A pair of Northern lights

Canada’s Actium Research, McMaster University announce partnership

Kelsey Kaustinen
TORONTO—Actium Research Inc. and McMaster University haveannounced a collaboration centered on McMaster's proprietary adult human stemcell lines, cancer stem cells and the directed differentiation platformdeveloped by Dr. Mick Bhatia, director of the McMaster Stem Cell and CancerResearch Institute, and his team.
 
 
Initially, Actium will develop anticancer stem cell drugsdirected against a newly identified cancer stem cell market in leukemia andbreast cancer. Actium will also work through research agreements with McMasterand the Stem Cell Institute to identify drugs that can make regular stem cellsspecialize into different tissue types to promote healing. The ultimate goal isto begin commercializing some of these therapies. No additional terms orfinancial details were disclosed.
 
 
"Much has been written about Canada's commercialization gapand desperate need to move our research from the bench into the clinic so thatwe benefit from medical innovation both as patients and as a society," DavidYoung, founder and CEO of Actium, said in a press release. "The federalgovernment placed a lot of emphasis on addressing this gap in the most recentbudget and our agreement with McMaster represents a great example of academiaworking with the private sector to achieve these goals. Actium is pleased tojoin the other companies and groups working to see Ontario's medical researchadvanced to provide our physicians with new tools to achieve better outcomes."
 
Though the collaboration marks the first agreement betweenthe two organizations, they are hardly strangers. In addition to heading upMcMaster Stem Cell Institute, Bhatia joined Actium as its chief scientificofficer this year. Bhatia has worked extensively with stem cells, both inseeking to develop sources of human hematopoietic progenitors and in using stemcells as treatments to prevent tumor reoccurrence.
 
 
"These discoveries from Dr. Bhatia's lab show great promise,and we're delighted with his efforts to commercialize the results of hisresearch, from which many will benefit," Mo Elbestawi, vice president ofresearch and international affairs at McMaster University, said in a pressrelease.
 
 
"We're absolutely convinced that this is great technologyand there's a great team that we can put together around moving it forward,"says Helen Findlay, co-founder, president and chief operational officer ofActium.
 
 
One of the focal points of the collaboration's efforts willbe cancer stem cells, which are also a key focus of Actium's. Findlayidentifies cancer stem cells, also known as tumor-initiating cells, as one ofthe key targets in the treatment of cancer. Like normal stem cells, cancer stemcells can renew themselves and differentiate into multiple cells types. Theissue, Findlay notes, is that these cancer stem cells often prove to be moreresistant to existing cancer therapies, and while current treatments might killthe 'bulk' tumor cells, the survival of cancer stem cells allows for tumorrelapse.
 
 
"If you can target those cancer stem cells and either turnthem into your common, garden, bulk tumor cells, they will eventually die oftheir own accord, or they will respond to conventional chemotherapy orradiation," she explains. "If you cannot target the cancer stem cells … theyare probably the ones that make the metastases or the relapse of disease andultimately are probably a big part of the reason why we're not seeing quantumleaps in being able to cure cancer and having people living much longer." 
 
"There are some areas of medicine where we've done very wellin terms of treatment, but there's other areas where I think that there will besome real benefits coming out of being able to use stem cells to screen fordrug therapies or use stem cells as materials that would promote tissueregeneration and healing," says Findlay of the potential of stem cell-basedtreatments. "I think that there's some real opportunities to really improvepeople's quality of life and health using these new innovations."
  



Kelsey Kaustinen

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