Our expertise lies within our proprietary chemistry technology. We have developed a chemistry technique to improve the pharmaceutical qualities of carbohydrate-based molecules.
Carbohydrates, or sugar molecules, perform numerous roles in living organisms and are essential to life. Their importance to life makes them valuable for the development of therapeutics and cosmeceuticals.
While carbohydrate-based molecules have broad application potential, they are challenging to develop. Due to the complexity of carbohydrates, these molecules can easily break down and become toxic when exposed.
Sirona Biochem has developed a fluorination technique to maintain the integrity of carbohydrate-based molecules even after exposure to enzymes known to typically negatively affect them. This proprietary technique has allowed Sirona Biochem to explore the immense opportunities carbohydrate-based molecules can offer.
Sirona Biochem’s development focus is centred around three high-valued programs, selected based on our research expertise in the area, market potential, development timelines and high return on investment.
We believe this chemistry method can be applied to drugs in development to improve their properties, discontinued drugs that may have been shelved for stability reasons, or for the development of new products for cosmetics and biological manufacturing. Using our proprietary chemistry process, we feel we can maximize the commercial value of carbohydrate-based molecules.
Sirona Biochem specializes in the development of carbohydrate-based molecules. While carbohydrate-based molecules offer immense commercial potential, we are focused on advancing three programs – therapeutics, cosmetic agents and biological ingredients. Our two most advanced programs include a diabetes treatment candidate and a cosmetic skin lightening agent.
Our sodium glucose co-transporter (SGLT) inhibitor for diabetes, achieved positive preclinical results. In a head-to-head preclinical study, Sirona Biochem’s SGLT inhibitor performed better than Johnson and Johnson’s canagliflozin (Invokana™), which was given FDA market approval in the U.S. (March 2013) and is being considered for market approval in Europe. We have begun partnering discussions to review options for the outlicensing of our SGLT inhibitor. A pharmaceutical partner would handle the downstream clinical and commercial needs of our program.
Recognized for the scientific innovation at our laboratory in France, the French government awarded our team an innovation grant worth CDN$1.9 Million to develop our cosmetic skin lightener program to a commercial ready stage. Several efficacy and stability studies have been completed with results showing superiority over popular commercial products. Further toxicity studies are underway.
Sirona Biochem’s proprietary chemistry technology has relevance in many therapeutic, cosmetic and biological areas where the potential for development is high. In addition to the diabetes, skin lightener,anti-aging and biological ingredients programs, the company is exploring development of the following:
Cancer Vaccine Antigen
Our scientists have formulated a Tn antigen that could be valuable as a key component for the development of a cancer vaccine.
In healthy individuals, certain antigens are suppressed by the body’s immune system. In patients with cancer, research has shown that a higher presence of Tn antigens on the cell surface are linked to higher malignancy and growth. These antigens promote cancer cell adhesion and thus are linked to cancer metastases, allowing cancer to spread from one organ to another. By producing a synthetic version of the Tn antigen it can be used in a vaccine that can potentially trigger the immune system to recognize it as a foreign substance. Previous attempts by scientists to develop a vaccine with the Tn antigen have been unsuccessful due to the chemistry challenges in stabilizing the molecule.
Sirona Biochem's technology platform of enhancing carbohydrate-based molecules has potential for the development of several blockbuster therapeutics for the treatment of diabetes, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, pain and inflammation. Currently, our therapeutic focus is on the development of a Sodium Glucose Transporter (SGLT) inhibitor for Type 2 diabetes and a cancer vaccine antigen.
Sodium Glucose Transporter (SGLT) Inhibitors - Diabetes & Obesity
Sirona Biochem is developing SGLT inhibitors for Type 2 diabetes and obesity. SGLT inhibitors are a new class of drugs for diabetes and obesity. They work differently from traditional Type 2 diabetes therapeutics which increase insulin production in the pancreas and affect metabolism. In the kidneys, SGLT inhibitors reduce the reabsorption of glucose into the bloodstream by eliminating excess glucose into the urine.
