13
Jun 2016
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CBC program delves deeply into stem cell treatment for MS

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Want to know more about last Thursday’s announcement that two Ottawa doctors have found a way to shut down aggressive MS?…

Want to know more about last Thursday’s announcement that two Ottawa doctors have found a way to shut down aggressive MS?

In case you missed it, Rita Celli, host of CBC’s Ontario Today, dedicated her entire hour-long program on Friday to discussing the report. Published in the Lancet, the paper details how Drs. Harry Atkins and Mark Freedman were able to halt the progression of the disease for the 24 patients in the study. Some patients, like Jennifer Molson, saw their MS symptoms disappear entirely over time.  You can access the podcast here.

Ms. Celli features Dr. Freedman who explains how the treatment destroys the patient’s immune system through chemo and then rebuilds a new MS free one using their own previously harvested bone marrow stem cells. He also takes calls from listeners, some of whom tell their stories of life with MS.

The program also features clips of Ms. Molson explaining how the treatment freed her from life in a wheelchair, and Dr. Atkins declaring that “MS can be stopped in its tracks.”

The program provided a comprehensive look at the treatment, which is considered high risk (one patient died) and is only for those MS patients for whom nothing else is working.

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03
Apr 2013
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Yes You Can

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Canada has earned its position globally as a stem cell leader. Canadians made the original discovery of stem cells and have made many of the most important breakthroughs.…

Canada has earned its position globally as a stem cell leader. Canadians made the original discovery of stem cells and have made many of the most important breakthroughs. Our scientists are world-renowned and have trained successive generations of researchers who continue to increase our depth of knowledge in the field.

Larger, Broader Support

Recent years have seen stronger support continue to emerge from Canadians. Last year, the Renew the World Gala celebrated the 50th anniversary of the discovery of stem cells by Canadian researcher Drs. Till & McCulloch.

The gala was attended by 500 influential Canadians from all across the country who showed their commitment to the healing potential of stem cell science. The public declaration of support showed by these celebrities, business leaders and philanthropists has helped to set a new tone and momentum that is growing across Canada.

New Leaders

Today, new leaders are taking up the cause of stem cell science as their own. They recognize the impact that stem cell research can have on the health of Canadians, on our health care system, and on our economy. Our Board of Directors has continued to grow and their guidance, experience, and credibility are bringing greater attention and support to the stem cell cause.

This is For Everyone

Each of us can take small actions to help realize the full potential of stem cell science. Already, we are seeing that potential emerge. Jennifer Molson’s recovery from MS is a moving case in point. These changes are already in motion, but they don’t happen by themselves; they require support from all of us.

Sign the Charter

The first thing you can do is to make a clear statement of support for stem cell science. You can sign the International Stem Cell Charter to make that support public. Better yet, you can share it with others after you’ve made your declaration. Just follow the link HERE to get started.

Learn More

It’s important for each of us to continue to learn more about stem cell science. Not only is the field moving quickly, but it’s also essential that we take a grounded, measured approach over the long-term in order to achieve the outcomes we all hope for. We don’t all have to become scientists, but it’s possible for each of us to learn the fundamentals about stem cells and to share what we learn with others.

A great place to start is the book that we commissioned that tells the story of the discovery of stem cells. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the characters and moments that have defined our past and will shape our future.

Support the Foundation

Together we can shape Canada’s stem cell future. We have a strong foundation on which to build—a foundation we can be proud of. We have scientific leaders working in world-class research laboratories. We have leaders willing to lend their influence and work together to provide direction and to help achieve the healing potential that stem cell science offers.

What we need is you. We need your support. We need your voice. As you sign the Charter and continue to learn more about stem cell science, consider how you can support the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

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11
Jun 2014
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What’s the ‘real deal’ on stem cells?

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The day before 3,600 scientists, clinicians, educators and industry professionals from around the world gather in Vancouver next week for the International Society of Stem Cell Researchers’ summit, the public will get a chance to hear about the ‘real deal’ on stem cells.…

The day before 3,600 scientists, clinicians, educators and industry professionals from around the world gather in Vancouver next week for the International Society of Stem Cell Researchers’ summit, the public will get a chance to hear about the ‘real deal’ on stem cells.

Moderated by the Vancouver Sun’s Pamela Fayerman, the Tuesday, June 17th symposium focuses on why stem cells, which have been hailed for the past two decades as having the potential to fight so many diseases, have — with some notable exceptions — been slow to deliver.

The panel that includes Prof. Timothy Caulfield, author of The Cure for Everything and member of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, and stem cell transplant recipient Jennifer Molson will tackle the question: Why is it taking so long to make these promised therapies a reality? Industry investment expert Gregory Bonfiglio of Proteus Venture Partners and University of British Columbia stem cell researcher Dr. Kelly McNagny will also share their views.

