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2013 winners of the FRSQ salary awards

May, 2013

Dr. Jörg Fritz and Dr. Ana Nijnik were named recipients of the FRSQ salary awards in the Junior 1 category and
Dr. Maya Saleh was named recipient in the Senior category

Congratulations to our Principal Investigators Drs. Fritz, Nijnik and Saleh!

Raptor Pharmaceutical Licenses Intellectual Property Related to Malaria From McGill University

May 29, 2012: 07:30 AM ET


NOVATO, Calif., May 29, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Raptor Pharmaceutical Corp. ("Raptor" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:RPTP), announced that the Company has acquired exclusive rights to intellectual property related to cysteamine and related compounds in the potential treatment of parasitic diseases, including malaria, from McGill University ("McGill") in Montreal, Canada.

The McGill patent covers the use of cysteamine and related compounds in the potential treatment of malaria in combination with artemisinin, the current standard of care. Researchers at McGill reported that, in mouse models of malaria, the combination not only significantly reduced parasite levels in red blood cells but also improved survival rates compared to artemisinin alone.

Ted Daley, President of Raptor's Clinical Division, stated, "The McGill agreement provides Raptor with an entrée into the area of infectious disease that is based on what we believe are compelling and novel preclinical findings. With this preclinical foundation and the existing safety profile of cysteamine, we hope to advance this malaria program to a Phase 2 clinical stage quickly, aiming to leverage the various sources of grant funds available for clinical development of promising potential treatments for malaria. At the same time, exclusively licensing the intellectual property rights significantly strengthens and expands our proprietary position around cysteamine and related compounds."

Dr. Philippe Gros, Professor of Biochemistry at McGill, said, "The challenge for researchers developing malaria treatments has been the ongoing evolution of drug-resistant parasites that necessitate the search for new drug formulations. We were encouraged by the preclinical results so far that cysteamine and related compounds may serve to improve the effectiveness of artemisinin when the two compounds are used in combination."

Dr. Patrice Rioux, Raptor's Chief Medical Officer said, "The research done at McGill has indicated that cysteamine may have clinical utility in malaria. As malaria remains a difficult to treat disease, we feel this is an appropriate and exciting therapeutic area to extend our studies of cysteamine bitartrate. We look forward to a continued collaboration with the researchers at McGill, as well as other malaria clinical thought leaders, as we take the program forward." 

About Malaria

According to the World Health Organization's ("WHO") World Malaria Report 2011, there were about 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655,000 deaths from malaria in 2010. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting. Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines. The current standard of care is treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies. According to the WHO, resistance to antimalarial medicines is a recurring problem. While there are likely many factors that contribute to the emergence and spread of resistance, the use of oral artemisinins alone, as monotherapy, is thought to be an important driver. Without a second drug given as part of a combination, these resistant parasites survive and can be passed on to a mosquito and then another person.

About Cysteamine and RP103  

RP103 is Raptor's proprietary delayed release oral medication currently being investigating in several indications.  RP103 is an enteric coated, microbead formulation of cysteamine bitartrate.

In December 2007, Raptor obtained an exclusive, worldwide license from the University of California, San Diego for the development of RP103 and other forms of cysteamine for the potential treatment of Huntington's Disease currently in a Phase 2/3 clinical trial in France,  non-alcoholic steatohepatitis ("NASH") currently in a Phase 2b clinical trial in the U.S. and for the development of RP103 for nephropathic cystinosis which Raptor has recently filed for marketing approval in the U.S. and E.U.  Raptor has been granted orphan product designation for RP103 for the potential treatment for nephropathic cystinosis by the European Medicines Agency and U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") and for the potential treatment of Huntington's Disease by the FDA.

About Raptor Pharmaceutical Corp.

Raptor Pharmaceutical Corp. (Nasdaq:RPTP) ("Raptor") seeks to research, produce, and deliver medicines that improve life for patients with severe, rare disorders. Raptor currently has product candidates in clinical development designed to potentially treat nephropathic cystinosis, Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis ("NASH"), Huntington's Disease ("HD"), aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency ("ALDH2"), and thrombotic disorder.

