Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Medical firms feeling healthy

City companies see breakthroughs

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IT'S well-known it's not enough for a company to develop drug therapies or medical devices that have the potential to save lives.

Three Winnipeg companies in various stages of development have just made different sorts of breakthroughs to allow their technologies greater access to markets and thereby increase their opportunities for success -- IMRIS Inc., Medicure Inc. and Kane Biotech Inc.

From the sheer size of the enterprise -- including revenue -- IMRIS is by far the largest.

The company makes multimillion-dollar equipment for hospitals that integrates Siemens magnetic resonance imaging technology with guided therapy solutions, which allows doctors to capture high-resolution images of procedures during surgery.

The technology has been well-received, with 41 systems installed around the world. But the most recent global recession and subsequent economic uncertainties knocked the wind out of what had already been a lengthy sales cycle. Throughout 2011, installations, orders and revenues declined.

But things are picking up.

So much so that Alan Ridgeway, an analyst with Paradigm Capital in Toronto, increased his 12-month target price on IMRIS shares by almost 50 per cent, to $7 from $4.75.

In a research report Monday, Ridgeway said the updated target price accounts for new products IMRIS is on the verge of launching, "and our increasing confidence that the hospital-spending environment is improving... as evidenced by the company's bookings year-to-date (six in the first half of this year compared to one in the first half of 2011)."

 

Medicure Inc.: At one time, Medicure looked like it could be the future of the biotech/pharma sector in Winnipeg, until poor clinical-trial results for a heart drug dashed those hopes.

Since then, it has been working to reposition itself by trying to marshal the blood thinner Aggrastat back into the good graces of doctors in the United States. The drug was orphaned by Merck some years ago, and Medicure bought the U.S. rights.

It remains the most-used drug of its class everywhere else in the world, but not in the United States, where it has a small market share.

The Winnipeg company is announcing today it will be able to apply to the U.S. regulators for Aggrastat to be used for more critical applications for heart-attack patients.

If successful, the application for enhanced "labelling" will mean doctors will be able to choose Aggrastat in far more scenarios than is now the case.

In addition, Medicure has entered into a partnership with an Atlanta company to develop a transdermal delivery formulation -- better known as a patch -- for Aggrastat.

Both developments will require some amount of work before Medicure's U.S. sales team is allowed to sell the patch or promote additional uses of Aggrastat, but both are significant developments for Medicure's Winnipeg team.

 

Kane Biotech Inc.: Kane is what is referred to in the sector as "pre-revenue," but the company that is developing products that prevent and remove microbial biofilms -- the nasty medium in which bacteria love to grow and which renders many antibiotics ineffective -- has just signed its second development deal with a little partner called the U.S. Army. The new agreement is with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and replaces an agreement Kane previously signed with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

The objective of the research is to develop an antibiofilm-antimicrobial wound gel formulation.

"This could change the face of the company," Kane CEO Gord Froehlich said. "It could be very significant if it were to turn out like we hope it will."

Kane shares were up a penny to 8.5 cents.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2012 B4

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