TechTalk Blog
Municipal Software Cut Red Ribbon at New Location

Municipal Software Corporation, the developer of local government business process automation software, CityView, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Municipal Solutions Group, Inc. (TSX-V:MSM), celebrated their move to the award-winning Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) with a Grand Opening event on June 4th.

President and CEO Robert Bennett welcomed guests to the opening by pointing out that "We are delighted that the Province of BC and the Municipality of Saanich saw the opportunity to develop such a fine location, and we are proud to call VITP our home." Bennett went on to say that " Municipal Software is an excellent example of BC entrepreneurship. While we went public on the TSX Venture Exchange in 2002, the company was actually founded here in Victoria in 1982, and has been steadily growing since that point in time."

The Grand Opening included guest speaker The Honorable Susan Brice, Minister of State for Mental Health and Addiction Services, a long-time champion for the creation of a high-tech park in Victoria . David Anderson, PC, MP, Frank Leonard, Mayor of Saanich, The Honorable Ida Chong, MLA and Bill Cooke, CEO of VIATeC also attended and spoke at the event.

According to Bennett, "Our new home at VITP is a very good fit for us, both in terms of space and vision. We know that there will be many advantages that we can derive from being located in this high tech cluster. As we continue to grow as a company and as our vision for CityView evolves, we need to have the best possible work environment, conducive to creative and strategic thinking, in keeping with our mission to be the partner of choice to local governments for business process automation software."

The company has steadily grown in size, from a handful of employees to close to 50 today and consequently outgrew its former space at Shelbourne and McKenzie. The new 16,000 square foot space at the Tech Park houses the company's Application Development, Product Development, Customer Education, Marketing and Administration departments. They still also retain satellite offices in Toronto and Denver .

Bennett says that Municipal Software needed a "showcase" location where clients, and prospective clients, can come and work collaboratively with the company, and see "where it all happens". VITP certainly meets this need. The Tech Park will allow Municipal Software to further strengthen its customer-centred focus, including a Client Office space where clients can come and test out their new CityView software. Situated in a campus-like, rural setting on 14.2 hectares (35 acres), with an existing premise of 165,000 square feet, zoned for research, office and high tech manufacturing, the Tech Park is quickly becoming a premier location for high tech companies on Vancouver Island .

"We are really excited to have a world-class software firm like Municipal Software as a tenant," said Dale Gann, Manager of Business Development and Marketing for the VITP. "The Tech Park is more than a building-it is the center of technology on Vancouver Island , where anyone can visit and really get a sense of what is happening in our local high tech industry. Certainly Municipal Software is well-recognized and respected in this sector and we look forward to building our relationship with the company as they continue to grow."

CityView is a true enterprise solution that integrates functions across an organization and enables e-government. CityView helps government automate business processes such as Building, Planning, Code Enforcement, Business Licensing, Public Works, Emergency Management and more. Award-winning CityView integrates with existing systems, including financials, other departmental automation software, document management, IVR, cashiering, field data collection and GIS. With clients in 30 states and five provinces, and in business for over 21 years, Municipal Software Corporation is the one-stop provider of everything government needs for an enterprise solution, including the software, the training, the services and the post-purchase support. Perhaps most importantly, CityView allows local governments to build their enterprise systems one application at a time, without breaking their budget.

Premier wants B.C. to be 'one of the world's biotechnology centres'

On Monday, Campbell and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer opened Canada's exhibit at Bio 2004 in San Francisco, a massive industry convention where B.C. is increasingly seen as the darling of the sector.

"We're starting to create our own critical mass here in British Columbia," Campbell said. "My hope is that over the next five to 10 years, British Columbia becomes recognized as one of the world's biotechnology centres."

B.C., which has Canada's fastest growing biotech industry, has the largest Canadian delegation on the convention floor — a convention that has drawn 20,000 delegates from around the world.

Looming large among B.C.'s delegation is Paul Hastings, CEO of QLT Inc., a Vancouver-based company dedicated to discovering and developing therapies to treat eye disease, cancer and skin conditions.

Hastings, an American, left a top position with a San Francisco pharmaceutical company two years ago for Vancouver and is encouraging others to do the same.

"We're here giving the message … that our province is a great place to do biotech business," he said Monday. "The cost of doing business is low."

Hastings, who still owns a large home in San Francisco, hosted the premier and 150 venture capitalists on Monday night in an effort to build investment in B.C.

"It's a common fact that when you have a cluster [of biotech companies] beginning to form like we do in Vancouver, it attracts other companies," he said.

