Company planning to make COVID-19 vaccines in Canada warns it could go out of business
An American company that signed a deal with the federal government to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Montreal has warned investors it could go out of business within the year.
Executives at Maryland-based Novavax NVAX-Q told investors on a conference call Tuesday that there is significant uncertainty surrounding the company’s ability to continue funding operations as the market for COVID-19 vaccines changes.
“While our current business plan and cash flow forecast estimate that we have sufficient capital available to fund our operations for the next 12 months, we recognize that this plan is subject to significant uncertainty,” Jim Kelly, Novavax’s chief financial officer, said on the call.
He said the company, which lost more than $600-million last year, doesn’t expect to sell any new vaccine during the first three months of 2023 and there are fears that funding from the United States government could be cut.
The company, which has more than $1.3-billion in cash in hand, is counting on its ability to develop and sell an updated COVID-19 vaccine next fall and is cutting costs, Kelly told investors.
In February 2021, the federal government announced a deal with Novavax to begin producing its vaccine at a National Research Council facility in Montreal.
At the time, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the facility – which has the potential to produce around two million doses of vaccine a month – would be in position to begin production at the end of 2021.
However, on an NRC website last updated in December, the federal science and technology agency said it is still working on the “technology transfer” required to produce the vaccine.
In an e-mail Wednesday evening, Novavax said it remains committed to making its vaccine in Canada.
“Novavax continues to make progress towards establishing local manufacturing capabilities in partnership with NRC/(Biologics Manufacturing Centre), with manufacturing of process performance qualification batches expected to begin in early 2023,” the company said.
Laurie Bouchard, a spokeswoman for Champagne, said in an e-mail that “at this time, there are no expected changes to the partnership between Novavax and the BMC.”
The company is currently the NRC’s only client at the Montreal biomanufacturing centre, which was completed in 2021 and is intended to produce biopharmaceuticals such as vaccines.
“We’re continuing to explore options with potential collaborators on producing vaccines and other biologics at the facility on its second production line,” Christine Jodoin, the vice-president of strategic initiatives at the NRC, wrote in an e-mail.
Canada has struggled to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine production. A deal with Chinese company CanSino Biologics – which could have seen the company’s vaccine manufactured at the Montreal facility – fell apart in the summer of 2020.
Mitsubishi Chemical announced early last month that another company planning the commercial manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada, Quebec-based Medicago Inc., would be shut down.
However, in August, vaccine giant Moderna announced it would build a new manufacturing facility in the Montreal suburb of Laval.
Bouchard said the government’s approach to acquiring COVID-19 vaccines ensured Canadians had access to vaccines quickly and reversed 40 years of decline in Canada’s biomanufacturing sector.
“So far, we have invested $1.8-billion towards 33 projects across the country and we continue to invest in the researchers, talent and innovation that will keep strengthening the Canadian life sciences ecosystem,” she wrote.
First Citizens acquires troubled Silicon Valley Bank – CP24
North Carolina-based First Citizens will buy Silicon Valley Bank, the tech industry-focused financial institution that collapsed earlier this month, rattling the banking industry and sending shockwaves around the world.
The deal could reassure investors at a time of shaken confidence in banks, though the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other regulators had already taken extraordinary steps to head off a wider banking crisis by guaranteeing that depositors in SVB and another failed U.S. bank would be able to access all of their money.
Customers of SVB will automatically become customers of First Citizens, which is headquartered in Raleigh. The 17 former branches of SVB will open as First Citizens branches Monday, the FDIC said.
European shares opened higher Monday, with German lender Commerzbank AG up 2.4% and BNP Paribas up 1.2%.
Investors worry that other banks also may crumble under the pressure of higher interest rates. On Friday, much of the focus was on Deutsche Bank, whose stock tumbled 8.5% in Germany, though it was back up about 3.6% in early trading Monday. Earlier this month, shares of and faith in Swiss bank Credit Suisse fell so much that regulators brokered a takeover of by rival UBS.
In the U.S., SVB, based in Santa Clara, California, collapsed March 10 after depositors rushed to withdraw money amid fears about the bank’s health. It was the second-largest bank collapse in U.S. history after the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual. Two days later, New York-based Signature Bank was seized by regulators in the third-largest bank failure in the U.S.
In both cases, the government agreed to cover deposits, even those that exceeded the federally insured limit of $250,000, so depositors were able to access their money.
New York Community Bank agreed to buy a significant chunk of Signature Bank in a $2.7 billion deal a week ago, but the search for a buyer for SVB took longer.
The sale announced late Sunday involves the sale of all deposits and loans of SVB to First-Citizens Bank and Trust Co., the FDIC said.
The acquisition gives the FDIC shares in First Citizens worth $500 million. Both the FDIC and First Citizens will share in losses and the potential recovery on loans included in a loss-share agreement, the FDIC said.
