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Issue Four May 2017

Issue Four

Q & A with Dr. Jonathan Page, CEO of Anandia Labs

Anandia Labs is a Vancouver-based cannabis biotechnology company with two objectives: providing leading analytical testing services to the regulated cannabis industry in Canada; and developing improved cannabis and hemp strains for safe, and effective medical applications. According to Health Canada, close to 70,000 Canadians patients are currently accessing medical marijuana from Canadian licensed producers.

Anandia Labs is an emerging leader in cannabis science including analytical testing and genomic analysis of the cannabis plant. The company was founded in 2013 by Dr. Jonathan Page, who co-led the Canadian team that sequenced the cannabis genome, and Dr. John Coleman, an organic chemist with extensive experience in drug development.

Using modern plant breeding approaches and genomics, Anandia Labs develops next-generation cannabis strains optimized to address grower and consumer challenges. They also provide analytical testing services to the cannabis industry and patient growers, and are in the process of setting up expanded facilities for extractions and other chemical processing.

The company was the recipient of the inaugural investment from Genome BC’s Industry Innovation (I²) Program in September 2016. Eight months later, we asked Dr. Jonathan Page to tell our readers a bit more about Anandia Labs and how things were going.

What are the goals of the organization?

Anandia Labs wants to help the cannabis industry become more science-driven and credible, and in the process build a valuable company that is a cornerstone of this new industry. This applies to the area of chemical analysis where we want to be a trusted source of information about the chemical composition of products. In genetics, we want to use genomics and other techniques to better define the types of cannabis that are grown and used, and to breed improved varieties. Prohibition has meant that the science of cannabis has lagged behind other crops – we hope to expand the science base for cannabis both as a medicine and as a consumer product.

What does the legalization of cannabis mean to Anandia?

Legalization represents a very large opportunity for us, one that we didn’t really foresee when Anandia Labs was founded in 2013. The federal government has placed a lot of emphasis on consumer safety, including testing of cannabis products for accurate potency and to ensure they are free of contaminants such as pesticides. This means an expanded client base of producers, and likely processors, for our testing services. I think legalization also means that while adult use (“recreational”) products may be treated like alcohol, there will be more emphasis placed on medical cannabis products that have been evaluated for their efficacy. They will be covered by insurance plans and distributed through pharmacies. Anandia Labs is well positioned to help develop these products. Legalization also means a perhaps ten-fold increase in the scale of production, which in turn requires new specialized varieties of the cannabis plant. We’re going to see a big boost in the cannabis genetics business as legalization is rolled out in 2018 and 2019. All of this is good news for Anandia Labs!

What has Genome BC’s investment enabled Anandia to do?

The investment by Genome BC came at an ideal time for us in that we could hire more staff and purchase more instruments just as the need for our testing services was increasing. There has been massive growth in the number of Canadians authorized to receive medical cannabis in the last 12 months. The funding from the Industry Innovation Program helped us meet that increased demand. It also was important in building credibility. Let’s face it, cannabis – whether it is used for medical or recreational purposes – is still controversial. Although Anandia Labs believes in what we are doing with regards to ensuring consumer safety and providing unbiased science, it is very helpful to have a science organizations such as Genome BC put their support behind us.

Evolving the innovation chain drives entrepreneurship

Applied and translational genomics research is sparking entrepreneurship and leading to commercialization, but it wasn’t always this way.  Genome BC’s first five years saw around 90% of resources dedicated to discovery research alone. The progression from ‘discovery’ to include a balanced portfolio of ‘applied’ and ‘translational’ research is the result of deliberate decisions that have coincided with the natural evolution of the science. This foresight, based on progress made in laboratories, has led to the realization of genomic tools and applications that we see today.

In 2002, a BC Technology Development platform funded by Genome BC and Genome Canada, provided engineering support and world-class prototyping facilities to the local life sciences research community. These resources were aimed at advancing innovative biomedical devices towards commercialization.

One of the major successes coming out of the platform is Boreal Genomics, a spin-off company started in 2007 by co-director and UBC researcher Dr. Andre Marziali and colleagues. In 2004 Dr. Marziali co-invented a patented technology to purify nucleic acids. This technology formed the basis of Boreal to further commercialize high-performance instruments for DNA and RNA purification.

The Strategic Opportunities Fund for Industry (SOFi), launched in 2008, continued to move genomics along the discovery continuum through the encouragement of collaborative relationships between academia and industry. Contextual Genomics was one example of this program’s success. Its flagship product “Find-It™” profiles patient tumours to match the most effective treatment options. Find-It™ is now commercially available to patients, through their oncologists, across Canada.

Genome BC’s Proof of Concept Program (POC), launched in 2011, provided a proof of concept that also helped bridge the gap between discovery and translation. The program assisted in moving discoveries into application through end user partnerships and validation—adding credibility to the potential of genomic applications for industry.

The POC and SOFi programs demonstrated that the most successful applied outcomes come from collaborations between researchers and industry. Through the identification of genomic solutions to industrial challenges—engineers, clinicians, software programmers, entrepreneurs and other highly skilled people work together towards common goals.

Recognizing that investment in life science innovation has a long time horizon, each of Genome BC’s five year strategic plans has progressively dedicated more resources to research aimed at providing solutions  through practical applications across key sectors. Today, almost 72% of resources are directed towards applied and translational projects through collaboration with industry.