Hastings cites B.C.'s tax environment, skilled workforce, quality universities and researchers and the tax credits offered to research and development projects among the benefits of starting or relocating companies to Vancouver.

"My quality of life in Vancouver is just spectacular," Hastings said. "I sound like a B.C. evangelist but I'm actually just happy to be living here."

B.C. has the fastest growing biotech industry in Canada with 90 private sector firms plus a host of university researchers, teaching hospitals and research institutes. The B.C. industry is dominated by the health care sector with the focus on such things as new AIDS, HIV and cancer therapies and the treatment of arthritis and asthma.

In Vancouver, biotech firms employ 2,600 people and the pharmaceutical industry employs another 1,100.

Healthy Signs in BC's Life Sciences Industry

VICTORIA BC—April 1st, 2004 (Vancouver Island Technology Park)—Today, Genome British Columbia's University of Victoria Proteomics Centre and MDS Metro Laboratory Services celebrate the official opening of their new facilities at Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP).

Both facilities are now in full operation, bringing 170 highly skilled technologists, scientists and researchers to 20,000 square feet of laboratory space at VITP.

Susan Brice, MLA Saanich South, will officiate at the opening, which will be attended by representatives from a number of life sciences companies.

“This is a wonderful example of what happens when academia, business and biotechnology come together,” said Brice. “This is good news for the community and shows how technology growth can support communities throughout the province.”

“As the minister responsible for the Vancouver Island Technology Park, I am pleased to see how the leading edge research and development companies at VITP are helping establish BC as Canada's leader in life sciences,” said Joyce Murray, minister responsible for BCBC.

In March 2003, MDS Metro, Genome BC and UVic signed a collaborative agreement to establish the Genome BC/UVic proteomics research facility at VITP and work together to develop and implement new analytical tools for more accurate medical diagnostics and treatments. MDS Metro also announced the relocation of its Victoria analytical facilities to VITP.

“This move and collaboration represents not only significant investment in BC's economy, but the creation of a nucleus for innovation and biotechnology excellence. Our move to VITP also reaffirms our commitment to Vancouver Island and this community,” said Bob Breen, president and COO of MDS Metro.

"This is an excellent and timely initiative for UVic. This collaboration with MDS builds on our strength and profile as a leader in proteomics research, allowing us to expand our capabilities, which will ultimately benefit BC and Canada,” said Dr. Martin Taylor, vice-president of research at the University of Victoria.

VITP provides the opportunity for complementary organizations in academia, business and biotechnology to work together to create world-class research that will contribute enormously to BC's economic development, said Dale Gann, VITP's business development and marketing manager. “Our mix of organizations and concentration of activity are attracting more medical and scientific professionals to BC.”

“The VITP model is a great example of how we can build an internationally competitive life sciences cluster in British Columbia,” said Dr. Alan Winter, president and CEO, Genome BC.

Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Completes First-Round Private Equity Financing, Raising $ US 57 million

Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corporation, creators of a unique pharmaceutical asset partnering model, today announced the completion of a $57 million (Cdn$76 million) private equity financing.

Sprout Group, one of the oldest and largest US institutional venture capital firms and an affiliate of Credit Suisse First Boston, led the investment. Other participants in the international syndicate include InterWest Partners, HBM Partners, Thomas Weisel Healthcare Ventures, BioAsia Investments LLC and Axiom Venture Partners.

This financing, one of the largest series A financings reported in North America , consists of $53 million venture capital funds and $4.2 million in converted debt.

Aspreva's initial core therapeutic area of focus is autoimmunity, and the company will use these proceeds to initiate and fund clinical trials in several autoimmune diseases with CellCept ® (mycophenolate mofetil), its first licensed therapeutic. In addition it will grow the business through further key hires and product partnerships. The company will expand the number of core therapeutic franchises based upon future strategic alliances utilizing its novel asset partnering model.

In October 2003, Aspreva announced a major partnership with F. Hoffmann La-Roche, in which Aspreva acquired the worldwide rights (excluding Japan ) to develop and commercialize Roche's transplant medication CellCept for all autoimmune indications. CellCept is currently the leading branded transplant medication in the United States and holds tremendous promise for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. For example, clinical research, including a significant study reported in the March 4, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, has demonstrated the potential value of CellCept over the current standard of care in the treatment of lupus nephritis.

