Despite most of the world diving deeper into an era of great technological advancement, one thing that hasn’t changed is that disease spares no favourites regardless of economic class or access to advanced technology. Truly, there are no humans conclusively spared from the potential of unpredictable sickness. Although a new class of treatments, known broadly as cell and gene therapies, are helping individuals and families to deal with chronic and genetic diseases, the therapies can be unbelievably high in cost, often half a million dollars or more per treatment. While sickness can affect anyone, anywhere, these procedure costs have highlighted an important case for affordability of essential, life-changing treatments.
“Developing leading-edge therapies against cancer and genetic diseases is all about collaboration. We’re working together with the government, as well as across industry and academia, to advance and accelerate the development of technologies for cell and gene therapies for the benefit of Canadians.”
– Lakshmi Krishnan, Director of the NRC’s Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre
To address these issues, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has launched the Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge Program to support research and development projects which will focus on creating novel cell and gene therapies to be made in Canada that will be both affordable and accessible to all Canadians dealing with diseases and disorders undesirably impacting their lives.
Funding Snapshot: Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge Program
Administered through the NRC’s Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre, the Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge Program supports the research and development of disruptive technology solutions for precision-engineered cell and gene therapies to be used for the treatment and potential cures of chronic diseases and rare genetic disorders affecting Canadians.
The Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge Program currently includes six projects representing interconnected areas of research, each of which is seeking complementary expertise and technologies in the following areas:
- MP1: Developing adeno‑associated virus (AAV)‑based gene therapies for various monogenetic diseases that would become ready to benefit from expanded GMP AAV capacity in Canada and clinical trials in the medium‑term (5 years).
- MP2: Developing affordable and accessible best‑in‑class CAR‑T products for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. The program is interested in collaborating with academic and clinical CAR researchers to conduct multi‑parametric analysis of the CAR‑T/CAR‑NK constructs through their bio manufacture, including but not limited to genomic, metabolic, metabolomics, phenotypic and functional characterizations.
- MP3: Developing microfluidic processes and biodevices for therapeutic cell product engineering and manufacturing, including automated workflows and integrated analytic approaches.
- MP4: Developing high‑throughput automation and precision editing platforms to accelerate engineering safe allogeneic‑based cell therapies.
- MP5: Developing novel antibody‑based targeting strategies for CAR‑T products directed to solid tumours and developing antibody‑targeted in vivo gene editing strategies. The main objective of this master project is to deploy next‑generation cell and nanoparticle‑gene therapeutics using novel antibody reagents against selective solid tumour, tumour microenvironment, or tumour glycan antigens.
– For the development of solid tumour targeted CAR‑T, the program is seeking collaborations in pre‑clinical development of animal models for the evaluation of solid tumour targeting CAR‑T therapeutics and development of novel CAR‑T switches for enhanced control and safety.
– For the development of nano‑gene delivery systems, the program is seeking collaborations in packaging CRISPR‑Cas9 gene editing machinery in lipid‑based nanoparticles (i.e. lipid nanoparticles or exosomes) and in the in vivo evaluation of targeted gene editing using animal models of monogenetic disease.
- MP6: This project area has three key objectives:
– Developing an efficient system for genome editing by homology directed repair in quiescent cells that could be used in the context of gene therapy with viral vectors such as adeno‑associated virus (AAV).
– With surface chemistry knowledge, developing a tangential flow filtration membrane (hollow fibre or cassette‑based) containing specific ligand or charge on the lumen side to adsorb or bind a virus, produced by mammalian cell culture, used for gene therapy application and allowed to elute in a smaller volume.
– Isolating or engineering new capsids for tissue‑specific delivery of payload for gene therapy using AAV.
- Expressions of Interest (EOI) are accepted on an ongoing basis.
The Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge Program will invite eligible applicants to explain their area of expertise and their interest in collaborating with the program.
Government Grants and Loans for Innovative Research and Development Projects
Government funding for innovative research and development projects supports Canadian businesses in achieving breakthrough discoveries and improvements in products, services, and/or leading solutions such as the Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge Program aims to do for cell and gene therapies.
Interested in accessing government grants and loans for innovation-focused projects? Download our free Collaborative Research Project Guide funding resource to learn about how to perform innovative research projects alongside colleges and universities. Collaborating with an invested research partner can help companies reduce fees, improve development insights, and ultimately have a higher chance of project success.