Medicine by Design, CCRM launch alliance to bolster Canada’s leading position in regenerative medicine

The partnership will help build a strong pipeline of regenerative medicine technologies and therapies
scientist uses a pipette under a fume hood

The alliance between Medicine by Design and CCRM aims to create end-to-end capacity from discovery to clinical translation and commercialization (photo by sommersby/Getty Images)

The University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design initiative and CCRM, a non-profit that supports the development and commercialization of regenerative medicines, are launching a new strategic alliance that aims to unlock Toronto’s potential as a world-leading ecosystem for regenerative medicine.

The partnership, which was announced at Medicine by Design’s 8th Annual Symposium on Dec. 6, will see the organizations build on their existing strengths in bridging high-risk, high-reward research to industry expertise, biomanufacturing infrastructure and the clinic.

The goal of the alliance, whose key members also include the University Health Network (UHN) and U of T, is to create co-ordinated, end-to-end capacity that spans discovery through to clinical translation and commercialization.

“Medicine by Design has its deep academic network and track record of supporting world-class research across the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN). CCRM has 12 years of success in launching and scaling cell and gene therapy companies at the interface of academia and industry,” said Allison Brown, executive director of Medicine by Design.

“With this alliance, CCRM is making an investment to sustain Medicine by Design’s discovery programs well into the future. It will enable us to build upon a strong regenerative medicine pipeline of breakthrough technologies and therapies that will ultimately provide health and economic benefits to Canada and the world.”

Leah Cowen, U of T’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives, said the alliance is in keeping with U of T’s strategic plan, and will bring an array of benefits to academic-led innovation.

“In addition to the investment into Medicine by Design, for U of T, this partnership unlocks a global network of biomanufacturing expertise, infrastructure and a network of industry partners that expand beyond regenerative medicine – a strategic benefit to the research and clinical communities in Toronto,” said Cowen.

Launched in 2015 with the support of a $114-million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), Medicine by Design has made large-scale, strategic investments in high-risk, high-reward research, advancing more than 190 projects. A U of T institutional strategic initiative, it has recruited world-class faculty and provided training programs to thousands of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and other personnel at U of T and its affiliated hospitals.

CCRM, which is funded by the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario and academic and industry partners, has accelerated translation of scientific discovery into new companies and products, with a specific focus on cell and gene therapies.

Michael May, president and CEO of CCRM, said the collaboration will contribute to ensuring that the life-saving potential of regenerative medicine is realized and that a talent pool is developed that will position Canada as a leader in the global cell and gene therapy industry. “Medicine by Design and CCRM, put together, represent an end-to-end perspective of the bench-to-bedside process – research and discovery to company development to manufacturing to bringing the therapy to market,” said May.

He noted the alliance will leverage both U of T’s and UHN’s reputations for world-class research and medicine and tap into a network of regenerative medicine-focused faculty and clinicians, as well as experts from the social sciences and other non-STEM fields.

Brad Wouters, executive vice-president, science and research at UHN and a member of Medicine by Design’s executive committee, said the alliance will facilitate access to funding and infrastructure for the clinical translation of new cell and gene therapies being developed by Toronto investigators.

“Toronto is known globally for the strength of our stem cell and regenerative medicine accomplishments,” said Wouters, a senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and professor in the department of medical biophysics in U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine. “UHN is excited to build on our existing partnerships with CCRM through the Centre for Cell and Vector Production and Medicine by Design to support this strategic alliance and its goals to create end-to-end capacity in our ecosystem to create new medicines that will have global patient impact.

“From discovery through to clinical validation and manufacturing, we look forward to advancing the next generation of living therapies for our patients.”

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