Thursday, December 22, 2005
An early Christmas present for the employees at LSBC: no job
LSBC announced today that it will be ceasing operations
. Employees will not be paid for work performed in December. Apparently, a few attempts at a white knight rescue or selling the company failed. As you may recall, I worked about 3 years for LSBC
before heading for greener pastures. To give them credit, the company lasted longer than I thought it would. There should be a few interested parties kicking the tires on the manufacturing plant in Owensboro, we will see how that pans out. Good luck to all former employees and I wish you the best. For all of you out having withdrawals from the old Yahoo finance LSBC stock board, please feel free leave comments here.
As for me, I'm off to visit the family for a few days, no blogging for awhile. Merry Christmas to all.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
An early Christmas present to me
I ran some numbers last night and I finally convinced myself that it was time to get a new cell phone. I had been using AT&T's Go Phone service (to heck with you Cingular, you treated your AT&T customers like seconhand citizens if they didn't switch to a Cingular plan). I was buying a monthly package and it suited what I needed. However, I was using on old Nokia phone and the techie in me wanted a phone with a few more bells and whistles, like a camera and such. If I wanted to buy a new phone, Cingular was going to force me to sign on to one of "their" Go Phone packages. Basically, I would be forced to pay more for less minutes. So I got to looking around and after running some numbers, I decided that I could save about $5 a week based on my use if I used T-Mobile's pay as you go service. And if I was saving that much, I could justify really splurging on a new phone and T-Mobile offered the Motorola Razor.
Needless to say, I am now talking in style with a new Razor phone. So far, T-Mobile's coverage has been decent and I am happy with the phone. Expect a few more pictures on the ole' blog too. I splurged even more and bought (yes bought, I didn't hack this one) the software so that I can download pictures from my phone to my PC. My first offering is a one of the frozen Red Cedar River I took this morning on my way in to the lab. Yes, it is as cold and as miserable as this picture makes the weather out to be.
Monday, December 19, 2005
A few constructive criticisms
I think its great that interest in plant-made pharmaceuticals is growing, especially in the academic community. I try to stay on top of all things PMP, and this means reading most of the literature coming out of academia on this subject. I have to admit, though, I am kind of frustrated with the research currently being published. Industry, you've published a few dogs too, but all-in-all you guys seem to be at least a neck or two in front of academia towards understanding how to reach commercialization successfully. This is not the reaction to a single paper or presentation, but from a culmination of events. I offer my comments below. I guess you could call them my recommendations if you want to successfully commercialize your protein. Take them as they are:
First and foremost (maybe because I am a biochemist) - purification. Please don't suggest that your enzyme of interest can be easily purified using only one or two purification steps. That may be the case if you harvest a couple of choice leaves, grind them in liquid nitrogen, perform an ammonium sulfate cut, and then purify using an affinity column. This method does not scale to the kilogram levels. When you start throwing in stems and bio-mass that may not have high expression levels, not to mention having to deal with all those oxidative phenolics and tons of cell-wall material clogging filters and membranes, it starts to get complicated. Ammonium sulfate is not the greatest material to deal with in large quantities, and your not going to be doing your initial grinding step using liquid nitrogen and a mortar and pestle. If you are lucky enough that your product makes it to the point of scale-up, you are dead in the water if you haven't planned ahead and developed an expression system/protein that is amenable to purification at large scale.
Affinity tags - Use them to easily purify initial quantities for initial kinetics, etc, but get rid of them quick. The FDA isn't going to allow them as part of the final product (possible antigenic properties). Don't imply simple purification of your product if you use an affinity tag as part of your proposed purification scheme.
Expression levels - That one plant that you babied all its life in a growth chamber gave really high expression levels. Put it out in a hot field with the sun beating down on it and watch the expression levels plummet. It is going to be extremely tough to replicate growing conditions from batch to batch no matter how you grow your crop. Even growth chambers can give produce differences. The questions that has to be answered before that initial tranformation attempt is where will this plant be grown? You then have to go back to your purification notes and factor in expression levels and their fluctuations from batch to batch. Inflating expression levels leads to problems during scale-up. Expression levels should be based on true minimum levels observed.
