Bioniche Recognizes 10th Anniversary of Walkerton, Ontario Water Contamination Tragedy
-Company working to help prevent future tragedies through food safety vaccine development-
BELLEVILLE, ON, May 17, 2010 – On this 10th anniversary of the Walkerton, Ontario water contamination tragedy, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: BNC), a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company with a focus on food safety solutions, expresses its condolences to the families who lost loved ones or who continue to suffer from long-term health effects caused by water contaminated with E. coli O157.
Since the Walkerton events of 2000, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. has worked with Canadian university researchers to develop and license a cattle vaccine against E. coli O157, the bacterium that contaminated the Walkerton water. This vaccine – trademarked EconicheTM - is meant to reduce the level of the bacterium in water, food and the environment and, in turn, reduce the potential infection of humans.
Econiche has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of E. coli O157 shed into the environment by beef and dairy cattle. This organism does not cause illness in cattle, but cattle are the primary reservoir for it. Most strains of E. coli are harmless but some, like O157:H7, can cause severe illness and even be fatal when ingested by humans from contaminated meat, vegetables or water. Vaccination of cattle with Econiche can help reduce the risk of food and waterborne contamination with E. coli O157.
On-farm interventions to reduce the shedding of E. coli O157 by cattle, such as simple vaccination of cattle with Econiche, have the potential to reduce food and water contamination and the consequences associated with human infection with the deadly bacteria.
Human exposure and infection with E. coli O157:H7 can result in serious health consequences, including abdominal pain and severe bloody diarrhea. In severe cases, kidney damage can occur and progress to serious complications and even death. In Walkerton, 2,300 people were infected (nearly half of the town’s residents) and seven people died. Ten years later, lingering medical conditions continue to plague many of those infected. Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and McGill University in Montréal, Québec have identified that 36% of those sickened in Walkerton have developed post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS). Other ongoing health concerns among this population include reduced kidney function, diabetes, hypertension and reactive arthritis.
Econiche is manufactured at the Company’s Belleville, Ontario site where, supported by the Ontario and Canadian governments, a $25-million expansion is taking place. The vaccine received a full Canadian license through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in October, 2008, allowing unrestricted use by Canadian cattle producers and their veterinarians.
“The Walkerton, Ontario water tragedy is a lingering reminder that bacteria carried by animals can easily migrate into the human population and cause serious illness, even in first world countries,” said Graeme McRae, Chairman, President & CEO of Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. “Our Food Safety business unit, together with our Animal Health research and development group are working diligently on the development of a range of animal vaccines to reduce exposure of humans to these increasingly prevalent zoonotic (animal to human transmitted) diseases.”
Bioniche will be represented at the upcoming Walkerton Clean Water Open House, taking place on Saturday, June 12, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to share information about Econiche.
About E. coli O157:H7
An estimated 100,000 cases of human infection with the E. coli O157:H7 organism are reported each year in North America. Two to seven per cent of those people develop haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a disease characterized by kidney failure. Five percent of HUS patients die, many of them children and senior citizens, whose kidneys are more sensitive to damage.
In addition to being infected by contaminated food or water, individuals can become infected from E. coli O157:H7 by visiting animal exhibits. Petting zoos, fairs, and agricultural exhibits provide many possible routes of transmission for E. coli. Direct animal contact is the obvious route, but contact with contaminated products (e.g., sawdust, shavings, soiled clothing or shoes) can also lead to human infection.
Econiche received international recognition in September 2007 by the Animal Pharm Industry Excellence Awards as the best new veterinary product for livestock globally. The vaccine has been developed by a strategic alliance formed in 2000 between the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Alberta Research Council (ARC), the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine & Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), and Bioniche, which holds the rights for worldwide commercialization of the vaccine. The vaccine prevents the E. coli O157 bacteria from attaching to the intestines of vaccinated cattle, thereby reducing their reproduction within the animal, and reducing the amount of bacteria that can be released through cattle manure in the environment. More than 30,000 cattle have been involved in clinical testing of the vaccine.
About Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.
Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. is a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of proprietary products for human and animal health markets worldwide. The fully-integrated company employs approximately 190 skilled personnel and has three operating divisions: Human Health, Animal Health, and Food Safety. The Company’s primary goal is to develop proprietary cancer therapies supported by revenues from marketed products in human and animal health. For more information, please visit www.Bioniche.com.
Except for historical information, this news release may contain forward-looking statements that reflect the Company’s current expectation regarding future events. These forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainties, which may cause, but are not limited to, changing market conditions, the successful and timely completion of clinical studies, the establishment of corporate alliances, the impact of competitive products and pricing, new product development, uncertainties related to the regulatory approval process, and other risks detailed from time to time in the Company’s ongoing quarterly and annual reporting.
For further information, please contact:
Jennifer Shea, Vice-President, Communications, Investor & Government Relations
Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.
Telephone: (613) 966-8058
Cell: (613) 391-2097