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McMaster lab to screen for rare antibody that causes blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccine –



A team of doctors at Hamilton’s McMaster University is preparing to test blood samples from across Canada in search of a rare type of clot linked to the Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

There have been no cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) in Canada, but there have been cases in Europe. Since those cases, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended pausing administration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to those under age 55.

The McMaster team is preparing to screen blood samples of Canadian patients who may have had VIPIT.

In the meantime, clinical hematologist Meneka Pai, among doctors involved in the McMaster testing, says she likes the idea of pausing the vaccine for “more study” into its safety.

“Ten days ago, we didn’t know that this condition existed, so things are moving really fast,” Pai told CBC News. 

Dr. Menaka Pai, a clinical hematologist at McMaster University Menaka Pai and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, says ‘things are moving fast’ when it comes to vaccine-related findings. (Submitted by Menaka Pai)

“I think when things are moving so fast, just taking this brief pause [allows us to] figure out what’s going on … gather more data, tighten up those estimations and continue doing surveillance in Canada to make sure we’re not seeing these cases.”

When a blood clot occurs, the flow of blood stops, said Pai. 

“In many blood clots, it’s platelets, little sticky cells — they basically turn on and they form a jam. If you get a blood clot, it stops healthy blood from flowing to the area. And it actually stops deoxygenated blood from draining, so there’s a problem with flowing in and flowing out,” said Pai.

“In VIPIT, what happens is that patients get the vaccine, and then it seems that four to 20 days later, their body makes a molecule called an antibody and that antibody actually attacks the person’s own platelets. These platelets switch on and they get sticky. Now you have these sticky cells and they start to form clots.

“So the real key with VIPIT is there’s this predisposing factor of the vaccine, and then the immune response revs up, and then four to 20 days later, we see this very dangerous antibody forming,” the hematologist said.

More women than men, but why?

Pai, who is also a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said while there have been no vaccine-induced VIPIT cases in Canada, the majority of them elsewhere involved people under 55, and more often women.

But Pai said it’s not known if this is a predisposition, because countries in Europe preferentially gave the AstraZeneca vaccine to younger people and health-care workers. There are more women in the latter group.

“We don’t know if it’s true that it’s women under age 55 who are very at-risk, or is it just because this is who got the AstraZeneca vaccine in the countries that are reporting? So, we’re waiting on data,” she said.

“Is the U.K. going to tell us something different, because they vaccinated older people? We’re sort of keeping our ears open but right now.”

Dr. Donald Arnold, medical director of the Platelet Immunology Laboratory at McMaster University, says the school’s lab is ‘very equipped’ to do special testing for platelet disorders. (Submitted by Jessica Clarke)

Dr. Donald Arnold, medical director of the Platelet Immunology Laborotory at McMaster, said preliminary reports from Europe show people who develop VIPIT had “very positive tests in what’s called platelet activation assays.”

He said the McMaster lab is “very equipped” to do those tests. The lab runs specialized tests for different types of platelet disorders, including screening for Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT).

Know the risks

People with HIT sometimes develop a low platelet count and blood clots.

“As it turned out, this vaccine-induced syndrome called VIPIT is very similar to Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and the testing is quite similar as well,” Arnold told CBC News.

“We’re the only reference lab in Canada that does this whole battery of testing. It has, up until now, been a fairly niche area and not a common test that’s been required although it had its own place in medicine, looking for this type of disorder called HIT.”

Arnold said the lab is offering “confirmatory testing” for anyone in Canada suspected of developing vaccine-induced VIPIT.

“I think what really has to happen with this vaccine is people who get it, and doctors who are giving it or overseeing it, have to be aware that this is a potential risk and know what signs and symptoms to look out for.”

Symptoms include headaches and seizures

Arnold added: “If a person does end up presenting with some of those signs and symptoms, they should be investigated with routine tests first and then a consultation with a hematologist should happen.

“If there is still a suspicion that this could be a real case of vaccine-induced VIPIT, then they should send the sample to us to do the confirmation.” The lab will be able to detect VIPIT in two or three days. 

