Three leading players in Canada’s health sciences sector are joining forces to create a novel drug development platform that will help advance new therapeutics for some of the most debilitating conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease.
The initiative, under the banner of ‘NeuroCDRD’, is jointly led by The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University (MNI), and Merck. Its initial focus is the creation of a high-content hiPSC (human-induced pluripotent stem cell) screening platform that will help researchers better model neurological disease.
As Gordon McCauley, President and CEO of CDRD explains this collaborative initiative not only combines the cutting-edge science of academia, but will also benefit from CDRD’s translational abilities and the commercial resources of a top industry partner like Merck.
“By working together, we are a catalyst for Canadian life sciences leading the world,” he said.
Development of new drugs for neurological diseases has long been hampered by the lack of predictive humanized models, and many treatments that have looked promising in animal studies have in turn failed in subsequent human clinical trials. To mitigate this challenge, the collaborating partners will use the MNI’s renowned hiPSC platform and bring together experts from MNI’s neurological and CDRD’s drug screening and assay development teams to develop a new generation of disease-specific research models using patient-derived hiPSCs. The idea is to significantly reduce research timelines and costs, making it possible to develop future hiPSC models for neurological diseases with smaller patient populations.
“The burden of neurological diseases and injuries on society is growing each year, and as a physician I see the impact on patients and families every day,” said Dr. Guy Rouleau, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. “At the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, our mission is to drive forward innovation, discovery and advance patient care. We are grateful to CDRD and Merck for developing this partnership and sharing this goal with us
“This initiative exemplifies our ongoing approach to R&D, building collaborative relationships among talented researchers across the country,” Merck Canada president and managing director Chirfi Guindo, adds. “We are confident that this partnership with CDRD and MNI has the potential to accelerate development of new treatments for neurological diseases.”