Overall - I guess the point that I am getting too is that you can't just blindly transform a chunk of DNA into your favorite plant and expect to be shipping little vials of drugs in five years. I really think some homework has to be done before-hand. From my perspective, you have to start with that little vial full of protein and work backwards. For instance:
Which enzyme/antibody do I want to make?
How much protein do I need to make?
Which plant am I going to use?
What expression technology am I going to use (I think it is very important that several plant/expression technologies should be tested, and no affinity tags)?
How is it most cost effective to grow (field, growth chamber, greenhouse)?
What are my large-scale purification challenges (i.e phenolics, cell walls, etc. . .)?
Is it still feasible to make this in a plant?
Perform enzyme kinetics etc . . .
Academia (and industry too sometimes), I realize that this is bench scale work and is years from being commercialized. I just don't think that work is going to be successful if you aren't thinking about how the work can be commercialized from day one. To be safe, these comments don't apply to all academia or industry. I just am trying to put forth a little constructive criticism to progress this body of work.
I think these comments tie in pretty well with my comments from several months ago
. Anyways, what do you think? Any comments? Am I wrong, right, leave anything out, put too much in?
Sembiosys private placement increased by 50%
announced last Thursday that their previously announced private placement of stock
had been increased by approximately 50% to $15.5 million
SemBioSys Genetics Inc. (TSX:SBS), a biotechnology company developing a broad pipeline of protein-based pharmaceutical product candidates and non-pharmaceutical products, announced today that it has been advised by Orion Securities Inc., the lead underwriter of its previously-announced private placement, that the underwriters intend to exercise their option in full. As a result, SemBioSys will issue a total of 3,864,000 units at a price of $4.00 per unit, for total proceeds of $15,456,000. This total includes the underwriters' option of 1,288,000 additional units, which represents a 50% increase over the 2,576,000 units initially offered.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Sembiosys places $10.3 million in private deal
SEMBIOSYS ANNOUNCES $10.3 MILLION PRIVATE PLACEMENT
SemBioSys Genetics Inc. (TSX:SBS), a biotechnology company developing a broad pipeline of protein-based pharmaceutical product candidates and non-pharmaceutical products, announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Orion Securities Inc., as lead underwriter, for an underwritten private placement of 2,576,000 units of the Company at a price of $4.00 per unit, for gross proceeds to SemBioSys of approximately $10.3 million.
has been one heck of a capital campaign lately, announcing $2.5 million in debt financing back in November
. What is not know to me is how much of this placement will be used to repay this debt financing. Either way, it looks like the company has a product that they want to invest in
4 1/2 hours of meetings = 0
I've just realized I only have only posted five times this month. Man, I have been slacking. In reality, some other projects have been keeping me busy. The job search is back into full swing, the Save Farmhouse
campaign that I'm helping in has been getting alot of press, Ag Moment
is growing organically (I'm not promoting the site too much but the visitors are coming), and oh yeah, by the way, I'm still a grad student.
So I think we have finally made the planning commision realize that their vision for a new "East Village
" in East Lansing is not what the community wants and that the fraternities located in the area really want to be part of the community and not outcasts. The State News had a very good article covering the East Village debate
. Of course, several of us had to sit through four and a half hours of a planning commission meeting last night for, well, once again the state news covers it well
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Scaled down deal between NW Missouri State-Ventria reached
Almost a month after the state of Missouri retracted its pledge of $10 million for the creation of a biopharming center
at Northwest Missouri State
and put Ventria's move to Missouri
on hold, a compromise has been reached.
According to the Kansas City Star: Northwest Missouri State announced scaled-down biopharming plan
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Northwest Missouri State University plans to reduce the size of a proposed biologics center on its campus, after the original idea ran into some resistance in the state Legislature.
