February 7, 2019

Op-ed in The Globe and Mail hails innovation strategy that resulted in record-breaking investment by Celgene

Rima Al-awar showing the structure of WDR5 at podium.

In a contribution to The Globe and Mail titled “For Innovation, open science means business”, E. Richard Gold and Max Morgan point to the recent investment by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Celgene into a potential treatment for leukemia developed by OICR researchers, as an example of how Canada can successfully commercialize its scientific discoveries. The authors note that the uniquely Canadian approach employed by FACIT and OICR working together will, unlike other strategies, keep the intellectual property (IP) in Canada longer and see research and development, clinical trials and other outcomes, benefit Canada and Ontario.

Gold and Morgan point out that it was an open science collaboration between OICR and the University of Toronto’s Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) that allowed for the initial scientific discovery behind the new potential drug to take place rapidly, since traditional concerns around IP weren’t a factor. This approach allowed FACIT and OICR to move towards targeted drug development much earlier than possible under other models, enabling them to create a patented drug candidate. Gold and Morgan call on Canadian governments to replicate the open science to IP model, which Celgene’s investment shows is a viable path to commercialization in Canada. 

E. Richard Gold is James McGill professor, McGill Faculty of Law; senior fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation; former technology lawyer. Max Morgan is chief policy officer and senior counsel, SGC; corporate secretary and legal consultant, M4K Pharma Inc. OICR has provided funding to M4K Pharma Inc. through its Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline initiative. SGC and OICR are long-term partners.

From the Globe and Mail (subscription required): For Innovation, open science means business

February 12, 2016

Open source cancer research

Doing things differently: The story behind the promising chemical probe developed by OICR and the Structural Genomics Consortium

Image of a drug molecule interacting with its target.

A recent collaboration between researchers at OICR and the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) used a new open-source approach to early stage drug discovery to develop and share without restrictions a drug-like molecule (or chemical probe) called OICR-9429 in an effort to crowd-source cancer research. OICR-9429 specifically inhibits a protein called WDR5 and can be used to investigate its function in a cell.

“Testing a new cancer treatment takes significant time and resources and unfortunately many attempts fail late in the development process. Also, most of the research activities are carried out in parallel and without enough collaboration. This leads to the duplication of a great amount of effort and raises the cost of cancer drugs that do make it to the clinic,” explains Dr. Cheryl Arrowsmith, Chief Scientist at SGC Toronto.

Continue reading – Open source cancer research

December 8, 2015

FACIT Gains Rights to WDR5 Inhibitors for MLL Leukemia

First-in-class epigenetic modifiers discovered by OICR positioned for collaborative development

TORONTO, Dec. 8, 2015 /CNW/ – Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (“FACIT”) announced the acquisition of exclusive rights to a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors for the treatment of mixed lineage leukemia (MLL).  A series of proprietary small molecule inhibitors were optimized based on the discovery of a chemical probe for WDR5.  The original WDR5 probe (OICR-9429) was developed by drug discovery scientists at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (“OICR”), Structural Genomics Consortium (“SGC”) and other collaborators.  As with other technologies within the portfolio, FACIT will be responsible for stewarding commercialization activities for the assets and leveraging development expertise within the OICR network.

MLL1 deregulation is reported in both acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and is also common in a variety of solid cancers. The WDR5 protein is critical for the formation and epigenetic activities of MLL1-associated methylation complexes. The series of epigenetic modifiers discovered by OICR target protein-protein interactions within the WDR5/MLL1 complex, and thereby disrupts methylation activities.

“Mixed Lineage Leukemia is an aggressive childhood cancer, making the team highly motivated to accelerate the development of these first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors.  We are currently exploring opportunities with strategic pharmaceutical partners, investors and of course, ongoing work with the innovative drug discovery scientists at OICR,” said Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer of FACIT.

“With the growing recognition of the importance of epigenetic signalling, potent and selective small molecules targeting the WDR5/MLL1 interface present a potential therapeutic intervention in leukemias and some p53/myc-driven cancers.  Upcoming healthcare conferences are a timely opportunity to implement our partnering strategy for this promising set of inhibitors as we seek to leverage private sector investment,” remarked David O’Neill, Vice President of Business Development at FACIT.