It’s an important question. The translation of stem cell research discoveries into stem cell therapies takes a long time. It includes securing funding, getting regulatory approvals and conducting rigorous — and hugely expensive — clinical trials. In the meantime, unregulated clinics are popping up around the planet, offering “miracle” stem cell cures that have not been proven safe or effective.

The symposium, sponsored by the Stem Cell Network and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, will be held in the OmniMax Theatre at Science World at TELUS World of Science. For more information, click here.

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02
Nov 2015
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Harry Atkins capture

Dr. Harry Atkins

Doctors hailed for innovative MS treatment

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Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the work that Drs. Mark Freedman and Harry Atkins are doing to fight multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases with stem cells.…

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the work that Drs. Mark Freedman and Harry Atkins are doing to fight multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases with stem cells. We have profiled both doctors and featured patients like Jennifer Molson, who had her MS eliminated by the treatment more than a decade ago.

On Friday, the Ottawa Citizen provided a comprehensive update headlined ‘Ottawa doctors behind breakthrough multiple sclerosis study.” The report focuses on Alex Normandin, who was a third-year medical student in Montreal when he became patient No. 19 of 24 in the original trial and underwent his bone marrow stem cell transplant in 2008. Now a practising MD, he told the paper that “Life is great.”

So far,  more than 30 MS patients have been treated with stem cell transplants arising from the Ottawa study, which received funding from the Research Foundation of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

It is not a treatment to be entered into lightly: the extreme chemotherapy patients go through before their own fortified stem cells are reintroduced to reboot their immune systems can be fatal.

However,  in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of MS — between 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians are affected —- such innovative treatments are  enormously encouraging.

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31
Mar 2010
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Shinny, Stem Cells and Timbits – Oh, Canada

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It’s true. We were really cold. But this past weekend, over 20 people gathered to play a round of shinny at the “Shins of Steel” game in Ottawa.…

It’s true. We were really cold. But this past weekend, over 20 people gathered to play a round of shinny at the “Shins of Steel” game in Ottawa. It was a mix of Foundation staff, volunteers, friends and family who participated in the first ever Stem Cell Shinny game, kicking off a month-long awareness and friendraising campaign in support of stem cell science.

The game was friendly, but the players were serious. I gave a quick welcome, we divided into teams, the ref (Jennifer Molson, a stem cell transplant recipient and Canadian Stem Cell Foundation volunteer extraordinaire) dropped the bright orange ball, and scrambled to get out of the way. The game was on.

The game lasted almost two hours, with the occasional break for timbits and hot chocolate. (A more Canadian way to spend a morning has not yet been invented.)

Thank you

These kinds of events are a lot fun. But they succeed because of the individuals who give their time, their ideas, and yes, the money to support them. I’m grateful to each of the people who played a role in this event. You made it fun, you surprised us with your humour, your donations, and your ideas, and you reminded us how important supporting stem cell science is to you.

If we can do it, so can you

Probably most striking about this event was how easy it was. The Foundation has put the tools in place to create your event—your own shinny game or something else altogether. We played in a school parking lot, I borrowed nets from a neighbour (and have kept them), got sticks from some friends (I don’t even play hockey), and made a quick run to Tim Horton’s for coffee and hot chocolate. It was that easy.

I’d encourage you to hold a game yourself. If you want to learn more about Shinny, host your own game or become a supporter, visit the Stem Cell Shinny homepage.

Trefor Munn-Venn is VP of Operations & Development at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He’s also better at street hockey than you’d expect.
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29
Jan 2015
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Canadian researchers unveil stem cell trial for MS

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A new clinical trial in Ottawa and Winnipeg will investigate the ability of stem cells to suppress inflammation and repair nerve tissue for people with Multiple Sclerosis, researchers announced Thursday.…

A new clinical trial in Ottawa and Winnipeg will investigate the ability of stem cells to suppress inflammation and repair nerve tissue for people with Multiple Sclerosis, researchers announced Thursday.

“The MS Society of Canada is proud to be investing in the first Canadian clinical trial studying the ability of mesenchymal stem cells to treat multiple sclerosis,” Yves Savoie, President and CEO, MS Society of Canada, said in a media release. “As Canada has the highest rate of the MS in the world, we are excited that Canadian researchers are among the leaders in developing a novel and effective cell-based treatment.”

The $4.2-million clinical trial, co-led by the University of Ottawa’s Dr. Mark Freedman and Dr. James J. Marriott of the University of Manitoba, is called MESCAMS (for MEsenchymal Stem cell therapy for CAnadian MS patients). It will involve 40 patients — 20 in each city — who will receive either mesenchymal stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow or a mock solution to see if the effects of the stem cells are real or triggered by a “placebo effect.”

