OGI has made several PBDF investments over the past few years, including:
- Water safety:
ENDETEC, a global company focused on innovative sensor solutions for water safety, in collaboration with Drs. Heinz-Bernhard Kraatz (University of Toronto) and R. Stephen Brown (Queen’s University), will develop a DNA biosensor for simple, low-cost, fast, on-site detection of bacteria in water samples. Current culture-based techniques for water monitoring are time-consuming and expensive, which can lead to delayed results and decision making for users that manage water resources. The PBDF funding will support proof-of-concept experiments validating the performance of the DNA biosensors with environmental samples. The first applications will be for recreational water (including beaches) and treated wastewater. “DNA biosensor technology can potentially be a game-changer for water monitoring, providing truly rapid monitoring and expanding the range of organisms that can be detected,” said Mr. Doug Wilton, VP Operations for ENDETEC.
- Cancer treatment:
Formation Biologics Inc. (formerly AvidBiologics) is an oncology drug development company dedicated to anti-cancer biologics. Through PBDF funding, the company aims to develop AVID200, a novel anticancer agent targeting a protein expressed by a variety of solid tumours including lung, breast, and head and neck. Specifically, Formation Biologics is developing antibodies that are linked to highly toxic chemotherapeutic drugs, and these antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) target a specific cell surface receptor known to contribute to the etiology of various cancers. ADCs can selectively recognize specific proteins in cancer cells without damaging most normal tissues. This type of cancer therapeutic has the potential for superior safety and efficacy compared to older generation treatments. Using the PBDF investment, the company will perform a pilot safety study of this ADC to accelerate their drug development process for AVID200. “We are very grateful to have received an investment from the Ontario Genomics Institute to further development of this important anti-cancer therapeutic,” said Ilia Tikhomirov, President and CEO of Formation Biologics. “Programs like OGI’s Pre-commercialization Business Development Fund are crucial to the success of early stage biotechnology companies in Ontario,” he continued.
- Safe crops:
Global soybean production is threatened by an aggressive fungus responsible for Asian Soybean Rust (ASR), which can cause yield losses of up to 80percent. ASR is currently controlled by fungicides. However, resistance to these chemicals can be seen. Dr. Charles Després (Brock University) is identifying activators designed to stimulate soybean plant immunity, an alternative mode of action to protect the crop. These chemicals can be used alongside traditional fungicides to ensure long-term global food security. With the help of the PBDF and support from Syngenta, Dr. Després will validate his product. Potentially, his technology platform will allow the agriculture industry to identify new chemicals that will optimize production and safety from ASR and support precision agriculture for better decision making, and high yields.
- Rna Diagnostics Inc, an early stage molecular diagnostics company developing assays aimed at assisting in the management of cancer chemotherapy. The company will use the PBDF investment to further develop and validate their lead product, the RNA Disruption Assay™ (RDA™). This assay is designed to monitor a patient’s response to chemotherapy earlier in treatment than current methods, and has the potential to be a valuable tool in terms of helping provide a personalized approach to chemotherapy management.
- Tissue Regeneration Therapeutics (TRT), is a start-up company that is developing umbilical stem cell-based treatments. TRT will use the PBDF investment to conduct proteomic and transcriptomic analyses to further understand their mesenchymal stem cells. These studies will provide valuable information needed for regulatory approval to conduct human clinical trials and further differentiate their product from those of competitors.
- A research team at the University of Toronto is validating a novel protein interaction technology. Utilizing the PBDF funding, the team will conduct development and validation necessary to make this assay commercially viable. Once on the market, this tool will expand the resources available to researchers and companies developing new therapeutics.
- A University of Toronto-based research effort developing innovative methods around an emerging class of therapeutics called macrocycles. The team has developed a novel and effective process for making linear peptides circular. The PBDF funding, as well as support from MaRS Innovation, will allow the team to further their efforts, including building a compound library and testing for important properties such as cell permeability and stability.
- ArcticDx, Inc, a Toronto-based company that has developed a genetic test, Macula Risk®, to determine one’s inherited risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common form of acquired blindness in the developed world, affecting over 10 percent of individuals. ArcticDx will use the PBDF investment to undertake studies in support of a planned filing for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for Macula Risk.
- InDanio, an early-stage drug discovery and development company with a novel and unique screening system for the complete human nuclear hormone receptor (NR) family, using fluorescent tags attached to copies of human genes in living zebrafish embryos to identify and localize functioning individual NRs. The screening system can be used to both characterize certain receptors as potential targets for drug discovery and to identify and refine potential new drugs that target NR proteins.
- A joint effort by researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children and the University Health Network to develop a test, based on the genetic make-up of the potential donor and recipient, to help predict the outcomes of hematopoietic stem cell transplants, commonly referred to as bone marrow transplants. This prognostic test would aim to predict and therefore decrease complications that can occur in transplant patients including transplant failure, graft versus host disease and others.
- Breeding pigs free of boar taint: A research effort based at the University of Guelph that is developing a set of genetic markers that can be used to monitor a marker-assisted selection breeding program to produce pigs that are free of boar taint, an undesirable odour or taste that is sometimes evident in pork products. This has the potential to enable their industry partner and other breeding companies to produce more marketable pig lines.
- Cytognomix, a start-up biotech company based in London, Ontario, is developing novel cytogenetic, single copy DNA probes that are smaller and more densely distributed across the genome than probes that are currently commercially available. The probes will be designed to specifically detect individual chromosomal abnormalities such as those that underlie many diseases.
- A joint effort by researchers at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO, University of Guelph) and Toronto-based industry partner Safeguard Biosystems to develop a point-of-contact, DNA barcode-based assay that will differentiate between groups of animal species in random samples of plant and animal foods. Read more about the Barcode of Life Project.
- Ontario-based Amorfix Life Sciences Inc. is using molecular and proteomic techniques to develop a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. The company has shown that its test can detect aggregated protein (amyloid) in femtogram quantities (ten parts per trillion) when it is spiked into plasma or cerebral spinal fluid. The diagnostic assay is currently being tested in patient samples.
- A collaborative project between University of Toronto researchers and an international industry partner to develop and commercialize a device for use in yeast genomics and proteomics. The robotic device will allow higher-density replication of yeast colonies.
- Plants with enhanced agronomic traits (Performance Plants): A joint effort by scientists at McMaster University, the University of Waterloo, and Performance Plants, an agricultural biotechnology company based in Kingston, to develop transgenic plants with enhanced agronomics traits. This academic group and the company have formed a long-term collaborative relationship.
- Researchers at the Natural Resources Canada Great Lakes Forestry Centre (Sault Ste. Marie) for a project that aims to develop a virus to control an insect that causes hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to crops annually. The researchers continue to work with international experts on this biocontrol agent.