Canadian Stem Cell Strategy

22
Mar 2017
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Canadian Stem Cell Foundation commends federal government’s support for the stem cell sector

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The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation commends the federal government for committing to invest in innovation “superclusters” and for identifying the stem cell/regenerative medicine sector as an area where Canada can excel.…

The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation commends the federal government for committing to invest in innovation “superclusters” and for identifying the stem cell/regenerative medicine sector as an area where Canada can excel.

“We consider today’s budget announcement to be a step forward for the stem cell sector in Canada – an industry that is helping to shape our innovation economy,” said James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

The government’s commitment to invest $950 million in business-led innovation superclusters with the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth mirrors the approach taken by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation in championing the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy.  The Strategy is business led and calls for two-thirds of the total investment to be funded by the private sector, with one-third from government.

“The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy will generate more than $1 billion in private and philanthropic investments over its decade-long life, much of which has already been pledged,” Mr.  Price said.  “It is built to deliver 10 new therapies to the clinic within 10 years, create 12,000 jobs and position Canada as a global leader in the field.”

The supercluster initiative will launch a competition for funds this year with a focus on six “highly innovative industries” including health and bio-sciences.  The recommendation comes after the Advisory Council on Economic Development noted that Canada’s “world-class regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy development” could unlock innovation and drive economic growth.

The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, which has been calling on the federal government to implement the proposed national strategy, looks forward to working with its partners to answer the call for business-led innovation superclusters to advance stem cell therapies to save lives and grow the economy.

“Canada produces some of the best stem cell research in the world,” said Mr. Price.  “We must now translate our research into commercial success.”

 

 

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06
Feb 2017
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Finance Minister Bill Morneau

Advisory Council on Economic Growth highlights Canada’s stem cell strength

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Building on Canada’s “world-class regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy development“ could unlock innovation and drive economic growth, according to an Advisory Council on Economic Growth report released Monday.…

Building on Canada’s “world-class regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy development“ could unlock innovation and drive economic growth, according to an Advisory Council on Economic Growth report released Monday.

The Advisory Council, created by Finance Minister Bill Morneau to find ways to unleash Canada’s economic potential, focused on four sectors in which “Canada has a strong endowment, untapped potential and significant global growth prospects.”  The four include:  agriculture and food (agfood); advanced manufacturing; energy and renewables; and health care and life sciences.

“It’s a clear victory for the stem cells to be included in this report,” says James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. “It shows that our message is getting through and that the Government of Canada recognizes the powerful potential of stem cells and regenerative medicine to not just deliver cures for a number of diseases but significantly boost the economy. “

The Foundation champions the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, a 10-year private-public partnership that aligns the efforts of Canada’s  research scientists, medical professionals, industry partners and philanthropists to move therapies into the clinic, create thousands of high-quality jobs and secure a share of the burgeoning  regenerative medicine global market for Canada.

The Advisory Council favours such private-public partnerships, stressing that “government and business should work together to identify and remove the unnecessary obstacles to economic growth” and noting that such partnerships “would help raise our collective ambition and unleash Canada’s real and inclusive growth potential.”

As well, the report, the second of two the Advisory Council has submitted to Minister Morneau as he prepares the federal budget, suggests Canada “seize opportunities (for example by convening private and public actors and setting a sector wide aspiration).”

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy “creates a roadmap for government and business to work together to do exactly that,” says Mr. Price. “It would clear hurdles for Canada to commercialize more research, bring more clinical trials on stream, develop more therapies and products, and create more jobs.”

Canada stands among the top nations in stem cells and regenerative medicine. The building block cells were discovered by two Canadians — Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch — in Toronto in the 1960s and subsequent generations of researchers have made some of the most important discoveries in the field worldwide. Clinical trials are underway in Canada using stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and septic shock, while doctors at The Ottawa Hospital have successfully used stem cells to treat autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and scleroderma.

However, Canada is falling behind in terms of funding, with other jurisdictions, particularly California and Japan, investing billions to find new therapies, develop new products and reap the economic benefits.

Minister Morneau established the Advisory Council in March 2016 to develop advice on policy actions “for strong and sustained long-term economic growth.” The first report, released in October, gave recommendations on investing in infrastructure, attracting foreign investment and enhancing economic immigration.