An advisory issued by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says VIPIT symptoms include:

  • Persistent and severe headaches.
  • Seizures.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest or abdominal pain.
  • Redness in a limb.

“We just want to give clinicians and Canadians the best information on how to detect this and treat this — that’s the goal of the science table,” said Pai.

“We’re not making vaccine policy. We’re here to tell people we know what this is, we know how to treat it, if it happens you’re going to be ready to give the patient really good care.”

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Canadian National challenges Canadian Pacific with $33.7 billion Kansas City bid



By Shreyasee Raj

(Reuters) -Canadian National said on Tuesday it had offered to buy Kansas City Southern railroad for about $33.7 billion, and shares of U.S. company soared as investors anticipated a potential bidding war with Canadian Pacific.

Canadian Pacific had agreed a deal to acquire Kansas City Southern for about $25 billion last month. Either combination would create a North American railway spanning the United States, Mexico and Canada as supply chains recover from being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The acquisition interest in Kansas City Southern also follows the ratification of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement last year, that removed the threat of trade tensions which had escalated under former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kansas City said it would evaluate Canadian National’s offer. If it found it could lead to a better deal, Canadian Pacific will be given the opportunity to raise its bid.

Canadian National’s cash-and-stock offer, worth $325 per share, is at a 26.8% premium to Kansas City Southern’s offer as of Monday’s trading close.

“We are surprised by this move given the healthy valuation Canadian Pacific had already offered to Kansas City Southern shareholders,” Stephens analyst Justin Long wrote in a note to clients.

Kansas City Southern shares rose 15.8% to $297.12, indicating most investors deemed it unlikely the company would stick with Canadian Pacific’s offer.

One investor that took a different view is Chilton Investment Co, which has a less than 1% stake in Kansas City Southern. Citing regulatory hurdles, it said it preferred a deal with Canadian Pacific.

“There’s more overlap with Canadian National deal which makes it harder to get (regulatory) approval. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) doesn’t like overlap,” Chilton CEO Richard Chilton said.

Canadian National CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest said his network and that of Kansas City Southern are “highly complementary networks with limited overlap.” They only run parallel for 65 miles, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Kansas City Southern has domestic and international rail operations in North America, focused on the north-south freight corridor connecting commercial and industrial markets in the central United States with industrial cities in Mexico. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is Canada’s No. 2 railroad operator, behind Canadian National.

The STB updated its merger regulations in 2001 to introduce a requirement that Class I railways have to show a deal is in the public interest. Yet it provided an exemption to Kansas City Southern given its small size, potentially limiting the scrutiny that its acquisition will be subjected to.

Canadian Pacific agreed in its negotiations with Kansas City Southern to bear most of the risk of the deal not going through. It will buy Kansas City Southern shares and place them in an independent voting trust, insulating the acquisition target from its control until the STBLatest clears the deal. Were the STB to reject the combination, Canadian Pacific would have to sell the shares of Kansas City Southern, but the current Kansas City Southern shareholders would keep their proceeds.

Canadian National said it was willing to match these terms. It said its offer does not require approval from its own shareholders because of how much cash it has, eliminating a condition in Canadian Pacific’s offer.

Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, which is Canadian National’s biggest investor with a 14.25% stake, said it fully supports the combination.

A private equity consortium led by Blackstone Group Inc and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) made an unsuccessful offer last year to acquire Kansas City Southern. But it was Canadian Pacific’s announcement of a deal with Kansas City Southern that spurred Canadian National into action, as it raised the prospect of losing out to its rival, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Shreyasee Raj and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Anil D’Silva and David Gregorio)

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CEO shake-up at Canada’s Nutrien could pave way to M&A: shareholders



By Rod Nickel and Maiya Keidan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Investors expect the new chief executive of Canada‘s Nutrien Ltd to swing deals as part of a more aggressive growth strategy, after an abrupt shake-up at Canada‘s biggest agriculture company.

Nutrien, the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by capacity, surprised shareholders on Sunday by promoting its chairman, Mayo Schmidt, to CEO, replacing Chuck Magro, who had led the company since it formed from Agrium’s 2018 merger with Potash Corp.

