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Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment - BioCanRx - BioCanRx

$40 million for 2014-24
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Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment - BioCanRx

Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario

Scientific Director
John Bell John Bell

President and CEO
Stéphanie Michaud Stéphanie Michaud

Board chair
Ken Newport Ken Newport

Canada’s Immunotherapy Network

The opportunity

Immunotherapies are among the most exciting and promising cancer treatments to emerge in the past decade, thanks to their ability to mobilize and activate the body’s natural defenc e mechanisms against the most advanced cancers. Unfortunately, too many of these promising therapies are failing to reach the clinic, in part because of a lack of critical infrastructure to bridge the gap between the laboratory discoveries and human testing of promising experimental therapeutics. Canada has launched a national effort to overcome these hurdles. Scientists and clinicians are working with provincial agencies, cancer foundations, industry and NGOs – as well as cancer patients and their families – to bring new treatments to patients quickly while reducing health-care costs.

How BioCanRx is seizing the opportunity

BioCanRx is a pan-Canadian network of expertise and infrastructure for the development, manufacturing and clinical testing of new immunotherapies that hold the promise of being more effective, affordable and safe than conventional cancer therapies. The network builds upon the fundamental scientific discoveries made in laboratories across the country and leverages Canada’s specialized manufacturing, toxicity and testing infrastructure to de-risk the most promising therapeutic candidates and initiate testing in cancer patients. In addition to scientists and clinicians specializing in biology, genomics and immunology, legal scholars, ethicists and health economists have also been enlisted to ensure a holistic approach is taken for the uptake of these technologies within the health-care system and that they are affordable to health-care payers.

Among the results

  • BioCanRx and its partners are funding CAR-T biomanufacturing in Canada and rolling out a point-of-care biomanufacturing network to enable the delivery of novel CAR T-cells using a decentralized manufacturing approach. Several projects are also underway to determine the optimal use of this novel therapy in patients and, working with partners such as CADTH and Health Ontario, on how CAR-T will be further adopted in the Canadian health-care system.
  • $1.5 million in philanthropic funding for the CD19 CAR T-Cell clinical trial was secured from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. This additional funding will enable this clinical trial to remain open and treat 15-20 Canadian patients that have exhausted the standard of care and who are otherwise ineligible for this treatment.
  • BioCanRx has collaborated with Algonquin College, OHRI BMC-VMF and e-Campus Ontario to co-develop and implement a first-of-its-kind micro-credentialed program on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in Canada.
  • BioCanRx is leveraging its grant funds through its many industry partnerships and has funded 59 projects (including 12 clinical trials) and seven core facilities (including two GMP biomanufacturing core facilities to produce GMP-grade products) through these collaborations.
  • A number of spin-out companies have emerged through initial investments from BioCanRx. A recent example is Virica Biotech, an Ottawa-based company. BioCanRx funded a study by Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo, on Viral Sensitizer (VSe) technology, to increase the yields of different types of therapeutic viruses that deliver material into infected cells in some cancer treatments. Virica is growing rapidly and recently announced a collaboration with Oxford BioMedica, a leading gene and cell therapy company.
  • BioCanRx has garnered international recognition for its successful Learning Institute at the annual Summit for Cancer Immunotherapy where the ultimate goal is patient scholar-researcher collaboration. Since implementing such patient engagement activities, BioCanRx has observed a 9-fold increase in patient engagement across its research programs.
  • Dr. Megan Mahoney, Director, Scientific Affairs and Training Programs at BioCanRx, is the recipient of the 2021 Carleton University Co-op Employer of the Year Award. Mahoney was nominated by Rida Gill, a fourth-year BSc Biology and Biotechnology student who completed an eight-month work term as a Knowledge Mobilization Intern. In her nomination, Gill highlights that it was through her current position with Mahoney that she became interested in cancer research and will be continuing on in a lab at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

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