July 3, 2019

Five fellows, four labs, three years, two countries, and a generous donation

Joesph Lebovic and the fellows


The Lebovic Fellowship program connects scientists in Israel and Ontario, leading to the validation of a new drug candidate for leukemia and the optimization of a new potential cancer vaccine

Three years ago, the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) received a donation from Joseph and Wolf Lebovic – two brothers who are Holocaust survivors, Canadian immigrants, avid philanthropists and recently-appointed Members of the Order of Canada. Their vision was to strengthen collaboration between the outstanding researchers in Israel and those in Ontario to accelerate cancer research.

They created the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Fellowship Program, which paired together laboratories specializing in complementary subjects. The Program’s first round of projects officially came to a successful close today and here we recognize the progress made thanks to the generous donation of the Lebovic brothers.

Developing a drug for leukemia

Israel lead researcher: Dr. Yinon Ben-Neriah, IMRIC
Israel fellows: Waleed Minzel and Eric Hung, PhD Candidates, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ontario lead researcher: Dr. John Dick, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PMCC)
Ontario fellow: Dr. Laura Garcia-Prat, Postdoctoral Fellow, PMCC

Ben-Neriah’s lab in Israel had developed a new compound and showed it may be a valuable anti-leukemia drug, but they couldn’t explain why the drug was only effective in animal models that had strong immune systems. Understanding the relationship between the drug and the immune system would allow them to validate which leukemia subtypes would respond to their therapeutic approach.

John Dick’s lab had developed the gold standard for evaluating the efficacy of leukemia drugs in animal models using sophisticated patient-derived xenograft mouse models. Through this fellowship, the Ben-Neriah Lab teamed up with the Dick lab to learn from their expertise and gain insights into their experimental models.

Continue reading – Five fellows, four labs, three years, two countries, and a generous donation

May 17, 2018

Combination of erectile dysfunction drugs and flu vaccine may help kill remaining cancer after surgery

A flu vaccine sits on top of packages of erectile dysfunction drugs

A remarkable study led by Dr. Rebecca Auer from The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) shows that the unlikely combination of erectile dysfunction drugs and the flu vaccine may boost the immune system’s ability to clean up cancer cells left behind after surgery. This method demonstrated promising results in a mouse model, where it reduced the spread of cancer following surgery by 90 per cent. Now the approach will be tested in a first-of-its-kind clinical trial involving 24 patients at TOH.

Continue reading – Combination of erectile dysfunction drugs and flu vaccine may help kill remaining cancer after surgery

January 19, 2018

Scientists create method to sensitize triple-negative breast cancer to common immunotherapy

Drs. Marie-Claude Bourgeois-Daigneault and John Bell

Immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells, has shown remarkable promise in treating many types of cancer. Now researchers have found a way to use immunotherapy against triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most lethal forms of breast cancer. Previously, TNBC was resistant to immune checkpoint inhibitors, a common class of immunotherapies. Using a new strategy, the scientists achieved a cure rate of up to 90 per cent in mouse models.

Continue reading – Scientists create method to sensitize triple-negative breast cancer to common immunotherapy

January 4, 2018

Study shows virus-boosted immunotherapy can be effective against aggressive breast cancer

The Maraba virus is seen under an electron microscope

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa have found that a combination of two immunotherapies – oncolytic viruses and checkpoint inhibitors – was successful in treating triple-negative breast cancer in mouse models. Triple-negative breast cancer is the most aggressive and hard-to-treat form of the disease.

Continue reading – Study shows virus-boosted immunotherapy can be effective against aggressive breast cancer

October 11, 2017

Ontario start-up makes major deal to develop cancer-fighting viruses

Partners congratulate Turnstone Biologics

Canadian academic institutions and research organizations are congratulating Turnstone Biologics on a new partnership with AbbVie to develop cancer-fighting viruses (also called oncolytic viral immunotherapies).

Turnstone was founded in Ottawa based on research led by Dr. John Bell (from The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa), Dr. Brian Lichty (from McMaster University) and Dr. David Stojdl (from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and uOttawa). The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and BioCanRx have also played a key role in advancing the technology.

Quick Facts and Links

  • Turnstone was recently recognized as one of the top 15 biotech start-ups in the world.
  • In 2016, Turnstone secured US$41 million in venture capital (VC) funding. This is believed to be the largest VC deal in Ottawa since 2013 and the second largest biotech VC deal in Canada in 2016.
  • As of October 2017, Turnstone had 25 employees in Ottawa, Hamilton and New York. It expects to approximately double its employees by the end of next year.
  • Turnstone’s most advanced product is called Ad-MG1-MAGEA3. It is produced in The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre and the McMaster Immunology Research Centre.
  • Top journal Science called cancer immunotherapy the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013.
  • Ad-MG1-MAGEA3 is currently being tested in clinical trials at several hospitals across Canada. People who are interested in participating in these trials can read these frequently asked questions.
  • While public funding is crucial for cancer research discoveries, private investment is almost always necessary to advance the development of new therapies, as this can cost more than US$2.5 billion.
  • Turnstone was co-founded by FACIT, The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research’s commercialization partner, which provided initial management, seed financing, intellectual property consolidation and hiring of initial employees including the CEO.
  • Numerous organizations have supported the research team, including the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Angels of Hope, BioCanRx, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CHEO Foundation, Hair Donation Ottawa, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and the Terry Fox Research Institute.

Continue reading – Ontario start-up makes major deal to develop cancer-fighting viruses

July 11, 2017

How OICR is helping to boost the body’s ability to fight cancer

Oncology Viruses - Image of a cell.