Schmidt, raised on a Kansas farm, is best known for leading the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain cooperative’s acquisition of competitor Agricore United in 2007, creating Viterra Inc, one of Canada‘s biggest grain handlers. He subsequently bought Australia’s ABB Grain before leading the sale of Viterra to commodity trader Glencore PLC in 2012.

“Acceleration of M&A is a natural progression as we enter the next commodity supercycle,” said Michael Underhill, chief investment officer at Capital Innovations LLC, which owns Nutrien shares. “I would not bet against him.”

Nutrien shares were down 1.3% on Tuesday, after falling 3.5% on Monday. They have risen about 35% year over year, riding soaring corn prices, but gained only 2% since they began trading in 2018.

Some investors had grown uncertain about Nutrien’s growth strategy under Magro, said Mike Archibald, vice-president and portfolio manager at AGF Investments, which owns C$136 million ($109 million) worth of the company’s stock.

Archibald said now the strategy looks likely to shift to deals.

“The incoming CEO does have a history as a deal-maker so, to the extent he lives up to what he’s done in the past, we should expect sometime in the next 12 months that we’ll get something happening on the M&A front,” Archibald said.


Nutrien could try to acquire U.S. nitrogen fertilizer rival CF Industries, which has a $10-billion market capitalization, or accelerate the company’s roll-up of smaller farm retail stores, Archibald said. A CF spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Conversely, Schmidt could sell off the retail business to focus on fertilizer production, Archibald said.

Nutrien declined an interview request for Schmidt. A company spokeswoman said Schmidt’s plans include following the company’s climate change initiatives, which Magro unveiled this month.

Schmidt may also eye selling Nutrien’s phosphate fertilizer business, even though it recently got a boost from U.S. duties against Russian and Moroccan imports, said Brian Madden, senior vice-president at Goodreid Investment Counsel, a Nutrien shareholder.

The CEO change is positive, as Schmidt has an exceptional record of creating shareholder value, said Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson. He added that Nutrien could look to consolidate the nitrogen industry.

Schmidt would find it difficult to sell Nutrien itself, Madden said. There is no obvious domestic acquirer and the Canadian government rejected a foreign bid for Potash Corp in 2010.

“Schmidt has got cred in the ag world,” Madden said. But he added that abruptly changing chief executives is not how successions should occur at large companies.



(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canadian Business During the Pandemic



In 2019 the world was hit by the covid 19 pandemic and ever since then people have been suffering in different ways. Usually, economies and businesses have changed the way they work and do business. Most of which are going towards online and automation.

The people most effected by this are the laymen that used to work hard labors to make money for there families. But other then them it has been hard for most business to make such switch. Those of whom got on the online/ e commerce band wagon quickly were out of trouble and into the safe zone but not everyone is mace for the high-speed online world and are thus suffering.

More than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis, throwing millions of people out of work as the resurgence of the virus worsens across much of the country, according to new research. You can only imagine how many families these businesses were feeding, not to mention the impact the economy and the GDP is going to bear.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said one in six, or about 181,000, Canadian small business owners are now seriously contemplating shutting down. The latest figures, based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and 16, come on top of 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.

An estimate by the CFIB last summer said one in seven or 158,000 businesses were at risk of going under as a result of the pandemic. Based on the organization’s updated forecast, more than 2.4 million people could be out of work. A staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs.

Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s senior director of national research, said it was an alarming increase in the number of businesses that are considering closing.

We are not headed in the right direction, and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision,”

He said in a statement.

The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose, and the harder it will be for the economy to recover.

In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, the organization said.

The new sad research shows that this year has been horrible for the Canadian businesses.


The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, executive vice-president of the CFIB, in a statement.

She called on governments to help small businesses “replace subsidies with sales” by introducing safe pathways to reopen to businesses.

There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue to support for local soccer teams,”

Jones said.

Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving.”

The whole world has suffered a lot from the pandemic and the Canadian economy has been no stranger to it. We can only pray that the world gets rid of this pandemic quickly and everything become as it used to be. Although I think it is about time, we start setting new norms.

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