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Canadian company says its COVID-19 vaccine spurred 'promising antibody response' in Phase 1 of clinical trials – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The Canadian company behind a new plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate has released the results of their Phase 1 clinical trials, saying two doses of their adjuvanted vaccine spurred a significant antibody response in 100 per cent of the trial subjects.

“They’re even better than we had hoped,” Nathalie Landry, executive vice president of scientific and medical affairs at Medicago, said of the results.

“When we talk about neutralizing antibody responses, we say it’s quite remarkable, especially when we compare with a subject that recovered from the disease.”

Those who received the Medicago adjuvanted vaccine in the Phase 1 trial actually had higher antibody levels than the levels found in those who had contracted COVID-19, Landry told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

Medicago, a company based in Quebec, launched their first human trials in July.

In Phase 1, they looked at around 180 healthy subjects between the ages of 18 and 55. Participants were given either the vaccine on its own, or the vaccine with one of two adjuvants mixed in: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s pandemic adjuvant or Dynavax’s CpG 1018.

An adjuvant is a substance that is added to vaccines in order to boost the effects and enable a higher immune response. They can be made from a variety of materials, including plants, aluminum and squalene oil, derived largely from sharks. Researchers wanted to measure what difference adding each adjuvant would make for the immune response.

They found that the vaccine candidate on its own did produce antibodies in the subjects, but demanded a much higher dosage level in order to get proper results.

It was the adjuvanted vaccines that really had an effect.

After two doses of adjuvanted vaccine — no matter which adjuvant was used — the antibody response rose significantly. However, subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of the vaccine when mixed with the GSK adjuvant, according to the press release.

“[GSK’s was] the adjuvant that provided us with the best immune response at [a] very low dose,” Landry said.

She explained that although they tested three doses at 3.75, 7.5 and 15 micrograms, the antibody response did not increase as the dosage went up.

“We only need 3.75 micrograms to get to a very significant level of antibody and cellular immune responses,” she said.

Being able to spur an immune response at a lower dose means they would be able to manufacture more of the vaccine — if it clears the rest of the phases.

In October, the company announced that they had reached an agreement with the federal government to supply Canada with up to 76 million doses of their vaccine, subject to approval from Health Canada.

The success of the GSK adjuvant means that moving forward, Medicago will be using only their vaccine candidate mixed with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant in further trials.

This phase also proved the safety of the vaccine candidate to proceed to further trials, as no subjects had any severe adverse side-effects, only mild and short-lived side-effects, according to the release.

 

HOW PLANTS PLAY INTO VACCINE DEVELOPMENT

Medicago’s vaccine candidate is different from many of the others currently in human trials in that it uses “coronavirus virus-like particles” (CoVLP), which mimic the virus to spur an immune response without introducing any form of the actual virus to the human body.

“In general, when developing a vaccine for COVID, you’re looking for two things,” Landry said. “You’re looking for neutralizing antibody responses, and cellular immune responses.”

Their adjuvanted vaccine can trigger both of these, she said.

In order to make their vaccine, Medicago uses plants as, essentially, living factories to produce the antigen in the vaccine that spurs an immune response. This is achieved through recombinant technology: genetic code is transferred to a plant, at which point “the plant will start expressing that antigen like if it was its own,” according to Landry.

The plant they use is called nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of tobacco plants, which grows quickly and can “produce a huge amount of proteins,” she said, making it a prime host for biopharmaceuticals.

“This is 20 years of development, that is behind this innovative manufacturing technology,” Landry said. “And this is something that has been developed in Canada.”

 

NEXT STEPS

In Phase 2, they will be studying more subjects, as well as those in other age groups not included in the first trial. It will involve around 600 subjects, between the ages of 18 and 64.

“We also evaluate elderly people, make sure that we actually took the right dose, and we have a group safety and immunogenicity profile,” Landry said.

In the final phase of the clinical trials, Medicago hopes to enrol around 30,000 subjects in different regions across the globe.

“Why we need to go global is that to prove the efficacy of the vaccine, you need to go in regions where the virus is circulating,” she explained.

