Precision Medicine for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world, a disease that causes significant suffering and serious health issues due to chronic gut inflammation.

In partnership with Toronto-based startup Biotagenics, Ontario researchers are developing simple and quick tests to determine optimal personalized treatment plans for IBD patients using next generation genomics.

Inflammatory bowel disease inflames the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and disrupts the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition and eliminate waste in a healthy manner. With more than 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year in Canada and an estimated total of over 250,000 patients nationally (including more than 5,900 children), IBD costs the Canadian economy approximately $2.8 billion per year. Most alarming, the number of Canadian children with IBD has doubled since 1995.


Dr. David Mack at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, talks about the work that he and Dr. Alain Stintzi at the University of Ottawa are doing, in partnership with Biotagenics, to develop precision medicine for IBD patients.

Treating IBD can be unpredictable. If treatments are not sufficiently aggressive, they may not be of help. On the other hand, if treatments are too aggressive, there is a risk of doing more harm than good. There is no cure for this lifelong condition and its cause remains unknown, although it seems to be tied to an imbalance of key beneficial and deleterious intestinal microbes.

Building upon the outcomes of an earlier 2012 Large-Scale Applied Research Project, Ontario researchers are developing precision medicine for IBD patients. Led by Dr. Alain Stintzi at the University of Ottawa and Dr. David Mack at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in collaboration with spinout company, Biotagenics, researchers are using genomics to characterize, identify and quantify the microbes that change in IBD patients during treatment. They are using this information to design simple and quick tests to reveal the optimal personalized treatment based on each patient’s characteristics in order to keep people with IBD healthy. These tests will help clinicians use the right drug at the right time for the right patient.

Quick Facts
  • The project team is unraveling the mechanisms underlying IBD development.
  • As part of this work, researchers have developed an industry leading end-to-end platform that provides sophisticated analysis of the impact of diet on intestinal bacteria – providing important information on personalized dietary changes needed to keep people with IBD healthy.
  • They are also identifying new targets for future drug development that have the potential to restore the long-term biological interaction and healthy balance between intestinal microbes in order to modify and manage the course of disease.

The work being done by this project team will set the stage for future clinical trials aimed at restoring IBD patients’ microbes to a healthy state. It will reduce long-term disability and enable patients to reach deep and long-lasting remission, thereby improving quality of life and enabling significant cost savings for individuals and our healthcare system.

For more information about Biotagenic’s progress, please visit

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