Strategy Update

19
Nov 2015
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Dr. Michael Rudnicki

Trudeau government urged to invest in stem cells

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A week after his lab unveiled its game-changing research into the root causes of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (read about it here), Dr.

A week after his lab unveiled its game-changing research into the root causes of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (read about it here), Dr. Michael Rudnicki is urging the new Trudeau government to “put its money where its future is: stem cell research.”

In an iPolitics piece published today, Dr. Rudnicki applauded the new government for appointing Dr. Kirsty Duncan as a full-standing minister of Science.

“This is a welcome development in a country that hasn’t been celebrated enough for its contributions to the global scientific research enterprise,” writes Dr. Rudnicki, Scientific Director and CEO of the Stem Cell Network (SCN).  “One area of research that is particularly underfunded in Canada is, ironically, one that can start making a drastic difference in the health of Canadians and people around the world: stem cell research and personalized medicine.”

He recommended the new government consider the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, which he called “the most progressive results-orientated health care document produced in years.”  Crafted by a coalition of scientists, medical doctors, health charity executives, industry experts, business leaders and philanthropists, the Strategy is championed by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

Thursday’s article is the second recent iPolitics piece advocating stronger investment in stem cell research and development. In August, Foundation President & CEO authored a piece titled Small cells, big future: Why we need a national stem cell effort.

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14
Sep 2015
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Globe & Mail: Want a flourishing economy? Invest in stem cell R&D.

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How can Canada’s leadership hopefuls nurse our ailing economy back to health without leaving it susceptible to the global viruses of the resource and manufacturing sectors?…

How can Canada’s leadership hopefuls nurse our ailing economy back to health without leaving it susceptible to the global viruses of the resource and manufacturing sectors?

By investing in stem cell research, according to the Globe & Mail’s list of 15 ways to create a flourishing economy.

On Saturday, the Globe’s Eric Andrew-Gee wrote that  while “pulling things out of the ground and hammering steel have been pillars of Canada’s economy for at least a generation,”swings in global demand have often left the country in the economic lurch. The Globe polled economists and public policy gurus to produce 15 smart ideas “that wring as much as possible out of the old economy and help a new economy flourish.”

Stem cell research is Number 10. The article noted that stem cell research “was invented in 1960s Toronto. So, some researchers have asked, why not make Canada a ‘magnet’ for such research today?”

While the federal government has indicated it understands the potential economic and disease-curing benefits of stem cells — most recently with at $114-million, seven-year grant to the University of Toronto — “more can be done,” given that California, with a population similar to Canada’s, has already invested $3 billion.

The Globe’s article resonates with sentiments expressed in an Aug. 24 op-ed by James Price, Canadian Stem Cell Foundation President and CEO. Published in iPolitics, the article makes it clear that “Canadians across the country want and need a national stem cell effort.”

Such a plan is ready. The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan was developed by Canada’s top researchers, medical professionals, health charity leaders, industry partners and to position Canada to deliver up to 10 new curative therapies to the clinic within 10 years. While federal funding is needed to launch the program, two-thirds of its support will come from non-federal sources.

Help boost the economy and save lives. Tell the politicians seeking your vote that you support the stem cell Action Plan. Just click here. It takes less than two minutes.

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24
Aug 2015
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3 reasons why we need the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan

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Why does Canada need a coast-to-coast-to-coast stem cell effort?

Three big reasons, says James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, in today’s edition of iPolitics.

Why does Canada need a coast-to-coast-to-coast stem cell effort?

Three big reasons, says James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, in today’s edition of iPolitics.

“To maintain our position as a global leader in the field that we discovered and pioneered, to help thousands of Canadians and their loved ones who are struggling with life-threatening conditions, and to transform the stem cell sector into a thriving industry built on high-quality jobs that support families across the country, we need a truly national stem cell effort.

Mr. Price makes the point that with the election campaign now fully underway, it’s time for our politicians to commit to supporting the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, which will see Canada lead the way in delivering up to 10 new therapies to the clinic within 10 years.

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20
Aug 2015
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Dr. Brian Goldman

More than politics: why health – and stem cells – should be an election issue

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Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC Radio’s weekly medical show White Coat, Black Art, wants to know why health care has fallen off the discussion table in this year’s federal election.…

Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC Radio’s weekly medical show White Coat, Black Art, wants to know why health care has fallen off the discussion table in this year’s federal election.

In his blog, he points to the Maclean’s magazine “Federal Issues 2015” rundown of what the federal parties are talking about during the election and notes the following:

“Terrorism made the list. So did defence spending. Jobs, crime, climate. No problem. Heath care? Nada.”