For information about clinical trial eligibility and enrollment, click here.

“This is absolutely the kind of clinical trial that Canadians will see more of with the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan,” said James Price, CEO & President of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. “The Strategy is about bringing more clinical trials to Canada so that Canadians have early access to therapies that are proven to be safe and effective.”

As reported by Elizabeth Payne in the Ottawa Citizen, recent publicity around hockey legend Gordie Howe’s experimental stem cell treatment in Tijuana for stroke has focused attention on a growing international stem cell tourism industry offering unproven, untested therapies. “There is so much noise about stem cells in general and the hype that surrounds them, we are doing this study properly so we can answer the question for once and for all,” Dr. Freedman told the newspaper.

“Canada has a world-class stem cell sector and we are poised to bring new treatments to the clinic,” said Mr. Price.  “That’s why implementing the Action Plan is so important. It will mean that rigorously tested, safe and effective therapies are developed right here at home.”

Readers of this blog may be familiar with the story of Jennifer Molson who took part in a previous stem cell trial in Ottawa conducted by Dr. Freedman and Dr. Harry Atkins.  She is now free from all her previously debilitating MS symptoms. Unlike that study, which involved transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells to re-boot the immune system, there is no requirement for chemotherapy in MESCAMS.

The MESCAMS trial is part of a larger, international research effort led by Dr. Freedman and Dr.  Antonio Uccelli at the University of Genoa in Italy. The international effort links researchers from nine countries who are undertaking parallel research.

Funding for the trial, announced by the MS Society of Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation, is also being provided by Research Manitoba and A&W Food Services of Canada

 

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The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy

The next decade will see a flood of novel and improved treatments for diseases and injuries that have baffled medical science for centuries.…

FOLLOWING THROUGH-logo-CMYKThe next decade will see a flood of novel and improved treatments for diseases and injuries that have baffled medical science for centuries. These treatments will lead to more effective therapies for chronic conditions that are pushing our health care system beyond sustainability.

