MaRS Innovation announced today the concurrent launch of two new LAB150 projects. These projects build on breakthroughs in disease-focused scientific research by prominent teams at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto, both of which are Members of MaRS Innovation. LAB150 is a partnership between MaRS Innovation and Evotec AG with the goal of accelerating academic research towards commercial outcomes by providing funding and access to pharmaceutically validated platforms and expertise.
The SickKids project aims to develop novel therapeutics to treat cystic fibrosis (CF), a debilitating and life-shortening rare disorder caused by mutations in a single gene, termed the CF Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR). The project arose from the extensive decade-long research program at SickKids involving Canadian and international CF patient populations. Led by SickKids senior scientists, Drs. Lisa Strug, Johanna Rommens and Roman Melnyk, and in collaboration with Evotec, the project aims to identify and advance modulators of key CF modifier targets. The relatively recent development of powerful CFTR modulating drugs has been a boon to patients. However, these drugs cannot be used in some, or show limited efficacy in others. Targeting key CF modifiers, instead of or in addition to modulating CFTR itself, is an exciting complementary approach to restore physiological function and improve health outcomes.
“We are dedicated to identifying therapies that can improve the lives of individuals living with cystic fibrosis and other obstructive lung diseases,” says Dr. Strug. “Through this project we hope to find targeted treatments that could benefit many patients and their families.”
The second breakthrough comes from the University of Toronto. The goal of this project is to develop new therapeutics for the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is the leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children. 4-5 million children under four years of age acquire an RSV infection, and more than 125,000 are hospitalized in the United States annually. RSV has multiple mechanisms for immune system evasion, and lack of protective immunity after infection are major hurdles for vaccine and therapeutic development. RSV has become a world health concern and there is a need for other medical tools to combat this virus. Dr. Richard Hegele and his team at the University of Toronto have identified an RSV receptor, nucleolin, which is expressed on human lung cells and is used by the virus to cause infection. Targeting cell surface nucleolin provides an approach to block interaction with the RSV fusion protein, which will avoid viral escape mechanisms and can be applied both prophylactically and therapeutically.
According to Dr. Hegele, “Our discovery and validation of nucleolin as a target for RSV infection opens up an entirely new approach for RSV treatment and prevention. We are very excited to be working with MaRS Innovation and Evotec through LAB150 to develop potent nucleolin-targeting compounds for clinical use in RSV infections.”
This brings the total to four projects currently underway within the LAB150 program. To learn more about the previous projects, please see www.lab150.com
“We are thrilled to be working with these exceptional scientific teams to tackle major unmet needs in both cystic fibrosis and RSV infection treatment,” says Rafi Hofstein, Co-Founder of LAB150 and President and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “With four projects funded and more to come, LAB150 is now well established as a major mechanism to advance Canadian drug discovery projects.”
For more information on LAB150, please visit www.lab150.com.