The kidneys filter approximately 180 gm of glucose per day from the blood which is then mostly reabsorbed back into the blood by SGLT transporters. SGLT inhibitors reduce the glucose reabsorption process, such that excess glucose is excreted in the urine, rather than reabsorbed into the bloodstream. That is to say, they can help regulate glycemia. This is a new promising potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Sirona Biochem's goal is to develop a best-in-class SGLT inhibitor for Type 2 diabetes. By applying our proprietary chemistry technique, we believe we can produce a drug candidate with optimal pharmaceutical characteristics including, but not limited to, enhanced stability, bioavailability, selectivity and/or efficacy.
There are no SGLT inhibitors available on the market. The most advanced SGLT inhibitor, dapagliflozin, developed by Bristol Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca, is being reviewed for market approval by the Food & Drug Administration with a decision expected in the first quarter of 2012. In a comparative preclinical study, Sirona Biochem's SGLT inhibitor drug candidate appeared to outperform dapagliflozin. Sirona Biochem aims to develop an improved product.
Preclinical animal tests of Sirona Biochem's SGLT inhibitor for Type 2 diabetes are well underway with the positive results posted in the first quarter of 2011. Additional preclinical studies to test the safety and toxicology of this SGLT inhibitor are currently being conducted. Sirona Biochem plans to independently complete preclinical studies to prepare its SGLT inhibitor for human clinical trials. A pharmaceutical partner will be sought for clinical and commercial development of our program.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 220 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. Approximately 90% of diabetes patients suffer from Type 2 diabetes. The WHO estimates that diabetes-related deaths will double from 2005 to 2030. In 2009, an estimated $25 billion was spent globally on diabetes treatment. Diabetes is the fourth largest pharmaceutical market.
In Canada, diabetes is the 6th leading cause of death. The Canadian Diabetes Association estimates that by 2020, one in ten Canadian will have diabetes. It's estimated that diabetes costs the Canadian healthcare system more than $12 billion a year.
With sedentary lifestyles becoming so common, the prevalence of diabetes is increasing rapidly. While there are several medications on the market, there remains a major unmet medical need for new improved diabetes medications. Sales of Januvia, a diabetes medication launched in 2006, reached US$1.6 billion in annual sales by 2009. By 2013, it's estimated sales of Januvia will reach US$4.5 billion.
Our scientists have formulated a Tn antigen that could be valuable as a key component for the development of a cancer vaccine.
In healthy individuals, certain antigens are suppressed by the body's immune system. In patients with cancer, research has shown that a higher presence of Tn antigens on the cell surface are linked to higher malignancy and growth. These antigens promote cancer cell adhesion and thus are linked to cancer metastases, allowing cancer to spread from one organ to another. By producing a synthetic version of the Tn antigen it can be used in a vaccine that can potentially trigger the immune system to recognize it as a foreign substance. Previous attempts by scientists to develop a vaccine with the Tn antigen have been unsuccessful due to the chemistry challenges in stabilizing the molecule.
Howard J. Verrico, MD
Chairman of the Board, Founder
Dr. Verrico obtained his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1985 and has been a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia since July 1986. Dr Verrico is currently a practicing emergency room physician. In addition, Dr. Verrico has extensive experience as a venture capitalist in the junior capital markets.
