CQDM and OCE co-fund a promising research collaboration in neuroscience


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Toxicity assessment by fluorescence and luminescence
Photo credit: Xiao-Yan Wen

Toronto, August 19, 2014 – CQDM and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) are pleased to announce the funding of a new collaborative, inter-provincial project that could accelerate clinical development of treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and diabetes.

As part of the Quebec-Ontario Life Sciences Corridor initiative, which aims at supporting industry-academic collaborations that will result in innovative tools and technologies to improve and accelerate the drug discovery process, CQDM and OCE will jointly support Xiao-Yan Wen from the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Sciences at St. Michael’s Hospital, Christopher Barden from Treventis and Pierre Drapeau, professor at Université de Montréal and researcher at CHUM’s Research Center, to develop an automated zebrafish high throughput screening technology platform to accelerate screening of small molecules in disease models of protein misfolding and aggregation.

CQDM and OCE are each supporting the $900,000 project with $150,000 with Treventis providing an additional $600,000 ($150k in cash and $450k in kind).

This promising technology has the potential to screen and produce data at least 10 times faster as compared to what it takes to assess potential in vivo therapeutics manually, which represents important costs and time savingsin the drug discovery process.

“This invaluable partnership that we have built with OCE is once again expressed in the co-funding of this unique and very innovative project to accelerate the drug discovery and development process. The project further develops synergies between the public and private sectors in Quebec and Ontario by combining resources and strengths across our two provinces. This collaboration illustrates the value-added of CQDM’s unique business model, and of the one of OCE, to support true translational research that builds networks of excellence in research nationally,” said Diane Gosselin, President and CEO of CQDM.

“Our partnership with CQDM continues to be a productive and important one,” said Tom Corr, President and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence. “Our two provinces have a great deal to offer each other in terms of research and advancement of drug discovery and development techniques. This groundbreaking research could lead to some significant advances in treatment of these diseases in the very near future. ”

“This collaboration unites the research expertise of Ontario and Quebec to accelerate the development of better treatment options for people with neurodegenerative diseases,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. “Strategic partnerships like this will improve the everyday lives for people in both provinces by generating positive health and economic outcomes.”

\”These investments in leading innovations will accelerate the drug development process by increasing the research efforts and the presence of our researchers in this field and contribute to enhancing the reputation of Quebec excellence in neuroscience\”, said Minister of Economy, Innovation and Exports, Mr. Jacques Daoust.

In June, the CQDM-OCE partnership led to the launch of the 2014 edition of CQDM’s Explore Program, in which OCE committed to fund the Ontario arm of the competition. The program seeks to foster highly innovative and unconventional game-changing biopharmaceutical research. Thanks to this new partnership with OCE, this program is now open to researchers in Ontario, for the very first time, as well as in Quebec.

Zebrafish in the service of neurodegenerative diseases

Xiao-Yan Wen (St. Michael’s Hospital), Christopher Barden (Treventis) and Pierre Drapeau (Université de Montréal) reunite to use a cutting edge technology to develop a unique automated zebrafish high throughput screening tool for drug discovery. This collaboration between academia (Wen & Drapeau) and industry (Treventis) leverages the academic investigators’ expertise in zebrafish disease models and in the robotic high throughput zebrafish screening facility at St. Michael’s Hospital to screen Treventis’ library of compounds that inhibit misfolding and aggregation of a wide variety of proteins. These proteins once aggregated are implicated in diverse neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The zebrafish has emerged as an excellent screening model system. Maintaining significant evolutionary proximity to humans, including a whole vertebrate system, it is well-suited to high-throughput applications due to its small size, ease of handling, high fecundity, fast biologic and behavioral development and transparency during early stage, which enable in vivo labeling and imaging. Zebrafish models have been designed so that they recapitulate key features of many neurodegenerative diseases.

The developed zebrafish HTS platform will respond to the currently unmet needs of in vivo drug screens, particularly in improving predictive powers as compared to in vitro cell platforms. The validation of the zebrafish preclinical relevance and use of the platform to identify hits (effect of a drug on a specific therapeutic target) will be performed by screening Treventis’ virtual anti-aggregation compounds in disease models. This innovative drug discovery platform will aim at identifying lead molecule candidates first as a proof of concept but ultimately for further clinical development in neurodegenerative diseases and other chronic diseases. Furthermore, this project has the potential to establish St. Michael’s Hospital facility to serve as a valuable contract research organization to other pharmaceutical companies to speed up their drug discovery processes. In fact, this disruptive acceleratedhigh throughput zebrafish technology would be able to screen Treventis’ whole library, low the attrition rate on advanced preclinical essays and produce data on efficacy in under 6 weeks, which is at least 10 times faster as compared to the 6-18 months it takes presently to evaluate potential in vivo therapeutics manuallyGiven the very high cost of drug discovery, this represents significant cost savings.


From left to right : Xiao-Yan Wen (St. Michael’s Hospital) and Christopher Barden (Treventis)

About CQDM

CQDM is a pharma-based consortium active in pre-competitive research whose mission is to fund the development of innovative tools and technologies to accelerate drug discovery. Unique in the world, CQDM’s business model is based on a collaborative approach where all stakeholders share the costs of biopharmaceutical research and benefit from its results. CQDM also provides a common meeting ground where academia, governments, and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries converge to address numerous complex medical challenges. CQDM receives financial support from AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer Canada, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly Canada, Novartis Pharma Canada, Sanofi Canada, as well as from Quebec’s Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Exports (MEIE) and under the Federal government’s Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence Program (BL-NCE).For more information, visit us at www.cqdm.org.

About Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. (www.oce-ontario.org)

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario’s global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario’s industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and government ministries. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, OCE invests in sectors such as advanced health, information and communications technology, digital media, advanced materials and manufacturing, agri-food, aerospace, transportation, energy, and the environment including water and mining. OCE is a key partner in delivering Ontario’s Innovation Agenda as a member of the province’s Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). Funded by the Government of Ontario, the ONE is made up of regional and sector-focused organizations and helps Ontario-based entrepreneurs and industry rapidly grow their company and create jobs. For more information visit www.onebusiness.ca

Julie Martineau
Senior Director, Communications and Corporate Development, CQDM
Tel.: (514) 766-6661, ext. 2198

Stuart Green
Manager, Media Relations, Ontario Centres of Excellence
Tel.: (416) 861-1092 ext. 1022

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