29
Oct 2014
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Strategy & Action Plan promises major leap forward to alleviate human suffering

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Today is the official launch of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan to chart  the course for Canada to lead the way in bringing up to 10 breakthrough therapies to the clinic by 2025.…

final press release

 

Today is the official launch of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan to chart  the course for Canada to lead the way in bringing up to 10 breakthrough therapies to the clinic by 2025.

The 10-year Action Plan outlined in a new report Following Through: Realizing the Promise of Stem Cells – A Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan (2015-2025)  was created by scientists, medical professionals, leaders from major health charities, industry experts and philanthropists. It is backed up by an in-depth study by KPMG and has been endorsed by an international panel of experts. The report explains how Canada can transform health care and reduce suffering and death from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, vision loss, spinal cord injury and other devastating conditions.

Multiple sclerosis survivor Jennifer Molson was on hand at a press conference on Parliament Hill to support the Action Plan. Molson has been symptom-free for 12 years after receiving a stem cell transplant in a Canadian-led clinical trial. “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.”

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

Dr. Janet Rossant, head of research at SickKids Hospital, said the time is right for Canada to seize the opportunity to move stem cell science forward: “We are at an incredibly exciting time in science where our research is leading to new treatments and therapies.”

“I’m proud to be a part of this historic coalition,” said Dr. Allen Eaves, Founder and CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc. “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.”

Quick facts

  • The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan calls for a $1.5-billion public-private investment over 10 years, including a $50-million average scaled annual commitment by the Government of Canada.
  • The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine estimates the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan could generate more than 12,000 jobs for Canadians via the growth of existing companies and the development of new enterprises that reach global markets.
  • In 2013, more than $200 billion was spent on health care in Canada. Two thirds of that money was used to treat incurable diseases. Stem cell research, cell therapy and regenerative medicine are working towards treatment options for these diseases.
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07
Mar 2016
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Coordinated approach to stem cell R&D can mean more than cures

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The latest edition of Re$earch Money magazine asks an intriguing question:

“Is half a billion dollars too big a budget ask to cure chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s that account for the bulk of Canada’s health care costs?”

The article, available here, profiles the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s  Pre-Budget Submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee calling on the federal government to commit $250 million in 2016 and an equal amount five years later to support the $1.5 billion Canadian Stem Cell Strategy. …

The latest edition of Re$earch Money magazine asks an intriguing question:

“Is half a billion dollars too big a budget ask to cure chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s that account for the bulk of Canada’s health care costs?”

The article, available here, profiles the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s  Pre-Budget Submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee calling on the federal government to commit $250 million in 2016 and an equal amount five years later to support the $1.5 billion Canadian Stem Cell Strategy.  The federal outlay will be doubled with more than $1 billion from other sources, including the private sector, philanthropists, health charities and other partners.

Foundation President & CEO James Price told Re$earch Money that the government has been receptive to the case that he and coalition members have been making for the Strategy in the lead-up to March 22 tabling of Budget 2016.  “Our proposal is strongly aligned with what we’re hearing in terms of the government’s proposed innovation agenda looking at investments that target key growth sectors for Canada that have the ability to attract investment, grow competitive export-oriented companies and diversify the economy.”

The article points out that the lion’s share of private funds would come from STEMCELL Technologies Inc., a Vancouver-based firm that plans to invest  $350 million to $500 million in R&D over the Strategy’s 10-year time span. “If you want faster results (from stem cell research) you need a coordinated approach across Canada and that requires money,” says Dr. Allen Eaves, STEMCELL’s President and CEO.

 

 

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04
May 2010
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Stem Cells Win a Webby

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You did it! And we can’t thank you enough.

When the stemcellfoundation.ca website was nominated for a Webby Award we were thrilled — it’s such a big award and to be one of five finalists worldwide was a great honour.…

You did it! And we can’t thank you enough.

When the stemcellfoundation.ca website was nominated for a Webby Award we were thrilled — it’s such a big award and to be one of five finalists worldwide was a great honour.

