June 13, 2018
Entrepreneur adds US oncology management experience to Ontario commercialization
TORONTO, ON (June 13, 2018) — The Board of Trustees announced the appointment of David O’Neill as the President of FACIT. Dr O’Neill joined FACIT in 2013 as Vice President, Business Development, bringing cancer drug development expertise as well as an extensive business network in pharma and biotech. As Acting President for the last year, he has elevated the profile of the organization and enabled FACIT to continue to deliver critical commercialization financing to innovative start-ups in the growing Ontario market.
April 12, 2018
Biotechnology competition modeled after popular TV program Dragons’ Den
TORONTO, ON (April 12, 2018) – A panel of investor-judges has selected Ontario-based oncology researcher Soror Sharifpoor of Polumiros Inc. as the winner of the 2018 FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes competition. The $50,000 award is intended to support further development of their innovative cancer research. FACIT runs the annual competition as part of its broader mandate to support translating research into Ontario companies to impact the lives of patients with cancer.
Now in its fifth year, the FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes competition is open to any Ontario-based oncology researcher (academics, research institutions, research hospitals and start-ups). Entrepreneurial scientists are invited to pitch innovative research ideas to a panel of four investors in a competition that is modeled after the popular CBC television program Dragons’ Den. The winners receive the $50,000 “Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award.” After follow-up technical evaluation of the underlying innovation, the money funds product development for one year.
March 29, 2018
Canada’s largest health research platform teams up with University of Toronto to accelerate cancer and chronic disease research
Pictured (left to right): Dr. John Mc Laughlin, Executive Director of CPTP; Cindy Morton, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.; and Dr. Philip Awadalla, National Scientific Director of CPTP.
Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) enters a new era of scientific activity under the leadership of newly appointed National Scientific Director, Dr. Philip Awadalla
March 29, 2018 (Toronto) – The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (“the Partnership”) today announced The University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health will be the new national scientific partner of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) – Canada’s national population cohort for precision health. This new scientific partner will enable a strong national scientific vision for CPTP and support leading-edge research on the possible causes of cancer and chronic diseases, leading to more made-in-Canada discoveries and breakthroughs. In addition, the University has announced that Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) will be its strategic partner to deliver the expertise and services needed to lead this key research platform.
March 6, 2018
VANCOUVER – Canadian pancreatic cancer researchers are joining forces under a Terry Fox initiative bringing new hope for patients with this deadly disease.
“For many years it’s been hopeless from a patient perspective, and we are hoping to help shift this,” says Dr. Daniel Renouf (BC Cancer, University of British Columbia) who, along with Dr. David Schaeffer (UBC, Vancouver General Hospital), is leading a $5-million pan-Canadian, precision medicine initiative recently funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute.
A lack of early detection tests. Few known symptoms. Very limited treatment options. No known biomarkers that can be used to direct therapy. These are among the clinical challenges team EPPIC, short for Enhanced Pancreatic Cancer Profiling for Individualized Care, is tackling over the next five years to improve personalized treatments for patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a disease with just a nine per cent five-year survival rate.
“Our project focuses on metastatic cancer versus surgically resectable primary tumours, because this is the clinical problem we see most often,” says Dr. Schaeffer, noting a priority is to discern if the metastatic and primary tumour differ in their genetic make-up. Four out of five patients have metastatic cancer at the time of diagnosis and most will succumb within a year.
Patients are very keen to participate in the research study. “My push is to keep the support coming for the research, and to bring hope to other pancreatic cancer patients. This is a disease that needs more hope,” says Susan Stewart, 57, a North Vancouver resident who was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal pancreatic cancer in January 2017. She was enrolled immediately in EPPIC as well as a clinical trial where she received an experimental therapy. Although it is early days yet, her results today are promising. Her pancreatic cancer tumour is no longer visible on CT scans, and the metastatic cancer on her liver has shrunk considerably. Her doctors are using the EPPIC results to try and understand why her tumour has had such an incredible response to the experimental treatment.
The EPPIC team aims to sequence metastatic pancreatic tumours of 400 patients in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. They hope to improve understanding of pancreatic cancer biology to individualize treatment strategies, and to facilitate the development of new treatment options.
This project is currently under way in Toronto and Vancouver, through two clinical trials (COMPASS and PanGen), and will be expanded shortly to include eligible patients in Kingston, Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton. The Montreal site opens this week. Genomic sequencing and bioinformatics analyses of patient tumours will be conducted at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and the BC Cancer Genome Sciences Centre.