She said they’re on track with their trials so far in terms of timeline. Medicago is aiming to launch Phase 2 soon, pending approval. According to Landry, we could hear the early results from that clinical trial in early 2021, around the same time that they are aiming to launch Phase 3 of the trials.

Phase 3 is when the efficacy of the vaccine really gets tested, she said, so while the results from Phase 1 are promising, and support further trials, they don’t know yet if the vaccine will actively prevent transmission of the virus.

“But that’s the idea,” she said. “You have a high level of antibodies that can neutralize the virus, so you will prevent infection and therefore, hopefully transmission of the virus as well.”

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AIB agrees to life and pensions joint-venture with Canada Life

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Allied Irish Banks on Wednesday said it would form a joint venture with Canada life as it seeks to plug gaps in its life, savings and wealth products.

The joint venture will be equally owned by Canada Life, a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc.

“The move to create this joint venture is aligned with AIB’s stated ambition to complete its customerproduct suite and diversify income,” AIB said in a statement.

“Through this strategic initiative AIB intends to offer customers a range of life protection, pensions, savings and investment options enhanced by integrated digital solutions withcontinued access to our qualified financial advisors.”

The Irish lender highlighted Canada Life’s “deep experience” of the Irish bancassurance market through Irish Life Assurance, which is also a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco.

AIB currently operates under a tied agency distribution agreement with Irish Life, and will enter into a new distribution agreement with the new joint venture company.

Chief Executive Colin Hunt highlighted the need to plug gaps in AIB’s life, savings and wealth products when he set out the bank’s medium-term targets last December.

AIB expects its equity investment in the joint venture will be around 90 million euros ($107.51 million), equating to around 10bps of CET1.($1 = 0.8372 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Fahy;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Interac: Canada’s Latest Payment Solution Phenomenon

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Few can argue that digital payment methods aren’t central to modern-day society. In recent times, increasing numbers of payment solutions have come to the forefront, offering consumers more choice regarding their transaction preferences. Canada, in particular, has embraced a wide-ranging selection of secure, forward-thinking options. Of those available throughout the country, Interac has piqued the interests of local consumers the most. So, let’s look at why this payment solution is an especially popular option throughout Canada. 

Usable Across Various Markets 

It speaks volumes about Interac’s versatility in that it’s usable across a variety of different industries. Since being founded in 1984, the Canadian interbank network has become integral to numerous markets, including local air travel. Air Canada, which has been operating since 1937, has expanded their accepted payment methods, and now passengers can pay for their flights using Interac. According to the airline’s official website, the Interac Online service lets consumers pay for their tickets via the internet directly from their bank account. 

Not only that, but Interac is also available at Walmart. In November 2020, the two organizations partnered together to expand in-store and online payment options. Walmart has adapted well to the digital trend, with American Banker reporting that they’ve opened Interac Flash sale points throughout their stores. 


Source: Unsplash

Aside from the above, Interac has also taken the digital world by storm. Following its rapid rise to prominence, the solution has also altered the online casino industry, with platforms like Genesis Casino now accepting the transaction type. The provider, which features Interac Canadian casino options, uses the popular payment method to enhance transaction speeds of deposits and withdrawals, as well as security. Players can use Interac Online and Interac e-Transfer to make deposits or withdrawals from their desktops or mobiles as the platform is fully optimized. 

A Reflection of Modern-Day Society 

In recent times, Interac recorded a 55 percent increase in transactions between April and August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, as per BNN Bloomberg. These figures somewhat reflect the current state of e-Commerce and modern consumerism. Following the rise of Interac and other payment methods, it’s now less troublesome for consumers to complete in-store and online purchases. 


Source: PxHere

There’s an ever-growing perception that land-based businesses need to adapt within the digital era and accept forward-thinking payment methods. According to Cision, Interac is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy, and a year-on-year increase in Interac Debit payments of 333 percent reflects that. Not only that, but Interac e-Transfer payments are growing at 52 percent each year. This Interac-oriented trend appears unlikely to fade over the coming years, with the network being selected as the country’s provider for a new real-time payment system, as per Lexology. 