But to win — and to win the People’s Voice Award — makes it that much more meaningful. It shows how widespread the support for stem cell science has grown.

Thank you! Your support was incredible, and we’re thrilled that you, and so many others, believe so strongly in the importance and power of stem cell science.

Here are just a few examples of your support:

Fantastic blog posts by David Eaves and Lee Buckler.

Cool photo instructions from @natashalcd

Tweets from @billstrong, @robynrussel, @artezonline, @feilu108, @jimtill @dishanw, @stemcellnetwork, @donambridge and many, many more.

Not to mention the countless emails, phone calls, facebook posts and other creative ways of getting the word out. Thanks to all of you for helping stem cells win a Webby and showing the world how important this field is.

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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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T & M Leadership Circle

The Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle is a select group of business and philanthropic leaders who have made a leadership gift commitment to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation and who have committed to lend their advice, support and voice to advancing Canada’s leadership in stem cell research and its application to human health.…

The Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle is a select group of business and philanthropic leaders who have made a leadership gift commitment to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation and who have committed to lend their advice, support and voice to advancing Canada’s leadership in stem cell research and its application to human health. Founding Members of the Leadership Circle include:

VANCOUVER

Peter J.G. Bentley, OC, OBC, LL.D

Chair Emeritus, Canfor Corp.

Allen C. Eaves, OBC, MD, PhD, FRCPC

Founder, President & CEO, STEMCELL Technologies Inc.

Martha Piper, OC, OBC, PhD

President Emeritus, University of British Columbia

CALGARY

Patrick Daniel

Retired CEO & President, Enbridge Inc.

N. Murray Edwards, OC, LL.D

Chair, Edco Financial Holdings Ltd.

Randy & Claudia Findlay

Founder, Provident Energy Trust

Charlie Fischer & Joanne Cuthbertson

Retired President & CEO, Nexen Inc.

James K. Gray, OC, AOE

Chair, Energy, Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

Richard Haskayne, OC, AOE, FCA

Chair, Haskayne & Partners

Stephen Snyder

Retired President & CEO, TransAlta Corp.

James Stanford, OC

Retired CEO, Petro Canada

Rick & Donna Sukovieff

Co-Founder, Solex Energy Ltd.

Don & Ruth Taylor, CM

Taylor Family Foundation

Michael & Renae Tims

Vice-Chair, Matco Investments Ltd.

EDMONTON

A. Anne McLellan, PC, OC

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP; Corporate Director, Cameco Corp. and Agrium Inc., Chancellor, Dalhousie University

Eric P. Newell, OC, AOE

Retired Chair & CEO, Syncrude Canada Ltd.

SASKATOON

Gerald Grandey

Retired CEO, Cameco Corp.

TORONTO

Randy & Janis Benson

Partner, KPMG

Carlo Fidani

Chair & CEO, Orlando Corp.

John & Frances Foresi

Founder & CEO, Venterra Realty

John Francis & Susan Caskey

Managing Director, Fraser Kearney Capital Corp.

Miranda C. Hubbs

Corporate Director

Richard M. Ivey, CC, QC, LL.D

Honorary Chair, Ivey Foundation

Fred Jaques & Janet Hardy

CPG/Food Industry Executive

Michael & Barbara Keilhauer

President, Keilhauer Furniture

Vahan & Susie Kololian

Managing Partner, TerraNova Partners

Fraser & Heather Latta,

President, Jenal Investments Inc.

Nancy & Jon Love

Founder & Managing Partner, KingSett Capital

Frank McCrea

Founder, President & CEO, Procom

Bruce & Vladka Mitchell

President & CEO, Permian Industries Ltd

OTTAWA

David Williams

Ottawa, Ontario

MONTREAL

L. Jacques Ménard, CC, OQ, LL.D

Chair, BMO Nesbitt Burns and President, BMO Financial Group, Québec

HALIFAX

David Hennigar

Executive Chair, Thornridge Holdings Ltd.

