in Rwanda’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WelTel’s digital health tools balance the functionality needed to overcome the barriers of distance and geography with a community-directed approach to health care that respects the priorities and traditions of the communities we serve.”

See the WelTel website for more.

mPowered teams up with Ocean Set to build ocean data marketplace

Montreal, Canada -- Canadian blockchain technology provider mPowered has teamed up with Newfoundland-based start-up Ocean Set to support the health of our oceans by building the world’s first data marketplace designed specifically for ocean-related data.

mPowered, a Web3 company founded in Guelph, Ont., but now based in Montreal, is providing the technology stack that will power the marketplace. Ocean Set aims to make it easy for users to access, prepare, share and exchange data and algorithms about everything from ocean currents and temperatures to fisheries, offshore energy leases, and more.

“mPowered was initially created to help individuals and companies in the agri-food sector take ownership of their data and benefit from sharing it,” said mPowered CEO Joel Sotomayor. “Expanding our focus to the ocean data economy and protecting marine environments is a great opportunity that fits with our ‘data as a common good’ philosophy and we look forward to helping make the Ocean Set data marketplace a success.”

Peter Rawsthorne, Ocean Set’s founder and president, said the marketplace meets growing demand for a simple, secure platform for stakeholders in the ocean sector to access, manage, optimize and share potentially valuable data sets. mPowered’s blockchain-based ecosystem provides Ocean Set with the cryptographically secure, transparent and tamperproof tools needed to curate a frictionless environment for buying and selling data.

The Ocean Set data marketplace will be a valuable resource for companies, governments, and scientists in the fisheries, aquaculture, transportation, tourism, defence, and energy sectors, said Rawsthorne.

“Working with mPowered has helped Ocean Set build a trusted platform that will allow organizations to access, store, retrieve and profit from sharing ocean data sets without losing control of their data,” said Rawsthorne. “We believe this will encourage stakeholders to generate and share even more validated data which will support a sustainable ocean economy and protect marine ecosystems.”

WelTel named top innovator at Fraser Health iCademy pitch competition

Vancouver, B.C. — WelTel Inc. has been named Top Innovator by the Fraser Health Innovation Academy (iCademy) pitch competition.

The event was the culmination of a challenging program created by Fraser Health to foster collaboration with external partners and advance innovative solutions that significantly improve health services in the region.

WelTel was one of 60 B.C. companies that applied in 2019 to be part of the Innovation Academy’s inaugural cohort. Nine were shortlisted to present ideas, and four were selected to participate in the program, which was then interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pitch competition was finally held June 30, when the judging panel selected WelTel’s proposal for a project aimed at improving engagement and health outcomes for chronic disease patients.

“WelTel is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Innovation Academy and kudos to Fraser Health for creating such an innovative program,” said Dr. Gabby Serafini, WelTel CEO. “We look forward to working with Fraser Health to deploy WelTel and to extend primary care services and improve the patient journey for people living with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and COPD.”

During the six-month project, general practitioners, behavioural health coaches and a clinical psychologist will use WelTel’s SMS texting-based platform to strengthen patient-caregiver relationships, promote positive lifestyle changes and help patients set and track their health goals.

To learn more, visit the WelTel website.

AntoXa to develop plant-made protein for potential coronavirus therapy

GUELPH, Ontario — Canadian biopharmaceutical company AntoXa Corporation has been awarded a contract extension from the Government of Canada that includes development of plant-made recombinant human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as a potential coronavirus treatment.

Under the terms of the amended contract with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), AntoXa will also continue development of plant-made butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), a protein that protects against toxic nerve agents. DRDC exercised an option to extend the contract to March 31, 2022, increasing the total value of the projects up to $828,712.38 over three years. 

Researchers are interested in ACE2 as it is the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, providing the entry point for the virus to infect cells. ACE2 could be used to target SARS-CoV-2 by blocking the spike protein from attaching to healthy cells, making it a potential candidate for prophylactic use or for use in the very early stages of COVID infection.

“Perhaps the most exciting thing about ACE2 is that it’s variant-agnostic, which means it could be effective against all of the variants of concern in the current pandemic,” said Ashley Meyers, AntoXa’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

For more, see the complete news release on the AntoXa website.

Udderly Ridiculous goat’s milk ice cream makers invite you to experience farm life

Bright, Ontario — After winning over ice cream lovers and food industry experts with their all-natural alternative to cow dairy, the makers of award-winning Udderly Ridiculous Goat's Milk Ice Cream invite lockdown-weary Ontarians to unplug and recharge by experiencing a taste of farm life.

Cheryl and Greg Haskett are welcoming people to their third-generation Oxford County farm near Bright, Ont. for an Udderly Ridiculous farm tourism experience that's fun, educational and COVID-safe.

The public can now pre-book Udderly Ridiculous Farm Life activities, which include Goat YogaGoat Recess (an opportunity to mingle with the goats), Alpaca Encounters and Alpaca Farm Walks.

"We're very excited to open our gates and invite Ontario families to experience a taste of life on the farm, to reconnect with the land and to get to know some of our zany goats and other animal friends," said Cheryl, who founded Udderly Ridiculous in 2018.

Since then, Udderly Ridiculous has scooped major recognition like the 27th Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awardand inspired food lovers across Ontario with their irresistible combination of gourmet flavours and all-natural, easy-to-digest goodness. Goat's milk ice cream is perfect for lactose-sensitive stomachs, plus it's richer in protein and healthy fatty acids with less sugar than ice cream made from cow's milk.

In January, Udderly Ridiculous was named one of the winners of the Oxford County Spark Program pitch competitionaimed at fostering and supporting new sustainable tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships in the region. The competition, which provided start-up funding and mentoring to the winners, inspired Cheryl and Greg to diversify the business by branching out into Ontario's $1.2-billion agritourism sector.

"We're thrilled to share our passion for our amazing goats — and for farming — with the public," said Cheryl. "We're inviting everyone to enjoy the fruits of our hard work and help share the good news about Ontario agriculture."

Instagram @udderlyicecream  

Facebook @udderlyridiculous

TikTok @udderlyridiculous

Rillea Technologies White Paper: The WHMIS Gap

Belleville, Ont. — Did you know that millions of Canadians are exposed to chemical hazards in the workplace every year?

Rillea Technologies is an award-winning software development company that specializes in helping companies manage workplace hazards and understand complex health and safety rules and regulations.

Rillea’s SDS Risk Assist cloud-based software solution revolutionizes safety data sheet (SDS) management and chemical safety for manufacturers, municipalities, hospitals, laboratories and more.

Rillea co-founder Rob Hallsworth published a free white paper to help companies bridge the gap between the intent and the on-the-ground reality of Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

To learn more about creating safer workplaces, visit the Rillea website or click here to get your free copy of “The WHMIS Gap: How Health and Safety Pros Can Reduce the Risks From Chemical Hazards in the Workplace.”