The Strategy, In Brief

Following Through: Realizing The Promise of Stem Cells


“For decades, stem cells have been able to replace diseased bone marrow as well as cure leukemia and many other blood cancers. We have learned to harness the potential of stem cells and are now building on what we have learned. Tissue repair and cures for a multitude of diseases are now within reach. The Canadian Strategy & Action Plan can make that possible.”Denis-Claude Roy, Scientific Director, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre CEO, CellCAN Regenerative Medicine and Cell Therapy Network
“We have many of the key pieces in place to build a dynamic stem cell industry that will not only revolutionize medicine but will also create the kind of knowledge-economy jobs and biotech manufacturing base to drive Canadian prosperity in the 21st century. The Strategy & Action Plan can take Canadian research and commercialization ‎to that next level.”Michael May, CEO, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine
“The promise of stem cells is on the verge of being fulfilled, with new treatments for many chronic diseases. As a health charity leader, I’m excited about the possibilities for new ways of treating — and potentially curing — diabetes and I see the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan as a vehicle to help us get there.”J. Richard Blickstead, President and CEO, Canadian Diabetes Association
“Canadian scientists are among the world leaders in stem cell research. The Canadian Stem Cell Network was the first of its kind and has played a vital role over the past decade in creating the critical mass needed to drive research toward clinical and commercial applications. We can’t afford to lose this momentum.”Michael Rudnicki, Scientific Director and CEO, Stem Cell Network
“One of the key strengths of the Strategy is that it brings together the scientists, clinicians, health charities, patients, business people and philanthropists. This is a pan-Canadian effort that spans all disease types. There is a massive group of communities behind the Strategy & Action Plan.”David Young, Chair, Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization CEO, Actium Research Inc.
“There are few areas of health research that are as exciting and that hold as much potential for human health and treating diseases as stem cells. Canadians have been at the forefront of stem cell research from its early beginnings to the present day.”Alan Bernstein, Chair, Board of Directors, Canadian Stem Cell Foundation President & CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Founding President Canadian Institutes of Health Research
“If we have a national strategy we’re going to be far more productive. In Canada, we can do more with a dollar than virtually any other country in the world. My sense is that’s why the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy is so critical. If we have the ability to do that – if we have the support – we can produce some particularly spectacular results.”Carlo Fidani, Chair, Orlando Corporation and noted philanthropist
“From a business perspective, I see stem cells coming into force. They were first isolated in Canada about 50 years ago by Till and McCulloch, and Canada is well-engaged in many areas of research and development. So, the potential is there. But you don’t capture potential if you don’t invest in it. Canada should be moving this forward and taking a leadership role.”Charlie Fischer, Retired President & CEO of Nexen Inc.
“The Strategy will enable us to align priorities, resources, scientists and ultimately business to get the best stem cell science in the world to the patient as quickly and safely as possible.”Martha Piper, Former President and Vice Chancellor, University of British Columbia Corporate Director, BMO Financial Group, TransAlta Corp., Shoppers Drug Mart
“Stem cells hold the key to the future. If we can translate our scientific discoveries into clinical practice we can significantly reduce the toll that disease is taking on people’s lives, make our health care system sustainable and reap economic rewards.”L. Jacques Ménard, Chair of BMO Nesbitt Burns and President of BMO Financial Group, Québec Chancellor of Concordia University
“Canadians spend over $200 billion a year on health care. Two thirds of that goes to managing currently incurable diseases. Imagine the impact if we could find new treatments and even cures. Stem cell research and development is putting us at the tipping point where that is now within reach. It’s clearly time to move forward in a decisive co-ordinated effort and the Stem Cell Strategy is the right vehicle to do it.”Stephen Snyder, Retired President & CEO, TransAlta Corp and former CEO of GE Canada
“The Strategy & Action Plan will accelerate the translation of stem cell research into new therapies like the one I received – the one that gave me my life back. We can better the lives of countless people facing immeasurable challenges. Individuals who deserve a second chance of life – much like my second chance of life.”Tina Ceroni, Stem cell transplant recipient
“Stem cell science is a futures issue where Canada can be a global leader. It is an area where we are truly strong, have a proud history and in which our smartest rank among the best in the world. We’ve already made good investments in the infrastructure. This is a great opportunity for Canada to lead and succeed.”David Hennigar, Chair & CEO, Thornridge Holdings
“Because stem cells have such a vast role to play in how we treat heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, it’s imperative that all of us — scientists, medical professionals, health charity champions, business leaders and philanthropists — work together in a co-ordinated and organized way. The Strategy brings those groups together to address that challenge and produce real results.”Eric Newell, Chancellor Emeritus, University of Alberta Retired Chair & CEO, Syncrude Canada Ltd.
“As opposed to just asking for more money for research, the Strategy deals with the policy changes that need to be addressed and how the regulatory process will be critical to getting Canada to where we want to be: a world leader in producing new treatments and therapies. It sets out the path Canada needs to follow and the actions we need to take to get us there.”Gerald Grandey, Retired CEO, Cameco Corporation
“The Strategy & Action Plan bolsters Canada’s competitive advantage in the next wave of regenerative medicine and our ability to create a vibrant stem cell industry that generates skilled jobs, boosts the economy, improves health outcomes and brings new therapies to the clinic.”Nancy & Jon Love, Founder and Managing Partner, KingSett Capital
“I’m living proof of the tremendous potential that exists with stem cell research. I got a second chance at life. This Action Plan will help others like me live free of illness and disease.”Jennifer Molson, Stem cell transplant recipient
“We are at an incredibly exciting time in science where our research is leading to new treatments and therapies.”Janet Rossant, Chief of Research at The Hospital for Sick Children
“I’m proud to be a part of this historic coalition. The Action Plan is ready to move forward and already has received private-sector support. Support from all governments will ensure companies like mine are able to create local jobs and, most importantly, transform stem cell research into tangible products and lifesaving therapies.”Allen Eaves, Founder and CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc.
“Canada has always been a leader in stem cell research. With this Action Plan and the infrastructure already in place, we have the capacity to transform health care by helping millions of Canadians through new, life-changing therapies and long-term economic growth.”James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.


We Need A Canadian Stem Cell Strategy

Making stem cell science a national priority and investing in the Canadian Strategy will enable Canada to go further, faster towards new treatments and improved health for Canadians; better, more sustainable health care; and new therapies and products developed in Canada to create economic benefits for Canada.

In the news:

A crucial moment in time

Exploiting our stem cell technology advantage

Make Canada a magnet for stem cell clinical trials 

The health benefits and economic opportunities are significant. We are already using stem cells to treat leukemia, multiple myeloma and other blood cancers as well as new applications for chronic would healing. There potential to do even more, such as

  • using our own cells to treat respiratory and heart diseases;
  • restoring lost vision using our own retinal stem cells;
  • creating a source of insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes;
  • repairing damaged spinal cords;
  • reversing the effects of MS, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune disorders;
  • reducing the ravages of Parkinson’s disease; and
  • targeting cancer stem cells to stop and reverse tumour formation in the brain, breast and other solid tissues.