Richard Glickman, Chairman and CEO commented, “We are pleased to be working with investors of this caliber. They have the depth of experience and understanding of the pharmaceutical industry that will make them significant contributors as Aspreva executes its business plan and undergoes a phase of rapid growth. In the next twelve months, with multiple phase III trials on-going, operations on three continents and one of the most promising new autoimmune disease treatments in CellCept, Aspreva will emerge as a major force in the autoimmune disease arena.”

"Aspreva's ability to attract such leading investors is further confirmation of the relevance of our business model. The unique Aspreva asset partnering approach unlocks a whole new paradigm for the pharmaceutical industry, addressing the need to maximize the value of existing product assets while maintaining core market focus. It also speaks to the excitement around the potential use of CellCept in autoimmune diseases such as lupus, for which there has been no new approved medication for more than 30 years," said Noel Hall, President and Co-Founder of Aspreva.

Ron Hunt, Partner at Sprout Group, commented, "We made a significant investment in Aspreva based on the company's seasoned leadership, visionary approach to drug commercialization and tremendous asset in CellCept. From our perspective, Aspreva's deal with Roche is one of the best licensing agreements recently forged in the industry, establishing a strong foundation for Aspreva's commercialization program and allowing Roche's product to target new markets. We believe that CellCept could be valuable in the treatment of a number of autoimmune diseases, addressing the needs of millions of patients in North America alone."

Mr. Hunt will be joining Aspreva's Board of Directors, as will Arnold Oronsky general partner of InterWest. Dr Oronsky has extensive pharmaceutical industry experience, previously holding positions as Vice President, Research, Lederle Laboratories and Head of Immunology Research, Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals.

BMO Nesbitt Burns and Harris Nesbitt, the investment and corporate banking arms of BMO Financial Group, served as financial advisor and private placement agent for Aspreva.

Victoria Biotech Software Provider Moves to Vancouver Island Technology Park

Victoria-based GenoLogics Life Sciences Software Inc announced today that the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) will house the firm’s worldwide headquarters, starting in 2004.

The VITP is already home to the UVIC Genome BC Proteomics Centre, a leader in proteomics research, and MDS Metro, a major provider of equipment and systems for life sciences researchers. GenoLogics provides Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) that manage the enormous amounts of data that result from proteomics research.

“We are very excited to have the GenoLogics Software team join VITP. Biotech in British Columbia is the third largest and fastest growing cluster in Canada; this announcement is a sign that cluster development is breeding success. VITP continues to work with the private sector companies and post-secondary institutions to commercialize our Intellectual Property and make BC a leader in life sciences,” Dale Gann, Manager, Business Development, VITP said.

“We built a large portion of our software in collaboration with the UVIC Genome BC Proteomics Centre,” said James DeGreef, GenoLogics President and CEO. “Its great to have our offices in the same complex as the Proteomics Centre as we build out new functionality that is ultimately destined for laboratories just like theirs.”

DeGreef cited other reasons for the move, including his firm’s rapid growth, and his desire to be in the epicentre of Vancouver Island’s growing technology community. “To maximize your growth in a technology business you need to surround yourself with business development opportunities and like-minded professionals,” said DeGreef. “The Tech Park is the ideal location for any technology company on the move.”

GenoLogics is a company on the move. I late 2003, the firm placed second in a field of 113 in the TELUS New Ventures BC competition, a business plan contest where a jury of venture capitalists, angel investors and financiers assess each venture’s commercial viability and each team’s ability to execute in the marketplace. Shortly afterward GenoLogics presented at the Human Proteome Organisation’s World Conference in Montreal, and then installed their flagship product, ProteusLIMSTM, at the Proteomics Research Centre at the University of Toronto, another leading Canadian proteomics facility.

Victoria Biotech Software Provider Moves to Vancouver Island Technology Park

Victoria-based GenoLogics Life Sciences Software Inc announced today that the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) will house the firm’s worldwide headquarters, starting in 2004.

The VITP is already home to the UVIC Genome BC Proteomics Centre, a leader in proteomics research, and MDS Metro, a major provider of equipment and systems for life sciences researchers. GenoLogics provides Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) that manage the enormous amounts of data that result from proteomics research.

“We are very excited to have the GenoLogics Software team join VITP. Biotech in British Columbia is the third largest and fastest growing cluster in Canada; this announcement is a sign that cluster development is breeding success. VITP continues to work with the private sector companies and post-secondary institutions to commercialize our Intellectual Property and make BC a leader in life sciences,” Dale Gann, Manager, Business Development, VITP said.

“We built a large portion of our software in collaboration with the UVIC Genome BC Proteomics Centre,” said James DeGreef, GenoLogics President and CEO. “Its great to have our offices in the same complex as the Proteomics Centre as we build out new functionality that is ultimately destined for laboratories just like theirs.”

