Ontario Genomics has made several PBDF investments over the past few years, including:
- PrecisionHawk is an unmanned aerial systems company that provides a complete solution for aerial data gathering, processing and analysis in a number of markets, including agriculture and forestry. Drs. Ingo Ensminger (University of Toronto) and Nathalie Isabel (Forest and Environmental Genomics at Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service (CFS) – Quebec region) are partnering with PrecisionHawk to develop a suite of next generation genomic resources for improved tree breeding and selection. The funded project will help PrecisionHawk develop and deploy a software application that will enable breeders and forest managers to aerially assess tree phenology and performance during both the growing season and in response to pressures such as water deficits.
- 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. 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.”
- 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 80 percent. Fungicides currently control ASR, however resistance to these chemicals has been observed. Dr. Charles Després (Brock University) is developing an alternative mode of action to protect the crop by identifying activators designed to stimulate soybean plant immunity. 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. This technology platform holds the potential to enable the agriculture industry to identify new chemicals that will optimize production and protection from ASR, thus facilitating better decision making and higher yields through precision agriculture.
- Rna Diagnostics Inc, an early stage molecular diagnostics company, is 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 the 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 is 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, has developed a genetic test, Macula Risk®, to determine one’s inherited risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is 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, has developed a novel and unique screening system for the complete human nuclear hormone receptor (NR) family. The company uses 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 is developing a test to help predict the outcomes of hematopoietic stem cell transplants – commonly referred to as bone marrow transplants – based on the genetic make-up of the potential donor and recipient. This prognostic test would aim to predict (and therefore decrease) complications that can occur in transplant patients such as transplant failure and graft versus host disease.
- A research effort based at the University of Guelph 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 is developing a point-of-contact, DNA barcode-based assay. This assay will differentiate between groups of animal species in random samples of plant and animal foods, enabling 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.
- A joint effort by scientists at McMaster University, the University of Waterloo, and Performance Plants, an agricultural biotechnology company based in Kingston, is developing 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) aim 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.