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Prospects for biopolymer hyaluronan production Page 7

May 2012 Volume 16, Number 3

Behind Closed Doors

the value of medical laboratory professionals in Canada Page


Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada Greater Toronto Area results

Photo: Mark Lievonen, president of Sanofi Pasteur Limited, congratulates Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada GTA Winners Grade 12 students Daniel Zhang and Alexander Tigert of Northern Secondary School at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

Publications Mail Registration Number: 40052410


Innovative research by two 17-yearold Toronto students that could lead to better treatment of depression and anxiety has earned the top prize in the Greater Toronto Area competition of the “2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC)”, a biotechnology research competition that encourages students to pursue future studies and careers in the field of biotechnology. Held at the MaRS Discovery District, the SBCC Awards ceremony was attended by over 150

R&D News.......................... 1 Appointments..................... 5 Pharma Notes..................... 6 New Products................... 15 Calendar........................... 17 Career Spotlight............... 18

students, and representatives from industry, government and education. Emceed by Dr. Gavin Clark, University of Toronto (retired), award presenters included senior representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, MaRs Discovery District, Life Sciences Ontario, Ryerson University, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, York University, University of Toronto and Sanofi Pasteur Limited. The First place award of $2,500 went to GTA Grade 12 students Alexander Tigert and Zelun (Daniel) Zhang of Northern Secondary School, who were mentored by Dr. Corey Nislow and Dr. Marinella Gebbia at the University of Toronto. The duo won the top regional prize with a novel way of testing the positive effects of drugs that target one of the brain’s dopamine receptors, which are related to many neurological processes including motivation, pleasure, cognition, memory and learning. The students created a genetically-modified yeast that expresses the human type D2 dopamine receptor, offering a new way to measure the effectiveness of current and new drugs to treat neurological conditions such as depression and anxiety. Mark Lievonen, president of Sanofi Pasteur Limited, presented the first place award. “The students in this competition represent some of the brightest young scientists in Canada and I congratulate them all on their outstanding achievements,” said Lievonen. “Through this program, we are investing in the future, celebrating excellence and creating a critical mass of biotechnology talent in Canada.” The Commercialization Award of $1,000 was given to Varsha Jayasankar, 15, of Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Hamilton. Continued on page 3


May 2012 Laboratory Focus

newS Bc patient saFety QuaLity counciL recoGniZes phsa at 2011 awards Researchers and physicians from the Provincial Health Services Authority have won two of six BC Patient Safety Quality Council Quality Awards. Winners were recognized at the BC Patient Safety Quality Council’s Quality Forum in Vancouver, BC.

Those honoured included Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, pediatric cardiac surgeon at BC Children’s Hospital and Drs. Johann Brink, Tonia L. Nicholls and Christopher Webster of the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission. Drs. Brink, Nicholls and

Webster developed the START (Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability) initiative, resulting in a new model for interdisciplinary mental health care, providing structure and guidelines for multi-disciplinary treatments. Dr. Gandhi’s leadership and

efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and safety within cardiac care at the BC Children’s Hospital have yielded strong results and garnered much appreciation among colleagues, patients and families.

PUBLISHER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Terri Pavelic STAFF WRITER Shawn Lawrence INTERN Janet Damianopoulos CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Alex Power Jeffrey Dessaue Daniel Chen Mads Kaern Michael Chen Rakesh Tiku Vincent Martin NATIONAL ACCOUNT MANAGER Marcello Sukhdeo

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May 2012


Continued from page 1 controlled mechanism that regulates human cholesterol levels. This information could be used to identify a drug target for reducing human cholesterol levels resulting from insulin resistance. Stephanie worked with mentors Dr. Khosrow Adeli, Sahar Ansari and Rianna Zhang at The Hospital for Sick Children. Stephanie also won the $500 award for the best project from a new school in the competition. Fifth prize: Michael Phan, 17, and Geoffrey Williams, 17, of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga took the $1,000 fifth prize for showing that two compounds extracted from the root of the Devil’s Club plant (Oplopanax horridus) exhibited anti-cancer properties that proved to be effective against all seven lines of cancer cells that they tested. The students’ mentors were Dr. Rima Alawar, Dr. Richard Marcellus and Dr. Carly Griffin at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research Institute, University Health Network. Alexander Tigert and Zelun (Daniel) Zhang will participate in the national competition at the National Research Council in Ottawa. The first and second place winners of the national Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada competition will advance to the International BioGENEius Challenge held in Boston, MA on June 18, 2012, in conjunction with the BIO Annual International Convention. This year, more than 240 high school and CEGEP students across Canada have submitted 192 projects.

Queen’s University CIHR grants The Canadian Institutes of Health Research grants nearly $10 million to 12 researchers conducting various projects at Queen’s University. $3.89 million is allocated to the NCIC Clinical Trials Group to coordinate two international clinical trials. One trial contrasts simple hysterectomy with radical hysterectomy for efficacy and lasting adverse effects as treatment in patients with early stage cervical cancer. The nominated principal applicant for this trial is Dr. Ralph Meyer, director of the NCIC CTG. Dr. Marie Plante of Laval University is the trial chair. The other trial investigates whether the addition of radiotherapy to chemotherapy prior to surgery improves survival of patients with stomach cancer. The nominated principal applicant for this trial is Chris O’Callaghan. The trial chair is Rebecca Wong of the University of Toronto. Other successful applications included Dr. Brian Amsden (Chemi-

Ralph Meyer

Varsha extracted and confirmed the efficacy of an anti-microbial compound from a species of wild ginger that has potential as an “eco-friendly” pesticide. A provisional patent has been filed for this work. Varsha worked with mentors Dr. Jay Subramanian at the University of Guelph and Dr. Edward Sternin at Brock University. Other award winners included: Second prize: Bayview Secondary School in Markham student Howard Feng, 16, received the second place prize of $2,000 for using bio-informatics to identify specific genetic mutations in the proteins of an enzyme that prevents Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This information could lead to priority candidates in future studies of therapies for IBD. Howard worked with mentor Boyko Kabakchiev at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital. Third prize: $1,500 went to Amanda Fantin, 17, of Toronto whose research investigated the early stages of the differentiation of stem cells toward becoming mature, insulin-producing pancreatic slet cells. The development of islet cells from stem cells could serve as possible treatment for type1 diabetes. Amanda’s mentors were Dr. Ian Rogers and Jennifer Whiteley at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital. Fourth prize: A fourth prize of $1,250 was awarded to Stephanie Gaglione, 17, of St. Robert Catholic High School in Markham for her research on the possibility of a unique insulin-

cal Engineering), Dr. Andrew Craig (Health Sciences), Dr. Eric Dumont (Anesthesiology), Dr. Randy Flanagan (Psychology), Dr. Lauren Flynn (Chemical Engineering), Dr. Patti Groome (Epidemiology), Dr. Daren Heyland (School of Medicine), Dr. Kanji Nakatsu (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) and Dr. Xiaolong Yang (Pathology and Molecular Medicine).

Government teams up with IBM and university consortium on R&D initiative

Photo by JD Howell

McMaster University Develops Rapid Water Testing Method

Researchers at McMaster University have developed a rapid testing method that can detect E. coli in recreational waters within minutes using a simple paper strip. The test is much more accurate than existing portable technology. The project is funded by Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network, a McMaster University based research network funded by NSERC. Details about the work can be found

online in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. Strips of paper are coated with chemicals that react to E. coli. The strips are printed using inkjet technology. Thirty minutes after a sample is taken, the paper changes colour to indicate the presence of the bacteria. Different colours are coded to indicate different forms and concentrations. Field tests are planned or under way in Canada and around the world in areas where untreated waters are hazardous. Results of these studies will refine the strips’ sensitivity and may yield strips capable of indicating when water is safe to drink. NSERC has already funded the next stage of pre-commercial development through a Phase 1 Idea to Innovation grant. The product could be commercialized in as little as two to three years.

IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputers

The Governments of Canada and Ontario, with IBM and a consortium of seven universities led by the University of Toronto and Western University announce a new research and development initiative worth $210 million that is expected to create 145 new highly skilled jobs in Ontario. The project will see investments of up to $175 million from IBM through December 2014 and the formation of the IBM Canada Research and Development Centre. The Government of Ontario will invest $15 million toward the project. The federal government will contribute $20 million to allow the universities and IBM to install two high-performance IBM Blue Gene/Q

supercomputers and develop a cloud computing and agile computing platform. The university consortium will have access to a new IBM data centre in Barrie in fall 2012. Other Canadian researchers and enterprises will also be invited to join the consortium. The goal says IBM is to create a collaborative model that will help researchers use high performance and cloud computing infrastructure to better manage and analyze massive data sets to solve world challenges. The research collaboration will address several focus areas including problems facing cities, healthcare challenges, water conservation and management, efficient energy conservation and management and software innovation.


May 2012 Laboratory Focus


killam PriZeS awarded to five canadian ScholarS

Jean Grondin of Université de Montréal

Geoffrey Hinton of the University of Toronto

The winners of the 2012 Canada Council Killam Prizes include a champion in the field of HIV/AIDS and Canada’s leading research economist. Other winners are world leaders in the fields of engineering, physics and philosophy. The Killam Prizes are, as a group, Canada’s leading prizes for career achievement in the fields of humanities, engineering, natural sciences, health sciences and social sciences. This year, the winning scholars are Jean Grondin of Université de Montréal, Geoffrey Hinton of the University of Toronto, Louis Taillefer of Université de Sherbrooke, Mark Wainberg of McGill University and John Whalley of the University of Western Ontario. “The Canada Council, in addition to its public mandate in the arts, is pleased to administer these seminal

awards for academic research and scholarly achievement,” said Joseph L. Rotman, chair of the Canada Council for the Arts. “The Council applauds the five 2012 Killam Prize winners, who represent the best in Canadian ingenuity and creativity.” Killam Trusts’ managing trustee George Cooper noted, “The Killam Prizes honour the achievements of Canadian researchers and scientists. The 2012 winners are accomplished experts who have made significant contributions to their fields and it is only fitting that they receive one of the most prestigious research awards open to Canadian scholars.” The University of Toronto’s Geoffrey Hinton, who won in the Engineering category, has made contributions to the development of several of the

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Louis Taillefer of Université de Sherbrooke

discount members for CIC/CSCT

Mark Wainberg of McGill University

most successful machine learning algorithms. These algorithms have had, among other things, a direct impact on how we use the Internet today as well as a strong influence on psychology and neuroscience. They are now being used for a huge variety of applications including searching and recommending products on the web, interpreting images, improving the yield of chemical plants and recognizing speech. Hinton directs the program in Neural Computation and Adaptive Perception for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and his research has contributed to both science and engineering. His 2007 Google Techtalk, an introduction to his recent research on deep learning, has been viewed over 200,000 times on YouTube and is in the top 10 for both number of views and quality rating. Université de Sherbrooke’s Louis Taillefer won in the Natural Sciences category. Internationally known for his research on superconductors, he is currently engaged in research that could launch a major technological revolution. He is the Canada Research Chair in Quantum Materials at Université de Sherbrooke and director of the Quantum Materials Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research – a highly collaborative network of researchers regarded as the leading group in superconductivity

John Whalley of the University of Western ontario

research. With his team of students and post-doctoral researchers, he is working to find a superconductor that can work at room temperature. These materials conduct electricity perfectly, but so far only at extremely low temperatures. Taillefer has made several discoveries, including the slowest electrons in metals, the first instance of multiple flavours of superconductivity, and a new quantum critical point where superconductivity and magnetism meet. In 2007, his team observed quantum oscillations – the most pristine voice of electrons – in a copper-oxide superconductor. This pivotal discovery opened a promising new path in the quest for roomtemperature superconductivity. The Jewish General Hospital at McGill University’s Mark Wainberg won in the category of Health Sciences. His work resulted in the development of one of the most valuable drugs in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the novel compound 3TC. His studies served as the basis for this compound to enter clinical trials. He remains one of the most productive researchers in the field worldwide. He was also the first in Canada to isolate HIV from infected individuals, to conduct direct research on the virus and its behaviour under drug pressure, and to describe the problem of HIV resistance to antiviral drugs.

sLime moLd eXperiment at Queen’s university yieLds evidence that nature computes Queen’s University School of Computing professor Selim Akl adds to evidence supporting the theory that nature computes by demonstrating a slime mold is capable of mimicking a network as complex as the Canadian highway system. Dr. Akl placed rolled oats on a map of Canada over the major urban areas, allotting one urban area for the slime mold. In order to reach the oats, the slime mold formed a

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network of tubes that mirrored the Canadian highway system. Dr. Akl would like to add more examples to the body of evidence that nature computes. He believes examples could be used as models to improve research and development of practical applications. Dr. Akl’s study, co-authored by Andrew Adamatzky of the University of West England appears in the International Journal of Natural Computing Research.

Dr. Maria Trainer joins CropLife Canada as managing director of regulatory affairs. Dr. Trainer is the former program director with the Council of Canadian

Academies where she led an expert panel on the Integrated Testing of Pesticides. In her new role as managing director of regulatory affairs, she will help liaise with government departments and work on various regulatory and policy issues while providing guidance regarding CropLife Canada’s business. She holds a Master of Science in Biochemistry and a PhD in Bacterial Molecular Genetics. Dr. Greg Naterer is appointed the new dean of Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Naterer is a Canada

Laboratory Focus May 2012

and international leadership roles over the course of his career and is a member of multiple professional societies. Dr. Naterer’s focus research areas involve heat and fluid flow, energy systems and icing of structures. He holds a PhD in mechanical engineering as well as a Master of Applied Science in mechanical engineering and a bachelor degree in applied mathematics and mechanical engineering all from the University of Waterloo. Amanda Stadel has joined BioAlberta as director of marketing and communications. Stadel brings with her extensive experience in the Alberta life sciences industry, having held various positions with Cytovax Biotechnologies, BioMS Medical Corp, and Innovotech Inc. Stadel earned a B.Sc. in Biology from Southampton University in the UK, and a M.Sc. in Cell Physiology from the University of Alberta. She has served on numerous committees including BioAlberta’s policy committee as chair.

aPPointmentS in-vitro diagnostic tests, which were sold to physicians, consumers and other companies. From 2001 to 2003, Purvin was a divisional president at Datascope Corporation (later acquired by Maquet), marketing interventional cardiology and radiology devices to hospitals worldwide. Mr. Purvin was previously vice president, general manager in GlaxoSmithKline’s Consumer Healthcare division where he marketed consumer packaged goods. He began his career at Bristol-Myers Squibb, marketing pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Purvin is currently a member of the board of directors at Cardica, Inc., chair of Cardica’s compensation committee and a member of its audit and finance committees. He holds a B.A. from Brown University and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Warnex announces the appointment of Marc Lebel as the company’s interim chief executive officer. Lebel co-founded the Phase 1 contract research organization Anapharm. He was executive vice-president of Pharmanet from 2005 to 2007 after its acquisition of Anapharm. Lebel is also the current director of Acasti Pharma Inc. and Nuchem Inc. Within Warnex, he will ensure the integrity of the company’s operations as the board of directors continues to assess strategic alternatives available for the company. Jeffrey L. Purvin has been named the new chief executive officer of Response Biomedical Corporation. Purvin’s experience in marketing consumer and medical products spans over 30 years. He was the chairman and CEO of Calibra Medical from 2006 to 2011 and chairman and CEO of Metrika Inc. from 2004 to 2006 where he was involved in development of handheld, disposable, point-of-care

W. Scott Thurlow is elected as president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. He most


recently served as vice president with Temple Scott Associates where he provided strategic government relations advice to business and non-governmental organizations. Thurlow has also served as director of parliamentary affairs for the former Minister of Natural Resources and worked as part of the legal services team at Elections Canada. During his years in private legal practice, Thurlow focused on civil litigation and represented clients in many areas including family law, administrative law, corporate/commercial and estate litigation.