DeGreef cited other reasons for the move, including his firm’s rapid growth, and his desire to be in the epicentre of Vancouver Island’s growing technology community. “To maximize your growth in a technology business you need to surround yourself with business development opportunities and like-minded professionals,” said DeGreef. “The Tech Park is the ideal location for any technology company on the move.”

GenoLogics is a company on the move. I late 2003, the firm placed second in a field of 113 in the TELUS New Ventures BC competition, a business plan contest where a jury of venture capitalists, angel investors and financiers assess each venture’s commercial viability and each team’s ability to execute in the marketplace. Shortly afterward GenoLogics presented at the Human Proteome Organisation’s World Conference in Montreal, and then installed their flagship product, ProteusLIMSTM, at the Proteomics Research Centre at the University of Toronto, another leading Canadian proteomics facility.

The 'green standard' builds cachet in construction circles

By Malcolm Curtis
Times Colonist, Victoria
January 02, 2004

ALL YOU NEED IS LEED 

The abbreviation stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a form of green certification that has become the hottest trend in the building business in the past year. 

Capital Regional District board members are pushing for the planned new CRD headquarters at Victoria's Centennial Square to be LEED certified — specifically with an eye to showcasing water efficiency. 

There's talk that Greater Victoria Public Library's proposed new main branch in the former Bay department store should get the LEED stamp of approval. And when developer Max Tomaszewski pitched the Bohemia retail and residential complex for the Cook Street Village the design called for LEED certified buildings. Victoria council rejected Tomaszewski's application to rezone land for the project, but he is working on a new proposal for the site at Cook and Sutlej streets. 

"There is growing interest in this," said Dale Gann, manager of development and marketing at Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich, the first and so far only project on Vancouver Island to earn LEED certification. 

Winning an environmental stamp of approval not only gives credibility to businesses, it can also bring long-term savings that more than compensate the initial up-front construction costs, he said. 

As the first project in the world to receive a gold rating for renovations, the $11.9-million technology park launched by the former NDP provincial government has inspired others to follow. 

Gann regularly receives visits from architects and high-tech business people from around the planet. Last week a group of 23 executives from Taiwan was the latest to make the pilgrimage. 

They were there to check out such features as waterless urinals, modular furniture, in-floor wiring for phone, data and power, and high-efficency heating. There's also grass-and-gravel parking lots that prevent stormwater runoff — and pollutants — from rushing into nearby Viaduct Creek. 

Creating the park involved removing asbestos and underground storage tanks from the abandoned former Glendale Hospital, where 15,300 square metres of space were renovated. An additional 21,830 square metres of new office buildings were added to the 14-hectare site near Camosun College's Interurban campus. 

The appeal of a green building for high-tech companies is that it can attract the best and brightest to work there, said Gann. "It's important for them to have a healthy work environment," he said. 

Apart from being energy efficient, the park offers space with better air quality and lighting than in older offices. Located in a park-like setting, the tech centre is linked to other parts of Saanich by bike paths, has a fitness gym and even a "wellness centre." 

The tech park opened in the summer of 2001, not the greatest timing given the economic impacts of the dot-com crash and the "war on terror." But after a slow start, 55 per cent of the office space is leased now by 12 companies employing more than 500 people. 

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, an organization formed by the American building industry to set standards for "high-performance, sustainable buildings." 

It has a checklist for projects covering such issues as building sites, water and energy efficiency, materials, indoor environmental quality and innovative design. 

A system of points is awarded for various criteria leading to basic certification and higher silver, gold and platinum ratings. 

It looks at such issues as how well a building is served by public transit and whether it has facilities for cycling commuters, uses local and recycled materials and provides work space with natural light and views. Using ecologically certified wood and paint that emits low amounts of chemicals in the air are other pluses in the LEED checklist. 

VITP is one of only two developments in B.C. with LEED certification. The other is a municipal building in White Rock. But cities such as Portland, which has established its own LEED standard and where 27 buildings are in the process of being certified, have bought into the idea. Every new municipal building project in Portland is required to be LEED certified. 

The interest in Canada is reflected by the establishment of the Canadian Green Building Council, an offshoot of the American parent, with standards adapted to meet Canadian needs. The council runs an office in VITP with headquarters in Ottawa. One of the prime issues with Canadian buildings is energy use. In this country buildings account for 40 per cent of greenhouse gases, so any improvements in efficiency can help meet federal targets to cut the gases that contribute to global warming. 