About WDR5
WDR5 is a scaffolding protein essential for assembly of epigenetic MLL1-associated methyltransferase complexes and proper histone modification, the dysregulation of which is strongly implicated in MLL leukemia. In addition to its importance in MLL leukemia, deregulation of WDR5 itself has been observed in bladder cancer, where overexpression correlates with poor patient survival. MLL1 mutations are common in a variety of solid cancers, including breast, colon, lung, and bladder.

About OICR
OICR is an innovative cancer research and development institute dedicated to prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, supported by the Government of Ontario. OICR and its funding partners support research programs that involve more than 1,700 investigators, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees in research institutes and in universities across the Province of Ontario as well as at its headquarters. OICR has key research program efforts underway in small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing. For more information, please visit the website at www.oicr.on.ca.

About FACIT
FACIT (Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust) is an independent business entity established by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR)  to undertake and accelerate development and commercialization activities related to breakthrough cancer research, products and drug discovery from OICR and throughout Ontario. For more information, please visit the website at facit.ca or email info@facit.ca.

December 8, 2015

FACIT Gains Rights to WDR5 Inhibitors for MLL Leukemia

First-in-class epigenetic modifiers discovered by OICR positioned for collaborative development

TORONTO, Dec. 8, 2015 /CNW/ – Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (“FACIT”) announced the acquisition of exclusive rights to a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors for the treatment of mixed lineage leukemia (MLL).  A series of proprietary small molecule inhibitors were optimized based on the discovery of a chemical probe for WDR5.  The original WDR5 probe (OICR-9429) was developed by drug discovery scientists at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (“OICR”), Structural Genomics Consortium (“SGC”) and other collaborators.  As with other technologies within the portfolio, FACIT will be responsible for stewarding commercialization activities for the assets and leveraging development expertise within the OICR network.

MLL1 deregulation is reported in both acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and is also common in a variety of solid cancers. The WDR5 protein is critical for the formation and epigenetic activities of MLL1-associated methylation complexes. The series of epigenetic modifiers discovered by OICR target protein-protein interactions within the WDR5/MLL1 complex, and thereby disrupts methylation activities.

“Mixed Lineage Leukemia is an aggressive childhood cancer, making the team highly motivated to accelerate the development of these first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors.  We are currently exploring opportunities with strategic pharmaceutical partners, investors and of course, ongoing work with the innovative drug discovery scientists at OICR,” said Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer of FACIT.

“With the growing recognition of the importance of epigenetic signalling, potent and selective small molecules targeting the WDR5/MLL1 interface present a potential therapeutic intervention in leukemias and some p53/myc-driven cancers.  Upcoming healthcare conferences are a timely opportunity to implement our partnering strategy for this promising set of inhibitors as we seek to leverage private sector investment,” remarked David O’Neill, Vice President of Business Development at FACIT.

About WDR5
WDR5 is a scaffolding protein essential for assembly of epigenetic MLL1-associated methyltransferase complexes and proper histone modification, the dysregulation of which is strongly implicated in MLL leukemia. In addition to its importance in MLL leukemia, deregulation of WDR5 itself has been observed in bladder cancer, where overexpression correlates with poor patient survival. MLL1 mutations are common in a variety of solid cancers, including breast, colon, lung, and bladder.

About OICR
OICR is an innovative cancer research and development institute dedicated to prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, supported by the Government of Ontario. OICR and its funding partners support research programs that involve more than 1,700 investigators, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees in research institutes and in universities across the Province of Ontario as well as at its headquarters. OICR has key research program efforts underway in small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing. For more information, please visit the website at www.oicr.on.ca.

About FACIT
FACIT (Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust) is an independent business entity established by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR)  to undertake and accelerate development and commercialization activities related to breakthrough cancer research, products and drug discovery from OICR and throughout Ontario. For more information, please visit the website at facit.ca or email info@facit.ca.