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Research Chair in Advanced Energy Systems, Tier 1, and currently professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean of engineering and applied science at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Dr. Naterer has also served as UOIT’s director of graduate programs and research from 2005 to 2009, leading development of graduate programs and expansion of research capacity. He has held multiple national

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May 2012 Laboratory Focus

Pharma noteS

Drug re-profiling company iCo Therapeutics (Vancouver, BC) and charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) (Toronto, ON), will collaborate to explore a potential new treatment for diabetic macular edema. DME is a common complication of diabetes in which fluid from blood vessels in the eye leaks, causing the retina to swell and leading to blurred vision and blindess. The study, called iDEAL is a Phase 2 clinical trial being conducted at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and will investigate whether the drug iCo-007 can help treat DME in people with type 1 or type 2- diabetes. The study will involve 208 patients with DME at up to 30 clinical sites across the U.S. spanning a 12 month period. Halifax-based developer of rapid diagnostic technology and solutions, MedMira Inc. announces a funding agreement with the National Research Council of Canada for the development of a new rapid HIV test platform that will capture both antigens and antibodies, providing earlier diagnosis for patients exposed to HIV. Earlier diagnosis lowers the risk of overlooking infected

individuals in an early stage of the disease that other common testing methods are unable to detect. The 16-month project is funded by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Assistance Program, the Canadian HIV Technology Development Program and is part of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. MedMira also announces its Reveal HIV test has been approved by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for inclusion on its list of approved rapid HIV tests. MedMira’s CEO, Hermes Chan expressed pleasure with the approval, stating that MedMira will expand its portfolio of products within organizations such as USAID to meet demand for high quality rapid diagnostics around the world, particularly in developing countries. Lorus Therapeutics Inc. (Toronto, ON) announces results from its preclinical studies on its lead antimicrobial small molecule compound LOR-220. The studies examined the antibacterial activity of LOR-220 against drug sensitive and drug resistant bacteria that had been isolated from patients with bacteremia and other bacterial infections. LOR-220 showed potent antibacterial activity against a panel of 330 clinical isolates of bacte-

ria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) among the so-called “superbugs”. In addition, LOR-220 demonstrated higher antibacterial activity than that of Vancomycin and Linezolid, both of which are antibiotics currently used to treat serious bacterial infections. LOR-220 also significantly improved survival of mice infected with two different species of VRE, which, when left untreated, led to 100 per cent lethality. MethylGene Inc. (Montreal, QC) discloses preclinical data for its proprietary multi-targeted kinase inhibitor, MGCD265. Results were presented showing the potent inhibition of tumour growth by the combination of MGCD265 with erlotinib and providing additional support to the mechanisms underlying this anti-tumour effect. This combination was more effective than either erlotinib alone or MGCD265 alone resulting in tumour regression in a pre-clinical model of gastric cancer. Gene expression analysis revealed that pathways impacted by this drug combination included inhibition of cell growth, induction of apoptosis and regulation of glycolysis. The expression of

glycolysis-regulating genes was partly downregulated by either MGCD265 or erlotinib alone. However, the combination led to a significant depression of regulators of glycolysis, including the key mediator hexokinase 2 (HK2). The observation that the glycolysis pathway is inhibited by the combination of MGCD265 with erlotinib reinforces the rationale of combining MGCD265 with EGFR inhibitors in clinical trials. Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (Quebec City, QC) announces that the Phase 3 “X-PECT” (Xeloda® + Perifosine Evaluation in Colorectal cancer Treatment) clinical trial evaluating perifosine plus capecitabine (Xeloda®) in patients with refractory advanced colorectal cancer did not meet the primary endpoint of improving overall survival versus capecitabine plus placebo. The trial involving 468 patients in 65 sites in the U.S was conducted by the company’s North American licensee partner, Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. Therapure Biopharma Inc. (Mississauga, ON) announces the opening of its new custom biologics manufacturing wing. Therapure expects to create close to 100 jobs at the new facility


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and estimates that construction has already injected more than $17 million into the local economy. The facility expansion was made possible by funding support received from the Ontario government and Catalyst Fund, Limited Partnership II. VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. (San Fransisco, CA) has licensed stem cell culture technology from the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine located at the University Health Network in Toronto. VistaGen will be utilizing the licensed technology to develop hematopoietic precursor stem cells from human pluripotent stem cells, with the goal of developing drug screening and cell therapy applications for human blood system disorders. The technology is included in a new U.S. patent application. Hematopoietic precursor stem cells give rise to all red and white blood cells and platelets in the body. VistaGen will use the UHN invention to improve the cell culture methods used to efficiently produce hematopoietic stem cell populations. Stellar Biotechnologies Inc. (Port Hueneme, CA) has entered into an agreement with the University of Guelph for the exclusive option to license technology for the development of a vaccine candidate against Clostridium difficile infection. Clostridium difficile is a type of bacteria normally present in the intestine, which can overgrow as a result of antibiotic use. CDI causes severe diarrhea and life-threatening intestinal conditions such as colitis. CDI is a major and growing cause of mortality and morbidity in hospitalized patients. In the U.S., incidence of CDI is at a record high with 336,600 cases reported in 2009 and is projected to continue to increase.


Laboratory Focus May 2012

Feature B y : M i c h a e l C h e n , J e ff e r y D e s s a u e , R a k e s h T i k u a n d D a n i e l C h e N , U n i t e d B i o s c i e n c e C a n a d a C o r p. O n t a r i o , C a n a d a

Prospects for biopolymer

hyaluronan production molecular weight (MW) and purity. Both the parameters, i.e. MW and purity, are the quality standards for evaluating commercial HA products. HA with larger MW (10 kD to 3.2 MDa) has desirable qualities for dermal filling, viscosupplementation, wound healing, surgery, cosmetics and tissue engineering, whereas those with MW of less than 3.5 kD are associated with angiogenesis, inflammation and tumour growth.1

The HA market In 2010, the US market for HA was valued at nearly $1.1 billion and is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 12.51 per cent in the next decade, as predicted by Frost and Sullivan, a leading US-based market analyst.2 HA is mainly used to produce HA-based secondary products for viscosupplement injection, dermal filling, natural health products and cosmetic products. There is currently a large shortage in supply of toxin-free HA products for the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Toxin-free HAs with MW of more than three million Daltons (MDa) are hardly available due to the difficulty in managing production at an industrial scale.

Nowadays, the demand for higher performing biomaterials has outpaced the ability of scientists to provide the next generation of such products. The slow implementation of hyaluronic acid (HA, hyaluronan), the current most applicable biopolymer used in food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries is an example of this. However, it is a massive time and money consuming process to develop a new generation of biopolymers.

The optimization of the chemical, biological, and physical-mechanical properties of the existing biopolymers may offer a quick and economical way to satisfy this growing demand for biopolymers with more stringent requirements. The advantages of a more efficient biomaterial development paradigm can be achieved through firstly initiating a quantitative understanding of the properties of a particular existing biomaterial; secondly, directly targeting specific challenges in production; and lastly, identifying the specific market niche. A typical example of success in such a research paradigm is the research on large molecule HA production that has been carried out by Toronto-based United Bioscience

Canada Corp (UBCC), a biotech company dedicated to the development of technologies improving cell culture and fermentation processes.

