Personalized medicine: CQDM and CIHR fund two promising research collaborations aligning academic and industrial research

News & Events

Montreal, July 29th, 2015. – CQDM and CIHR, through its institutes of Cancer Research, Genetics and Infection and Immunity, are pleased to announce $1.5M in funding for two translational projects in personalized medicine, to accelerate drug discovery and drug development. One project will be led by Dr. Henry Krause from the University of Toronto and the other one by Dr. Jeff Wrana from the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital. These two projects will also count on additional in-kind contributions of $530K from the participating SMEs involved, namely $250K from InDanio Bioscience in Krause’s project, and $155K from Encycle Therapeutics and $125K from Mount Sinai Hospital Research Services in Wrana’s project.

While working at developing new cutting-edge technologies in personalized medicine in order to bring solutions to the most pressing needs in biopharmaceutical research and healthcare, these research collaborations between academia and SMEswill also benefit from CQDM’s mentorship program which brings industrial support and expertise to the projects and helps better align the research with the needs of the pharmaceutical industry. Thisalso builds on investments of over $234M made by CIHR and its partners since 2012 in the context of CIHR Personalized Medicine Signature Initiative to enhance health outcomes through patient stratification approaches by integrating evidence-based medicine and precision diagnostics into clinical practice.

“We are delighted to partner with CIHR to fund these two research projects that will open new avenues in personalized medicine. These fruitful public-private research collaborations will bring forward innovative technologies, which will in turn accelerate the development of new, safer and more effective drugs for the benefit of patients. This joint program reflects the strengths of its partners: the academic research supported by CIHR and the translational industrial research supported by CQDM”, said Mario Chevrette, Vice President, Scientific Affairs at CQDM.

“CIHR is proud to support these researchers, whose work will focus on developing innovative technologies necessary to accelerate drug discovery and development in Canada. Partnering with CQDM allows small and medium enterprises to collaborate with CIHR-funded researchers to find the best solutions to improve the health of Canadians,” said Jane Aubin, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice-President, Research, Knowledge Translation, and Ethics Portfolio at CIHR.

Two cutting-edge technologies in personalized medicine

Zebrafish HTS platforms for nuclear receptor related drug discovery and pathway elucidation
Henry Krause, University of Toronto, Vincent Giguère, McGill University and Jens Tiefenbach, InDanio Bioscience
$750K from CQDM and CIHR, and $250K from InDanio Bioscience/2.5 years

Drug discovery is a long and expensive process, and many potential drugs discovered by traditional screening using cells in petri dishes fail in late development or after approval due to unforeseen side effects. Henry Krause’s team has developed a novel drug screening platform that can visualize potential drug activity three-dimensionally in live animal tissues, and can then isolate the active drugs or metabolites from the responding tissues. This transgenic zebrafish platform specifically targets a family of human proteins called nuclear receptors implicated in responding to various hormones. Nuclear receptors, one of the most highly responsive families of proteins for drug targeting, control processes such as metabolism, growth and behaviour, and diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The team’s objective is to develop a zebrafish platform spanning the whole panel of the 48 human nuclear receptors as well as 6 epigenetic-regulating cofactors. Embryos from these fish can be collected by the thousands and screened rapidly against an equal number of drug candidates, an important feature enabling the screening of the large libraries of compounds that pharmaceutical companies have developed. The active compounds cause the fish to glow green, which further facilitates identifying hits. In addition to further testing these compounds for drug potential, Dr. Krause’s team will also use them to identify their target genes and disease pathways. This collaboration brings an innovative approach to drug discovery and genome-wide pathway analysis that will benefit both the pharmaceutical industry and patients. This new more accurate, rapid and cost effective screening process aims at enabling and accelerating the development of new drugs.

qTAP, a novel platform for personalized medicine in cancer
Jeff Wrana and Anne-Claude Gingras, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital; Andrei Yudin, University de Toronto; Alexandre Zlotta, Mount Sinai Hospital; Andrew Roughton, Encycle Therapeutics; and Azar Azad from Mount Sinai Hospital Research Services
$750K from CQDM and CIHR, $155K from Encycle Therapeutics and $125K from Mount Sinai Hospital Research Services/2.5 years

In the last decade, cancer genomics studies have led to the remarkable revelation that cancer is a much broader and complex disease then initially thought. In parallel, dramatic advances in our ability to design drugs against cancer have created an extensive toolbox of therapeutics. The use of these “targeted” drugs in clinics has met with remarkable successes, but also disappointing failures. Since not all patient tumours are identical, some patients may respond to specific drugs, while others may not. The key, therefore, to enhancing efficacy of anti-cancer drugs is personalized medicine, matching the right patient to the right therapy or again, to pick the right tool to treat each individual patient’s disease. This project proposes to develop qTAP, a transformative diagnostic platform that will provide a global view of an individual patient’s tumour with the goal of identifying the types of drugs which might be most effective at treating their cancer. In addition, and as importantly, this project aims at developing novel classes of drugs that target understudied cancer-causing genes. By using qTAP, Wrana’s team wishes to enable clinicians to design customised treatments involving optimal drug combinations that will provide patients with a more effective cancer therapy to prevent relapse commonly observed in clinics.

About CQDM

CQDM is a pharma-based consortium active in early 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 Merck, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly Canada, Janssen, Novartis Pharma Canada, Sanofi Canada, as well as from Quebec’s Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Exports (MEIE) and from the Government of Canada under the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence Program (BL-NCE). For more information, visit us at

About CIHR

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,700 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

ICR is dedicated to supporting research that reduces the burden of cancer on individuals and families through prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, effective treatment, psycho-social support systems, and palliation.

Institute of Genetics (IG)

IG supports research on the human and model genomes and on all aspects of genetics, basic biochemistry and cell biology related to health and disease, including the translation of knowledge into health policy and practice, and the societal implications of genetic discoveries.

Institute of Infection and Immunity (III)

III supports research and helps to build research capacity in the areas of infectious disease and the body’s immune system. Through the Institute’s programs, researchers address a wide range of health concerns related to infection and immunity including disease mechanisms, disease prevention and treatment, and health promotion through public policy.


Eugénie Bergeron-Côté
Project Coordinator, CQDM
Tel.: (514) 766-6661, ext. 2196

Véronique Perron
Public Affairs Advisor
Canadian Institutes of Health ResearchTel.: (613) 952-5746