Canada, boasting an outstanding record of scientific excellence and a strong culture of collaboration, is poised to take advantage of this rapid transformation and development of new therapies, clinical approaches and technologies:

  • Canada is one of the top two or three countries in the world in stem cell research based on both academic measures of success (citations) and commercial indicators (influential patents).
  • Canada’s collaborative stem cell research eco-system is admired around the world. The Stem Cell Network has been instrumental in forging a cohesive research enterprise among leading scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians in research centres across the country.
  • Canada’s translational effort has been enhanced by new initiatives and investments. The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine is piloting new models for clinical translation, commercialization and industry development.
  • Clinical trial capacity has been enhanced by recent private and public investments in five new specialized cell-manufacturing facilities across Canada – providing the capacity to conduct  50-75 new cell-based clinical trials over the next five years.

Canada has the power to create a new world – one in which we are able to reduce suffering and death from heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and other devastating and debilitating diseases. With the advancements made in stem cell research, it’s within our reach. Not 30 years from now – but in 10.

Thanks to wise investments, world-class expertise and strong planning, Canadian scientists have taken great strides in the lab, and are, over the next few years, poised to transform their progress into new, effective treatments. If we make the right decisions now, their work could profoundly impact Canadians and patients around the world for decades to come.

Other stem cell powers, well aware of the enormous potential of stem cell R&D, are moving quickly:

  • Japan has committed  more than $1 billion to accelerate clinical application of research using induced pluripotent stem cells.
  • In the United States, California has committed more than $3 billion to stem cell research and regenerative medicine over 10 years. New York $550 million over 11 years. Maryland: $100 million over five years.
  • The United Kingdom is investing heavily in regenerative medicine and its House of Lords recently recommended that Britain act now to prevent falling behind the U.S. and Japan.

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy will:

  • unite research institutions, scientists, health charities, industry partners, regulators, funders and philanthropists in a common vision for realizing the promise of stem cell science and regenerative medicine;
  • align the stem cell community and stakeholders in a concerted effort to set priorities and leverage our collective strengths to maximize health and economic benefits; and
  • secure long-term public and private sector support and appropriate funding to fulfill the promise of stem cells.

Several prominent Canadians and organizations have already joined in this quest.

See them here

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06
Dec 2017
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Passing the torch in celebration

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A message from James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

More than a dozen years ago, when the Federal Government was holding hearings to draft what would become the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which regulates the use of stem cells in research, I was part of the management team at the Stem Cell Network.…

A message from James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

More than a dozen years ago, when the Federal Government was holding hearings to draft what would become the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which regulates the use of stem cells in research, I was part of the management team at the Stem Cell Network.

I remember lively conversations with the late and wonderful Drew Lyall, the Network’s Executive Director, in which we agreed something was missing.  Beyond the scientists, we realized, there was no strong, national voice speaking on behalf of Canadians about the importance of these wondrous cells.

Back then, stem cells were much-misunderstood, with research still in very preliminary stages. Along with seeing that the lawmakers got things right, it was imperative to make sure the tremendous therapeutic potential of stem cell research and development be realized through proper funding and widespread public support.

What was needed was an independent organization to carry the banner, especially given that the Network’s funding was due to end within a few years.  And to be honest, Canadian pride also played a big role in establishing the Foundation.  Although stem cells were discovered here, and Canada had done much of the groundbreaking work in the field, few knew about it.

We got good advice from David Hughes, who’d run Habitat for Humanity Canada and was an expert on setting up non-profit organizations that work effectively.  And I consulted with Mark Sarner at Manifest Communications Inc.  Mark is a pioneer in social marketing and believes that it’s more important to further a cause than to add another layer of administration, which fit with our thinking: we didn’t want to create a top-heavy organization; we wanted to start a movement.  We wanted to get all the boats paddling in the same direction — and get more boats on the water.

We created the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation (incorporated as a non-profit charitable organization in 2008 and officially launched two years later) to make stem cell R&D a national priority with the public, private industry and government.  You can see that “start a-movement” thinking reflected in our branding.  We opted not to use an image that looked like it was pulled from a science textbook.  We wanted something aspirational.  We went with several strands of different coloured ribbons, crisscrossing but flowing together.

Our next step was to declare what we stood for.  We wanted to set out our principles – and the principles underpinning stem cell R&D – in a single document.  We reached out to Prof. Bartha Maria Knoppers at McGill University, one of Canada’s leading ethicists, who, with her colleague Prof. Rosario Isasi, helped draft the Stem Cell Charter setting out the core ethical values to be integrated into stem cell R&D.  Uptake was immediate: the International Society for Stem Cell Research signed on.  So did the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Canadian Blood Services and Stem Cells Australia, among others.  Realizing this could be big, we organized our first public awareness campaign.  People from 90 countries signed the Charter –  giving us a reach far beyond what we expected.