Dr. Goldman, an emergency room physician when he’s not broadcasting his view-from-the-front-lines show on the state of health care, wants to know why party leaders aren’t talking about our struggling health care system and what they might do to fix it.

We agree. Our Foundation has been actively advocating for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan — a private-sector led plan to deliver up to 10 new curative therapies within 10 years. The Plan aligns the key players — scientists, doctors, industry experts, health charity leaders and philanthropists — to follow through on the promise of stem cells to come up with cures that have baffled medical science for centuries.  You can watch a short video of what scientists doing the research hope to do here.

Health — and stem cells’ role in health care — should be a major election issue.  Health is always top of mind for all Canadians. In early 2014, Abacus Data reported that health care was the number one issue for Canadian voters — well ahead of taxes and job creation. Just last Christmas, the Toronto Star’s political columnist Susan Delacourt predicted that health care would be one of two sleeper issues of the 2015 election campaign:

“…rather than ask the pundits for their predictions about the ballot-box issue for the 2015 election, maybe we should be asking what was on the minds of people around the holiday dinner table this week (besides seconds or desserts). My bet? Health care and seniors’ issues. If Canadian families are not already grappling with health-care concerns at this immediate moment, many are expecting to be juggling matters related to senior care, especially as the population ages.”

So where did health go as an election issue?

Stuff happened. When the price of a barrel of crude oil drops from $107 US to hovering just above $40, it tends to grab the attention of everyone living in a country with a resource-based economy. Canada has also suffered two deadly acts of terrorism this past year, heightening our fears about security in a troubled world. And now the Mike Duffy trial has replaced the weather as the topic du jour at backyard barbecues.

It’s a shame, because our health is absolutely paramount to everything in life. It is a rare Canadian family without someone — an elderly parent, a partner, a child, a niece or nephew — who is struggling with a debilitating, chronic health condition.

Stem cells were discovered in Canada and Canadian researchers are on the verge of delivering stem cell cures for devastating conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, MS & Parkinson’s. We need the Action Plan to make it happen right here, right now. Beyond saving lives, it would also ease the strain on health care — and boost the economy.

We are calling on the Government of Canada and all political parties to commit to contributing just one-third of the investments, about $50 million annually over 10 years.  You can find out everything about the Action Plan here. Then you can call on your local federal politician to support the Action Plan.

Because this is not just a political issue.  It’s more than an election issue.

It’s a life and death reality that touches us all.

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28
Jul 2015
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Stem cell co-discoverer Dr. James Till at left with Dr. Peter Zandstra (CBC News)

$114-million research investment builds stem cell momentum

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Today’s announcement that the federal government will invest $114 million over seven years in the University of Toronto’s “Medicine by Design” research initiative comes as exciting news to every Canadian excited about the potential of regenerative medicine to save lives.…

Today’s announcement that the federal government will invest $114 million over seven years in the University of Toronto’s “Medicine by Design” research initiative comes as exciting news to every Canadian excited about the potential of regenerative medicine to save lives.

This is a significant momentum-builder for the field,” says James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. “It is great to see our country developing the assets it needs to make it increasingly possible to implement the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan.”

The Foundation supported the grant application – part of the federal government’s $1.5-billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund for universities and colleges – when the bid was submitted last winter. The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) made the announcement in Toronto.

“Stem cells offer avenues to treat – and perhaps cure – devastating and costly illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, blindness, lung disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and diseases of the blood and musculoskeletal system,” Dr. Peter Zandstra, a Medicine by Design leader and member of the Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, says in the Government of Canada’s press release.

The Strategy & Action Plan, developed by a coalition of researchers, medical professionals, health charities, industry leaders and philanthropists, sets the course for Canada to lead the way in delivering up to 10 new curative therapies within 10 years.  The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, both partners in the Medicine by Design initiative, played key roles in developing the Strategy.

Mr. Price calls Medicine by Design an important research-focused step toward building a vibrant regenerative medicine ecosystem that can deliver new therapies to the clinic. “We look forward to working with the University of Toronto on this important project.”

 

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23
Feb 2015
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‘Let’s get this done’

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The Globe and Mail  today features an editorial pages article about the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan.

James Price, Foundation’s President and CEO, and Dr.

The Globe and Mail  today features an editorial pages article about the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan.

James Price, Foundation’s President and CEO, and Dr. Janet Rossant, Interim Director of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and immediate past president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, co-authored the article, headlined ‘Make Canada a magnet for stem cell trials’. Exploring the impact of experimental stem cell treatments abroad, the piece makes the case for Canada to build on its expertise in stem cell research and development to become the location of choice for high quality clinical trials.

