Drug Discovery and Repurposing

The Stem Cell Network was among the first organizations to recognize the potential of using stem cells for drug repositioning and discovery in order to reduce time and costs of bringing new therapies to patients, and in the process has established Canada as a world leader in the field.

When the Stem Cell Network launched the Drug Discovery Program in 2005, it was designed to support highly focused research projects seeking compounds that modulate stem cell function and demonstrate potential clinical applications. By testing thousands of known drugs on stem cells, scientists can quickly identify opportunities for new treatments. The ultimate objective of this highly innovative program was to accelerate the identification of novel stem cell-related therapeutics, and many of the projects funded took a drug repurposing strategy by focusing on health regulator-approved and off-patent compounds, which have been proven safe in humans and can therefore move to clinical trials more quickly and cost-effectively.


The program quickly saw results in identifying, validating and optimizing compounds with demonstrable therapeutic potential. Recipients of grants within the program identified compounds that selectively targeted and killed cancer stem cells and leukemia stem cells, and those findings were able to proceed quickly into human clinical trials because of the established safety of the compounds identified.

The Stem Cell Network recognized this potential very early in its mandate, and the early adoption of and investments in the technique established Canada as a global leader in the field.


Related Content

  • 2006-07 Annual Report, p. 15
  • 2011-12 Annual Report, p. 8