As part of Toronto Health Innovation Week , MaRS hosted its third annual MaRS HealthKick Challenge where Canada’s top early-stage and emerging growth ventures in medical devices, pharma and biotech, and digital health made their pitches to global investors for the chance to win one of three CAD $20,000 cash prizes.
Toronto’s ExCellThera took home the top prize in the Pharma & Biotech Category. The company is doing exciting work working towards new treatments for patients with leukemia and other malignant blood disorders. The prize was given to Dr. Peter Zandstra, the company’s co-scientific founder and chief technology officer, following his pitch to global investors.
ExCellThera was co-founded by Drs. Zandstra, Guy Sauvageau (CEO and Chief Scientific Officer) and Anne Marinier (Chief Chemist). Its lead product, ECT-001, combines two innovations: the novel small molecule UM171, which rapidly expands long-term hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), and a unique bioreactor technology that reduces stem cell inhibitors and presents a low-cost manufacturing solution. Additionally, it increases the amount of stem and progenitor cells significantly, making umbilical cord blood a suitable option and allowing more adult patients to be treated for blood cancers and disorders.
ExCellThera started its Phase 1/2 clinical trial for ECT-001 in 2016, testing the safety and efficacy of ECT-001 for the expansion of HSCs in patients who require stem cell transplantation for the treatment of leukemia and other malignant blood disorders, but who lack suitable donors. The trial is expected to finish by the end of 2017.
The ExCellThera leadership team is now planning for subsequent clinical trials, identifying partners and starting the process of securing series A funding.