Tag Archives: Pfizer

A Vancouver (Canada) connection to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Canada’s NanoMedicines Innovation Network (NMIN) must have been excited over the COVID-19 vaccine news (Pfizer Nov. 9, 2020 news release) since it’s a Canadian company (Acuitas Therapeutics) that is providing the means of delivering the vaccine once it enters the body.

Here’s the company’s president and CEO [chief executive officer], Dr. Thomas Madden explaining his company’s delivery system (from Acuitas’ news and events webpage),

For anyone who might find a textual description about the vaccine helpful, I have a Nov. 9, 2020 article by Adele Peters for Fast Company,

… a handful of small biotech companies began scrambling to develop vaccines using an as-yet-unproven technology platform that relies on something called messenger RNA [ribonucleic acid], usually shortened to mRNA …

Like other vaccines, mRNA vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize a threat like a virus and begin producing antibodies to protect itself. But while traditional vaccines often use inactivated doses of the organisms that cause disease, mRNA vaccines are designed to make the body produce those proteins itself. Messenger RNA—a molecule that contains instructions for cells to make DNA—is injected into cells. In the case of COVID-19, mRNA vaccines provide instructions for cells to start producing the “spike” protein of the new coronavirus, the protein that helps the virus get into cells. On its own, the spike protein isn’t harmful. But it triggers the immune system to begin a defensive response. As Bill Gates, who has supported companies like Moderna and BioNTech through the Gates Foundation, has described it, “you essentially turn your body into its own manufacturing unit.”

Amy Judd’s Nov. 9, 2020 article for Global news online explains (or you can just take another look at the video to refresh your memory) how the Acuitas technology fits into the vaccine picture,

Vancouver-based Acuitas Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, is playing a key role through a technology known as lipid nanoparticles, which deliver messenger RNA into cells.

“The technology we provide to our partners is lipid nanoparticles and BioNTech and Pfizer are developing a vaccine that’s using a messenger RNA that tells our cells how to make a protein that’s actually found in the COVID-19 virus,” Dr. Thomas Madden, president and CEO of Acuitas Therapeutics, told Global News Monday [Nov. 9, 2020].

“But the messenger RNA can’t work by itself, it needs a delivery technology to protect this after it’s administered and then to carry it into the cells where it can be expressed and give rise to an immune response.”

Madden said they like to think of the lipid nanoparticles as protective wrapping around a fragile glass ornament [emphasis mine] being shipped to your house online. That protective wrapping would then make sure the ornament made it to your house, through your front door, then unwrap itself and leave in your hallway, ready for you to come and grab it when you came home.

Acuitas Therapeutics employs 29 people and Madden said he believes everyone is feeling very proud of their work.

“Not many people are aware of the history of this technology and the fact that it originated in Vancouver,” he added.

“Dr. Pieter Cullis was one of the key scientists who brought together a team to develop this technology many, many years ago. UBC and Vancouver and companies associated with those scientists have been at the global centre of this technology for many years now.

“I think we’ve been looking for a light at the end of the tunnel for quite some time. I think everybody has been hoping that a vaccine would be able to provide the protection we need to move out of our current situation and I think this is now a confirmation that this hope wasn’t misplaced.”

Nanomedicine in Vancouver

For anyone who’s curious about the Canadian nanomedicine scene, you can find out more about it on Canada’s NanoMedicines Innovation Network (NMIN) website. They recently held a virtual event (Vancouver Nanomedicine Day) on Sept. 17, 2020 (see my Sept. 11, 2020 posting for details), which featured a presentation about Aquitas’ technology.

Happily, the organizers have posted videos for most of the sessions. Dr. Ying Tam of Acuitas made this presentation (about 22 mins. running time) “A Novel Vaccine Approach Using Messenger RNA‐Lipid Nanoparticles: Preclinical and Clinical Perspectives.” If you’re interested in that video or any of the others go to the NanoMedicines Innovation Network’s Nanomedicine Day 2020 webpage.

Acuitas Therapeutics can be found here.

Science shenanigans made visible; a surprising (or not) appointment to CIHR; announcing a wee holiday

Human nature, even scientists have it. They recently reasserted their human nature with the climate change controversy over possibly suppressed and/or distorted data. According to the Globe and Mail article by Doug Saunders (Breach in the global-warming bunker rattles climate science at the worst time), even scientists who agreed with the group at the University of East Anglia were not given access let alone people who were perceived as hostile to the cause. Note that word, cause.  From the article,

Unusually, even sympathetic scientists and some activists have concluded that the credibility of climate science has been seriously harmed.

“We should not underestimate the damage caused by what has happened, either for the science or for the politics of climate change, and potentially it could have some very far-reaching consequences,” said Mike Hulme, a climate scientist at East Anglia whose e-mails were among those included in the pirated files and who has been critical of the secrecy and lack of impartiality in his colleagues’ work.

Independent scientists are quick to point out that the actions described in the e-mails do not describe anything like a fabrication of global-warming evidence, and that two other major sets of historical data drawn from the same sources, both held by NASA institutions in the United States, also show a historical warming trend.

While such insinuations of poor scientific practice have drawn the most attention, more damaging for climate scientists are e-mails which reveal the hostile, partisan, bunker-like atmosphere at the lab, which goes to ridiculous lengths to prevent even moderate critics from seeing any of the raw data.

In one e-mail, Prof. Jones [head of the CRU] wrote that climate skeptics “have been after the CRU [Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia] station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send it to anyone.”

Jones demonstrates the kind of behaviour and communication (or lack of) that we associate with a wrongdoer trying to cover something up or with a fanatic determined to convince you at all costs. Unfortunately, human beings, even with the best of intentions, can take a wrong turn and it would seem that Jones stopped being a scientist and became a true believer.

Some of what’s being discussed in view of the public eye is the usual back and forth amongst scientists as they dispute each other’s findings in sometimes less than genteel tones and cast aspersions on each other’s methodologies. The more high profile the work, the more bitter the fight.

Very quickly, I want to direct you to Rob Annan’s latest postings on a CIHR [Canadian Institutes of Health Research] appointment, a representative from Pfizer, to their governing council and science policy in Europe. If you’re interested in science policy and the implications of some of the new decisions being made and/or taking view of science policy discussions elsewhere, please do check these postings out. Plus I just (5 minutes ago at 9:45 am PST) received this email from the folks who organized the 2009 Canadian Science Policy Conference,

We have just made the entire content of the CSPC publicly available for all Canadians at our website (http://sciencepolicy.ca), including:

  • video of keynote addresses and plenaries
  • audio of all conference sessions
  • video interviews with opinion leaders, conducted on-site at the CSPC by The Mark News
  • written report of all sessions

We are working towards the production of a comprehensive evaluation of CSPC 2009, including detailed performance measures and outcomes of the conference. To that end, we would greatly appreciate your input.

I look forward to viewing the material from the conference (thank you, organizers) when I settle down a bit. I am currently in the throes of a major transition and may not be blogging again until Dec. 17, 2009 or after.