Call for Applications: MSc Proof-of-Principle Program

Ontario Centres of Excellence--Where Next HappensThe Medical Sciences Proof-of-Principle (MSc PoP) program, administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence on behalf of Ontario’s Ministry of Research & Innovation, is a province-wide initiative for which MaRS Innovation accepts applications from our 15 member institutions.

MaRS Innovation is currently recruiting applications for the July 30, 2015 deadline. To apply within the MaRS Innovation member community: (more…)

Encycle Therapeutics working with major pharmaceutical companies to design rules for drugs meant to be swallowed

CQDM and MaRS Innovation investing in new Encycle project to determine rules for making peptide drugs orally bioavailable

Encycle Therapeutics is generating a better understanding of the chemical properties required to make small peptide-like molecules, which Encycle calls nacellins, orally bioavailable. With these rules, Encycle will target many of the proteins that are currently regarded as undruggable.

Encycle Therapeutics is generating a better understanding of the chemical properties required to make small peptide-like molecules, which Encycle calls nacellins, orally bioavailable. With these rules, Encycle will target many of the proteins that are currently regarded as undruggable.

PHILADELPHIA (June 16, 2015) — FiercePharma has predicted that the pharmaceutical industry stands to lose $44 billion in drugs going off patent in 2015. The industry is searching for new therapeutics to replenish their pipelines while tackling existing and new drug receptor targets within the cell, improve patient care and lower administrative costs. In this context, drugs that can be orally swallowed, known as orally-bioavailable drugs, are in great demand.

Encycle Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company founded by Dr. Andrei Yudin of the University of Toronto in partnership with MaRS Innovation, is a Canadian start-up emerging as a market leader in finding orally-bioavailable molecules. Today, the company announced $840,000 in funding from CQDM and MaRS Innovation to generate a better understanding of the chemical properties required to make small peptide-like molecules, which Encycle calls nacellins, orally bioavailable.

This release was covered in Biotechnology Focus.

This funding, generated through MaRS Innovation’s strategic partnerships programs with Pfizer Inc. and GSK, and CQDM’s global membership program with Pfizer Inc. and Merck, brings Encycle’s total funding to approximately $4 million, including an earlier investment in 2011 from Ontario Centres of Excellence.

Dr. Diane Gosselin, president and CEO of CQDM, together with Dr. Raphael (Rafi) Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation, made the announcement this morning at the 2015 BIO International Convention in the presence of Dr. Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and Dr. Gaétan Barrette, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services.

ENCYCLElogo JPEG“Encycle’s proprietary cyclized peptides are very different from other types of therapeutics and should enable us to target many of the proteins that are currently regarded as undruggable,” says Dr. Jeffrey Coull, Encycle’s president and CEO. “Our research suggests that, due to their unique properties, it’s easier for our peptides to cross cell membranes than it is for other types, allowing them to be taken orally and access proteins on the inside of a cell. Working on this project together with Pfizer and Merck through CQDM, as well as Pfizer and GSK through MaRS Innovation, we now wish to develop a more precise understanding of the relationship between their structure and composition, and the ability to be delivered orally.” (more…)

Ontario Government Invests $1 Million in Toronto’s Neuroscience Catalyst Consortium

Ministry of Research & Innovation joins founding partners University of Toronto and Janssen Inc., and new partners Evotec AG, MaRS Innovation and Ontario Centres of Excellence, to advance treatments for neurological disorders and develop early-stage biotech companies

TORONTO and PHILADELPHIA (June 16, 2015)— Toronto’s neuroscience efforts to find new drugs to treat and manage brain disorders — specifically, mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease — took another step forward as the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation announced a $1 million contribution to the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium, bringing the total raised for the open innovation fund to $3.7 million. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training Colleges and Universities, announced the contribution at the 2015 BIO International conference in Philadelphia during the opening of the Ontario pavilion.

This release was covered in TechVibes.

“We are pleased to support this collaborative innovation model which will accelerate the development of better treatment options for people with neurological disorders,” said Minister Moridi. “Partnerships between universities, academic hospitals, research institutes, industries and government are key to positioning Ontario as a global leader in Life Sciences.”

Founded by the University of Toronto (U of T) in partnership with Janssen Inc. and facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium is using the Toronto research community’s well-established strengths in neuroscience to identify promising early-stage molecules and technologies through an open innovation model. The consortium aims to combine expertise to enable and accelerate the translation of basic sciences through to start-up companies and investor partnerships.

“We all want the next generation of solutions that are so desperately needed by patients and their families,” said Professor Ruth Ross, director of the Centre for Collaborative Drug Research at U of T. “In Canada, mood disorders such as depressive disorder and bipolar disorder affect about 10 per cent of the population. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 745,000 Canadians. The need is urgent and this unique open collaborative partnership will allow us to rapidly develop new treatments.”

Other partners joining the project include MaRS Innovation, which introduced the partners to the Ministry of Research & Innovation and led the early conversation; Evotec, a global, high-quality provider in the drug discovery field; and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), which is administering the funding. (more…)

MI’s head of imaging technologies quoted on bioprinting in U.K.’s Financial Times

Fanny-Sie-web-7227

Fanny Sie, head of imaging technologies, is also a manager with MaRS Innovation’s Technology & Venture group.

