June 9th, 2019

// $2.4M to support cancer research projects in Quebec – Announcement of the IRICoR and Oncopole LeadAction-Onco Competition winners

$2.4M to support cancer research projects in Quebec - Announcement of the IRICoR and Oncopole LeadAction-Onco Competition winners

MONTREAL, June 4, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - IRICoR and the Oncopole are proud to announce, as part of the LeadAction-Onco joint project, an investment of $2.4 million dollars over two years, to support four flagship cancer drug discovery projects in Canada. This major announcement was made today by Mr. Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation, on the occasion of the opening of the Quebec Pavilion at the BIO International Convention, held in Philadelphia June 3-6, 2019.

The funding for the Competition is the result of a collaboration with leading financiers, namely the Ministry of Economy and Innovation and the federal government through IRICoR, as well as Merck and the FRQS through the Oncopole. This major funding will enable the selected projects to benefit from infrastructures, as well as from targeted and complementary expertise in the field of drug discovery.

"The LeadAction-Onco competition is an exceptional opportunity to support creative projects that ensure the development of new treatments for people with cancer. This competition also helps Québec attract foreign investments that generate significant spin-offs for our life sciences industry," Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation, stressed.

"This initiative will improve the transition between the innovation and commercialization phases by bridging the gaps between the academic, pharmaceutical and industrial milieus, ensuring that our digital economy will benefit everybody" added the Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

The LeadAction-Onco Competition

The LeadAction-Onco Competition led by IRICoR and the Oncopole is an opportunity for Canadian researchers to greatly accelerate the transformation of their projects in oncology, for the benefit of patients.

"IRICoR is delighted by the remarkable quality of the projects submitted as part of the LeadAction-Onco Competition launched in Quebec and throughout the rest of Canada. In concert with the Oncopole, the universities and the institutions involved, IRICoR will closely support the winning teams in order to develop their projects in such a way as to establish co-development partnerships with industry or to create spinoff companies, as has successfully been done in the past. Applying the IRICoR model to these projects, with respect to funding as well as drug discovery and business expertise, will undoubtedly lead to innovative therapeutic solutions", added Nadine Beauger, Chief Executive Officer, IRICoR.

"The Oncopole aims to consolidate the Quebec cancer research ecosystem and to highlight discoveries, in order to maximize clinical practices. The LeadAction-Onco Competition fits perfectly into this innovative approach and is proof of a very productive synergy with the various players in the field of life sciences, such as IRICoR. This investment enables the Oncopole to energize the transfer process from research to commercialization, thus creating value that is in tune with its mission. We are optimistic that the projects selected will result in collaborative advances of great importance in the oncology field", mentioned Renaldo Battista, Executive Director, Oncopole.

Four projects receiving substantial support

Following a competitive process and a thorough evaluation of requests from Quebec and the rest of Canada by an independent international peer review committee, four projects were selected. The winning teams will receive considerable financial support to continue their leading-edge oncology research work.

Post-transplant adoptive transfers of activated plasmacytoid dendritic cells to prevent acute leukemia relapse: toward the Phase I clinical trial[Team headed by Dr. Michel Duval, Investigator at the CHU Ste-Justine Research Centre]: Despite recent therapeutic advances, about 40% of children with acute leukemia refractory to chemotherapy still die from their disease. The only hope for cure for these children is stem cell transplantation, because the transplanted immune system is able to kill leukemia cells. The objective of the project is to develop a novel therapeutic approach to maximize the effect of the immune system against leukemia.

Development of first-in-class inhibitors of RAS GTPases[Team headed by Marc Therrien, Principal Investigator and Scientific Director at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer of the Université de Montréal]: Activating mutations of RAS family proteins (H-, K- or NRAS) are collectively the most frequent causal event found in cancer of all types. Unfortunately, there are currently no therapeutic options to selectively target RAS activity. To make macrocycles (small molecules) a viable therapeutic option, we now need to improve their binding affinity to RAS and increase their ability to enter the cells. The objective of the project is to identify macrocycles that will block RAS activity in cancer cells in vitro and eventually, tumor growth in animal models.  

Development of Electron Transport Chain (ETC) complex I inhibitors as poor outcome AML treatment [Team headed by Anne Marinier, Principal Investigator and Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Core Facility at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer of the Université de Montréal]: Poor outcome acute myeloid leukemias represent an unmet medical need. Their recent studies show that a large portion of those leukemias, exhibiting a distinct genetic and metabolic identity, are sensitive to inhibition of electron transport chain complex I (ETC1) activity. The goal of this project is to develop a novel ETC1 inhibitor with improved potency and efficiency that will be ready for pre-clinical safety studies.

Chemical correction of mutated Keap1 generates highly selective chemosensitization by repairing a broken protein-protein interaction[Team headed by Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital]: Most tumors develop resistance to the various treatments available. Studies have shown that during treatments, not just one, but several mechanisms are activated, enabling tumors to resist various cancer therapies. The goal of this research project is to target a protein that is mutated in several cancers to eliminate the development of resistance to cancer drugs, which will increase the effectiveness of those drugs, leading to increasing the number of patients who recover from cancer.

About IRICoR

As a project maturation cluster in the field of drug discovery, IRICoR is a not-for-profit organization based at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal. IRICoR's mandate is to accelerate the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapies in cancer, immunotherapy, and related fields. Since 2008, IRICoR has been successfully investing in and supporting selected cutting-edge projects in order to rapidly translate early-stage innovation into potential new therapies, through either co-development partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry or the creation of spin-off companies. IRICoR seamlessly integrates its business-related expertise with access to industry-level drug discovery capabilities, providing selected academic and industry projects with access to its network of experts and cutting-edge infrastructure, including one of the largest academia-based medicinal chemistry groups in Canada. IRICoR's major funding sources include the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program of the Canadian government, the Ministère de l'Économie, de la Science et de l'Innovation du Québec (MESI), and collaborative partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry. For more information about IRICoR: iricor.ca.

About the Oncopole

The Oncopole is a Quebec hub for research, development and investment to accelerate the fight against cancer. Created in February of 2017, it is the product of a unique co-creation process led by the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS) and made possible by an initial $15M investment from Merck Canada. The Oncopole's mission is to act as a catalyst leveraging actions made by the key players in Quebec's oncology and innovation research ecosystem. As a result, it aims to position the province as a leader in the field. Its priorities of action, namely research, entrepreneurship, commercialization and integration of innovation, as well as clinical relevance, are orchestrated in order to foster the mobilization of stakeholders, the discovery of innovative approaches to fight cancer and, ultimately, a positive impact for the benefit of patients. For more information, go to: oncopole.ca.



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