Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan

01
Oct 2015
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George Canyon, left, and David Prowten with Encaptra device

Canada AM highlights ‘closest thing to diabetes cure’

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This morning on Canada AM, country music star George Canyon and David Prowten, president of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) talked about their great hopes for a new stem cell device that could free diabetics from daily insulin injections. 

This morning on Canada AM, country music star George Canyon and David Prowten, president of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) talked about their great hopes for a new stem cell device that could free diabetics from daily insulin injections. 

Mr. Canyon, who has had type 1 diabetes since age 14, called the  device “the closest thing to a cure that I have ever seen … This is going to change the lives of 300,000 type 1 diabetics in Canada.”

Mr. Prowten, holding up the four-centimetre-long device, described it as “a big step forward.”

The Encaptra device, developed by a California-based biotechnology company called ViaCyte Inc. with help from the University of Alberta’s Dr. James Shapiro, has been featured in this space before.

Dr. Shapiro received Health Canada’s approval earlier this year to conduct a Phase1/2 clinical trial of the  stem cell-derived islet replacement treatment for diabetes.  It involves inserting the device, which is loaded with pancreatic progenitor cells, under the patient’s skin where new blood vessels grow around it and the body’s immune system doesn’t try to destroy it, enabling regulation of blood glucose levels. The Edmonton-based trial, supported by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and JDRF, follows one ViaCyte began last year in San Diego.

According to the Canada AM report, the first patient has now received the device. The early stage testing will be to see if the device is safe and is well tolerated. Within a year to 18 months scientists should learn if it actually works.  If it does,

“This could give me 10 to 12 months at a time of not really having diabetes, being able to go a day without testing, and taking insulin, Mr. Canyon said. “This is Disney World, right here.”

The report shows how close Canadian stem cell researchers are to delivering bold new therapies for a number of life-threatening conditions including, heart disease, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. And it provides one more reason for telling politicians who are currently seeking your vote that you support the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan to bring more clinical trials to Canada. Take a minute to show your support here.

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15
Sep 2015
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Take the 2-minute test for Type 2 diabetes

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Are you at risk of having pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes?

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly process insulin (called insulin insensitivity) or does not make enough insulin so that sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy.…

Are you at risk of having pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes?

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly process insulin (called insulin insensitivity) or does not make enough insulin so that sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy. About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It is more typical in adults, but children can be affected too.

The CDA has developed an online quiz for Canadians to see if they are at risk. Currently more than 9 million people in this country either have the disease or are in pre-diabetes. You can find out in just two minutes.  Click here to take the test.

Canada is a global leader in diabetes research. Almost 100 years ago, Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin and gave diabetics around the world the chance to live full lives. Now, Canadian stem cell researchers are working on ways to make those daily insulin injections a thing of the past via stem cell transplants.  The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan will help make it happen.  Click here to tell your federal candidates that you support the Action Plan — and that they should, too.

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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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02
Sep 2015
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Dr Karl Fernandeds (CBC News)

Canadian researchers make headway against Alzheimer’s, liver disease

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It has been a very good week for Canadian stem cell researchers, with two significant discoveries.

(Both discoveries show how Canadian scientists rank among the best in the world in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine.

It has been a very good week for Canadian stem cell researchers, with two significant discoveries.

(Both discoveries show how Canadian scientists rank among the best in the world in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Our Foundation advocates for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan to accelerate the translation of research discoveries into new, safe and effective treatments for a number of diseases. During the election campaign, we’re urging all Canadians to help put stem cells on the government’s agenda.  It only takes two minutes.  Just click here.)

First came news last Thursday that researchers affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre have identified fat droplets in the brains of patients who died from Alzheimer’s disease. These deposits appear to block stem cells from repairing brain tissue, possibly triggering dementia.

The fat deposits have been hiding in plain sight for more than 100 years. “We realized that Dr. Alois Alzheimer himself had noted the presence of lipid accumulations in patients’ brains after their death when he first described the disease in 1906,” says Laura Hamilton, a doctoral student who found fat droplets near the stem cells in the brains of mice predisposed to develop the disease. “But this observation was dismissed and largely forgotten.” Her remarks are highlighted in the research centre’s press release about the discovery.

The findings have implications for treating and potentially curing dementia, which currently affects almost 750,000 people in Canada, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Mimi Lowli-Young, who was featured in a CBC News report on the discovery. The Alzheimer Society helped fund the work.

The hope is that drugs to block fatty acid build-up, which are now being tested to fight obesity, could also help treat dementia. “We succeeded in preventing these fatty acids from building up in the brains of mice,” explained the University of Montreal’s Dr. Karl Fernandes. “The impact of this treatment on all the aspects of the disease is not yet known, but it significantly increased stem cell activity,”

Finding a treatment is still years away. But the discovery opens a new pathway to combat Alzheimer’s.

The second Canadian accomplishment comes from the lab Dr. Gordon Keller, Director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto.

A team of clinicians-scientists has found a way to generate 3D bile duct structures from human stem cells. The structures will allow scientists to study bile duct disorders, which cause liver disease, and test new treatments.

“Until now, we have not had a good scientific model to study the human liver’s bile duct system,” explains Dr. Anand Ghanekar, a clinician-scientist at Toronto General Research Institute, in a University Health Network news release. “We need to be able to study a patient’s disease in a dish at the basic cellular and molecular level. Stem cell technology gives us a totally different way of evaluating and then treating these defective cells.”

The discovery also has implications for treating Cystic Fibrosis because many patients with that disease also have defective bile duct function and liver disease.