Victoria Coun. Denise Savoie, a strong LEED advocate, said the city missed an opportunity to have its $30-million arena certified. RG Properties, the Vancouver developer of the multiplex at the corner of Blanshard Street and Caledonia Avenue, has applied for the certification but it does not appear likely the building will have enough environmental features, Savoie said. 

Such issues as the parking lot planned for the arena count against the project, she said, while not enough work has gone into providing alternative transportation to the site. 

But Savoie said the proposed library at the Bay building on Douglas Street offers a wonderful opportunity, as do other future municipal buildings. "There's no point in putting up buildings today that are outdated," she said. "They are going to cost us more in the long run."

New Agency to Promote BC Tech Innovation, Investment

Office of the Premier
Leading Edge BC
December 09. 2003

VANCOUVER – The Province will invest more than $8.3 million over three years to aggressively market B.C. as an internationally competitive location for technology investment, research and job creation through Leading Edge British Columbia, a new partnership with the broad technology industry, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today. 

“B.C. companies and researchers have put B.C. on track to be Canada's technology leader, generating economic opportunities and jobs in every region of the province,” said Campbell. “We've worked with the industry to build the competitive business environment they need and to promote their competitiveness in key international markets. 

Leading Edge BC builds on that progress with a focused effort to market B.C. as an unbeatable location for innovation and technology investment.” Leading Edge BC will serve as an independent industry-led umbrella marketing organization representing major technology sectors and clusters in the province, including wireless, new media, information and communication technology, life sciences, alternative energy and environmental sciences. The Province has committed $2.78 million in annual funding for three years for the agency, which will be headed by B.C. Technology Industries Association president George Hunter. 

“British Columbia's technology industry has all the elements to become a global technology destination – a competitive and welcoming tax climate, industry leaders, a well-regarded education and R&D base, highly educated and motivated workforce and a quality of life that is second to none. Now we have the mandate and resources to ensure that B.C. is recognized as a premier destination for technology enterprise by investors, entrepreneurs, site selectors and potential recruits,” Hunter said. 

Campbell noted that Leading Edge BC addresses a long-standing concern within the province's technology industry about the need to raise awareness of B.C.'s technology expertise in international markets. 

“The Premier's Technology Council has remained firm in its resolve to make British Columbia a world-class technology centre and believes every opportunity must be taken to promote the province. The formation of Leading Edge British Columbia is an excellent step forward and will spotlight what B.C.'s technology community has to offer the world. We value the strong co-operation between the provincial government and private enterprise,” said Paul Lee, co-chair of the Premier's Technology Council and executive vice-president and worldwide studios chief operating officer for Electronic Arts Inc.

Leading Edge BC will take an integrated approach to marketing through a phased campaign. For the first year, it will primarily focus on ambassador programs, formal networking initiatives, targeted missions, hosting international technology events, and public relations and advertising campaigns. Partnerships are a core part of the strategy, with Leading Edge BC forging relationships with regional economic development organizations, consulates, industry, association networks and local, provincial and federal governments. 

Leading Edge BC's board of directors is made up of six people from industry and the provincial government. Its advisory committee includes representatives from key technology industry associations and organizations to ensure that all interests are represented. Leading Edge BC also has a four-member management team in place.

Compugen Joins Other Leading Technology Firms at Vancouver Island Technology Park

In response to local customer demand for an even broader set of services, Compugen Inc, a national IT systems integrator with operations in Victoria for more than six years, is pleased to announce that it has signed a five-year contract to move its Victoria office into new, larger facilities at the Vancouver Island Technology Park.

In addition to new, modern office space, Compugen's new facility includes a warehouse and configuration centre that will enable Compugen to better meet the needs of local private and public sector customers. Compugen will use the warehouse and configuration centre to handle the growing number of requests from customers to manage larger system and network deployments.

Beyond Compugen's own facilities, the modern conference and meeting facilities in the Park's Business Centre will afford a comfortable and effective environment for the many seminars, presentations and other events that Compugen hosts throughout the year for its existing and prospective customers.

"In addition to providing better service to our customers, we're also investing in the concept of the Park itself", says John Cave, Compugen's Victoria Location Manager. "As a meeting place for the brightest minds and an active source of innovation, we're confident that the environment of the Park will foster new ideas and solutions to address our customers' business needs."