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12
Dec 2016
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A major boost for Canada’s stem cell sector: Bayer/Versant Ventures invest $225 million

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The announcement by Bayer AG and Versant Ventures that they will invest $225 million U.S. to create a Toronto-based cell-therapy company shows the massive opportunities to be realized in the next wave of stem cell R&D and illustrates how visibility and support for the sector is soaring.…

The announcement by Bayer AG and Versant Ventures that they will invest $225 million U.S. to create a Toronto-based cell-therapy company shows the massive opportunities to be realized in the next wave of stem cell R&D and illustrates how visibility and support for the sector is soaring.

“We think we’re on the cutting edge of the next generation of stem-cell therapies,” said Brad Bolzon, Managing Director of Versant Ventures in a report by the Globe and Mail.

According to Bayer’s press release, the new company, called BlueRock Therapeutics, will advance breakthrough treatments based on latest stem cell technology with an initial focus on finding treatments for cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, two areas where Canadian research is particularly strong.  The investment, one of the largest-ever first-round financings for a biotech company, gives BlueRock Therapeutics at least four years to get a number of programs into the clinic.

It comes in the wake of several developments including the Stem Cell Network’s announcement of $9 million in funding for projects to turn research into new treatments and the Canada First Research Excellence Fund’s $114-million grant to the University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design program.  As well, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine announced earlier this year that it will receive $20 million in federal funds, matched by GE Healthcare, to develop cell manufacturing capacity in Canada.

“All of these announcements align with the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy’s goals of mobilizing private capital and attracting investment,” said James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.  “They are strong indications that Canada is well positioned to lead in the next wave of stem cell advances.  That’s why we’re seeking a commitment from the Liberal Government to make stem cell research and development a national priority.”

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy is designed to deliver 10 new therapies to the clinic within 10 years, create 12,000 jobs and position Canada as a global leader in the field.  It calls on the Government to provide one-third of the total investment, about $50 million annually over 10 years for a total of $500 million, to be doubled by $1 billion in private and philanthropic investments.

An indication of the economic power of stem cell R&D is exemplified by BC’s STEMCELL Technologies Inc., which, with 900 workers and $150 million in annual revenues, has become Canada’s largest biotech by selling high-quality “Made in Canada” stem cell products worldwide.

“We have a huge opportunity in front of us, an opportunity we don’t want to miss,” said Mr.  Price.  “Visibility and support for the sector has never been stronger.  We just need to take the next big step forward with the Strategy.”

 

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03
Nov 2016
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When it comes to stem cells, we need to think big

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A feature in the current edition of Biotechnology Focus tells the story of how systemic scleroderma was stealing the life of Dan Muscat, a 49-year-old St.…

A feature in the current edition of Biotechnology Focus tells the story of how systemic scleroderma was stealing the life of Dan Muscat, a 49-year-old St. Thomas, Ontario jeweler. After a bone marrow stem cell treatment at The Ottawa Hospital last summer, his excruciating pain has diminished and he has been able to resume much of his active life. Though not cured, he has a new lease on life.

Dan Muscat’s story raises a key question:  As stem cells begin to emerge as treatments for a number of currently incurable conditions and diseases, what will it take to get more therapies in the clinic?

The article quotes James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation: “To make this happen, we need to think differently– and to think big.” He points out that a coordinated national stem cell strategy would not only lead to cures and save lives, but also generate thousands of good jobs and boost the economy.”

Read the full story here.

 

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28
Sep 2016
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Government asks academic council to report on state of regenerative medicine

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Two Federal Government departments — Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Health Canada — have asked the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to study and report back on the state of regenerative medicine in Canada.…

Two Federal Government departments — Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Health Canada — have asked the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to study and report back on the state of regenerative medicine in Canada.

“We are very pleased to receive this request from the Government,” says Dr. Eric M. Meslin, President and CEO of the CCA, in a media release. “Canada is a global leader in regenerative medicine and we look forward to contributing to the evidence base for making decisions about how this country can continue to excel in this incredibly important field of medicine.”

The council will conduct an “expert panel workshop” to address two key questions:

  • What are Canada’s strengths in regenerative medicine (and why are they strengths)?
  • What are the opportunities that exist and barriers that must be overcome for Canada to ensure that it can excel in regenerative medicine in the international arena?

“This is good news for advancing stem cell R&D,” says James Price President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, adding that the move shows that regenerative medicine is a priority for the Government.