The university's Board of Regents on Thursday approved a plan to build a $12.35 million business incubator on campus that would serve clients specializing in biotechnology.
This new plan includes the original business incubator, but plans for an academic center has been put on hold. Ventria
will be a tenet in the business incubator
In my opinion, this was a good save by Northwest Missouri State
. Keep your ears perked for further developments.
Monday, December 12, 2005
And on the education note - a new blog!
And what a great segway from the last post
to this post. I just received an e-mail from Dr. David Tribe from University of Melbourne alerting me to his newly created blog, the GMO Pundit
. Dr. Tribe has put together a really well written (I wish I could write as well) blog that, even though in its infancy, contains a wealth of information pertaining to genetically modified organisms. Welcome to our little community of online advocates for GMOs!
Apparently, it is OK in France to destroy GM crops
I can't really say that I agree with this one:
From Yahoo News - Activists' destruction of GM crops was justified: French court
ORLEANS, France (AFP) - In a judgement expected to send a chill through companies growing genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe and embolden their opponents, a French court acquitted 49 activists who destroyed GM plants after ruling their actions were justified.
The court in the central city of Orleans dismissed the criminal charges of organised vandalism against the 49, who had uprooted GM maize in the region planted by the US biotechnology group Monsanto in two incidents, one last year and the other in 2005.
To catch you up, here is a little background to this story
. According to the courts, the activists were in the right to use vandalism to stop the unbridled distribution of modified genes that constitutes a clear and present danger for the well-being of others, in the sense that it could be the source of contamination and unwanted pollution
. You know, I sure would like to see the courts evidence that these crops presented a "clear and present danger" for the well-being of others. Where is the evidence that these crops have contaminated the natural gene pool? Where is the evidence of this genetic "pollution"? Once again, more education of the public (and governments) is needed. . .and soon.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
The saddle fell off
First, I was back in the saddle
, then I wasn't quite
. Well, the saddle has officially fallen off. I received notification today that the job that I had accepted had officially been taken off the table. Its not the companies fault and I have no hard feelings for them. Its those darned venture capitalists that keep fouling things up. Oh well, on to the next step. If anyone out there needs someone who can take green-juice and turn it into drugs, get in touch with me. You know, now would be the perfect time for a career change. Maybe I will move to Reno and become a blackjack dealer
or maybe I'll just brush up on my banjo playing and join a bluegrass band
By the way, I think I back to feeling human again after about a week and a half of being under the weather. Maybe I can get a few things done now.
So, how many of you out there can say you were laid off from a job before you ever actually started?
Thursday, December 01, 2005
No words of wisdom today: well . . .
I've been fighting some sort of cold or funk most of this week. Thanks to my little germ-factory of a nephew for the inoculum. Usually, a good dose of NyQuil, some Aleve, and plenty of rest is enough to pull me through. However, it looks like NyQuil just may not be the cure it used to be. Rob Stevens over at the Fortress of Solitude has the full story on this
. Seems like NyQuil is now being made without pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient used in the making of methamphetamine. After discovering this I looked at my little green bottle of restful sleep and sure enough, it proclaimed "now pseudoephedrine free!" as if this was some great revelation in funk fighting. Of course, I probably wouldn't be writing about this unless I had a problem with this and I do so here we go:
#1) NyQuil (a drug) was reformulated
. There was no change in the name to signal this, there was a small message in one corner of the bottle proclaiming it to be pseudophedrine-free, but I didn't notice this until it was pointed out in a blog. Does this mean that Aleve could reformulate itself to be "naproxen-free", slap a small banner on their bottle to proclaim this, and start selling sugar pills?
#2) From what I understand
this reformulation was performed because pseudoephedrine is used in the manufacturing of illegal methamphetamines. So you are telling me that I can't get my cold relief because some slime-ball wants to blow up his house trailer and kill himself making homemade poison? This just seems asinine to me.
Alright, enough ranting, time for some medications and rest.