Hyaluronan (Hyaluronic acid, HA) – a safe natural biopolymer. HA is a natural polydiasccharide biopolymer with a molecular weight of up to six million Daltons. It has unique viscosity, elasticity, high moisture retention capacity and biocompatibility. HA is degraded into single sugar that is either further used or eliminated by biological bodies, such as humans. Therefore, it is currently one of the safest biomaterials available for human application. The applications of HA rely on its

The challenges of HA production To date, over 95 per cent of HA commercially available in the global market is either extracted from synovial fluid, rooster combs or umbilical cords, and produced from fermentation with certain attenuated strains of Streptococcus. The method of extracting HA from animal tissue is costly, time-consuming and labourintensive. The resulting HA products may carry animal contaminants that could cause allergic reactions or infection through cross-species viruses or through other disease agents. They can also be contaminated with HA-degrading enzymes which greatly reduce the stability of the HA. Additionally, Streptococci can be difficult and expensive to ferment and geneti-


May 2012 Laboratory Focus

Feature Figure 1

Biomaterial Applications of Hyaluronic Acid: Forecasts for Total Revenues Generated (U.S.) 2003-2010

cally manipulate, producing endoand exotoxins. Contaminants such as metabolites and other side products generated by the fermentation process and the inherent toxins of the bacterial strain Streptococci are also very difficult to fully remove. The quality of HA, and thus the market price, is dependent on its purity and molecular weight. To qualify the HA for use in the pharmaceutical and medical industries, the level of endotoxin, for example, should be lower than 0.1 I.U. To reach this level, HA collected from Streptococci has to undergo a lengthy and harsh purification process. Such a process is not only costly, but also destroys the integrity of HA resulting in a low yield of HA with high MW. Additionally, the presence of HA-degrading enzymes in Streptococci makes the size of HA smaller. As a result, the current HA production is primarily focused on HA with MW of one to two MDa for food and cosmetic applications.

The key factors in determining HA molecular weight There is no doubt that the capability of microorganisms to produce larger MW HA and the purity of the final HA product in fermentation is tied to existing fermentation conditions. The synthesis of HA is controlled by a membrane enzyme hyaluronan synthases (HAS). To date, over 20 HAS have been found. Based on their similarities and differences in structural and mechanistic features, HAS are divided into Class I and Class II categories. There are also large structural and mechanical

differences between the two classes, Class I HAS grows the HA chain at the reducing end, while Class II enzyme elongates the HA molecule at the non-reducing end. The in vitro enzyme Vmax studies showed it would take one active streptococcal Class I HAS molecule about eight to 16 minutes to synthesize a single HA chain with a mass of two million Daltons.3 The synthesis rate of Class II HAS has not been determined, but is likely to be faster as it uses four-single-sugar units as the synthetic substrates, while a single sugar unit is the substrate for Class I HAS. The longer the production process, the more chance the HA is degraded and the smaller the MW of the final HA will be. A microorganism capable of synthesising HA at a fast rate in combination with Class I and II HAS mechanisms could produce larger HAS. The fermentation process can also affect the molecular size of the HA as aeration can increase HA molecular size as more energy is produced.4 A higher dissolved oxygen level also enhances HA MW, while a high shear stress associated with the traditional way to enhance the dissolved oxygen level, i.e. air blowing and stirring, causes lower HA molecular size.5 As such, a technique to increase high dissolved oxygen levels without elevating shear stress to fermenting cells is important when enlarging HA molecules. In addition, the balance of supplying precursor sugars and HA synthesis rate are necessary for yielding larger HA products.1,6,7 This balance could be achieved by optimizing the culture media and fermenting parameters.

Prospects for Hyaluronic acid production There is no doubt that post-genomic biomaterial development is a very promising research area after the completion of microorganism and human genome mapping. Among post-genome products, sugar chains are the third most important biomaterial following nucleic acids and proteins. As discussed above, carbohydrate/sugar chains, such as HA, have been shown to have important and diverse functions that provide benefits to human health care. The sugar chain will surely be a very important target for research and biomaterial development in the 21st century because of its close relationship to human health. The research on HA production is currently focused on (i) non-hemolytic & hyluronidase-negative mutants; (ii) high MW producing mutants; (iii) medium optimization; (iv) continued culture to avoid contamination by cell wall proteins and toxins; (v) aeration control; and (vi) the development of an alternative HA fermentation system, such as B. Subtilis fermentation and Chlorellavirus system. United Bioscience Canada Corp has been focusing on developing a novel HA fermentation system to foster and increase specialization in HA production. Their studies in fermenting medium optimization and aeration controls offer hope towards developing a new system that will improve HA productivity. This new HA fermenting system can produce toxin free large size HA favouring the demanding requirements associated with HA application. Addi-

There is no doubt that post-genomic biomaterial development is a very promising research area after the completion of microorganism and human genome mapping.

tionally, its new bacterial strain is capable of synthesizing larger HA molecules at a fast pace.

The HA fermentation system 1. Synthesis of larger HA molecules in a fast pace: UBCC selected B. Subtilis as the background strain. B. Subtilis has been used as an industrial workhorse for the production of many bio-products and is very economical to grow in industrial fermenters and is free of exotoxins and endotoxins. Additionally, its genome has been sequenced, and there are many techniques available for genetic manipulation. Most importantly, UBCC has identified several ways for improving large HA synthesis, secretion and stabilization. The synthesis of HA in the new strain goes through a fast synthetic pathway. As a result, together with a high dissolved oxygen content (DOC) technology that we have developed, large MW HA molecules can be synthesized in a shorter period of time and secreted into the media for collection which greatly improves the yield of high MW HA. 2. Highly dissolved oxygen content (DOC) fermenting medium: The yield and the sizes of HA molecules are also dependent on fermenting conditions. A high level of dissolved oxygen enhances the viability of the new strain, enhancing large HA synthesis and providing higher HA yield. UBCC oxygen dissolving enhancement technology is able to control DOC at various ranges for an optimal period of time, which can maximally Laboratory Focus


May 2012

feature table 1

uBcc ha sample

ph of a 0.1% aqueus solution


water content (KF)


residue on ignition


intrinsic viscosity @ 25oc

2-3.5 m3/kg

protein content by Lowry


Glucuronic acid (dry basis)


sodium hyaluronate (dry basis) total aerobic plate count

<100 cFu/g

nonconforming organisms

satisfy the need of oxygen consumption by fermenting microorganisms, minimizing the shear stress on fermenting cells. With an optimal dissolved oxygen level in the medium, stirring speed in fermentation can be lowered reducing damage to the cells. The fermentation time can then be shortened, improving unit time yield. At the same time a variable oxygen level can be tightly controlled, which greatly improves batch-to-batch consistency. The advancement of the new HA fermentation system can provide the following beneďŹ ts to HA production: (i) increase productivity: high batch-to-batch consistency in production; higher unit yield; short fermenting time. (ii) improvement in quality: customizable molecular weight in low polydispersity per batch; toxin free high purity; large molecular size and stable structure, being stable in exposure to higher temperature and other autoclave processes that satisfy the need of emerging medical applications. The value from the addition of the large HA for producing HA-based secondary products could be: (i) the large HA product has superior mechanical, chemical and heat stability suitable for more stringent sterilization and

>99% none recovered

other processes in the production of HA-based materials. (ii) it also offers improved viscosity due to higher molecular weight retention when compared to Streptococcus-derived HA after autoclaved. (iii) less consumption, therefore time and cost savings in production of HA-based materials and increased facility throughput. (iv) the high purity of HA as a raw material delivers highly consistent material that can translate into more consistent product formulations and improved performance in HA-based final product. (v) Extending storage time of HA-based products.

weight properties of hyaluronic acid produced by Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Jl. Environ. Microbiol. 1997. 63: 27592764. 5. Duan XJ., Yang L., Zhang X., Tan WS.: Effects of oxygen and shear stress on molecular weight of hyaluronic acid produced by Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 2008. 18: 718-724. 6. Chen X., Marcellin E., Hung J., Nielsen LK.:

Hyaluronan molecular weight is controlled by UDP-N-acetylglucosamine concentration in Streptococcus zooepidemicus. J. Biol. Chem. 2009, 284: 18007-18014. 7. Jagnaath S., Ramachandran K.,: Influence of competing metabolic processes on the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid synthesized by Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Biochem. Eng. J. 2010, 48: 148-158.