Chief Executive Officer
Neil Belenkie, a winner of Business in Vancouver Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, brings his significant healthcare experience to Sirona Biochem. Neil’s award-winning career in life sciences includes leadership roles in sales, market research, marketing, and medical education. He is the founder of strategic management consulting company GrowthPoint Group, which provides businesses with sustainable solutions for long term growth. Neil’s entrepreneurial background is evident by the span and depth of his career and involvement in the community. His diverse leadership background includes founding the highly successful networking group “TRIPE” for Vancouver’s senior business leaders, being elected Chairman of the Board of Governors for non-profit organization Vancouver Biennale, instructor roles at Sauder School of Business and BCIT School of Business, Co-host of radio show, Grow Your Business, Councillor for the Britannia Community Council and a volunteer fireman. Previous to GrowthPoint, Neil co-founded RevGen and was a consultant at Odgers Berndston. His life sciences background includes leadership roles at Ortho Biotech and Hoffman LaRoche. Neil is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, Queen’s Executive School of Business, the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.
Géraldine Deliencourt-Godefroy, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Géraldine Deliencourt-Godefroy is an award-winning synthetic chemist and the founder of French-based biotechnology company TFChem. Since the acquisition of TFChem by Sirona Biochem in March 2011, Dr. Deliencourt-Godefroy has assumed the role of Chief Scientific Officer. Her scientific research in carbohydrate chemistry has led to the discovery of new drug families and the development of drug candidates for diabetes and obesity, cosmetic ingredients and biological adjuvants. Previous to founding TFChem, Dr. Deliencourt-Godefroy was a scientific leader at INSA (National Institute of Applied Sciences) in Rouen, France, where she developed a new technology on stabilized carbohydrates. Previous roles also include a post-doctoral position at the University College London and doctoral research at the Research Institute of Fine Organic Chemistry in Rouen, France. Dr. Deliencourt-Godefroy received a PhD and Masters in Organic Chemistry as well as her business degree from the University of France. She is the author of several publications and patents and is also the recipient of the acclaimed Francinov Research and Innovation Medal, French Ministry of Research Award and the French Senate Award.
Christopher Hopton, CGA
Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Christopher Hopton is Sirona Biochem’s Chief Financial Officer. He brings 15 years of expertise in financial management and operations. His extensive experience covers areas of financial planning, accounting policy and business process improvement. As a business investment and finance consultant, Mr. Hopton has worked with several public and privately-held companies. Most recently, Mr. Hopton was the Chief Financial Officer of Central Resources Corp., a junior mineral exploration company. Formerly, he held the position of Division Controller at Canadian Airlines where he was responsible for an annual operating budget of $200M. Mr. Hopton was also involved in the restructuring of 360 Networks, a network communications company, which led to a buyout by Bell Canada. Mr. Hopton earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada and received his professional designation as a Certified General Accountant.
Scientific Advisory Board
DR. STUART MADDIN, M.D., FRCPC
Stuart Maddin is Clinical Professor Emeritus at the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science of Dermatology (Active), Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, where he is the Director of the Clinical Trials Unit.
Dr. Maddin has served in an advisory capacity to the Health Protection Branch (Ottawa), U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (Rockville, MD), Essential Drugs for the World Health Organization (W.H.O. in Geneva) as well as AAD – Therapeutics / FDA Liaison Task Force. Dr. Maddin has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Dermatology, Secretary and President of the Canadian Dermatology Association and also as Vice President of the American Dermatology Association. He was the first Canadian to be elected to the International Committee of Dermatology (ICD) and was later appointed as Secretary-General of the ICD (International League of Dermatologic Societies). Dr. Maddin is a founding member of the Regional Dermatology Training Centre in Moshi, Tanzania.
At present, Dr. Maddin is the Editor-in-Chief of Skin Therapy Letter, now in its 16th year of publication (indexed by the National Library of Medicine and viewable at www.SkinInformation.com). Dr. Maddin is co-founder and chairman of the SkinInformation.com network of dermatology-related websites, which provides comprehensive information to patients and physicians. He has authored over 60 articles in the field of dermatology.
Dr. Maddin is also the founder and director of the Dermatology Update Symposium which is now in its 27th year.
DR. B. MARIO PINTO, PH.D.
Dr. Pinto is Vice President of Research at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. He leads a world class group of researchers studying the nature and origin of carbohydrate mimicry for the purpose of drug and vaccine design.