“The real impact of many of the experimental stem cell treatments offered abroad is a question mark.” said the authors. “A better solution is made-in-Canada treatments. Give Canadians access to safe, cutting-edge and rigorously reviewed stem cell clinical trials here in Canada. Once fully proven, these treatments would be available across the country.” they added.

canada stem cells

Although several stem cell-related clinical trials are already under way in Canada (you can read about the recent announcement of a new stem cell trial for MS on our blog), there is the potential to do more.The Strategy & Action Plan will see Canada lead the way to bringing five to 10 new safe and proven therapies to the clinic within 10 years.

“Canadians should not need to travel abroad where experimental treatments are unproven and could carry serious health risks. We all want our loved ones to have access to the best care available when they need it. So let’s get this done.”

You can read the full version of the Globe and Mail article here.

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19
Feb 2015
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‘All we have to do is get it right’

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An article about the benefits of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan is featured in the online version of Policy Options, Canada’s premier public policy journal.…

An article about the benefits of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan is featured in the online version of Policy Options, Canada’s premier public policy journal.

Titled ‘How Canada can capitalize on its stem cell technology,’ the piece was written by Dr. Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and Chair of our Foundation’s Board of Directors, Dr. Allen Eaves, President and CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc., and James Price, our Foundation’s President and CEO. It illustrates how Canada can lead the way in stem cell science and translate research into five to 10 new therapies over the next 10 years.

“If we get it right, we can reduce human suffering from chronic, debilitating diseases, ease the burden on an overstressed health care system that is currently costing more than $200 billion a year, boost our economy by creating thousands of new high-skill jobs and own an area of advanced technology that was born in Canada.” said the authors.canada stem cells

“Canada’s role in all of this is vital. We have enormous scientific credibility, given that Canadians virtually founded the field: James Till and Ernest McCulloch proved the existence of stem cells more than 50 years ago at the Princess Margaret Hospital and went on to train and inspire subsequent generations of scientists who have positioned Canada at the leading edge.”

The print version of the article will be available soon in Policy Options, March-April 2015 edition.

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20
Jan 2015
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Strategy will streamline the process for clinical trials in Canada

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The controversy over the experimental stem cell treatment in India grabbed national headlines last week.

Alberta businessman Lee Chuckry told CBC News in Manitoba that he spent $34,000 for a stem cell therapy in India only to find his MS got worse and that “I think it’s just a big fraudulent scam.” However, another MS patient who took part in the experimental trial claims the treatment helped her.…

The controversy over the experimental stem cell treatment in India grabbed national headlines last week.

Alberta businessman Lee Chuckry told CBC News in Manitoba that he spent $34,000 for a stem cell therapy in India only to find his MS got worse and that “I think it’s just a big fraudulent scam.” However, another MS patient who took part in the experimental trial claims the treatment helped her.

The controversy points to the need for Canada to make stem cell research and development a national priority. Always a clear leader in stem cell research, Canada needs a coordinated strategy to bring health benefits for Canadians. The goal of the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan is for Canada to lead the way in delivering five to 10 safe and effective treatments for chronic diseases within 10 years.

CBC News visited Foundation’s offices in Ottawa to ask President and CEO James Price about the goals of the Strategy. He told the CBC that the Strategy will streamline the process for clinical trials in Canada “so that Canadians that are suffering have access to treatments that are safe and proven to be effective.”

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15
Jan 2015
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Controversies over stem cell tourism underscore need for Strategy

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Two days after we blogged about the scientific concerns regarding Gordie Howe’s experimental stem cell treatment in Tijuana, another example of Canadians seeking unproven therapies abroad has hit the media.…

Two days after we blogged about the scientific concerns regarding Gordie Howe’s experimental stem cell treatment in Tijuana, another example of Canadians seeking unproven therapies abroad has hit the media.

Alberta businessman Lee Chuckry told CBC News in Manitoba that he spent $34,000 for a stem cell therapy in India only to find his MS got worse and that “I think it’s just a big fraudulent scam.” MS

Chuckry, who has been battling MS for over a decade, was recruited into the stem cell trial by Doug Broeska, founder of a Winnipeg-based company called Regenetek Research. Broeska recruited patients for the the so-called “liberation” therapy pioneered by Italian researcher Dr. Paolo Zamboni in 2008. The treatment, dubbed chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, involves widening the patient’s neck veins to improve blood flow. The Indian clinical trial combines CCSVI and the injection of stem cells into the veins and spinal column.