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Reference 1. Sheng JZ., Ling PX., et al.,: Use of induction promoters to regulate hyaluronan synthase and UDP-glucose-6-dehydrogenase of Streptococcus zooepidemicus expression in locyococcus lactis: a case study of the regulation mechanism of hyaluronic acid polymer. J. Appl. Microbiol. 2009, 107, 136-144. 2. Biomaterial Market Report 2010, Frost and Sullivan. 3. Weigel PH., Hascall VC., Tammi M.: Hyaluronan Synthase. J. Biol.Chem., 272, 13997-14000, 1997 4. Armstrong DC., Johns MR: Culture conditions affect the molecular

AUGUST 19â&#x20AC;&#x201C;23, 2012 TORONTO, CANADA Plenary Speakers: Jurg Bahler, University College London Thijn Brummelkamp, Netherlands Cancer Institute David Botstein, Princeton University Michael Boutros, DKFZ Heidelberg George Church, Harvard Medical School Anne-Claude Gavin, EMBL Heidelberg Tim Hughes, University of Toronto Ben Lehner, EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Unit, Barcelona Norbert Perrimon, Harvard Medical School Pam Silver, Harvard University Mike Snyder, Stanford University Eran Segal, Weizmann Institute

Organizers: Brenda Andrews, Gary Bader, Charlie Boone, Cynthia Colby, Roland Eils, Anne-Claude Gavin, Stefan Hohmann, Michael Hucka, Tim Hughes, Roy Kishony, Hiroaki Kitano, Edda Klipp, Stephen Michnick, Corey Nislow, Fritz Roth, Sachdev Sidhu, Michael Snyder Sponsor:

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May 2012 Laboratory Focus


B y: aleX p oWer , Vincent M artin, anD M aDs kÆ rn


Synthetic biology and the evolution of biotechnology

THE MIddLE oF THE 20TH CENTURy produced an abundance of discoveries that enabled the amplification, reading and editing of dNa, and paved the way for astonishing scientific breakthroughs that today are the primary drivers of biomedical and biotechnological innovation. The long-term implications of this research were not lost on contemporaries. Visionary geneticist waclaw szyblaski famously commented in 1978 that work on restriction endonucleases, which are enzymes used for cut-and-paste editing of genetic material, “has led us into the new era of ‘synthetic biology’ where not only existing genes are described and analyzed but also new gene arrangements can be constructed and evaluated.” Today, synthetic biology has grown into a vibrant research field with two principal motivations. One seeks to create artificial life from entirely synthetic genomes. This work has addressed significant technology barriers and led to new commercial services, notably gene synthesis. The other directs its efforts toward combining natural or synthetic

DNA material to endow new functions to existing organisms and cells. The notion of a synthetic biology era did not gain significant traction until 2000, when two studies published back-to-back in the journal Nature demonstrated how different arrangements of similar pieces of DNA could result in gene regulatory net-

works with very different functions: One network functioned as a toggle switch and endowed cells with memory; the other made cells blink. These landmark studies showed that the function of biological systems are more than the sum of their genetic parts, and is determined by the interconnectedness among parts rather than

their independent functions. Moreover, they demonstrated that these emergent properties could be predicted using computational and mathematical analysis. The demonstration that DNA “parts” could be reused to endow cells with different and predictable biological functions was not lost on scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They recognized that the main technological barrier to synthetic biology was a lack of standardization, abstraction and predictability. In the same way that software developers innovate without knowing advanced electronics, it was envisioned that biotechnology entrepreneurs should be able to innovate without an advanced degree in genetic engineering, or access to sophisticated re-

search labs. These ideas led to the launch in 2003 of the Registry of Standardized Biological Parts and the annual international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) design competition. The main objectives of these initiatives, which are now organized by the nonprofit BioBricks Foundation, are to facilitate the reuse and sharing of genetic material, and to accelerate the adaption of engineering principles, notably standardization, abstraction and predictability, in synthetic biology. Inspired by the opensource software movement, the founders of the Registry and iGEM competition made all known information freely available, and implemented a “get some, give some” principle for access to genetic material. If you use material from


Laboratory Focus May 2012

Feature the Registry, it is expected that you deposit material you create. They also initiated a biennial conference series on synthetic biology. SB1.0, the first meeting of the series, was modest in size and scope. However, in 2011, SB5.0 brought together over 700 attendees to Stanford University. The primary focus of the iGEM competition is to train undergraduates in synthetic biology principles, and to foster biotechnology entrepreneurship. The core idea is that participating teams, typically comprised of eight to 16 students, mix and match parts from the Registry to build novel devices and systems, and deposit the genetic material they develop for others to use. The size of the competition has grown steadily and in 2011 involved more than 160 teams from 30 different countries competing in such categories as food and energy, environmental, industrial, and foundational technology. Five of the nine Canadian teams participating in 2011 successfully advanced to the Championship round. The University of British Columbia team created a fungus that produced a natural compound, monoterpene, used by trees to combat mountain pine beetle infection; teams from the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge worked on creating organisms for the cleanup of oil sand tailing ponds; the University of Ottawa team developed a method that significantly reduces the time required to assemble DNA parts; and the team from Queen’s University developed genetically modified worms for use in bioremediation applications. Although iGEM and the Registry have not eradicated knowledge and technology barriers, they have been significantly lowered. The Registry currently stores DNA molecules encoding more than 7,000 parts. While few iGEM projects have led to commercialization, the complexity and scope of iGEM projects is remarkable given that most are completed in a few months by undergraduates with no more than three years of post-secondary education. In a few years, it is expected that knowledge and technology barriers will be so low that

practicing synthetic biology will require no more than a high-school diploma. To enable this, the iGEM competition will in 2012 include a division specifically for high school teams.

The launch of the iGEM and the Registry galvanized a certain level of excitement about synthetic biology. Enthusiasts framed it as a radically new science about to bring with it seem-

ingly unlimited opportunities and a new industrial evolution. Those traditionally opposed to genetic engineering responded with campaigns to educate the public about the potential risks of synthet-

ic biology, and the need for oversight and governance. In Canada, there have been several meetings exploring these issues. For example, in 2011 the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society


Illuminating Solutions


urora's annual Ion Channel Retreat welcomes scientists from a variety of research laboratories representing the full spectrum of non-profit, academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The 2012 Ion Channel Retreat will showcase both the importance of new drug discovery research, as well as the importance of producing new screening technologies, while simultaneously maintaining or improving safety and efficacy of target compounds. The global representation of ion channel researchers at the 2010 Annual Ion Channel Retreat proved that research is continuing, and new technologies continue to be launched.

Held in Vancouver, BC, Canada - host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics - from June 25th to June 27th, 2012, the 10th Annual Retreat will welcome scientists from a variety of research laboratories representing non-profit, academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. We invite you to join us here in this picturesque location to share knowledge and open new channels for discussion and discovery.

