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Canada’s Stem Cell Network Investing in Advanced Research on Type 1 Diabetes, Heart Diseases & Vision Loss

Thirteen new projects & clinical trials will engage 200 researchers and trainees across the country.

 March 2, 2020 (Montréal, QC) – The Stem Cell Network (SCN) announced today $6.9 million in funding for innovative stem cell and regenerative medicine research that will help advance discoveries into better health and economic growth for Canadians. The announcement was made by Mr. Will Amos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) in Montréal, where four of the new projects will be led.

SCN will support a total of nine research projects and four clinical trials from across Canada, in areas such as type 1 diabetes, heart disease, severe burns and vision loss. Today’s funding is being matched with partner support valued at more than $11 million. The investment will advance high-impact projects and collaborations among 108 scientists and more than 90 trainees across the country.

“This is the first of two rounds of funding the Stem Cell Network will deliver over the next two years and I’m extremely happy with the quality of the projects and number of collaborators involved,” said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, O.C., Scientific Director & CEO of SCN. “One of the things that makes Canada’s stem cell community so strong is the level of collaboration we see, and it is through these efforts that we are moving closer to our goal of translating stem cell-based therapies from bench to bedside for the benefit of Canadians.”

Stem cells are the body’s building blocks, responsible for growth, regeneration and repair of tissues. They hold immense promise as a form of regenerative medicine to tackle some of the most devastating chronic diseases of our time and have the potential to save millions of dollars for the healthcare system.

Funded project leaders Dr. Sandra Cohen and Dr. Gilbert Bernier were present at today’s event, held at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, and provided brief descriptions of their projects to invited guests, media and the public in attendance. Dr. Cohen is leading a clinical trial at the hospital using an innovative protocol to expand cord blood stem cells for treatment in patients with high-risk leukemia. Dr. Bernier is leading an academic-industry partnership that will advance technologies aimed at correcting vision loss caused by retinal diseases.

Among the other projects announced today is a clinical trial across multiple Canadian cities to treat severe burns with tissue-engineered skin substitutes, three collaborative initiatives across British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec seeking to improve delivery of insulin-producing cells for type 1 diabetes patients and two projects in British Columbia and Ontario that are investigating stem cell-based solutions for heart diseases.

SCN is flowing funds through four strategic translational research programs and one targeted award:

The Advancing Clinical Trials program will provide $2.6M for four early stage clinical trials with high translational potential. This program focuses on novel cellular or stem cell-related therapeutic approaches to tissue repair and regeneration for specific diseases. The clinical trials within this program will bring forward innovative therapies or technologies for leukemia, severe burns, vision loss and lung diseases caused by complications of severe prematurity.

The Accelerating Clinical Translation program will provide $2.4M for four national, multi-disciplinary research projects that are moving toward the clinic. Research supported from this competition will address challenges in heart regulation and regeneration and the delivery of insulin-producing cells for type 1 diabetes.

The Fueling Biotechnology Partnerships program will provide $1.5M for three academic partnerships with emerging Canadian regenerative medicine biotech companies who are working to drive an innovative stem cell-based technology or therapy into the clinic or market. These partnerships seek to advance research in the areas of vision loss, type 1 diabetes and acute liver failure. The partnered companies on these projects are: Aspect Biosystems, Morphocell Technologies and StemAxon.

The Translation & Society program will provide $75K for one project to develop an ethical and legal framework to address direct-to-participant patient recruitment.

The Disruptive Research award will provide $330K for one project investigating a novel approach to stimulate muscle stem cell function and reduce progression of muscular dystrophy.

A full list of funded research projects can be found here.

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About the Stem Cell Network
Tomorrow’s health is here. The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is a national non-profit that supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research, training the next generation of highly qualified personnel, and delivering outreach activities across Canada. SCN’s goal is to advance science from the lab to the clinic for the benefit of Canadians. SCN has been supported by the Government of Canada since inception in 2001. This strategic funding, valued at $118M has benefitted approximately 170 world-class research groups and 3,000 trainees and has catalyzed 19 clinical trials. stemcellnetwork.ca