BioCanRx, and its partners, today announced funding for 16 collaborative research projects in novel therapies to cure cancer including research aimed at developing clinical Chimeric Antigen Receptor modified T cell (CAR-T) manufacturing capabilities in Canada. CAR-Ts are a powerful new tool for treating cancer and have begun to provide hope to patients without other therapeutic options to treat and cure their disease.
CAR-T cell therapy is on the cutting edge of cancer therapeutics and has shown promise in paediatric and adult patients with certain blood cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoma.
CAR-T is a promising technology, involving sophisticated manufacturing and expertise. Canada has the basic laboratory infrastructure in place and this new funding will help to fully develop the expertise and capacity required to deliver this technology. BioCanRx is investing in research projects advancing several innovative engineered T cell designs, which will further benefit from this infrastructure and capacity investment, and accelerate delivery of these novel concepts into clinical testing in Canada.
This Canadian capacity development will pave the way to enable Canadian patients to access this new technology, and will give Canadian researchers the necessary resources to deliver on their innovations in CAR-T and other engineered T cell platforms. This CAR-T manufacturing initiative is unique in that the Canadian academic community recognized a gap and stepped up to drive Canadian solutions to meet grassroots efforts taking place in the U.S., China and Europe.
BioCanRx has established an extensive network of investigators and core facilities across the country and is well positioned to bring CAR-T cell treatment to patients in Canada who are in dire need. Leading this capacity building for CAR-T therapies in Canada are Dr. Robert Holt, distinguished scientist, BC Cancer Agency, Head of Sequencing and Head of Quality Systems, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Professor, Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia and Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University; Dr. John Bell, Sr. Scientist, Centre for Innovative Cancer Research, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Professor, Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology, University of Ottawa and Scientific Director, BioCanRx; John Webb, Scientist and Project Leader, BC Cancer Agency Deeley Research Centre and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Victoria; Brad Nelson, Director, Deeley Research Centre, BC Cancer Agency among other researchers.
To help ensure CAR-T cell therapy is brought to patients safely and effectively, BioCanRx is funding a companion Clinical, Social, and Economic Impact project. It will review the existing base of knowledge and involve patient consultation to design a rigorous CAR-T clinical trial protocol ready to implement once the products are ready for a phase 1 clinical trial. Leading this project are Dr. Manoj Lalu, Associate Scientist, Assistant Professor, Clinical Epidemiology and Regenerative Medicine Programs, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Ottawa; Dr. Dean Fergusson, Director and Senior Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, OHRI; Dr. Natasha Kekre, Assistant Professor, Associate Scientist, Hematologist, Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, OHRI, The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa among other researchers.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths. Two out of five Canadians (45% of men and 42% of women) are expected to develop cancer during their lifetimes. One out of four Canadians (29% of men and 24% of women) is expected to die from cancer. (Canadian Cancer Society)
Biotherapeutics – including oncolytic viruses, adoptive cell therapy and therapeutic antibodies – are among the most promising cancer therapies to emerge in the last decade and are often referred to as a fourth pillar for cancer treatment. BioCanRx is building a research portfolio of these immunotherapies but what sets it apart is its commitment to combination therapies. Combining biotherapeutics approaches can amplify effectiveness and result in significantly better outcomes compared to the benefits of an individual biotherapy used on its own.
Today’s funding announcement will support 16 national research teams comprised of researchers, clinicians and trainees working to find improved treatment options and outcomes for cancer patients. BioCanRx’s funded partnerships will strengthen the coordination of research and resources in Canada to further develop a variety of cancer immunotherapy platforms. The research proposed could lead to significantly better outcomes for cancer patients and, potentially, curative approaches to their cancer.