Scientific Advisory Board

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Ion Channels as Targets for Pain Ion Channels as Targets for Disease Ion Channel Screening Technologies Cardiac Ion Channel Pharmacology Cardiac Ion Channel Safety Structure & Function of Ion Channels

Arthur “Buzz” Brown (ChanTest) Birgit Priest (Eli Lilly) Jerod Denton (Vanderbilt University) Lu Qiang (Wuxi Pharma) Michael Dabrowski (Astrazeneca) Tina Garyantes (Sanofi-Aventis)

Speaker Announcements Stefan Bittner (University Hospital Muenster) Stuart Dryer (University of Houston) Elaine Gay (RTI International) Mike Iadarola (NIH) Shawn Iadonato (KINETA Inc) Fumihito Ono (NIH)

Xin-Ming Shen (Mayo Clinic) Stephan Steigele (Genedata AG) Andrew Wojtovich (University of Rochester) Takashi Yoshinaga (Eisai Co. Ltd (Japan)) Li Zhang (NIH) Jeffrey Zidichouski (National Research Council)

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Please visit our website for frequent updates or contact us directly at Tel: 604-215-8700 Fax: 604-215-9700


May 2012 Laboratory Focus


The successful creation in 2010 of a self-replicating bacterial cell controlled by a synthetic genome was a major synthetic biology achievement. However, we are far from understanding the intricacies of complex biological systems such as chromosomes, cells, tissues and organs.

and Policy brought together a group of experts from academia, industry and government to discuss the science of synthetic biology, as well as its legal, ethical, social, economic and political implications. In reality, as pointed out by Dr. Szyblaski, the synthetic biology era began more than 30 years ago with the development of technologies to read and edit genetic material. The concerted efforts to reduce knowledge, technology and cost barriers over the past decade are part of an ongoing incremental evolution of biotechnology. Dr. Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace International fairly accurately captured this reality by likening synthetic biology to genetic engineering “on steroids”. The successful creation in 2010 of a self-replicating bacterial cell controlled by a synthetic genome was a major synthetic biology achievement. However, we are far from understanding the intricacies of complex biological systems such as chromosomes, cells, tissues and organs. Synthetic biologists are, in fact, limited to tinkering with existing genes and genomes, rather than creating entirely new ones. As such, the accomplishments of synthetic biology so far may not be as transformative as some hope and others fear. The excitement and controversy surrounding synthetic biology has been relatively subdued in Canada

scanning Electron Micrograph of M. Mycoides JCVI-syn1: The First self-Replicating synthetic Bacterial Cell

compared to other countries. The reasons for this are unclear. Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of genetically modified crops, and Canadian researchers have relied extensively on genetic engineering in groundbreaking research. This includes ongoing efforts to develop better mouse models of human disease, to generate and control stem cells, and to engineer viruses that specifically target and kill cancer cells. Nonetheless, synthetic biology is slowly gaining traction across Canada as a pure rather than applied research field. Programs and centers dedicated to synthetic biology research have been launched or will soon be launched at a number of academic institutions. This is an important development because of the incredible rate at which synthetic biology technologies are evolving. Academic institutions must ensure that the Canadian biotechnology industry is provided graduates that have knowledge of the latest synthetic biology advancements. This is challenging since textbooks used in undergraduate education typically are a decade or more behind leading-edge research. The current trend is that education programs rely on the iGEM competition

to train a relatively small cohort of the best and brightest undergraduates in synthetic biology concepts and entrepreneurship. Academic institutions must also ensure that policy-makers, including regulatory bodies, research agencies, NGOs, journalists, and investors have access to informed, unbiased information about pure and applied synthetic biology advancements. We believe that synthetic biology will continue to produce immense public benefits, as it has over the past 30 years. Given the strong and sustained opposition to genetically modified food products, we anticipate that the most significant societal and economic impact of synthetic biology in the short term will be indirect. Specifically, access to cheap, tailor-made genetic material will give scientists the tools to routinely construct and evaluate new gene arrangements and biochemical pathways, and significantly accelerate the pace of advancements in the basic and applied biosciences.

Alex Power is a graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine program at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on the development of novel DNA assembly technologies. Vincent Martin is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Biology at Concordia University. He is the co-leader of the PhytoMetaSyn synthetic biology project and runs a research program focused exclusively on engineering industrial microbes. Mads Kærn is an Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Ottawa. He holds synthetic biology research grants from the National Science and Engineering Research Council and the Government of Ontario.

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Laboratory Focus May 2012


By: Janet Damianopoulos

Behind Closed Doors: the value of medical laboratory professionals in Canada What would health care be like without labs? The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science’s national public awareness campaign: ‘Our Focus is You’ challenges the public to imagine a health care system without medical labs and medical laboratory professionals. The campaign’s website, illuminates some rather sobering statistics. Visitors learn that without labs, in one day 487 new cases of cancer would not be diagnosed, 2,000 units of blood required to treat trauma and surgical patients would not be available, and 192 heart attacks would go unidentified. The campaign was part of the leadup to National Medical Laboratory Week, April 22 to 28, 2012. Sponsored by CSMLS since 1985, this initiative promotes awareness and understanding of the role of medical lab professionals, whose jobs it is to collect, test, analyze and interpret results on samples of body tissues and fluids. Medical lab professionals typically work behind the scenes in hospital labs, private medical labs, public health labs, government labs and research and educational institutions. Prior to National Medical Laboratory Week, CSMLS president, Tricia VanDenakker, pointed out that these professionals play a vital role in our health care system and that they are key contributors to patient care but are often overlooked by the public. CSMLS is the national certifying body for medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory assistants, and the national professional society for Canada’s medical lab professionals. Operating since 1937, this not-for-profit association has nearly 15,000 members in Canada and in other countries around the world. The main functions of CSMLS include certification, prior learning assessment, continuing education and professional development, advocacy and research. “Our role is to certify, then provide continuing education and services to our members,” says Michelle Squarciotta, director of marketing, communications and membership. Squarciotta delineates the difference between the two main professions supported by the society, explain-

ing that medical laboratory technologists run analyses on all samples that come into the lab and interpret results, while medical lab assistants prepare samples for analysis and also draw blood.CSMLS provides the national certification exams that enable medical lab technologists and medical lab assistants to practice and take up membership with the society. Squarciotta reports that Canada is viewed as having the gold standard when it comes to medical lab technology. To expand these standards, CSMLS is currently advocating for industry regulation in every province to protect the public and to ensure anyone practicing is registered. Most provinces already have a regulatory body (for example, the College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario) that represents the public. At present, only BC, Northwest Territories, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador have no regulatory body. Christine Nielsen, executive director of CSMLS underscores the importance of having an address for the public to visit when they have concerns. Other benefits of regulation include standardized entry to practice criteria with formal scopes of practice, codes of conduct, accountability and continuing competency requirements. Additionally, regulation helps the public better understand who the medical lab science community is. Such awareness could greatly help the in-

dustry meet the challenges it faces in the near future. One major challenge is sustainability. Many lab technologists are now working two or three jobs while many Canadian hospitals are under sourced. Further, 40 per cent of CSMLS’ lab technologists will retire in the next eight to 10 years. While there is a new cohort of students interested in the work, there are not enough clinical placements for senior students to fulfill their academic program requirements. Thus, there are not enough graduates to backfill these positions. “What’s happening is in our hospitals there aren’t enough people dedicated purely to do their job let alone

to be dedicated to a student to help them,” says Squarciotta. To aid the situation, CSMLS is currently lobbying government about the need for a sustainable health human resource plan on a pan-Canadian perspective. When the federal government pulls back transfer payments to provincial governments, which fund health and education, the effects are felt locally. The federal government also controls immigration and a significant number of students writing the CSMLS exams are internationally trained. CSMLS has been in dialogue with Citizenship and Immigration providing commentary on people that would be easy to integrate into their profession to maximize outputs. CSMLS has also been in dialogue with the Ministry of Health. In the future they would like to do some advocacy work at the provincial level. As a relatively small group lacking the budget of other medical professional organizations, CSMLS does not receive as much recognition and so, ongoing advocacy efforts carry great importance. It is easy for the medical lab community to be overlooked since they have so little face to face contact with patients. However, as Nielsen points out, lab testing is going on for patients their whole lives. Despite working behind closed doors, lab professionals play a crucial role in health care. One of the society’s goal is to give the medical lab community a voice and help them use it during election campaigns.