Fanny Sie, MaRS Innovation’s head of imaging technologies, was quoted in Tanya Powley‘s article, “Printing whole organs remains a long way off,” for the U.K.’s Financial Times on June 11, 2015, regarding the technology’s potential to transform existing healthcare practices.

MI does wish to note that the article inaccurately attributes the PrintAlive device’s development to MaRS Innovation; MI is working with the University of Toronto inventing team, led by Dr. Axel Gunther, to commercialize the device.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Bioprinting could save pharmaceutical companies a lot of money, according to Fanny Sie of MaRS Innovation, a Toronto-based company. The company has developed the PrintAlive Bioprinter, which can print skin that could be used to treat people with large scale burns. The printed tissues could be used by pharmaceutical companies to test the toxicity of new drugs, and help them decide if it is worth starting costly animal and then human clinical trials. (more…)

MaRS Innovation forms third collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation

mi_logo_squareMaRS Innovation today announced that Johnson & Johnson Innovation has expanded its collaboration with MaRS Innovation to identify and advance early-stage technologies of interest.

The announcement was made in advance of the 2015 BIO Convention, which takes place from June 15 to 18 in Philadelphia, PA. MaRS Innovation is participating as part of the Ontario delegation and will have kiosk space in the Ontario pavilion (#615).

This partnership was covered in GEN, PharmaBiz and FierceBiotech.

Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and MaRS Innovation announced their research partnership to advance three technologies focused on improving cardiac surgery outcomes, developing a blood test for depression, and identifying a diagnostic metabolite for both gestational and type 2 diabetes patients. The projects’ principal investigators are researchers from the University Health Network (Peter Munk Cardiac Centre), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (with Indoc Research) and the University of Toronto.

“Johnson & Johnson Innovation is an excellent partner that understands exactly the kind of technology pipeline MaRS Innovation represents,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO. “Renewing their longstanding relationship signals the value they see in this partnership with MaRS Innovation, our members and researchers within our network.” (more…)

Dr. Raphael Hofstein in Biotechnology Focus: It’s time to declare an end to Canada’s two research solitudes

Dr. Raphael Hofstein

Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president & CEO, MaRS Innovation.

Biotechnology Focus, a compendium of the Canadian life sciences industry, has published a guest column by Dr. Raphael Hofstein, MaRS Innovation’s president & CEO, and Elizabeth Monier-Williams, director of marketing and communications.

The article explores the way research focused on discovery and commercialization are often viewed or positioned as competitors within the funding ecosystem and the need to align their goals:

The time of Canada’s French and English solitudes may be past, as Governor General Michaëlle Jean notably stated when she took office in 2005, but the solitudes of thought concerning how Canada supports basic and commercial research persist.

This thinking is most easily spotted after the government announces a federal budget, triggering a flurry of opinion pieces debating the breakdown for the $2.7 billion Canada spends on research.

Most recently, Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry Ltd.), wrote for the Globe & Mail about the Canadian need to understand that “geopolitics is at the heart of commercializing ideas,” and create better policies to protect Canadian ideas, including “better
incentives for researchers to spur commercialization,” such as during an academic’s consideration for tenure. Yet, like any business endeavor whose success depends on people, there’s more involved in changing Canada’s approach to commercialization than just policy.

The people must want to change, too. (more…)

LegWorks developing better, more affordable prosthetic knees for developing world

TORONTO (May 27, 2015)  – LegWorks Inc., backed with a $2 million blend of private and Government of Canada investments catalyzed by Grand Challenges Canada, is a new Toronto-based company that will contribute to a better life for amputees in developing countries.

The LegWorks AT-knee was covered in the Toronto Star on June 1, 2015 in “Great advances being made in assistive technology” by Kate Allen and in Healio Orthotics & Prosthetics News on June 2.

LegWorks3

Stripping the ability to walk, lower-limb amputation restricts independence, employment potential and productive participation in the community and affects over 10 million people. The WHO estimates that only five to 15 per cent of all lower-limb amputees in the developing world have access to appropriate prosthetic services and technologies — a large unmet need. Photo credit: Patrick Brown © 2014 Panos.

The LegWorks “All-Terrain Knee” (AT-Knee) is a safe, high-functioning, durable, affordable prosthetic knee joint developed at Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.  It enables lower-limb amputees to walk more efficiently, safely and comfortably.  Its patented design provides incredible stability, is easy to fit and maintain, and can even be used in harsh environments, including water.

“With the AT-Knee and LegWorks, it is our goal to begin to provide more universal access to better prosthetic care for individuals living with amputations around the world,” said Jan Andrysek, scientist in the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. “We want to make high-quality and well-functioning prosthetic devices affordable and accessible for the many individuals whose needs are currently left unmet.”