The campaign was so successful that our website, developed with Manifest, was nominated in the advocacy category of the 2010 Webby Awards, the Oscars of the Internet, in New York.  We made it to the finalists, where we were up against much-better-funded, bigger-staffed organizations like Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, which was building new sustainable, flood-proof houses in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of 2009.  Guess what?  We won.

A big part of that campaign was the powerful We’re Not Rock Stars  video that we produced with Andy Keen, the Gemini and Juno award-winning filmmaker who directed The Tragically Hip documentary Bobcageyon.  He brought his passion for the subject to the project and, to this day, it remains a powerful statement on the importance of stem cell science.  The real trick, though, was getting so many of Canada’s top scientists – some of the busiest and most overbooked people around – in the same room at the same time.  The video has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

As the saying goes, you’re known by the company you keep.  From the earliest days, our Foundation succeeded in attracting some of Canada’s most highly regarded influencers and leaders.  Dr. Alan Bernstein, the inaugural head of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, agreed to chair a board that included former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, STEMCELL Technologies powerhouse founder Dr. Allen Eaves, and former university presidents Drs. Martha Piper and Peter MacKinnon.  Business titans such as Stephen Snyder, who had run GE Canada and TransAlta Corp. and, more recently, Dr. Jim Spatz, one of Atlantic Canada’s leading real estate developers, and Miranda Hubbs, former managing director of one of Canada’s largest institutional asset managers, also came on board.

Beyond the directors, our Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle included almost 40 of Canada’s best and brightest company presidents and CEOs and philanthropists who not only provided financial support but priceless advice.  You can see the complete list here All our operations, by the way, were funded through the grace and favour of these private donors.  The Foundation never asked for nor accepted a dime of taxpayer money to do its work.

I mentioned earlier that Canadian pride was a driving force in creating the Foundation.  In 2005, when Drs. James Till & Ernest McCulloch won the Lasker Award – the most prestigious medical research award except for the Nobel – it started many of us thinking: why don’t more Canadians know about these two brilliant men who discovered stem cells?   Why isn’t there a book about them?  In the spring of 2010, I called in Joe Sornberger, a journalist who’d written extensively about stem cells, and, 18 months later, Dreams & Due Diligence: Till and McCulloch’s Stem Cell Discovery and Legacy was published by the University of Toronto Press The book, which has sold 3,000 copies so far, has been praised by reviewers for telling Till and McCulloch’s “amazing story …  wonderfully well.”

Speaking of Canadian pride, Canada’s scientists are a modest bunch.  They don’t bang the drum very loudly about themselves, or about each other for that matter.  We wanted to change that.  We wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Till and McCulloch’s stem cell discovery and, in the process, promote stem cell research.  We decided to hold a gala, the marketing for which was straightforward: “It’s not about being able to tell your grandchildren you were there; it’s about your grandchildren.”  In the spring of 2012, we cleared the cars out of the Mercedes Benz Midtown Toronto showroom and had 50 tables of 10 people, each with a top-notch scientist and a celebrity – people like Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback Damon Allen, the Tenors, three of the five Dragons’ Den dragonsChantal Kreviazuk and Dan Hill.  It was hosted by CBC’s Heather Hiscox.  Former multiple sclerosis patient Jennifer Molson told the assembled how stem cells gave her a second chance at life.  Jim Till got a standing ovation.  That the night was such a huge success was largely due to Hala Bissada, of Hala Inc., owner of one of the most highly awarded event firms in North America.

Given the amount of misunderstanding – and hype – swirling around stem cells, we wanted to help Canadians understand what these cells could, and couldn’t, do for them.  Working with the Network and science writer Maya Chaddah, we developed Toward Treatments, reader-friendly summaries of how stems cells are being applied in the treatment of 19 incurable diseases or conditions.  These have proven to be such a great resource that our partners at CellCAN have not only translated them into French, but added a graphic app called Reggie.  You can find it here.

While we have always been a small organization, no one ever accused us of thinking that way.  We believe that to fully capitalize on research gains, Canada needs to make a major commitment to stem cells and regenerative medicine.  We set to work and crafted the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, a truly transformative plan created over two years through consultation with 150 scientists, medical doctors, leaders from the major health charities, investors, industry experts and philanthropists.  It calls for the delivery of 10 new curative therapies to the clinic within 10 years and a $1.5-billion investment, with two-thirds to come from private sources and one-third from the Government of Canada.

Which brings us to today.  As I said at the outset, when we established the Foundation, the goal was to make stem cells a national priority with the public, private industry and government.  Back then, we expected accomplishing that goal would take five to 10 years.

We were right.  Looking at the field today, the public’s appreciation of stem cell science has blossomed, with widespread recognition of the lives that are being saved and a growing understanding of Canada’s leading role – with statues of Till and McCulloch installed in prominent locations in Toronto and Vancouver.