May 2012 Laboratory Focus

feature “We want to help our members have an individual voice because there are so many of them. There are almost 15,000 members, and there are probably more than 20,000 practitioners. That’s huge. It’s incredible when you

think that nobody knows.” CSMLS’ annual LABCON conference provides a yearly spotlight for the medical lab industry. LABCON2012 will be held in Gatineau, Québec over June 2 to 4. In addition to the usual education and

networking opportunities, there will be an added celebratory context this year with a black tie gala to mark the society’s 75th anniversary. History will be an important theme. There will be a video montage of past presidents

going back to the 60s speaking (in English and French) about what it was like to be president, what their biggest achievements were and what the role meant to them. Targeting people working in lab professions including

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technologists, managers, assistants and people who work in public health, the upcoming conference will involve several presentations on research and on day-to-day working issues. For exhibitors, the conference provides an opportunity to highlight their products, to meet with people who are in a position to purchase, and to provide early exposure to developments that are coming into the field. Career streams will also be discussed at the conference. Nielsen sees an opportunity here for CSMLS to help its members over the long term by providing information on areas of opportunity and how to pursue them. She would like to build CSMLS as a knowledge and information hub for members. “We want to become like the Google of lab science, where you log on every day and see what’s new…I think that there are a lot of people who have very broad interests but they just don’t know how and where to access some things.” While CSMLS has strong designs for the future, they also have a solid history of achievement. Nielsen highlights the status of CSMLS as a single national standard noting that many countries do not have a national standard. “We do it all in the same place. We set the national standard through the competency profile, we certify, we do foreign qualification recognition and we do the premier national education and networking event and so it really is one place.” Such a harmonized national process is rare and highly prized. Just as the many professionals it supports, CSMLS deserves due recognition for their extraordinary standards and commitment to serving and maintaining a strong industry. With their ongoing advocacy efforts, we can anticipate the doors to the medical laboratory industry swinging wide open in the future.

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Laboratory Focus May 2012

New Products

Heating Ovens Thermo Scientific Heratherm heating and drying ovens are now available in three different models: general protocol, advanced protocol and advanced protocol seecurity. Each unit is available in 60, 100 and 180 litre sizes with a choice of gravity or mechanical convection. Special insulation and a heat-decoupled door reduce energy consumption and minimize heat transfer to the environment. All models include an easy-to-use user interface, automatic over temperature alarm and data interface. The general protocol ovens are ideal for everyday heating and drying applications, operating up to 250° C. A timer function enables unit operation at defined times to optimize workflow. Where greater flexibility or temperature accuracy is required, the Heratherm Advanced Protocol ovens operate as high as 330° C. An extended timer function offers the choice of weekly, real-time or hour-driven settings for advanced flexibility. The program function can store up to 10 predefined cycles making it easy to undertake processes involving complex temperature ramping and holding steps. Fan speed and damper position can be controlled electronically to facilitate optimal heating, while the unique boost function allows rapid heating and reduces long-term energy consumption. The Heratherm Advanced Protocol Security ovens incorporate an additional under temperature alarm, as well as a lockable door with an alarm, making them ideal for working with precious samples and long-term processes. The auto-dry function shuts the oven down upon completion to maximize energy efficiency, and an optional stainless steel exterior makes it ideal for use in pharmaceutical and clinical laboratories.

Glove Bags The Air Science Purair Flex with film isolator features an innovative curved film design with versatile tapered sleeve and glove options. Unlike other glove bags, the double O-ring design on the standard polyurethane cuffs allow users to quickly and easily change gloves to meet a variety of dexterity needs. Semirigid support rods make the Purair Flex easy to set up and provides increased stability, even if the bag is not inflated to full pressure. Safety options include HEPA filter availability, bag-in or bag-out port, and optional nitrogen purge inlet connections.

Syringes Hamilton Company, introduces the Neuros syringe, specifically designed for the neurosciences. Neuros syringes are available with ultrafine 30, 32 or 33 gauge needles that accurately dispense 50 nL to 100 µL. This enables precision animal brain injections with minimal tissue damage and reduced variability. A unique, adjustable needle sleeve maintains rigidity and ensures a targeted injection path to an exact location. Two needle sleeve options are offered, one with a blind stop for cannulated applications and the other for use with stereotaxic holders, each with adjustable needle exposure of zero to 20 mm.

Light Source Ocean Optics’ Vivo NIR Source is a compact, tungsten halogen light source for VIS-NIR spectroscopy across the 360-2000 nm range. Compatible with all Ocean Optics spectrometers, optical fibers and sampling accessories, Vivo delivers powerful output for reflection and other measurements. The high powered source is ideal for use in NIR analysis of pharmaceuticals, grains and oils, as well as food safety applications. Vivo’s four tungsten halogen sources, arranged for reflection measurements at a 90 degree angle to the detection fiber, can be turned on and off for precision control. The powerful bulb output enables shorter spectrometer integration times than conventional methods-as fast as 1ms with some system setups. An inner cooling fan reduces the risk of overheating the sample to ensure accuracy. The Vivo can be attached to Ocean Optics’ RTL-stage or other standard for stability and control. Powered by an included universal power supply, the Vivo’s tungsten halogen bulbs are rated for 2,000 hours.

Vacuum The T-Station 75 is Edwards’ new entry level turbopumping system. The T-station 75 turbopumping cart is the smallest in Edwards’ range of pumping stations and can pump a chamber to the required vacuum thanks to higher capacity backing pumps. It can be combined with a choice of either an oil sealed E2M1.5 backing pump or an XDD1 diaphragm pump where a totally dry system is desired. The T-Station comes with a TAG (Turbo and Active Gauge) controller fitted as standard which enables single button start/stop of the system.

Hot Wire and Anemometer Omega introduces the HHF-SD1 series of hot wire and standard thermistor anemometer with SD card data logger. This CE compliant product features a slim probe that is ideal for grilles and diffusers, type K or J thermocouple input, velocity and air temperature measurements and comes with LCD with green light backlighting. These multiple features make the HHF-SD1 suitable to use in such applications as environmental testing, balancing of fans/motors/blowers, air conveyors, clean rooms and flume hoods.

Chlorine Sensors Omega’s new series of free chlorine sensors feature amperometric measurement technology. The sensors are available in several ranges for detecting ppm levels of free chlorine. Sensors can be used in new installations with Omega flow cell or installed as replacement for other 4 to 20 mA output free chlorine (FCI) sensors. The FCLTX is designed for use in water treatment disinfection applications and for use with chlorine generators, pools, etc.



New Products Pumps By providing individual control of each fluidic channel, the new Ismatec® Reglo ICC eliminates the clutter of multiple pumps on the bench top as well as allowing you, the scientist, to solve your application complexity in a single pump. Ismatec drives will now power three channels, each independently programmable from the pump or the computer. Volumetric dispense options include continuous pumping or precision dispensing, flexibility of bidirectional flow in each channel and easy-to-use tubing cassettes which allow quick changeovers. The pump’s independent channel calibration also minimizes the tube to tube differences resulting in the best calibration accuracy possible in a multichannel peristaltic pump.

pH Accessory Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. unveils the Thermo Scientific Dionex AS-AP Sample Conductivity and pH Accessory. This new optional feature for the Dionex AS-AP autosampler streamlines IC workflows by automating conductivity and pH measurements before injecting samples onto an IC system with the help of Thermo Scientific Dionex Chromeleon conditional statements. The new pH Accessory enables users to confirm the integrity of their samples in advance, which avoids wasting time running degraded samples and ultimately better protects their columns. Along with the conductivity and pH measurements, the accessory automates other pertinent parts of the measurement process, including calibration, sample injection decisions and processing and result reporting.