“This funding will allow us to bring leading-edge pancreatic cancer research to more Canadian patients and further advance our understanding how to best treat advanced pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Steven Gallinger, Leader of OICR’s PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative, which supports the COMPASS trial. “Collaborating with the other research groups will more rapidly result in more robust findings that can help us accelerate the development of new treatment options.”
The team will also store and analyze the genomic and clinical data collected in a knowledge bank that will be shared by Canadian and international researchers seeking ways to improve treatment. The bank will be the first of its kind in Canada.
Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director, is thrilled TFRI is funding this high-calibre precision medicine team to tackle such a hard-to-treat cancer. “Pancreatic cancer research has been historically underfunded, and we are very excited to be expanding such a successful personalized medicine project to patients across Canada. We hope precision medicine may hold the key to finding better treatments for this incurable disease.”
EPPIC’s multidisciplinary team comprises clinicians and scientists from BC Cancer, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, OICR, McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Research Institute of MUHC, Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Queen’s University and the Ottawa Hospital.
In addition to Drs. Renouf and Schaeffer, other principal investigators of EPPIC and the COMPASS and PanGen trials are: Dr. Jennifer Knox and Steven Gallinger (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre/UHN/ OICR), Dr. George Zogopoulos (MUHC/Research Institute of MUHC/McGill University), and Dr. Oliver Bathe (Tom Baker Cancer Center, University of Calgary). Many of the team’s investigators are members of PancOne™, an initiative of Pancreatic Cancer Canada (PCC).
TFRI’s investment in EPPIC also builds on funding from BC Cancer Foundation, OICR, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, PCC and VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation.
About The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI)
Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation and today functions as its research arm. TFRI seeks to improve significantly the outcomes of cancer research for the patient through a highly collaborative, team-oriented, milestone-based approach to research that will enable discoveries to translate quickly into practical solutions for cancer patients worldwide. TFRI collaborates with more than 80 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, B.C. For more information please visit www.tfri.ca and follow us on Twitter (@tfri_research).
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March 6, 2018
Study shows that environmental exposures such as air pollution are more determinant of respiratory health than inherited genetics
Toronto (March 6, 2018) – Researchers have found strong evidence that environmental exposures, including air pollution, affect gene expressions associated with respiratory diseases much more than genetic ancestry. The study, published today in Nature Communications, analyzed more than 1.6 million data points from biological specimens, health questionnaires and environmental datasets, making this study one of the largest ever to examine the relationship between gene expression and environmental stimuli. These findings represent a groundbreaking use of big data to uncover the environmental factors that are behind diseases and inform strategies for prevention, an approach that would apply to a number of diseases, including cancer.
Genetic, health and disease data of participants from Montreal, Quebec City and Saguenay were linked with environmental information such as air pollution, walkability and access to food to see how these factors impact gene expression. Participants were enrolled in the Quebec arm (CARTaGENE) of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP), which supports research into environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors related to the development and progression of cancer and chronic diseases. More than 300,000 Canadians, 1 per cent of the population, have enrolled in CPTP since its launch in 2008.
The study used deep characterization of gene expression signatures from participants and linked that data with environmental information. “We were surprised to find that we were able to stratify genetic ancestry within Quebec, identifying individuals whose descendants were from Montreal versus Saguenay for example,” explains Dr. Philip Awadalla, the study’s senior author. “This helped us to show how most gene expression is not derived by ancestry, and that environmental exposures associated with living in a particular city or region are more impactful on gene expression associated with disease traits than heritable variation.”
One of the main findings of the study was that exposure to higher levels of particulate matter and nitrous dioxide in the Saguenay area affected the expression of genes associated with oxygen pathways and respiratory function. This resulted in higher rates of respiratory ailments such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The study also revealed that there are genetic variants that control how a person’s gene expression responds when exposed to environmental stimuli.
“This study demonstrates Ontario’s leadership in research and in particular, the importance of big data,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “Today, with quantities of data never before available, we are able to make important discoveries that will help us fight and overcome disease.”
“Our study shows how one can use the large scope and scale of data in Canada’s largest health cohort to better understand how our genes interact with environmental exposures and shape individual health,” says Awadalla. “I encourage all those engaged in this type of research, both in Canada and around the world, to take advantage of this resource.”
Awadalla is Director and Sr. Principal Investigator, Computational Biology, OICR, the Executive Scientific Director of the Ontario Health Study (Ontario’s CPTP cohort), Director of the Genome Canada, Canadian Data Integration Centre and Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.
