Usually when a company is featured in a news item, there’s some reason why it’s considered newsworthy. Even after reading the article twice, I still don’t see what makes the Precision Nanosystems Inc. (PNI) newsworthy.
Kevin Griffin’s Jan. 17, 2021 article about Vancouver area Precision Nanosystems Inc. (PNI) for The Province is interesting for anyone who’s looking for information about members of the local biotechnology and/or nanomedicine community (Note: Links have been removed),
A Vancouver nanomedicine company is part of a team using new genetic technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
Precision NanoSystems Incorporated is working on a vaccine in the same class the ones made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the only two COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada.
PNI’s vaccine is based on a new kind of technology called mRNA which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. The mRNA class of vaccines carry genetic instructions to make proteins that trigger the body’s immune system. Once a body has antibodies, it can fight off a real infection when it comes in contact with SARS-CoV-2, the name of the virus that causes COVID-19.
James Taylor, CEO of Precision NanoSystems, said the “revolutionary technology is having an impact not only on COVID-19 pandemic but also the treatment of other diseases.
The federal government has invested $18.2 million in PNI to carry its vaccine candidate through pre-clinical studies and clinical trails.
Ottawa has also invested another $173 million in Medicago, a Quebec-city based company which is developing a virus-like particle vaccine on a plant-based platform and building a large-scale vaccine and antibody production facility. The federal government has an agreement with Medicago to buy up to 76 million doses (enough for 38 million people) of its COVID-19 vaccine.
PNI’s vaccine, which the company is developing with other collaborators, is still at an early, pre-clinical stage.
Taylor is one of the co-founders of PNI along with Euan Ramsay, the company’s chief commercial officer.
The scientific co-founders of PNI are physicist Carl Hansen [emphasis mine] and Pieter Cullis. Cullis is also board chairman and scientific adviser at Acuitas Therapeutics [emphasis mine], the UBC biotechnology company that developed the delivery system for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
PNI, founded in 2010 as a spin-off from UBC [University of British Columbia], focuses on developing technology and expertise in genetic medicine to treat a wide range of infectious and rare diseases and cancers.
What has been described as PNI’s flagship product is a NanoAssemblr Benchtop Instrument, which allows scientists to develop nanomedicines for testing.
It’s informational but none of this is new, if you’ve been following developments in the COVID-19 vaccine story or local biotechnology scene. The $18.2 million federal government investment was announced in the company’s latest press release dated October 23, 2020. Not exactly fresh news.
One possibility is that the company is trying to generate publicity prior to a big announcement. As to why a reporter would produce this profile, perhaps he was promised an exclusive?
Acuitas Therapeutics, which I highlighted in the excerpt from Griffin’s story, has been featured here before in a November 12, 2020 posting about lipid nanoparticles and their role in the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Curiously (or not), Griffin didn’t mention Vancouver’s biggest ‘COVID-19 star’, AbCellera. You can find out more about that company in my December 30, 2020 posting titled, Avo Media, Science Telephone, and a Canadian COVID-19 billionaire scientist, which features a link to a video about AbCellera’s work (scroll down about 60% of the way to the subsection titled: Avo Media, The Tyee, and Science Telephone, second paragraph).
The Canadian COVID-19 billionaire scientist? That would be Carl Hansen, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AbCellera and co-founder of PNI. it’s such a small world sometimes.