Analytical Software iWorx introduces theIX-404E Data Acquisition System for OEM applications that require data recording and analysis. The system features four singleended analog inputs and a 16 bit analog-to-digital converter and is capable of sampling at up to 10 k/s/s per channel. The system can be embedded into a variety of biomedical and analytical devices, and is controlled by iWorx LabScribe2 recording and analysis software which is included with the system. LabScribe2 software features a userfriendly interface for setting up acquisition screens, calibrating signals and analyzing data. A comprehensive set of analytical routines have been preconfigured making data analysis and interpretation quick and easy. LabScribe2 software also includes a scripting function for creating custom analytical routines.

Vacuum pumps Edwards launches a new range of dry scroll vacuum pumps for scientific, laboratory, research and development applications. Edwards’ nXDSIt is an environmentally-friendly oil-free vacuum pump that has no lubricants in the vacuum. As a dry vacuum pump, nXDS has many advantages to oil-sealed pumps as there is no need for regular oil changes and users can benefit from low maintenance. The advanced scroll design and tip-seal technology mean the pumps have a longer lifetime compared to other products. The tip seals may last up to five years, which significantly increases time in service and lowers cost of ownership. The pumps are also easy to service which results in minimal downtime and makes them economical to run. Tip seals can be replaced in less than 10 minutes in the field using basic workshop tools.

May 2012 Laboratory Focus

Barcode reader WHEATON introduces the PluraScan barcode scanner designed to capture data stored as 2D data matrix barcodes on cryogenic storage vials. The PluraScan barcode reader comes with an out-of-the box software decoder system to import your repository samples into the existing laboratory management software package of your choice. Capable of scanning up to 100 samples simultaneously, the PluraScan can scan and read individual barcodes on each vial stored in an open-bottom cryogenic storage box simply by placing the box on the scanner. The acquired, decoded 2D data are imported directly into most laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and databases, ensuring a reliable method of storing, tracking and retrieving sample vials. It connects easily to a computer with a standard USB 2.0 interface and integrates smoothly with Windows® operating systems. Data can be outputted directly to Microsoft® Excel® or to a customizable text file.

Screening EMD Millipore introduces Strat-M™ membrane for screening compounds and formulations via in vitro diffusion studies. The synthetic membrane can be successfully used in place of human or animal skin to provide reproducible information about permeation characteristics of the compound through human skin. The Strat-M™ membrane proves useful during development of transdermal drugs and personal care products, where assessment of percutaneous absorption and diffusion of the active ingredients is typically conducted using human cadaver skin or animal skin models (rat, mouse, pig). Unfortunately, a number of drawbacks to these biological models exist, ones that the StratM™ can rectify.

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AEterna Zentaris Inc........................... 9............................... Aurorabiomed/Ion Channel Retreat.. BioAlberta.......................................... 5........................... Caledon Laboratory Chemicals.......... Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.. Canadian Society for.................................................................................... Chemical Technology......................... 4................ CropLife Canada.................................. EMD Millipore................................... Eppendorf........................................ 20....................... Lorus Therapeutics Inc........................ MethylGene Inc.................................. 6......................... Miele Professional............................ 5............... Ocean Optics..................................... 15....................... Sanofi Pasteur Ltd.............................. 1......................... The International Society............................................................................. for Systems Biology (ISSB)............... Thermo Scientific............................ 15, 16.............. University Health Network................... 6....................................... VWR................................................ 19................................. Warnex Inc......................................... Wyvern Scientific............................. 2........................ Laboratory Focus

MAY 2012 May 15-18

May 2012

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June 13-16

Interdependence 2012 Conference June 11-12 and Exposition Venue: Vancouver, BC Life Science Innovation RC_lab_new:Layout 1 1/19/2012 9:27 AM Page 1 Tel: (604) 681-2153 Northwest 2012 Fax: (604) 681-1049 Venue: Seattle, WA Email: Tel: (206) 456-9567 Web: Fax: (206) 456-9561 What-We-Do/Interdependence-2012/ Email: Conference/conferenceprogram.aspx Web: displaycommon. May 22-24 cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=145 C21 BioVentures (C21) Venue: Napa, CA Tel: + 1 (831) 464.4230 Fax: + 1 (831) 515-5070 Web:

15th International Congress on Infectious Diseases (ICID) Venue; Bangkok, Thailand Tel: (617) 277-0551 Fax: (617) 278-9113 Email: Web:

June 14-17 ASMCUE: Blending Science and Education


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January 2012 Laboratory Focus

Career Spotlight Bio-economy Career Profile

Compiled by BioTalent Canada Position: Associate Director, Pharmacokinetics and Toxicology Name: Rostam Namdari Company: Xenon Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Salary Range: $120,000 and up per year

No pitfalls for Pittcon 2012 Laboratory scientists gathered from across the globe at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon 2012), held recently in Orlando, Florida. Although slightly less well-attended than last year, with registered attendees down to 15,754 from last year’s 17,098, the event still leads as the world’s largest annual conference and exposition for laboratory science. While overall turnout was smaller, Pittcon 2012 did see a 16 per cent increase in attendance from last year for its more practical short course program, which according to conference numbers, garnered 1,400 participants this year. These one half to two day skill-building courses feature a more hands-on approach to learning, giving attendees a chance for education and technical training while at the conference. This year’s event featured three specialized areas on the exposition floor: New Exhibitor, Life Science and Laboratory Information (LIMS). The conference saw 948 exhibitors, each displaying their most cutting-edge laboratory instrumentation, equipment and services. The technical program included over 2,000 presentations, with more than 100 speakers addressing various topics of global interest, including alternative and sustainable energy, homeland security, food and drug safety, environmental issues, new materials development and bio-analytical techniques. Such diversity in topics is a testament to the conference’s expansion, from its original chemistry and spectroscopy base to including life sciences, biotechnology, sustainable energy and more. As the largest conference of its kind, the event attracts fierce competition for its Editor’s Awards, the best instruments and products at the event, as chosen by a blend of journalists and scientists. This year’s winner of the prestigious Gold Award was the Waters Corporation, for its ACQUITY UPC2 (UltraPerformance Convergence Chromatography) system, which offers a new way to separate and analyze complex compounds. The Silver Award went to Bruker for its SCION TQ, a triple squad gas chromatograph/ mass spectrometer (GC/MS) instrument. Its Bronze Award went to Protea Biosciences’ LAESI DP-1000, an ionization system that identifies biomolecules directly and quickly from cells, tissues and biofluids. After a successful two years on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the conference will be changing location, heading east. Pittcon 2013 will take place March 17 to 21, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What I do:

Xenon Pharmaceuticals develops new drugs for a variety of diseases, and disorders including metabolic disorders, such as obesity. We also develop drugs for pain management. We are trying to find a more effective pain cure than what is available today. My day is divided into scientific and managerial responsibilities, and most of my time is spent overseeing program and staff activities. On the science side of my day, I am involved in data analysis and interpretation, problem solving, and understanding how the regulatory agencies, such as Health Canada or FDA, will interpret our data. As a manager, I manage internal staff and CROs (Contract Research Organizations), and work with a range of consultants and experts to solve very specific and complex scientific issues. It is also important for me to maintain a professional and productive relationship with our collaborators and business partners.

What education and skills do candidates need for this position?

Although it is possible, it is very difficult to come into my position without a degree or academic training in toxicology and pharmacokinetics. You need a Ph.D. degree in toxicology with substantial training in pharmacokinetics or vice versa. Alternatively, a Ph.D. in pharmacology or related branch of biological sciences with proper training and experience in toxicology could be adequate. If you are an independent thinker and a team player with good people skills, you have the basic elements for this job. In order to excel, you need to be creative, results oriented, and be able to play a leadership role. As a leader, you are required to present, rationalize your strategy, support your team and push the projects forward.

What are the best parts of your job?

This job is very exciting and rewarding. As a team, you experience success and failures on a day-to-day basis. It is very rewarding that we have the potential to help many people who are suffering from pain and other disorders. With an element of good luck, we can bring new drugs to the market to help these people. For more Bio-Economy Career Profiles visit


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