In trials, early users in 10 countries reported a 95 per cent preference for the relatively low-cost AT-Knee to more expensive existing technologies. Developed with a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada seed grant awarded in 2012 to the Bloorview Research Institute, the AT-Knee easily outperformed existing technologies under rigorous conditions in El Salvador, Chile and Myanmar.

LegWorks LogoWith the new funding, LegWorks will mass produce its innovative, affordable prosthetic knee, the All-Terrain Knee (AT-Knee), the functionality and durability of which makes it ideal for amputees living in the developing world. The $2 million investment deal includes a loan via Grand Challenges Canada of up to $1 million (of which $405,000 has been dispersed), matched by MaRS Innovation, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Ontario Centres of Excellence and a group of private angel investors. With the $1 million expected from private investors and foundations matched by federal funds, the project will receive an anticipated $2 million to scale-up the success of the company.

In the first five years, LegWorks expects 37,000 units to be sold via distributors, NGOs, prosthetic clinics and government rehab facilities, in both high-income countries and the developing world. (more…)

What Wayne Gretzky taught me about business in 20 minutes

Editor’s note: We don’t usually post personal essays on MI’s website, but we couldn’t pass on this one. Whether you’re a hockey fan or an entrepreneur looking for a fresh business perspective, we hope you’ll agree.

Last Wednesday, I was meeting an old friend for lunch in downtown Toronto. We’re both from Edmonton; we were classmates at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. And we’re hockey fans. So I said, “Let’s have lunch at Wayne Gretzky’s.”

We didn’t expect to meet Wayne himself, but that’s what happened. One minute I was eating fish tacos. The next minute, my friend’s pointing with his fork: “Dude, Wayne Gretzky’s right behind you.”

Wayne Gretzky (centre) and MI's Hassan Jaferi (right) with X.

Wayne Gretzky (centre) and MI’s Hassan Jaferi (right) with Matthew Killick.

I was in Grade 2 when Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1987. One of my classmates was the daughter of Andy Moog, the team goalie. He brought the cup into class after the Oilers won so we could all touch it. I grew up playing street hockey in Edmonton and idolizing Wayne. We all did.

So you’ll understand that we had to stop him and say hi. We just had to.

And then we were stunned when he put his glass down on our table and spent 20 minutes talking to us about his various business activities.

My hands were shaking as we left the restaurant an hour later. But here’s five things I managed to take away from this surreal and wonderful experience. (more…)

Flybits announces second closing of $4.75M Series A financing

Vodafone expands Toronto-based company’s global partners to advance mobile platform offerings

Flybits Corporate LogoTORONTO, April 28, 2015 – Vodafone, one of the world’s largest global mobile carriers, has led a second closing of Flybits’ Series A round through Vodafone Ventures. The announcement builds on Flybits’ previously announced Series A financing in August 2014, which was led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Trellis Capital.

This announcement was covered in the Financial Post, TechVibes, PE HUB and BetaKit.

As an innovative software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, Flybits enables consumer-focused enterprises to expand and manage mobile experiences that deliver targeted content and services. Its platform enhances mobile services to deliver a better customer experience, drive sales and capture analytical insight to establish a competitive advantage. The Flybits solution is easy to deploy, user-friendly and scalable.

“We’ve enjoyed an excellent partnership with Vodafone since beginning an incubation project with them almost two years ago,” said Dr. Hossein Rahnama, founder and chief product officer of Flybits. “They helped us make our product carrier-grade, and this investment will allow us to leverage their presence in more than 21 countries. With the support of our strategic investors, Bosch and Vodafone, our plan is to become the leading platform for companies to develop and deliver intelligent and context-aware mobility solutions.”

“I congratulate Flybits on today’s announcement,” said the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade. “Flybits has used many of the services our government offers to help Canadian businesses succeed abroad including the Canadian Technology Accelerators (CTA). Through our network of Trade Commissioners and various programs, this government is committed to helping companies such as Flybits grow beyond our borders to expand globally, creating jobs and economic prosperity across Canada.” (more…)

MaRS Innovation statement on the 2015 Federal Budget

mi_logo_squareTORONTO, ON (April 23, 2014) — MaRS Innovation congratulates the Federal Government’s deepened commitment to support Canadian research and innovation, particularly in the healthcare sector. In particular, the $42 million over five years dedicated to support the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation at Baycrest Health Sciences, which includes $32 million in support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev).

Baycrest is a founding member institution of MaRS Innovation.

“As a Baycrest partner and long-time champions of the commercialization potential of its world-class science in brain and geriatric health care, MaRS Innovation welcomes this news,” says Dr. Raphael (Rafi) Hofstein, president and CEO. “We look forward to advancing existing neuroscience projects in partnership with Baycrest, such as The Virtual Brain, and to collaborating on new start-up companies and licenses related to dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Other promising budget allocations for the innovation sector include: (more…)

Welcome to MaRS Innovation

MaRS Innovation commercializes the most promising research breakthroughs from 15 of Toronto’s top universities, institutions and research institutes. Our portfolio, built through over 1,000 intellectual property disclosures from our member institutions, turns discoveries into businesses through industry partnerships, licensing arrangements and start-up companies.

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