In March 2013, Chuckry flew to India for the trial. “It comes to a point of sort of desperation of trying to find the next thing that might help me, so I’m always on the search for that and I came across this,” he told the CBC. But the attacks came back upon his return home. His attempts to get in touch with Broeska about his new MS symptoms were unsuccessful and he received none of the follow-up common in clinical trials, such as MRIs and physical examinations.

According to the CBC, Broeska claimed on his LinkedIn profile that he earned a PhD at the University of Manitoba, but the university could not confirm that and his LinkedIn profile was down yesterday. The International Cellular Medicine Society, of which Broeska claims to be a member, has no record of his membership. And the ethics committee at India’s Inamdar Hospital in India, where the clinical trial is underway, ordered Broeska to step down as principal investigator because his lack of credentials and follow-up “violated international ethical standards.”

In addition, the Winnipeg Free Press reported this morning that the University of Winnipeg has cancelled a joint project with Regenetek Research.

Over the last few years the much publicized potential of stem cells to treat a variety of diseases has raised hope among patients suffering from conditions for which there currently are no cures. This, in turn, has led some less than scrupulous companies across the globe to capitalize on that hope by marketing costly stem cell therapies that do not have the support of proven clinical evidence. For more information, please visit our Treatment Abroad page.

Both the Howe report and this week’s MS controversy point to the need for Canada to make stem cell research and development a national priority. As James Price, Foundation President and CEO, told the Ottawa Citizen earlier this week, “stem cell tourism should be a wake-up call that Canada needs to prioritize funding for stem cell therapies.” He says it illustrates the need for the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, with its goal of delivering five to 10 new treatments to clinics within 10 years. He told the paper that the Action Plan will give Canadians confidence “that new therapies are a priority and ultimately, Canadians will have first access to these therapies.”

Indeed, Canada is a world leader in stem cell research. MS survivor Jennifer Molson has been symptom-free for 12 years after receiving a stem cell transplant in a  clinical trial run by Dr. Harry Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital. “I’m living proof of the tremendous potential that exists with stem cell research. I got a second chance at life.” said Molson in declaring her support for the Strategy.

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13
Jan 2015
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Howe treatment points to need for Strategy

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The”miraculous” recovery of the Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe, who suffered a severe stroke in October, made news across the country — and raised many questions.…

The”miraculous” recovery of the Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe, who suffered a severe stroke in October, made news across the country — and raised many questions.

gordie howe

In mid-December, the star of Detroit Red Wings, received an experimental stem cell treatment in Mexico.

Howe’s son Mark told the Detroit Free Press that his father’s health has significantly improved since then. “His mobility was limited to shuffling his feet forward while sitting in a wheelchair. Within the past few days dad was pushing a cart at a grocery store, and he’s gone to the mall.” he said.

But what is the other side of Howe’s fast resurgence? Was the procedure safe? Does it send out the wrong message?

The scientific validity of the procedure Howe underwent is unclear. According to the newspaper U-T  San Diego Howe received the treatment from Novastem, a Mexican stem cell company, at a clinic in Tijuana. San Diego’s Stemedica, which provided the stem cells, says it follows U.S. law and requires those licensing its stem cells in foreign countries to obey the laws of those countries.

Regardless, over the last years the much publicized potential of stem cells has raised hope among patients suffering from chronic diseases. This, in turn, has led some less than scrupulous companies across the globe to  capitalize on that hope by marketing costly stem cell therapies — often for a wide variety of diseases — without the support of proven clinical evidence.

Canadian scientists and medical ethics experts have warned that this phenomenon of stem cell tourism is on the rise and so are its risks.

As reported in Ottawa Citizen this morning, Howe is one of many Canadians who put themselves in danger by seeking experimental stem cell therapies in countries with softer regulations than in Canada.

“Patients go to places that offer stem cell therapies because they are looking for hope. And stem cells can offer that hope. Unfortunately, very often there is no proven benefit.” Dr. Duncan Stewart, chief executive and financial director of the regenerative medicine program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute told the Ottawa Citizen.

In past posts, Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta and a member of the Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, has said that unproven treatments create health risks for patients and undermine the credibility of stem cell research.

On this note, James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, told the Citizen  that “stem cell tourism should be a wake-up call that Canada needs to prioritize funding for stem cell therapies.” He says it illustrates the need for the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, which has a goal of leading the way to developing five to 10 new treatments to the clinic within 10 years.

As reported in the Citizen story, “A major emphasis of the stem cell Action Plan, which includes public and private funding, is giving Canadians confidence that new therapies are a priority and ultimately, Canadians will have first access to these therapies.”

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