Industry involvement has never been stronger: businesses are currently investing more than $300 million to take stem cell solutions from research labs to patients in hospital beds.  Major commitments by companies such as Versant, Bayer and GE Healthcare are breaking down the barriers to successful development of new therapies.  Meanwhile, Vancouver’s STEMCELL Technologies has grown into Canada’s largest independent biotech, preparing to expand its staff of 1,000 by 4,000 within 10 years.

Through the direct efforts of the Foundation, and in collaboration with our partners, the Government of Canada has come to understand that regenerative medicine can create thousands of knowledge-economy jobs, save lives and help ease the strain on our over-stressed health care system.  So far, the Government has committed more than $200 million in new funding to programs like the Medicine by Design program led by the University of Toronto in partnership with the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  It decided to renew support for the Stem Cell Network and played a key role in getting a cell-manufacturing centre up and running in partnership with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine in Toronto.  It has enabled Québec-based CellCAN to move forward with cell therapy clinical trials.

Much of the Federal Government’s increased awareness arises from the Foundation-led advocacy campaign for the Strategy, which has been critical in defining priorities for action.  Recognizing the stem cell/regenerative medicine sector as one of four key sectors in which Canada can excel, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan recently created the Canada Research Co-ordinating Committee to find ways to reinvigorate federal science funding.  As part of that initiative, the Foundation is preparing a set of recommendations on how to better co-ordinate investment to build a world-class stem cell/regenerative medicine sector in Canada.

Making our submission to this effort will be a crowning achievement for the Foundation and is, in many ways, indicative of how it is now time for us to pass the torch.  The field is on solid footing and the future looks bright, with substantial investments in place and renewed advocacy efforts underway across the country.  It is not our wish to duplicate these efforts.

So, as we prepare to sunset the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation on December 31st of this year, we celebrate our achievements: making stem cells a national priority; helping scientists secure more funding for their work; advancing the development of new treatments for devastating diseases; and raising the profile of stem cell research and development.

Thank you all for your support over these past several years.  It has been invaluable.  We look forward to seeing what the future holds.

James Price is President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

 

 

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02
Jun 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: A Recap

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Over the past 38 days, we’ve celebrated a slightly extended version of MS Awareness Month by exploring how stem cells are being used to treat MS.…

Over the past 38 days, we’ve celebrated a slightly extended version of MS Awareness Month by exploring how stem cells are being used to treat MS. If you missed any of it, here’s the recap.

In our multi-part series on the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study, we heard from researchers who are re-growing the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells. We also heard from the people behind the scenes of the study, as well as a few of the patients:

We also celebrated World MS Day and posted lots of resources about MS and stem cells, like this Stem Cell and MS Animation, this video featuring Dr. Sam Weiss on Reversing Stroke and MS and the Stem Cell Network MS Patient Summary.

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Who’s Involved

The Campaign for a Canadian Stem Cell Strategy is a joint effort of the stem cell community, key stakeholders, patient advocates and concerned Canadians. …

FOLLOWING THROUGHThe Campaign for a Canadian Stem Cell Strategy is a joint effort of the stem cell community, key stakeholders, patient advocates and concerned Canadians.  The Joint Strategy Working Group represents key stakeholders:

coalition-partners

What people say about the Strategy

“For decades, stem cells have been able to replace diseased bone marrow as well as cure leukemia and many other blood cancers. We have learned to harness the potential of stem cells and are now building on what we have learned. Tissue repair and cures for a multitude of diseases are now within reach. The Canadian Strategy can make that possible.”
Denis-Claude Roy
Scientific Director, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre
CEO, CellCAN Regenerative Medicine and Cell Therapy Network

We have many of the key pieces in place to build a dynamic stem cell industry that will not only revolutionize medicine but will also create the kind of knowledge-economy jobs and biotech manufacturing base to drive Canadian prosperity in the 21st century.  The Strategy can take Canadian research and commercialization ‎to that next level.”
Michael May
CEO, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine

“The promise of stem cells is on the verge of being fulfilled, with new treatments for many chronic diseases. As a health charity leader, I’m excited about the possibilities for new ways of treating — and potentially curing — diabetes and I see the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy as a vehicle to help us get there.”
J. Richard Blickstead
President and CEO, Canadian Diabetes Association

“Canadian scientists are among the world leaders in stem cell research. The Canadian Stem Cell Network was the first of its kind and has played a vital role over the past decade in creating the critical mass needed to drive research toward clinical and commercial applications. We can’t afford to lose this momentum.”
Michael Rudnicki
Scientific Director and CEO, Stem Cell Network

“One of the key strengths of the Strategy is that it brings together the scientists, clinicians, health charities, patients, business people and philanthropists. This is a pan-Canadian effort that spans all disease types. There is a massive group of communities behind the Strategy.”
David Young
Chair, Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization
CEO, Actium Research Inc.