The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is a collaborative, not-for-profit research institute focused on accelerating the translation of new cancer research discoveries to patients around the world while maximizing the economic benefit of this research for the people of Ontario. Funding for OICR is provided by the Government of Ontario.
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Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
February 21, 2018
Investment supports emerging entrepreneurial scientists and critical proof-of-principle studies
TORONTO, ON (February 20, 2018) – FACIT, a business accelerator, announced four new recipients of funding through its Prospects oncology investment competition: Dalriada Therapeutics Inc. (“Dalriada”), 16-Bit Inc. (“16-Bit”), a cancer biomarker study at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (“OICR”), and a virus-based therapeutic under development at the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa. FACIT’s investments are imperative in bridging the capital gap often experienced by early-stage Ontario companies, helping corporations establish jobs and build roots in the province. The wide ranging scope of the innovations, which span therapeutics, machine learning and biomarker development, reflect the rich talent pool within the Ontario oncology research community.
January 29, 2018
A new nanopore technology for direct sequencing of long strands of DNA has resulted in the most complete human genome ever assembled with a single technology, scientists have revealed.
The research, published today in Nature Biotechnology, involved scientists from the University of Nottingham, University of Birmingham and the University of East Anglia in the UK; UC Santa Cruz at the University of California, Genome Informatics Section of the NIH and the University of Salt Lake City in the USA; and the University of British Columbia and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Canada.
Using an emerging technology – a pocket sized, portable DNA sequencer – the scientists sequenced a complete human genome, in fragments hundreds of times larger than usual, enabling new biological insights.
January 25, 2018
The Canadian Data Integration Centre receives new funding to help cancer researchers translate findings to patients
Toronto (January 25, 2018) – The Canadian Data Integration Centre (CDIC) has received $6.4 million in funding from Genome Canada to help the research community translate the biological insights gained from genomics research into tangible improvements for cancer patients.
CDIC is a “one-stop shop” service delivery platform for cancer researchers, helping streamline research by providing coordinated expertise on a broad range of services, including data integration, genomics, pathology, biospecimen handling and advanced sequencing technologies. It is an international leader in genomics, bioinformatics and translational research, supporting some of the world’s largest programs in genomic data analysis, genomic and clinical data hosting, cancer data analyses and access, and the development of algorithms for advanced sequencing technology.
November 22, 2017
FACIT expands Board to advance mandate to drive Ontario cancer breakthroughs.
TORONTO, ON (November 21, 2017) — FACIT announced the expansion of its Board of Trustees with the appointment of three new members: Mr. Kevin Empey, Dr. Cynthia Goh, and Dr. Shana Kelley. Their collective appointments strengthen FACIT’s leadership team, bringing additional financial, entrepreneurial and biotech industry expertise and networks, as FACIT advances its mandate to help guide and drive breakthrough Ontario oncology innovations. The new members join existing Trustees Mr. Greg Gubitz and Mr. John Morrison. As part of this transition, Dr. Doug Squires is stepping down from his position of Chairman, FACIT Board of Trustees.
March 22, 2017
New evergreen fund to help Ontario discoveries reach seed-stage funding faster
TORONTO, March 21, 2017 /CNW/ – Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (“FACIT”) is pleased to announce the launch of The Prospects Oncology Fund (“Prospects Fund”), designed to advance early-stage Ontario cancer discoveries by supporting the proof-of-concept studies needed to attract seed-stage investment. Managed by FACIT, this is an evergreen fund to which capital is allocated annually.
March 22, 2017
Seed financing of CAD$3.0M positions first-in-class WDR5 cancer therapy for clinical development
TORONTO, March 22, 2017 /CNW/ – FACIT announced a seed stage investment in Propellon Therapeutics (the “Company” or “Propellon”), a start-up created by FACIT focused on developing a portfolio of WDR5-targeted anti-cancer therapeutics. FACIT’s investment, combined with non-dilutive capital, achieves a targeted $3.0M financing for the lead program. The seed funding enables Propellon to accelerate the nomination of a candidate drug and position the Company for financing and/or entering a strategic partnership for clinical trials in patients with haematological cancers.
March 9, 2017
New molecular barcode technology reduces error rate in genomic sequencing to 1 in 10,000
Toronto (March 9, 2017) – Researchers at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), together with international collaborators, have invented a technique to avoid a major problem with common laboratory techniques and improve the sensitivity of important cancer tests.