 

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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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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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27
Jul 2015
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Dr. Duncan Stewart (Ottawa Citizen)

‘It would be a shame for us to slide back’

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Canada is losing ground in the field it founded, says Dr. Duncan Stewart, one of the world’s leading stem cell scientists.…

Canada is losing ground in the field it founded, says Dr. Duncan Stewart, one of the world’s leading stem cell scientists.

“Generally, the pace (of funding) is slower and I think we are losing ground compared to other jurisdictions,” Dr. Stewart told the Ottawa Citizen’s Elizabeth Payne. “Canada has been a leader in this area. It would be a shame if we were to slide back.”

Dr. Stewart, Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital,  recently published results of the world’s first clinical trial of a genetically enhanced stem cell treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension, a deadly disease for which there is no cure. The  results are promising, but a larger study is needed to see if the new therapy can produce long-term results. The money to do it, however, just isn’t there.

As the Citizen article points out: “Just as the promise of potential new stem cell therapies is blossoming, research funding is more uncertain than ever.”

The reality is Canadian researchers are poised to deliver new cures for devastating conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders like MS and Crohn’s, and neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, stroke and spinal cord injury. But it will take a coordinated effort to make that happen.

Our Foundation leads the coalition of researchers, medical professionals, health charities, industry leaders and philanthropists behind the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan. A bold private/public partnership, it would see Canada lead the way in delivering up to 10 new curative therapies within 10 years.

 

 

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24
Jul 2015
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Report calls stem cells a precise part of transforming health care

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Stem cells are part of the solution to transforming health care, according to the Federal Government’s Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation.…

Stem cells are part of the solution to transforming health care, according to the Federal Government’s Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation.

The Panel recently released its report, Unleashing Innovation: Excellent Healthcare for Canada. As part of its findings, the panelists noted “the inter-related areas of stem cell science, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine have opened up new therapeutic vistas” that are accelerating the transformation to “precision medicine.”

And what exactly is precision medicine? It is the opposite of the “one-size-fits-all” (or, better yet, “the one-drug-heals-all”) approach to health care. Sometimes called personalized medicine, it means diagnosing, treating and preventing illness with strategies tailored to an individual patient or subset of patients. It is being driven forward by technological advances that have made it possible to predict that a treatment that works for one patient may not work — and may be harmful — for another. By virtue of its very personal nature, stem cells and regenerative therapies are a type of precision medicine.

The benefits to precision medicine extend beyond avoiding adverse reactions. When drugs or treatments that are given to a patient are a bad fit, it’s a waste of the patient’s precious time (especially if the disease is life-threatening) and a misuse of the health care system’s already-limited resources

You’ll be hearing a lot more about precision medicine. As the Advisory Panel notes, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative in his 2015 State of the Union address, committing $215 million in funding. In a similar vein, Genomics England, a subsidiary of England’s National Health Service, announced it will sequence the genomes of 100,000 patients with rare diseases or cancer and their families. This will be linked to clinical data and made available at the bedside. In Australia, one of the National Health and Medical Health Research Council’s largest single grant competitions is for research funding to prepare for the genomics revolution in health care.

While much of the precision medicine attention is focused on genomics, stem cells and regenerative medicine work hand in hand with that field. More and more stem cell research is moving toward “autologous” stem cell solutions — using a person’s own stem cells to treat diseases such a blood-based cancers, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s, macular degeneration and to improve wound-healing.  Because these stem cells are self-supplied (though they go through manipulation to increase their volume and make them more robust), there is no need for immunosuppression drugs to fight off rejection. In short, they are a precise fit.

Much of what the Advisory Panel, led by the University of Toronto’s former president David Naylor, is suggesting echoes sentiments put forward in the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, a private-sector-led plan to deliver up to 10 new curative therapies within 10 years by aligning key players in the field – including researchers, clinicians, health charities, industry leaders and philanthropists. The Strategy notes that other countries are investing heavily in their own stem sectors and that if Canada does not act now, we will be left behind.

Speaking about precision medicine, to which stem cell science is intrinsic, the Advisory Panel warns that  “without a cogent strategy, without the right infrastructure  … without mechanisms to translate successful discoveries into both improved clinical care and exciting new businesses, Canada runs a risk of wasting opportunity and money – and falling even further behind our peers.”

Precisely.

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25
Mar 2015
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Dr. Janet Rossant

Congratulations to Janet Rossant — Gairdner Wightman winner

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Today we are delighted to congratulate Dr. Janet Rossant on the announcement of her winning the 2015 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science in Canada.

Today we are delighted to congratulate Dr. Janet Rossant on the announcement of her winning the 2015 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science in Canada.

“Janet Rossant is not only an internationally acclaimed stem cell scientist, she has been a powerful force in moving the field forward and a leader in developing the roadmap for the future of our sector: the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy and Action Plan,” said James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. “She has played a key role in ensuring that Canada stands among the top nations in the world in one of the most exciting and promising areas of medical research — stem cells.”

Dr. Rossant, who chairs the CSCF’s Science Leadership Council, was a member of the Foundation-led Joint Strategy Working Group that developed the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan. Based on a private/public partnership, it sets out how Canada can lead the way to deliver five to 10 new stem cell therapies to the clinic within 10 years.

“Her efforts have been invaluable,” said Mr. Price, who co-authored a Globe & Mail opinion piece with Dr. Rossant in February that illustrated how the Strategy could position Canada as an international centre for conducting safe, high-quality clinical trials for new stem cell treatments. “No one knows the field — and the remarkable things it can do — better than Janet. We are deeply proud of her accomplishments, and are thrilled for her success and the recognition she has received today.”

In a Foundation-produced video, Dr. Rossant declares that, “Research can’t stand still. Scientific research is always moving forward. We are at an incredibly exciting time in science when we can understand the underpinnings of disease and begin to translate that into new diagnoses and 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 scaled annual average 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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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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