B.C. Industry News

Biotechnology Focus Magazine – 2014 LifeSciences British Columbia award winners announced

March 17, 2014

LifeSciences BC has named the winners of its 2014 LifeSciences British Columbia Awards.   These awards are presented annually to recognize individuals and companies that have made significant contributions to the development of B.C.’s life sciences industry.

The winners are:

  • Innovation & Achievement Award: Dr. John Webb, Director, Centre for Heart Valve Innovation, St. Paul’s Hospital;
  • Genome British Columbia Award for Scientific Excellence: Dr. Elizabeth M. Simpson, Senior Scientist, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, Child and Family Research Institute; Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia;
  • Milton Wong Award for Leadership: Hector MacKay-Dunn, J.D. Q.C., Senior Partner, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP;
  • Dr. Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Robert C. Brunham, Head, Vaccine Research Laboratory; Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia
  • Emerging Life Sciences Company of the Year: PHEMI Health Systems Inc.
  • Life Sciences Company of the Year: Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation

“This year’s recipients represent the best in our community,” says Paul V. Drohan, president & CEO of LifeSciences BC. “The physicians, researchers, business leaders and companies that will be awarded are an emblem of the vibrant and dynamic turnaround that B.C.’s life sciences industry is experiencing. In the first two months of 2014, over $163 million has been invested into our provincial biotech sector, a three percent increase over the full year of 2013. There’s a real change of energy in life sciences, and our awards dinner is a great way to celebrate the achievements of these award winners and the continued success of our life sciences community.”

The LifeSciences British Columbia Awards will take place April 23 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For event details, please visit:  /?page_id=1023

About the 2014 LifeSciences British Columbia award recipients:

Dr. John Webb, Director, Centre for Heart Valve Innovation, St. Paul’s Hospital

Dr. John Webb received his undergraduate education at Simon Fraser University; circuitously beginning in political science an ending up in marine biology. This was followed by medical school and specialty training at the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Francisco. Developing and evaluating new and novel minimally invasive procedures for heart disease has been a long standing interest. Among a number of first-in-human procedures was the development of non-surgical transcatheter valve replacement of diseased heart valves. This new alternative to open heart surgery has had a dramatic and rapid uptake with over 100,000 procedures performed to date. It has been referred to as one of the most important advances in heart disease over the last 25 years. John is among a group that has been a leader in training thousands of physicians in this new procedure, supervising new centres in over 25 countries, and has been widely published. John is currently the Director of Interventional Cardiology at St. Paul’s Hospital, Provincial Director of the Transcatheter Heart Valve program for British Columbia and the McLeod Professor of Transcatheter Heart Valve Therapy at UBC.

Dr. Elizabeth M. Simpson, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, Child and Family Research Institute; Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia

Dr. Elizabeth M. Simpson joined the University of British Columbia in 1999, and held a Canada Research Chair, Tier II, in Genetics & Behaviour, from 2001 to 2010. She is a Senior Scientist at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT), a Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics and an Associate Member in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Simpson is also an Investigator of the Brain Research Centre and a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health. She currently serves as Director of the CMMT Mouse Animal Production Service. Dr. Simpson received her B.Sc. from the University of Toronto. She earned her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in the laboratory of Dr. Victor Ling at the Ontario Cancer Institute, University of Toronto. Dr. Simpson was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. David Page at the Whitehead Institute (MIT). She joined the faculty of The Jackson Laboratory (1992-1999), and was Founding Director of their Gene Targeting Service. Dr. Simpson is a leading scientist in mammalian genetics and genomics. She was Project Leader for the Genome Canada Pleiades Promoter Project: Genomic Resources Advancing Therapies for Brain Disorders. Dr. Simpson is currently Project Leader for the Genome British Columbia CanEuCre: Pleiades Promoters for Brain Research and Therapy. She is the author of 67 peer-reviewed publications.

Hector MacKay-Dunn, J.D. Q.C., Senior Partner, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

The joy Hector receives from helping others succeed fuels his own. He believes that British Columbia and Canada can and should be home to global entrepreneurs, top researchers, students and teachers, elite athletes and coaches, community leaders and great citizens. Hector has served as officer or director and advisor to a number of leading life sciences companies, including QLT, Aspreva Pharmaceuticals, AnorMed, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, Cantest, MedGenesis Therapeutix and XBiotech. Hector is an effective industry advocate and an active member of the community. Currently a LifeSciences BC Board Member, he is immediate Past Chair of BCIC, B.C.’s crown agency with the mandate to advance science and technology into investment-ready companies, Past Director of BC’s Leading Edge Endowment Fund, the $60 million program to attract top researchers to B.C., and Genome British Columbia. Hector serves on the Board and Executive Committee of Tennis Canada, the national governing body for tennis in Canada, and he is Past President of both the United Way of the Lower Mainland and the Red Cross. A frequent speaker, most recently a contributor to Canadian Model of Corporate Governance: Insights from Canada’s Leading Legal Practitioners, and for the American Bar Association and the National Centre for Business Law, on finance, business and the future of securities regulations, Hector has been recognized by Lexpert, the most respected legal publication in Canada, as among the Top 100 Leading U.S./Canada Cross-Border Corporate Lawyers in Canada; a national leader in Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities, Technology and Biotechnology and was named Vancouver 2014 Biotechnology Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in Canada.