Consumer Habits are Changing 

There can be no doubt that consumerism has changed drastically over the past decade. The popularity of Interac suggests that a cashless future may be on the horizon, with increasing numbers of shoppers enjoying the security of online payment methods. While it’s currently unclear if that will happen, Interac appears to be prevalent for the long run.

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Your Education and Certificates Need to Align the Job Requirements

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After your professional experience, your education/certifications (verified skills) will be the next section on your resume the reader will use to judge whether you go into the “to be interviewed” pile. 

Many job seekers apply to job postings knowing they don’t have the education/certification requirements. They believe their “experience” will compensate. With so many highly qualified job seekers now on the job market this is rarely the case. If your education/certifications align with the job requirements, the education section of your resume will play a critical part in setting you apart from all the “spray and pray” job seekers.

Suppose a job posting for a Director of Finance lists as a qualification “Canadian Accounting Designation (CPA).” You have a university degree and 15 years of experience managing a mid-size company’s finances, but no CPA—don’t bother applying. Job postings generate an influx of applicants. Undoubtedly there’ll be many applicants who possess a CPA applying. There’s also the employer’s ATS to consider, which likely has been programmed to scan for “CPA.”  

Education background information you should provide:

  • Degree/certification obtained 
  • School’s name
  • Location of school
  • Period of attendance
  • Relevant coursework
  • Honors, academic recognition, extracurricular activities, or organizations participation worth mentioning

When it comes to presenting your educational background keep your ego in check. You may have impressive education background; however, it may not be impressive for the job you’re vying for. Prioritize relevancy over perceived prestige.

Here’s my suggestion how to present your education/certificates (there’s no hard formatting rule):

BS Biomedical Science

University of Calgary, Calgary, AB — 09/1992 – 06/1996

Courses:

  • Principles of Human Genetics
  • Organismal Biology
  • Principles and Mechanisms of Pharmacology
  • Advanced Bioinformatics

PMP® Certification

Ryerson University Continuing Education, Toronto, ON — 10/2001 – 04/2003

Courses:

  • Planning and Scheduling
  • Leadership in Project Management
  • Project Cost and Procurement Management
  • Project Risk and Quality Management

As I’ve pointed out in previous columns— there’s no universal hiring methodology. No two hiring managers assess candidates the same way. Depending on the job requirements respective employers search for different things when it comes to a candidate’s education. Read the qualifications in the job posting carefully. Then present your education/credentials accordingly. Don’t hesitate to add/remove courses to better tie in your education towards the job. It’s for this reason I suggest you list courses, not just your degree/certification. Listing of courses is rarely done, doing so will give your resume a competitive advantage.

You’ll have noticed my examples indicated start and end dates. Many “career experts” advise against this. The thinking being dates, even just the graduation year, will give employer’s a sense of your age, which if your over 45 can hinder and prolong your job search. This advice is supposed to be a workaround to ageism. However, these same “career experts” unanimously agree employment dates (month/year) need to be indicated. To me, this is a mixed message.    

I believe in complete transparency from both sides of the hiring process. Full transparency ensures the likelihood of there being a solid fit for both parties. At some point, whether when the employer checks your digital footprint or interviews you, your interviewer will have a good indication of your age. Besides, not mentioning dates, which I call “obvious” information, is a red flag. 

If your age is a deal-breaker with an employer, they aren’t the employer for you. The job search advice I give most often: Seek employers who’ll most likely accept you, where you’ll feel you belong—look for your tribe.

Some professions, such as finance or healthcare, require specific certifications or degrees. In such cases, show you have the necessary “must-have” (a deal-breaker if you don’t) credentials by placing your education at the top of the page just below your contact information before your professional experience.

One last note: Often overlooked is education in progress. If relevant, this should be included in your resume. In this case, list pertinent courses and the month/year you intend to graduate.

Using suggestions in this and previous columns you are now able to create a resume that “WOWs.” Next week, I’m going to begin discussing cover letters. Yes, many hiring managers, like myself, do read cover letters, which have one purpose—to give the reader a reason to read your resume.

______________________________________________________________

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send him your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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