There are few areas of health research that are as exciting and that hold as much potential for human health and treating diseases as stem cells. Canadians have been at the forefront of stem cell research from its early beginnings to the present day.”
Alan Bernstein
Chair, Board of Directors, Canadian Stem Cell Foundation
President & CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Founding President Canadian Institutes of Health Research

“If we have a national strategy we’re going to be far more productive.  In Canada, we can do more with a dollar than virtually any other country in the world.  My sense is that’s why the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy is so critical. If we have the ability to do that – if we have the support – we can produce some particularly spectacular results.”
Carlo Fidani
Chair, Orlando Corporation and noted philanthropist

“From a business perspective, I see stem cells coming into force. They were first isolated in Canada about 50 years ago by Till and McCulloch, and Canada is well-engaged in many areas of research and development. So, the potential is there. But you don’t capture potential if you don’t invest in it. Canada should be moving this forward and taking a leadership role.”
Charlie Fischer
Retired President & CEO of Nexen Inc.

“The Strategy will enable us to align priorities, resources, scientists and ultimately business to get the best stem cell science in the world to the patient as quickly and safely as possible.”
Martha Piper
Interim President and Vice Chancellor, University of British Columbia

“Stem cells hold the key to the future. If we can translate our scientific discoveries into clinical practice we can significantly reduce the toll that disease is taking on people’s lives, make our health care system sustainable and reap economic rewards.”
L. Jacques Ménard
Chair of BMO Nesbitt Burns and President of BMO Financial Group, Québec

“Canadians spend over $200 billion a year on health care. Two thirds of that goes to managing currently incurable diseases. Imagine the impact if we could find new treatments and even cures.  Stem cell research and development is putting us at the tipping point where that is now within reach. It’s clearly time to move forward in a decisive co-ordinated effort and the Stem Cell Strategy is the right vehicle to do it.”
Stephen Snyder
Retired President & CEO, TransAlta Corp and former CEO of GE Canada

The Strategy will accelerate the translation of stem cell research into new therapies like the one I received – the one that gave me my life back. We can better the lives of countless people facing immeasurable challenges. Individuals who deserve a second chance of life – much like my second chance of life.”
Tina Ceroni
Stem cell transplant recipient

“Stem cell science is a futures issue where Canada can be a global leader. It is an area where we are truly strong, have a proud history and in which our smartest rank among the best in the world. We’ve already made good investments in the infrastructure. This is a great opportunity for Canada to lead and succeed.”
David Hennigar
Chair & CEO, Thornridge Holdings

“Because stem cells have such a vast role to play in how we treat heart disease, diabetes and  other diseases, it’s imperative that all of us — scientists, medical professionals, health charity champions, business leaders and philanthropists — work together in a co-ordinated and organized way. The Strategy brings those groups together to address that challenge and produce real results.”
Eric Newell
Chancellor Emeritus, University of Alberta
Retired Chair & CEO, Syncrude Canada Ltd.

As opposed to just asking for more money for research, the Strategy deals with the policy changes that need to be addressed and how the regulatory process will be critical to getting Canada to where we want to be: a world leader in producing new treatments and therapies. It sets out the path Canada needs to follow and the actions we need to take to get us there.”
Gerald Grandey
Retired CEO, Cameco Corporation

“The Strategy bolsters Canada’s competitive advantage in the next wave of regenerative medicine and our ability to create a vibrant stem cell industry that generates skilled jobs, boosts the economy, improves health outcomes and brings new therapies to the clinic.”
Nancy & Jon Love
Founder and Managing Partner, KingSett Capital

“I’m living proof of the tremendous potential that exists with stem cell research. I got a second chance at life. This Strategy will help others like me live free of illness and disease.”
Jennifer Molson
Stem cell transplant recipient

 “We are at an incredibly exciting time in science where our research is leading to new treatments and therapies.”
Janet Rossant
Chief of Research at The Hospital for Sick Children

“I’m proud to be a part of this historic coalition.  The Strategy is ready to move forward and already has received private-sector support. Support from all governments will ensure companies like mine are able to create local jobs and, most importantly, transform stem cell research into tangible products and lifesaving therapies.”
Allen Eaves
Founder and CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc.

“Canada has always been a leader in stem cell research. With this Strategy and the infrastructure already in place, we have the capacity to transform health care by helping millions of Canadians through new, life-changing therapies and long-term economic growth.”
James Price
President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation

 

 

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