The Stem Cell Network (SCN) announces that they have received funding of $4 million for innovative stem cell and regenerative medicine research that will help translate discoveries into better health and economic growth for Canadians. This funding was made available thanks to a 2017 budget commitment by the Government of Canada and followed a competitive peer-reviewed process facilitated by SCN.
SCN will support a total of 24 goal-directed projects from across Canada that are moving research from lab bench to bedside in areas such as brain injury, muscular dystrophy and vision repair. These new, high-impact projects will engage 95 scientists and more than 150 trainees across the country. Three projects are directly supporting early stage cell-therapy clinical trials in multiple myeloma, type 1 diabetes and heart disease. This funding is being matched almost 3:1 with partner support valued at more than $11 million.
“The strength of Canada’s stem cell research sector has long been tied to its collaborative nature and strong community,” says Dr. Michael Rudnicki, OC, Scientific Director of SCN. “This has enabled SCN to build exceptional, world-leading teams that are tackling some of the most pressing health challenges of our time. Thanks to their efforts, regenerative medicine is now at a point where we are seeing stem cell based therapies moving into the clinic and made available to patients.”
In Canada, chronic diseases cost $190 billion each year, a healthcare burden that continues to outpace economic growth. However, the disruptive power of stem cells makes it possible to turn the tide – even a single new treatment for a costly disease has the potential to save millions of dollars for the healthcare system.
The work of Dr. Freda Miller at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), whose cutting-edge research has the potential to improve the outcomes for children and youth living with brain trauma, giving them the opportunity for a fuller, more productive life, is an example of such innovation. Her approach uses an inexpensive, common drug to stimulate brain repair and will be advanced to a clinical trial through an SCN Disease Team award.
“As a member of the Stem Cell Network since 2001, I can unequivocally say that I have benefitted greatly from being part of a national community. With the funding support announced today, my team can continue our efforts to bring new therapies to the clinic,” says Dr. Miller, a neurobiologist at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto. “I’m grateful to the Stem Cell Network for their leadership and support; and I look forward to seeing this research benefitting Canadians who live with brain trauma.”
SCN is flowing funds through three strategic programs:
The Clinical Trials Program will provide $1.5M for 3 trials. A total of 33 investigators (3 Investigators & 30 Collaborators) at 9 institutions and 27 trainees will be engaged in these trials, which will determine the safety and efficacy of new stem cell treatments in humans. This program supports phase I/II trials with the potential to be economically viable for health care systems and show a benefit to patients. Funded trials will focus on evaluating a stem cell therapy for diabetes, using expanded stem cells from cord blood in the treatment of multiple myeloma and assessing an enhanced cell therapy for heart repair.
The Disease Team Research Agreement Program will provide $1.1M for 7 national projects. A total of 61 investigators (24 Investigators & 37 Collaborators) at 18 institutions and 58+ trainees will be engaged. Multidisciplinary teams supported through this program are focused on novel cellular or stem cell-related therapeutic approaches to treat disease. Commercialization is an important component for this program, as projects must demonstrate a path to market or clinic. Research supported from this competition will address treatments for blindness, brain trauma, septic shock, and type 1 diabetes.
The Impact Research Agreement Program will provide $1.4M for 14 national projects that span clinical translation, commercialization and public policy. A total of 59 investigators (20 Investigators & 39 Collaborators) at 18 research institutions will benefit and 54+ trainees will be engaged. Diseases such as muscular dystrophy, stroke, heart and lung disease will all be studied. Commercialization topics include improved genetic engineering in human stem cells and a platform to rapidly characterize induced pluripotent stem cells. Public policy projects will develop recommendations for Canadian stem cell policy updates and strategies to address the marketing of unproven stem cell therapies.