Synthetic antibody program: commercial reagents and novel therapeutics
Cancer is now, or will shortly become, the number one cause of death in developed countries. Hence, there is an obvious and urgent need to accelerate the development and rational application of new therapies. The central premise of our program is that achieving this goal will require the identification of new therapeutic targets, the rapid development of specific and effective drugs directed against these targets, and the testing of these agents in relevant models of human cancer. Over the past decade, recombinant antibodies that target cancer-associated proteins have emerged as one of the most effective and major classes of targeted therapeutics in oncology. Moreover, while the production of small-molecule drugs remains a costly and slow process, technological advances have enabled the development of therapeutic grade antibodies in an academic setting, which now expands the cancer therapeutic domain beyond that of pharmaceutical companies. To take advantage of these new developments, the Donnelly Centre at the University of Toronto has established the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC), a state-of-the-art antibody platform that can be applied to the generation of therapeutic grade antibodies against hundreds of antigens in a high-throughput pipeline. In turn, the TRAC has partnered with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) in Vancouver to leverage additional expertise in therapeutic antibody development. Importantly, we have assembled a consortium of leading cancer biologists from the Canadian research community, and together, we have compiled a panel of cancer related proteins that are high-value targets for next-generation cancer therapeutics. Taken together, our program represents a unique and complete platform for the development of antibody therapeutics in a Canadian academic environment. In a three-year framework, we will generate and validate hundreds of antibodies against a host of cancer-associated targets. These antibodies will be powerful tools for discovery research and a significant subset will be candidates for new therapeutic entities. In summary, the program will have major impact on basic research in cancer biology, on therapeutic options for cancer treatment, and on the development of commercial biotechnology in Canada.