Evolution of GenomeBC Funding Along the Innovation Chain

Bringing industry and academia together has enhanced the innovation chain. As applied and translational research continues to provide useful and beneficial outcomes, the most logical next step is to consider how any commercial opportunity presented can be realized. One way is to encourage and build capacity for entrepreneurship.

Programs such as HyperGrowth:Life, developed by Genome BC and the BC Tech Association, are designed to advance companies in the health-tech and life sciences industries by providing unprecedented access to senior leaders and resources, who help companies land their first deals, develop scalable go-to-market plans, and achieve sustained growth.

Another way to nurture the commercialization of genomic tools is by supporting entrepreneurship in the academic environment through programs like e@UBC and SFU Innovates.  These programs breed a culture of innovation by providing resources and support to accelerate and mobilize ideas that will produce meaningful social and economic impact in BC, Canada, and the world.

However, an entrepreneurial mindset alone is not enough to bring a great idea to commercial success. Securing investment is always a challenging hurdle and making the leap from seed capital to series A funding or other significant financing events can be a wider chasm than a startup can make. Great ideas can fall to the wayside as a result.  Genome BC’s Industry Innovation Program (I2) is a unique program that helps companies make financial transitions at pivotal times during the early stages of commercial development.

The goal of I2 is successful commercialization, industry growth, jobs, and economic impact for the Province of BC. The fund provides support to qualifying companies looking to scale up operations and to boost their competitiveness during a critical time in their evolution.  I2 funding is repayable four years after disbursement; or when the company achieves product/service revenues, revenues from licensing the technology, or the company achieves a significant financial milestone.

Genomics has the potential to offer profound societal and economic benefits. BC has the scientific, technical and engineering talent, infrastructure and a strong entrepreneurial base to create new jobs in life sciences and drive the knowledge based economy. Critical to this is an ecosystem where innovation can flourish and hard work can be rewarded.

Geneskool in action

In March 2017, Geneskool visited Pitt River Middle School in Coquitlam for a CSI Extravaganza. With 34 in class room workshops for 1000 students, it may have been one of the biggest Geneskool events we’ve ever participated in. These exciting few days were captured by CBC

We held eight more Geneskool workshops at Capilano University in April with 400 very enthusiastic students (including students that travelled all the way from Merritt BC!)

Geneskool brings forensics back for the summer

Spots are filling up fast for the 2017 Summer Science Program for Teens, running Aug 21-25 at Capilano University. Teens from grade 9-12 will solve a forensics mystery CSI style using genetic/genomic techniques.

Register

Genome BC at the Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair

April is science fair season—there is nothing we enjoy more than observing young minds exploring the fascinating world of science. You never know when you might discover a future genomics researcher!

Genome BC sponsored two $100 awards at the Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair. Congratulations to these two bright minds!

Phyllis Lesnikov (grade 11) of Stratford Hall for her work on GMO Arabidopsis to remediate contaminated mine soils

Claudia Makhanko-Tang (grade 10) of R.A. McMath Secondary for her literature review on CRISPR to eradicate malaria.

Bringing genomics to communities across BC

Genome BC took its popular speaker series Bringing Genomics Home to two communities in British Columbia this year: Prince George and Cranbrook. These talks focused on adapting to climate change and future challenges faced in food production and the environment.

  • “Putting Genomics to Work: Tools for Adapting to Climate Change in Prince George BC with speakers Dr. Sally Aitken (UBC) and Dr. Dezene Huber (UNBC) on February 23rd.
  • “Putting Genomics to Work: Tools for Environmental and Agricultural Challenges” in Cranbrook with Genome BC’s Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa and Dr. David Charest on March 9th.

We’re currently finalizing the scheduling details for the rest of our 2017 public talks program. Keep an eye on our event calendar for upcoming talks.

Celebrating the best in the business at the Life Science BC Awards

The 19th Annual Lifesciences BC Awards dinner was held on April 19. This was an especially memorable night honoring our former President and CEO, Dr. Alan Winter, with the Dr. Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Alan was integral to the success and stamina of Genome British Columbia. Alan Winter delivered a great (and always humble) speech after receiving a natural standing ovation from the crowd. We are very proud of Alan and his legacy at Genome BC!

LFoster_LSBCAWARDS_BD4_9267 R1

A sweet reward for Dr. Leonard Foster

There are many great researchers in British Columbia, so choosing just one recipient of the Genome British Columbia Award for Scientific Excellence is no easy task.

This year Dr. Leonard Foster from the University of British Columbia was recognized for his amazing genomic and proteomic work helping to strengthen the beekeeping industry in Canada. Our relationship with Dr. Foster spans a decade and we are proud to have helped him pursue his research!

Genome BC congratulates all the winners of the 19th Annual Lifesciences BC Awards that took place on April 19th in Vancouver:

  • Genome British Columbia Award for Scientific Excellence— Leonard Foster
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research–Aubrey J. Tingle Prize— James Russell
  • Deal of the Year —Celator Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Growth Stage Life Sciences Company of the Year—Innovative Targeting Solutions Inc.
  • Growth Stage Medtech Company of the Year—Clarius Mobile Health Corp.
  • Strategic Life Sciences Partner of the Year—Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)

Pacific Region

  • Milton Wong Award for Leadership— William Hunter
  • Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement—Dr. Alan Winter
  • Life Sciences Company of the Year—McKesson Imaging and Workflow Solutions