The body’s immune system is incredibly powerful. Its ability to detect and destroy various pathogens makes it central to maintaining good health. While we all know the role it plays in fighting the common cold or flu, many do not know that it has recently been enlisted by scientists in the fight against cancer. Researchers in a field known as immuno-oncology are working to find ways to turn on the body’s defences to locate and destroy tumour cells. OICR recently established a team of expert scientists and clinicians to develop and test new immunotherapies to help patients.

Continue reading – How OICR is helping to boost the body’s ability to fight cancer

May 25, 2017

OICR launches five all-star teams of Ontario scientists to tackle some of the deadliest forms of cancer

People from the press conference

Great strides have been made in cancer research, but much work remains to develop better treatments for the most lethal cancers and to advance new anti-cancer technologies. OICR is taking on a new approach, building on the success of the Institute’s first ten years and Ontario’s strength in particular cancer research areas. Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science announced that the Institute is funding five collaborative, cross-disciplinary and inter-institutional Translational Research Initiatives (TRIs) with a total of $24 million over the next two years.

The TRIs will bring together some of the top cancer researchers in Ontario and be led by internationally renowned Ontario scientists. Each team will focus on a certain type of cancer or therapeutic technology. To maximize the positive impact of research on patients, the TRIs all incorporate clinical trials into their design. The TRIs, which were selected by an International Scientific Review Panel, are:

The funding will also support Early Prostate Cancer Developmental Projects led by Drs. Paul Boutros and George Rodriguez.

“In just over 10 years, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research has become a global centre of excellence that is moving the province to the forefront of discovery and innovation in cancer research. It is home to outstanding Ontario scientists, who are working together to ease the burden of cancer in our province and around the world,” said Moridi.

“Collaboration and translational research are key to seeing that the innovative technologies being developed in Ontario reach the clinic and help patients,” said Mr. Peter Goodhand, President of OICR. “These TRIs represent a unique and significant opportunity to impact clinical cancer care in the province.”

Read the news release: OICR launches five large-scale Ontario research initiatives to combat some of the most deadly cancers

May 25, 2017

OICR launches five large-scale Ontario research initiatives to combat some of the most deadly cancers

Minister for Research, Innovation and Science

Toronto (May 25, 2017) – Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, today announced the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is launching five unique, cross-disciplinary, multi-institutional Translational Research Initiatives (TRIs), each focused on a single type of or treatment approach to cancer. With $24 million in funding over two years, the TRIs will bring together world-leading scientists to tackle some of the most difficult to treat cancers and test innovative solutions to some of the most serious challenges in cancer today.

The TRIs build on Ontario’s proven strengths in areas such as stem cells, immuno-oncology, pediatric cancers, genomics, clinical trials and informatics. Working together, the province’s top scientists and clinicians will accelerate the development of much needed solutions for patients around the globe, with a focus on acute leukemia and brain, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Each TRI includes clinical trials to maximize patient impact.

Continue reading – OICR launches five large-scale Ontario research initiatives to combat some of the most deadly cancers

May 3, 2017

Study bringing more precision medicine to Ontario’s cancer patients

A technician holds a blood sample and writes down information.

The advent of genomic sequencing and targeted therapies has opened the door to new ways of diagnosing and treating cancer. The Ontario-wide Cancer Targeted Nucleic Acid Evaluation (OCTANE) program is a new, province-wide initiative supported by OICR that will allow more patients to benefit from these innovations while also helping to advance cancer research in Ontario.

Continue reading – Study bringing more precision medicine to Ontario’s cancer patients

April 26, 2017

Clinical trial opens for promising combination therapy

Rhabdovirus

The first patient has been treated in what has been named the Sandpiper Trial. The Phase I/II clinical trial will evaluate a therapy that combines a novel oncolytic viral immunotherapy agent called MG1-MAGEA3 with pembrolizumab, which is an approved checkpoint inhibitor. The Sandpiper Trial will study the use of this combination therapy in patients with non-small cell lung cancer who are no longer responding to chemotherapy.

Continue reading – Clinical trial opens for promising combination therapy

January 5, 2016

OICR funds world-first clinical trial using cancer-fighting viruses

Oncology Viruses - Image of a cell.

Drs. John Bell, David Stojdl and Brian Lichty have together been investigating viral therapies for over 15 years. On July 10 in Ottawa they announced that this work has now moved to the clinic, with the launch of a world-first clinical trial using their custom-made cancer-fighting viruses.

Dr. Bell is leader of OICR’s Immuno- and Bio-therapies Program (ORBiT), based at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Continue reading – OICR funds world-first clinical trial using cancer-fighting viruses

November 9, 2015

FACIT start-up company Turnstone Biologics secures $11.3 million in financing, boosts leadership

turnstoneTurnstone Biologics Inc., a FACIT-incubated company spun out of research conducted in OICR’s ORBiT Program, has secured $11.3 million in new financing. This investment in the company has allowed it to take another step forward in its development with the hiring of Dr. Sammy J. Farah as Chief Executive Officer and Dr. Brian D. Lichty as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Farah is a veteran vaccine executive with extensive technology and product development expertise. Lichty, a distinguished scientist, is a leader in the development of oncolytic viral therapies and one of Turnstone’s founding scientists. The financing round was led by Versant Ventures and more than $20 million in follow-on capital has been committed.

“We are very pleased to have concluded this financing with an experienced venture capital firm of Versant’s calibre, and to be able to enhance the Company’s leadership with compelling management,” said Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer of FACIT, which is Turnstone’s founding investor.

Continue reading – FACIT start-up company Turnstone Biologics secures $11.3 million in financing, boosts leadership

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