Dr. Pinto is a pioneer in the field of chemical biology having developed novel NMR/molecular modeling protocols for protein structure determination and the study of ligand topographies essential for drug and vaccine design. His work also involves the synthesis of antiviral and antibacterial drugs, bacterial vaccines, and new methods of viral control. He has authored 168 refereed scientific papers, 147 other publications which include books and technical reports, and has numerous memberships and awards, including the 1992 Horace S. Isbell Award from the Carbohydrate Division of the American Chemical Society, the 1993 Merck Frosst Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC), the 2002 Bernard Belleau Award of the CSC, and the 2005 British Columbia Innovation Council Frontiers in Research Award. He is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada and is Chair of its Selection Committee for the Rutherford Memorial in Chemistry Medal. He has served as the President of the International Carbohydrate Organization, and serves as the Vice-President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry.
DR. DENIS RICHARD, PH.D.
Dr. Denis Richard earned his Ph.D. in Physiology at Laval University and received further postdoctoral training in nutrition and physiology at the Dunn Nutrition Unit at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.
Dr. Richard is a full professor at the Department of Medicine at Université Laval. Together with serving as director of the Research Centre of the Institut de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie de Québec, and director of the Groupe Interdisciplinaire de Recherche sur l’Obésité de l’Université Laval, he is the recipient of the Merck Frosst / CIHR Research Chair in Obesity, the first Chair devoted to obesity research in Canada. He is active with several societies and associations and is a member of: The Canadian Obesity Network, The American Physiological Society, The Society for Neuroscience, The Endocrine Society, and The Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.
Dr. Richard is a well-established scientist with regard to the study of (i) neurosystems involved in the control and regulation of food intake, thermogenesis, and energy balance, (ii) the mechanisms whereby the gastrointestinal hormones influence energy balance regulation, (iii) the relationship between stress and obesity, (iv) the role of the sympathetic nervous system in controlling uncoupling protein 1 in brown adipose tissue, and (v) the role of uncoupling protein 2 in energy metabolism, oxidative stress and neuroprotection. He lists over 200 publications in his career.
DR. BRUCE VERCHERE, PH.D.
Dr. Bruce Verchere is a Professor in the Departments of Surgery and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is also head of the Diabetes Research Program at the Child & Family Research Institute, and holds the Irving K Barber Chair in Diabetes Research. Dr. Verchere’s research aims to understand the function of pancreatic islet beta cells and their relevance in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, with a goal of developing therapeutic approaches for enhancing beta cell survival and function. He has published more than 90 manuscripts in the field of islet biology and diabetes and has been invited to present his research worldwide. Dr. Verchere was a Senior Scholar of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) and was awarded the UBC Outstanding Young Alumnus award in 2000 and the Canadian Diabetes Association Young Scientist award in 2006. He is currently chair of the CIHR Diabetes Obesity Lipid and Lipoprotein Disorders panel, Chair of the National Research Council of the Canadian Diabetes Association, and Chair of the MSFHR Research Advisory Council. He currently sits on the editorial board of the publications Diabetes and Canadian Journal of Diabetes.
DR. MICHAEL WALKER, PH.D.
Dr. Michael Walker has been a director and CEO of Verona Pharma since September 2006. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of British Columbia, Canada and has founded and managed various biotech companies in Canada and the UK. His research interests are wide including many aspects of general pharmacology (from basic to clinical studies), marine toxins and respiratory and cardiac pharmacology.
Dr. Walker was the founder of Rhythm Search Developments (RSD) Ltd., which company evolved into Nortran Pharmaceuticals Inc. and subsequently Cardiome Pharma Corp. (TSX:COM, NASDAQ: CRME) whose drug, RSD1235, for the acute termination of atrial fibrillation (a disorder of heart beating), is currently the subject of a New Drug Application filed with the US Food and Drug Administration.