WHAT RESEARCH ARE WE SUPPORTING?
In 2020, BioCanRx was awarded a 3-year award of $15 million from the federal government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) Program, with additional contributions coming from partners in all sectors of the economy. This is follow-on funding from a previous $25 million dollar award from 2015-2020. Since the launch of the BioCanRx Network, a total of 44 projects and 5 core facilities have been funded. This portfolio of projects can be found here, containing staged investments in therapeutic development projects, and enabling studies and methodologies for their optimization and delivery. BioCanRx aims to accelerate the translation of emerging biological immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer to the clinic.
To date this portfolio has included investments in three areas of biotherapeutics research — Oncolytic Viruses & Vaccines, Cell Therapy platforms, and Antibodies and Antibody-like molecules. We have a fourth field of research that assesses the societal value and economic viability of new therapies in development. All of these research fields are supported by core facilities critical infrastructure required to move these technologies forward.
The overarching vision of the Cycle II research program will focus on extending immunotherapy successes in the clinic beyond initial responders. To address this challenge, while making use of technologies in the BioCanRx pipeline or by soliciting new complimentary technology, BioCanRx will invest in projects aimed at understanding patient and/or tumour type limitation(s) and proposing improved novel therapies, trials, or combination approaches to overcome the identified limitation(s). This will be accomplished by:
- Identifying solid tumour targets for adoptive cell therapy
- Turning “cold” tumours “hot”
- Identifying or validating mechanisms of resistance of tumours to immunotherapy in the clinical setting (cellular, immunological, genomic, biomarkers, pathway obstacles, microenvironment)
- Biologically relevant cancer targeting (pathways, tumour microenvironment elements, immune cell subsets.
- Developing or refining combination approaches;
- Designing and Creating Multiplex Immunotherapeutics
- Early health technology assessments (HTA) and/or policy frameworks to support the development of novel biotherapeutics and/or combination therapy approaches
This new and highly innovative approach to cancer treatment uses cancer-killing viruses to target, infect and kill tumour cells. At the same time, these viruses train our immune system to identify cancer cells, which can provide lasting anti-tumour responses so the cancer doesn’t spread and recur.
ADOPTIVE CELL THERAPY
Adoptive cell therapy involves engineering or isolating cancer-fighting immune cells from a patient’s tumour, growing large numbers of these cells in the laboratory, and then infusing them back into patients. Immune cells are naturally present in most tumours, but usually lack the strength or numbers to eradicate the cancer on their own. The immune cells can also be genetically or biologically manipulated to become more therapeutically effective. This approach has led to some unprecedented clinical responses in patients with advanced cancers.
Natural antibodies are small proteins that the body produces to flag viruses, bacteria and cancer cells for destruction by the immune system. BioCanRx scientists are developing synthetic antibodies armed with potent toxins that can kill cancer cells directly, as well as antibodies directed against key immune regulatory checkpoints to drive the patient’s immune response towards heightened anti-cancer activity. These kinds of antibodies have already shown great promise in the clinic, and are without doubt the most successful anti-cancer biotherapeutics to date.