Raptor's preclinical programs are based upon bioengineered novel drug candidates and drug-targeting platforms derived from the human receptor-associated protein and related proteins that are designed to target cancer and infectious diseases.

For additional information, please visit www.raptorpharma.com.

McGill Reporter 

Posted Thursday, March 29, 2012

Unravelling the mysteries of gut reactions

Research and Discovery

Dr. Jörg Fritz, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, hopes his research on how bacteria interact in our intestine could eventually contribute to the development of vaccines for mucosal infections such as streptococcus and pneumonia. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Jake Brennan

Deep down, in our gut, we all have a soft spot for migrant workers. How else to explain the thriving community of bacteria each of us hosts in our intestines? We foster their residency so they’ll continue to do the work our bodies refuse to: sorting through our food and packaging it for export. And as long as they let us ID them – our bodies’ police ensure that, says McGill’s Dr. Jörg Fritz, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology – there are no flare-ups and everything flows smoothly.

But how do these police – our immune system’s antibodies – cross-talk with these migrant microbiota, maintaining a peaceful dialogue while distinguishing the good, industrious bacteria from the troublemakers, to keep the community happy? Or, as Fritz puts it, “Why are we not dying from the trillions of bacteria we have in our gut?”

After all, bacteria are unwelcome everywhere else in our bodies, but in our gut we are actually colonized by them. How we maintain this state is a mystery that lured Fritz to look closer. And in 2010, McGill brought Fritz, his Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant in hand, to colonize a lab in the Bellini Pavilion, where he and his students are untangling the gut’s function.

Since beginning graduate school in his native Austria, then completing his post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto, Fritz has been examining vaccines and immune response. Specializing in the digestive system was a natural move: it not only meant examining the body’s most microbe-ridden site, but was also a pursuit of his natural interests, he jokes. “Being from Vienna, I’m a culinary hedonist, of course – especially sweets.”

Wall-to-intestinal-wall of microbes

Digestion of a fine Viennese torte, or any other food, begins with our saliva. Next, our stomach acid takes care of the major demolition. Then it’s on to the small intestine, where bacteria thrive, deconstructing the baker’s work so that we may absorb the torte’s ample calories, plus any vitamins and minerals that may have snuck in. Final breakdown and water absorption takes place in the large intestine, and then, well, you know the rest.

For nutrient extraction in the two parts of the intestine – the gut – we are entirely dependent on these bacteria, what Fritz calls an outsourcing strategy. As their elimination in the stool necessitates their constant reproduction in the gut, the body has to have some kind of identification system to keep tabs on the traffic. But what mechanisms do mammals use to recognize these foreign bodies at the cellular level, in order to maintain crowd control and tailor our body’s overall immune response?

 All-powerful microbes

In the intestines, we have B-lineage cells, a type of white blood cell that produces the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA polices the gut, attacking pathogens but also keeping good bacteria in check.

Researchers previously thought that other microbe-detecting immune cells regulate B cells in the gut. But in a paper published in Nature in January, lead author Fritz and colleagues found a mechanism within the B cell that seems to be regulated by the microbes themselves. When they knocked that mechanism out genetically, the B cells had a severe defect in producing IgA, demonstrating that, as he says, “every cell in our intestine is influenced by the presence of microbes there.” It seems the police are taking their orders, at least partially, from the workers they’re meant to control.

Although Fritz does not yet know exactly how these mechanisms are regulated in the B cells, let alone what is going on at the molecular level, the finding does give insight into the gut’s chains of command for its constant peace-keeping mandate. The research could eventually contribute to the development of vaccines for mucosal infections such as streptococcus and pneumonia, but that’s still a ways off. And since new genetic sequencing technologies opened this field up a mere decade ago, it is still wide-open research terrain, says Fritz.

“There’s plenty to go at, but as many people become interested in it, it’s becoming very competitive. You have to select carefully where you place your cards.” In other words, unfortunately he can’t just go with his gut.