"Vancouver Island Technology Park is committed to working with Compugen Inc. to develop a location that will be advantageous for their business. We pride ourselves in being able to deliver on the specific business development needs of our clients. This relationship is a win-win situation for all parties," stated Dale Gann, Manager, Business Development & Marketing of Vancouver Island Technology Park. In addition to being a tenant, Compugen will also be providing technical support services to the Park's Business Centre.

"Our customers are telling us we're providing the right mix of services and that we're helping them meet their business goals," says Len McCabe, Compugen's Regional Manager for B.C., "so I'm very confident about Compugen's future and we're firmly committed to our customers and partners in Victoria and throughout British Columbia. Our new five-year lease at this exceptional facility is just one small indication of that commitment."

MDS Metro Laboratory Services, Genome British Columbia and the University of Victoria signed a collaborative agreement today to establish the University of Victoria – Genome British Columbia’s proteomics research facility at the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP)

Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corporation and Roche today announced a unique collaboration which represents a new model for partnership between the pharmaceutical industry and the specialty pharmaceutical sector. Under the terms of the deal Aspreva Pharmaceuticals has obtained exclusive worldwide* rights to develop and commercialize CellCept® (mycophenolate mofetil) in all autoimmune disease applications. 

This novel indication partnering agreement enables Roche to maintain focus on CellCept's core market, transplantation, while extending the potential benefits of CellCept to autoimmune disease patients. Roche will register and invoice such sales as may result and will share the proceeds with Aspreva. 

“By bringing together the complimentary expertise of our two organizations, we are able to further enhance the value of this key Roche brand and better serve the needs of the transplant community. Aspreva will undertake the specialized development necessary to expand the use of CellCept into autoimmune disease.” said William M. Burns, Head of Roche's Pharmaceutical Division. 

Richard M. Glickman, Chairman and CEO of Aspreva Pharmaceuticals said: “Roche is an ideal partner for Aspreva. We share the same philosophy of providing high-quality evidence-based medicine that can help address the needs of underserved patient populations.” 

Frederick Frank, Vice Chairman Lehman Brothers Inc commented: “The extraordinarily large investment needed to bring new treatments to market has historically defined the size of the patient population that is necessary to make such developments both feasible and economically viable. The Roche Aspreva alliance represents a sought-after answer in addressing the pharmaceutical needs of patients with less common diseases. Roche has a history of creative structuring so it is no surprise that they have taken this lead. Hopefully this breakthrough partnership will be the first of many.” 

For several years physicians have been increasingly interested in investigating the use of CellCept in a variety of autoimmune diseases. Some of the most promising investigational study results so far are seen in Lupus, Myasthenia Gravis, Pemphigus Vulgaris and Autoimmune Hepatitis. 

Through the new collaboration, Aspreva will now build upon this evidence base by undertaking a global clinical program that will form the basis of formal regulatory submissions for CellCept in autoimmune diseases. 

There are more than 80 clinically distinct autoimmune diseases which collectively affect an estimated 5-8% of the population. In the US alone, as many as 22 million people are affected. Most of these conditions are highly debilitating and under-treated, creating significant social and financial burden. Corticosteroids are still the mainstay of treatment for many autoimmune diseases and physicians have to constantly balance the requirement for best possible disease control with the drug related morbidities associated with long term steroid exposure. 

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases and CellCept is a natural candidate for study in lupus nephritis (LN), the most serious complication of SLE. A substantial body of evidence exists regarding the safety and efficacy of CellCept in kidney transplant, where similar immunopathogenic processes are believed to occur. CellCept's specific immunomodulatory and antiinflammatory mechanisms, and the cardio-renal protective data from the transplant studies are highly relevant in LN. 

The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) estimates that as many as 1.5 million people in the US suffer from lupus. Sandra Raymond, President and CEO of the LFA said: "No new medications for lupus have been approved for more than thirty years. Current treatments are toxic and cause debilitating side effects. Patients and physicians are eager for new drugs that can bring lupus under control without causing other serious health problems. The emerging data on CellCept in lupus is promising. I am very encouraged to see a major pharmaceutical company, in partnership with Aspreva, making a positive long-term commitment to improving the lives of patients with lupus.” 

New data on CellCept in autoimmune diseases will be presented at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) meeting in Orlando, USA 25th-28th October 2003. This will include a plenary session describing the potential role of CellCept in lupus nephritis. Full results of this landmark trial comparing CellCept with the current standard of care will be presented at 10:30am Monday 27 October 2003. There is also an ACR press conference taking place at the Rosen Center in Orlando, FL entitled ‘New Treatments' Saturday 25th October, 2003 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm at which this data will be discussed.