“As the champion of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, which would see more stem cell research leap the hurdle to clinical trials and new treatments, we applaud the Government for commissioning the workshop. We look forward to helping the CCA in any way possible.”

The CCA, a not-for-profit organization that undertakes independent, authoritative, evidence-based assessments to inform public policy, is assembling a multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral, group of experts to participate in the two-day workshop expected to take place in the coming weeks. The results will be published in early 2017.

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15
Sep 2016
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Canada’s stem cell community ready to innovate

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When it comes to innovation, Canada’s stem cell community is ready to roll.

That’s the message conveyed in an opinion piece in iPolitics, the must-read publication for those involved in — or merely fascinated by — Canadian politics.…

When it comes to innovation, Canada’s stem cell community is ready to roll.

That’s the message conveyed in an opinion piece in iPolitics, the must-read publication for those involved in — or merely fascinated by — Canadian politics.

The article responds to the call from Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, for “fresh ideas and a joint action plan that will make innovation a national priority and put Canada on a firm path to long-term economic growth.”

The iPolitics piece points out that Canada’s stem cell community has “seen the writing on the wall, consulted, and forged a plan to act. It’s a blueprint designed to ensure our world-class talent grows here at home, that Canada reaps the economic rewards and that we remain a global leader in this sector. The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy has tremendous support across the country and is ready to be implemented.”

Three powerful voices united to co-author the article:

  • Peter MacKinnon, LLD, is President Emeritus of Athabasca University and former President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan. His national appointments include the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service and the Science, Technology and Innovation Council of Canada
  • Molly Shoichet, PhD,holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering at the University of Toronto. She was the North American recipient of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science in 2015
  • James Price, MBA,is President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

“We wanted to make it clear that by making the Strategy a component of its Innovation Agenda, the Government will be putting stem cells to work for Canada’s future,” said Mr. Price.  “Not only will this set things in motion for many more people to be treated with new therapies, it will boost the economy and assure that thousands of new high-quality jobs will be created in this burgeoning industry.”

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25
Aug 2016
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Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

Are we there yet?

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(This post is one of several addressing a single subject today in a blog carnival to mark the 10th anniversary of the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells.

(This post is one of several addressing a single subject today in a blog carnival to mark the 10th anniversary of the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells. Please click here to read what other bloggers have to say.)

As summer holidays wind down, most parents are now too familiar with the following question: Are we there yet?

Any family trip to a campground, cottage or Nana’s house in Northport starts off with excitement for all concerned, what with getting up early, packing the car and hitting the road. For kids, though, it’s magical. Then, after about an hour of travelling, regardless what onboard entertainment you’ve arranged, boredom sets in. Two hours into the trip, they’re sure you’re never going to get them there.

Waiting for stem cell discoveries to turn into actual treatments is a lot like that, except that instead of hours, it’s decades. Instead of frustration, the feeling is desperation.

Consider the remarkable discovery, by Japan’s Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, that adult cells extracted from skin can be reprogrammed to an embryonic stem-cell-like state to reproduce any cell required for transplant or to repair organs and tissue. We first heard about these induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) on August 25, 2006. A decade later, we’re still waiting for the Nobel Prize-winning work to turn into treatments.

People, especially those suffering from life-threatening diseases, want to know why we’re still waiting. Unlike bored children, they have far more riding on the answer to the Are we there yet? question. For them, it’s life and death.

At the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t contact us seeking a stem cell treatment for themselves or a loved one. Today, it was a 48-year-old Toronto man whose doctor had told him his ALS will kill him. At least we could point him in the direction of Dr. Eva Feldman at the University of Michigan, who is trying to get a Phase 2 clinical trial going on a stem cell treatment for ALS.

In all areas of medical research, the wheel turns slowly. It can take decades of lab work and clinical trials and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring new treatments to patients. Consider cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women. In 1972, Germany’s Dr. Harald zur Hausen started working on the notion that the disease is caused by a virus. It took about 35 years — most of his career — for HPV vaccines to make it to market.

It’s even more complicated for stem cells, a relative newcomer to the scene. While their existence was proven in Canada by Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch in the early 1960s, the focus afterwards was on bone marrow stem cells for treating leukemia. Embryonic stem cells have only been in play since 1998. Realistically, iPS cells are still the new cells on the block.