Dr. Robert C. Brunham, Head, Vaccine Research Laboratory; Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Dr. Robert C. Brunham is the Head of the Vaccine Research Laboratory at the University of British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. Until 2014, he was the Executive and Scientific Director of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). Robert is also a Professor of Medicine at UBC. Robert was born in Creston, and grew up in B.C. and became a medical doctor after studying at UBC. He trained under King Holmes at the University of Washington, before becoming a physician scientist at the University of Manitoba. Robert returned to the province that he calls home in 1999 to play a leading role at the BCCDC. At the BCCDC, Robert used the provincial databases to track the impact of Chlamydia control efforts on transmission dynamics and chronic infection sequelae, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. He found several significant unexpected consequences of public health Chlamydia control efforts. The most important being early antibiotic treatment interrupts the acquisition of natural immunity; therefore, “seek and treat” control approaches result in even higher cases numbers. Termed the “arrested immunity hypothesis,” these findings have received widespread attention, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention convening an international symposium to consider the importance for the hypothesis and a dedicated issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases summarizing the proceedings. Robert, in collaboration with UBC researcher Leonard Foster, successfully attempted a world’s first – identifying the Chlamydia peptides through immunoproteomics, resulting in a first generation molecular vaccine to prevent C. trachomatis infection. This patented vaccine breakthrough was met with support and funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and has caught the interest of several biotech and pharmaceutical companies. The technology has been successfully licensed out for commercial development. Moreover, the method creates a platform technology that holds promise for vaccine target discovery for other intracellular infectious diseases. At BCCDC, Robert’s research extends beyond Chlamydia to a range of other pathogens, where it is continuing to produce novel and impactful insights. He was amongst the first adopters of genomics technologies in public health, and leveraged rapid improvements in genome sequencing technologies to routinely survey both bacterial and viral populations. Robert and a group of BCCDC researchers demonstrated the utility of whole genome sequencing in tracing the dynamics of a local tuberculosis outbreak. He also led an effort to sequence several hundred pandemic H1N1 genomes to explore viral evolutionary dynamics in the context of a pandemic at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. Under Robert’s leadership, the BCCDC has transitioned from a Provincial Agency dedicated to public health service to an internationally recognized Centre of Excellence in communicable disease research and control. Through promoting an inquisitive research culture within the community of BCCDC’s public health professionals and by hiring promising young investigators, he has created an international reputation for the Centre as an expert in multiple diseases of international importance, including emerging infectious diseases, STDs/HIV, tuberculosis and influenza. Robert has received awards from the Rh Institute at the University of Manitoba for outstanding achievements in health research, from Astra Pharmaceuticals for research excellence, from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for excellence in research partnerships, and from UBC for research excellence. He has received the prestigious Thomas Parran Award for lifetime achievement in STD research, and was elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigations. In 1989, Robert entered the list as one of America’s best doctors, and in 2010, he was awarded the Order of British Columbia. His vision that genomic research advances public health has benefited by major funding support from Genome Canada and Genome British Columbia.

PHEMI Health Systems Inc.

PHEMI Health Systems is a process automation and Big Data platform company that unlocks patient data to improve clinic productivity, patient outcomes, and medical research. Designed with Privacy by Design principles at its core, the PHEMI solution eliminates the clinical-researcher divide by aggregating vast amounts of clinical patient information from the point-of-care, storing it in a secure digital asset library and allowing approved users to mine the information, which can then flow back to clinicians as evidence-based insights. PHEMI works with leading health care providers to drive substantial increases in clinician productivity, quality and outcome breakthroughs, sophisticated trial recruitment and execution, rapid adoption of best practices and the reality of personalized medicine.

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on advancing novel RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics. This emerging class of medicine aims to treat human diseases by taking advantage of the body’s own natural processes to silence genes, or more precisely, eliminate specific gene-products or proteins in the cell. With a diverse pipeline of product candidates addressing therapeutic areas such as cancer as well as viral infections like Hepatitis B and Ebola, Tekmira is advancing its drug development efforts in areas where there is a significant unmet medical need and commercial opportunity. Tekmira also licenses its leading lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology to partners including pharmaceutical, biotechnology and agricultural companies.