November 24, 2010

Congratulations to Dr. Samantha Gruenheid for CRC renewal

Government of Canada celebrates the Canada Research Chairs Program
Chairs program brings best and brightest researchers to Canada’s universities
TORONTO, Ontario, November 24, 2010  The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, announced that the Government of Canada has made a major investment in the Canada Research Chairs Program, enabling Canada to strengthen its position as a world leader in university research and development. During a speech to kick off a two-day conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the program, the Minister announced an investment of $275.6 million to fund 310 new or renewed Canada Research Chairs at 53 Canadian universities.
Canada Research Chair in Bacterial Pathogenesis

Tier 2 - 2005-04-01
McGill University

Research involves
investigating the molecular basis of how bacteria cause disease and how resistant individuals can fight it.

Research relevance
The research is providing a deeper understanding of pathogenesis and host response to infections and it may also identify new avenues for prophylactic and therapeutic intervention.

Attack and Counter-attack: the Ongoing Battle in EHEC Pathogenesis
Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) and related bacteria cause outbreaks of diarrhea, with potentially fatal complications. EHEC, itself, poses a significant health threat in Canada, as illustrated by the outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario in the year 2000, affecting some 2,000 individuals and causing seven deaths.

Canada Research Chair Dr. Samantha Gruenheid studies how the interactions between these bacteria and the human intestine lead to disease, and why some infected people never get sick.

Humans have a wide range of resistance mechanisms to counteract bacterial infections. Microbes such as EHEC, however, have developed ways of overcoming our resistance mechanisms. Dr. Gruenheid's research examines this interaction from two angles - the mechanisms employed by bacteria to cause disease and the mechanisms employed by the host to resist infection.

Dr. Gruenheid has already found one bacterial protein that EHEC require in order to cause disease, and now she is trying to understand how this protein causes disease during infection. In addition, she is identifying other disease-causing EHEC proteins and determining whether differences in genetic background can explain why the outcomes of infection can vary greatly between person to person.

The information being gathered by Dr. Gruenheid is helping us to understand how bacteria cause disease and how our bodies fight it. And, in the process, we hope it will improve the way we detect, prevent - and treat - bacterial infections.


Montreal, September 17, 2010

Dr. Maya Saleh named recipient of the 2010 IG Maud Menten New Principal Investigator Prize (Biomedical Theme)

Dr. Menten's outstanding career as a scientist at the University of Toronto led to many achievements including important co-discoveries relating to blood sugar, haemoglobin and kidney functions.  In 1913, a collaboration with Leonor Michaelis on the behaviour of enzymes resulted in the Michaelis-Menten equation, a biochemical concept so fundamental that it is familiar to first-year science students. To honour Dr. Menten, IG established the Maud Menten New Principal Investigator Prizes.

Dr. Maya Saleh named recipient of the 2010 IG Maud Menten New Principal Investigator Prize (Biomedical Theme)
Dr. Menten's outstanding career as a scientist at the University of Toronto led to many achievements including important co-discoveries relating to blood sugar, haemoglobin and kidney functions.  In 1913, a collaboration with Leonor Michaelis on the behaviour of enzymes resulted in the Michaelis-Menten equation, a biochemical concept so fundamental that it is familiar to first-year science students. To honour Dr. Menten, IG established the Maud Menten New Principal Investigator Prizes. 
The IG Maud Menten New Principal Investigator Prize consists of a one-year, non-renewable $30,000 research grant.

Montreal, April 23, 2010

$1.7 million keeps McGill on edge 

Canadian Foundation for Innovation Leaders Opportunity Fund to support 10 cutting-edge research projects
Ten McGill University researchers received an important boost today, by way of the announcement of $1.7 million in new funding awarded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Leaders Opportunity Fund.

Dr. Danielle Malo's research project, Functional and Comparative Genomics of the Interaction of the Host with Salmonella, was awarded $270,941.
The funds are part of a total $27.9 million announced by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support 118 projects at 32 institutions across Canada. Of that amount, $21.4 million was awarded under the Leaders Opportunity Fund – a program designed to provide infrastructure and help Canadian institutions attract and retain top researchers.on the web: www.innovation.ca