Cell-based therapies represent a whole new way of thinking about treating diseases, and regenerative medicine is a disruptive technology. Unlike a vaccine or a drug, the actual therapy isn’t an easy thing to grasp for industry, whose commitment is crucial in moving things from the lab bench to the hospital bed.

What’s needed, then, is an innovative approach. We need to think bigger. That’s why our Foundation is championing the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, a private/public partnership to deliver up to 10 new curative therapies to the clinic within 10 years. Crafted in consultation with 150 scientists, doctors, leaders from health charities, industry experts and philanthropists, it is backed by an in-depth KPMG study and endorsed by an international panel of experts.

The private sector is already at the table, pledging more than $350 million toward R&D — almost one-quarter of the $1.5-billion Strategy. Other industry partners, health charities and leading Canadian philanthropists are prepared to make major contributions upon demonstration of a federal commitment to the plan. We’re asking the Government of Canada, as part of its Innovation Agenda, to provide one-third, about $50 million annually over 10 years.

Are we there yet? Clearly not. But a coordinated national road map can get us there.

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29
Jun 2016
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Japan's Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

Predicting $120-billion market, Japan targets stem cells to recharge economy

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Japan believes regenerative medicine will grow from a $950-million domestic industry in 2020 to a $10 billion one by 2030, according to a report by Bloomberg News.…

Japan believes regenerative medicine will grow from a $950-million domestic industry in 2020 to a $10 billion one by 2030, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

And the Japanese expect to tap into a $120-billion global market over the same time span if regenerative medicine fulfills its potential to set off “a medical and industrial revolution.”

The Bloomberg report illustrates how Japan is building on Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shinya Yamanaka’s discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to help recharge its economy.  The government has allocated $1 billion in funding and streamlined regulations to expedite the movement of research to the clinic. Meanwhile industrial heavyweights like Fujifilm and Hitachi Ltd. are moving away from fading product lines and diminishing markets to invest in new technology and products using Dr. Yamanaka’s discovery.

“Japan has taken a bold step,” Dr. Hardy TS Kagimoto, who heads the Healios KK biotech firm, told Bloomberg. “It’s been a while since our country has had innovative companies in a global industry that can help us maintain economic power, and we think regenerative medicine can be the one.’’

The powerful iPS cells are made by reprogramming adult skin cells back to an embryonic-like state, a process that circumvents ethical concerns over the use of embryonic stem cells.  Beyond transplant purposes, the cells can be used to screen drugs, which Dr Yamanaka believes could “facilitate drug development tremendously.”

Drug regulators in Japan, Europe and U.S. are expected to release coordinated draft drug guidelines for the use of iPS cells in pre-clinical trials by the end of 2017, according to the article, which “could upend the entire market.”

Canada, where stem cells were discovered in the 1960s, is a leader in stem cell research and development but is at risk of losing ground. James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation (CSCF) recently authored an iPolitics article calling for a comprehensive national approach:

“In order 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 of high-quality jobs that support families across the country, we need a truly national stem cell effort.”

The CSCF advocates for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, an innovative private-public partnership that is the product of consultations with 150 scientists, medical professionals, leaders from major health charities, industry experts and philanthropists.  The goal of the Strategy is to deliver up to 10 new therapies in 10 years while helping to grow the Canadian economy and create 12,000 new jobs.

 

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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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01
Feb 2016
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CBC report highlights need for ‘big investment’ in stem cells

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A CBC News report highlights the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy and encourages the Government of Canada to make the next big investment in stem cells and regenerative medicine.…

A CBC News report highlights the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy and encourages the Government of Canada to make the next big investment in stem cells and regenerative medicine.

The article, published online yesterday, can be found here.

Headlined “Canada’s stem cell research needs ‘big investment’ to move forward” it quotes Dr. Janet Rossant, President & Director of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as saying Canada does “extremely well on relatively small investments,” but we are not investing the same percentage in stem cell research and development as some of our competitor countries.

Reporter Joseph Quigley cites figures from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that show the Government of Canada has invested about $705 million in stem cell research since 2001, including $64.5 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.  In comparison, he notes, California — with a population similar to that of Canada — committed $3 billion in funding in 2004, to be rolled out over about 10 years.

“We’ve been at the forefront, we need to make that next big investment to move the field forward,” says James Price, President  & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, he points out, is focused on delivering 10 new curative therapies to the clinic in 10 years while producing 12,000 jobs for Canadians.

 

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