John Risley, OC

President & CEO, Clearwater Fine Foods

Jim Spatz, MD

Chairman & CEO, Southwest Properties

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Jarrod Daniel, MD

Charlotte, North Carolina

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06
Dec 2017
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Our goal has been accomplished

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A message from Dr. Alan Bernstein, OC, FRSC, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He is President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

A message from Dr. Alan Bernstein, OC, FRSC, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He is President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

When I returned to Canada from New York after leading the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, it was relatively easy to decide to become involved with the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

One of the most exciting fields of scientific research and promising areas of clinical and translational medicine, stem cells hold huge promise for treating a diverse variety of human diseases, from cancer to neurological disorders to diabetes and more.   And Canada punches well above its weight, starting with the 1960s discovery of stem cells by Dr. James Till, who I trained with in the 1970s, and his partner Dr. Ernest ‘Bun’ McCulloch.   Many other Canadian scientists have subsequently contributed – with the discovery of cancer stem cells, neural stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, to name just a few – to make Canada a world leader in the field.

I also agreed to chair the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Board of Directors because I had enormous respect for the people who were already involved, such as former university presidents Drs. Martha Piper and Peter MacKinnon of the Universities of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, respectively. The board also included the Hon. Anne McLellan, who I had worked closely with when I was head of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and she was Minister of Health.

The list of highly respected people didn’t end with the board. Largely because of the efforts of President and CEO James Price, the Foundation had enlisted prominent Canadians from across the country to join the Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle and show their support for stem cell science and its application to improving health. That was a significant achievement that not only gave the Foundation the credibility it needed but also signaled to the broader Canadian stem cell community that prominent Canadians were active supporters of their goals.

That’s a big reason why Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan, in her mandate letter to the new Canada Research Coordinating Committee last month, named stem cells and regenerative medicine as one of the four key areas for coordination amongst the four federal agencies involved in funding research in this country.  This is no accident: it represents the culmination of the efforts of the Foundation and the people associated with it.

In fact, the Foundation has had an important impact on the Federal Government’s appreciation of Canada’s strength in stem cell science and its increased awareness of the important work underway in labs across the country.  The now two-year extension of funding to the Stem Cell Network and funding of the $114-million Medicine by Design project at the University of Toronto, much of which is focused on stem cells and regenerative medicine, are indicators of the recognition by government that this is a central component of Canadian research and innovation.

There has been a significant impact on industry, as well.  People closely associated with the Foundation, like board member Dr. Allen Eaves, whose Vancouver-based STEMCELL Technologies does business around the globe, have shown you can build successful enterprises and generate the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars into the Canadian economy through stem cell research and development.  Similarly, the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, largely by offshore investors, into BlueRock Therapeutics, a company dedicated to stem cell therapy for cardiac disease, is further evidence of both the strength of Canadian stem cell science and its promise for the treatment of serious human diseases.

Thanks to the efforts of many organizations and many people, the Canadian stem cell effort is in excellent shape.  There is positive energy around the country and there are outstanding young people entering the field, which, at the end of the day, is what really matters.  They see a great future in stem cells and regenerative medicine.

Because of all this, the Foundation’s board, after an extensive six months of deliberation, decided that our work is now done.  The Foundation has accomplished what it was created to do: raise awareness about the importance of stem cell research and the strengths of stem cell science across the country.  We were able to make key individuals aware of the value of stem cell research and development – both in terms of improving the health of Canadians and bolstering the Canadian economy.

While it is always easier to start new organizations than end existing ones, the Board of Directors unanimously made the difficult but wise decision to sunset the Foundation and to declare victory.  At the same time, the Board also expressed its sincerest thanks to James and to his Executive Assistant, Eileen Emmonds, and Susan DeLisle, Director of Development, for their utmost commitment to the Foundation and its goals and their outstanding efforts on behalf of the Foundation and stem cell science in Canada.

Dr. Alan Bernstein, OC, FRSC, has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He is President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

 

 

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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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