First Citizens Bank was founded in 1898 and says it has more than $100 billion in total assets, with more than 500 branches in 21 states as well as a nationwide bank. It reported net profit of $243 million in the last quarter. It is one of the top 20 U.S. banks and says it is the largest family-controlled bank in the country.
Shoppers Drug Mart moves away from medical cannabis, will send patients to Avicanna – CTV News
Shoppers Drug Mart Inc. is moving away from its medical cannabis distribution business and preparing to transfer patients to a platform run by biopharmaceutical company Avicanna Inc.
The pharmacy chain owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd. announced the shift Tuesday, but did not say what prompted the change or how much money Toronto-based Avicanna is paying for Shoppers to refer patients to its MyMedi.ca platform.
“We are grateful for the trust placed in us by our medical cannabis patients over the past few years, and are confident we’ve found the right partner in Avicanna to continue to support them,” said Jeff Leger, Shoppers’ president, in a statement.
His company will start to send customers to Avicanna’s platform in early May, with all of the patients set to be off-loaded from Shoppers’ medical pot service by the end of July. Customers will be able to place orders on Shoppers’ website through the transition period.
Avicanna said it will offer a similar range of products including various formats, brands and “competitive pricing.” Like Shoppers, its online medical portal will strive to educate customers around harm reduction and provide specialty services for distinct patient groups like veterans.
Shoppers first launched its medical cannabis business in Ontario in January 2019, months after recreational pot was legalized in Canada (medical pot was legalized in Canada in 2001) at a time when many predicted the weed sector would be booming in the coming years.
The sector has instead struggled with profitability and as high numbers of recreational cannabis shops cluster in several cities, many retailers and licensed producers have had to drop their prices to stay competitive.
However, Shoppers said it racked up tens of thousands of patients in its four years of existence, providing them with access to cannabis from more than 30 brands including Aphria Inc., Hexo Corp.’s Redecan and the Green Organic Dutchman.
Shoppers’ medical cannabis patients were required to obtain a prescription from a licensed health care provider such as a doctor to begin ordering pot from the company, which shipped orders to their homes.
But the company was unhappy with how medical pot regulations limited its model. Shoppers claimed Tuesday that medical cannabis remains the only medication that is not dispensed in pharmacies.
“As we move away from medical cannabis distribution, we remain firm in our belief that this medication should be dispensed in pharmacies like all others and will continue our advocacy to that end,” said Leger.
Avicanna’s statement did not outline its feelings on the matters, but its chief executive said it was “motivated” to “put our full efforts toward advancing medical cannabis and its incorporation into the standard of care.”
“We are thankful to be selected as the partner for this transition and look forward to introducing MyMedi.ca, supporting patients and providing them with continuity of care,” said Avicanna chief executive Aras Azadian in a statement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023
US charges Sam Bankman-Fried with bribing Chinese officials – The Guardian
US prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled a new indictment against Sam Bankman-Fried, accusing the founder of now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange of conspiring to bribe Chinese government officials with $40m worth of payments.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Bankman-Fried with directing the payment in order to unfreeze accounts belonging to his hedge fund, Alameda Research, that Chinese authorities had frozen. The accounts held more than $1bn of cryptocurrency, US prosecutors said.
The accounts were unfrozen after the bribe payment was transferred around November 2021 from Alameda’s main trading account to a private cryptocurrency wallet, according to the new indictment.
After the accounts were unfrozen, Bankman-Fried authorized a transfer of tens of millions of dollars of additional cryptocurrency to complete the bribe, prosecutors said.
The new charge increases the pressure on the 31-year-old former billionaire, who had previously pleaded not guilty to eight counts over the collapse of FTX. Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars in customer funds to plug Alameda losses.
Lawyers for Bankman-Fried did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bankman-Fried has acknowledged inadequate risk management at FTX, but has denied stealing money.
China’s foreign ministry could not immediately be reached after normal business hours in Beijing.
District judge Lewis Kaplan scheduled a court hearing for Thursday after prosecutors asked for Bankman-Fried to be arraigned on the new 13-count indictment.
Prosecutors last month unveiled four new counts against Bankman-Fried, accusing him of orchestrating an illegal campaign donation scheme to buy influence in Washington DC. He has not yet been arraigned on the new charges.
The new count accuses Bankman-Fried of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which makes it illegal for US citizens to bribe foreign government officials to win business.
Bankman-Fried is currently confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California, home on $250m bond ahead of his 2 October trial.
On Monday, his lawyers and prosecutors reached a new agreement on revised bail conditions, after Kaplan raised the prospect of sending Bankman-Fried to jail pending trial. That came after prosecutors raised concerns he may have been tampering with witnesses.
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