MaRS Innovation’s “model solves the two weakest points in tech transfer: the lack of dealflow and the ability to match public funding,” writes Thierry Heles in, “MaRS Innovation: A Unique Model for Tech Transfer,” for Global University Venturing.
The article, which includes an interview with Dr. Rafi Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation, was published September 14, 2015.
Here’s an excerpt exploring the range of MI’s portfolio and Hofstein’s strategy for addressing technologies emerging in new areas:
In the beginning, Mars received primarily discoveries in the medical sector, but the balance has since shifted to 60% medically-oriented research and 40% for other areas. The medically-oriented discoveries, Hofstein elaborated, are a diverse set of technologies and include everything from drug development and molecular diagnostics to medical devices and healthcare IT.
The remaining 40% meanwhile cover “a smörgåsbord all the way from alternative energies and solar energy, and water reclamation to all sorts of mobile apps”.
CQDM and MaRS Innovation investing in new Encycle project to determine rules for making peptide drugs orally bioavailable
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 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.
“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.”
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 first disclosed grant under Merck & Co. Inc.’s Canadian translational initiative will bolster the ability of macrocycle-based Encycle Therapeutics Inc. to conduct lead optimization of its integrin [a4b7,] inhibitors for inflammatory bowel disease,” writes Michael J. Haas in SciBX’s feature on the partnership, “Merck Encycles through Canada.” The article appears in the publication’s December 4, 2014 issue.
The article explores the current grant partnership between Merck, Encycle Therapeutics, MaRS Innovation, the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer–Commercialization of Research (IRICoR), and the Université de Montréal’s Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), and takes an inside look at the company’s progress to date.
Encycle is a spinout from the University of Toronto founded in 2012 to solve the primary challenges of macrocycle drugs–poor cell penetration and low oral availability.
According to Parimal Nathwani, the company was selected by MaRS Innovation and IRICoR (Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer–Commercialization of Research), two of the three agencies originally tasked with disbursement and management of the Merck fund, because it was a good match with IRIC’s competencies. The third agency, The Centre for Drug Research and Development, is not involved in this deal. IRICoR is the commercialization arm of IRIC.
“Encycle has a good chemistry platform and nice early discovery work on its integrin [a4b7,] inhibitor program, which is now at the point where it needs to move through lead optimization,” said Nathwani. “IRIC scientists have strong expertise in medicinal chemistry and have worked with industry on optimization, pharmacokinetics, toxicity and other preclinical studies, so they can provide Encycle with pharma-grade optimization.”
Macrocycle therapies can block protein-protein interactions that are undruggable with small molecules; however, oral availability and cell penetration remain key challenges. Encycle Therapeutics Inc.’s chemistry platform generates drug-like macrocycles against validated targets to treat diseases for which oral therapies are needed.
Marketed inhibitors of protein-protein interactions include biologics and other molecules large enough to target the wide, shallow surfaces involved in those interactions, but can only bind extracellular targets. Macrocycles can have sufficient size to block protein-protein interactions yet remain small enough to penetrate cells and block intracellular interactions that biologics and small molecules cannot.
Founded on chemistry from University of Toronto for cyclizing peptides and non-peptidic molecules, Encycle’s macrocycles incorporate three features that are not all found in other companies’ compounds — the absence of sulfur, the presence of intramolecular hydrogen bonding motifs, and an upper limit on size, according to President and CEO Jeffrey Coull.
CQDM is a Quebec-based not-for profit that funds and supports joint projects in private and biopharmaceutical sectors.
Here’s an excerpt from CQDM’s announcement:
Dr. Hofstein, actively involved in the field of biotechnology, partnerships and technology transfer for over 30 years, greatly contributed to defining Israel as a world leader in biotechnology. In Israel, Dr. Hofstein held various positions including R & D Manager and Chief of Immunochemistry with the International Genetic Scientific Partnership, Scientific Director at Biotechnological Applications Ltd., Scientific Director and Vice-President, Business Development at Ecogen Inc., prior to becoming President of Mindsense Biosystems Ltd., and then founder, President and CEO, and chairman of the Board of Hadasit Ltd.
Dr. Hofstein was also president of BIOMED, the annual biomedical conference of Israel for many years. He was also co-founder and member of the Israeli Life Sciences Industry Organization and co-founder and executive of Israel’s Tech Transfer Network. Dr. Hofstein now serves on various boards, including Life Sciences Ontario, Clinical Trials Ontario as well as the Organizing Committee of the Public Policy Forum on venture capital and innovation. Dr. Hofstein holds a Ph.D. in the life sciences and chemistry, and completed his postdoctoral studies at the Harvard Medical School.
A $4-million public-private partnership will promote research innovation involving three academic commercialization centres in Canada
CHICAGO, Illinois – April 22, 2013 – Merck Canada will be announcing today at the BIO International Convention that it is reinforcing its commitment to the Canadian life sciences research innovation sector.
This partnership announcement was covered by PEHub.
IRICoR will work in conjunction with MaRS Innovation and the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) to identify, develop and commercialize technologies in healthcare. All three CECR institutions – identified as CECR in 2008 by the federal government – share a common objective: facilitating and accelerating the commercialization of research breakthroughs that will improve the quality of life of Canadians and others around the world.
Encycle Therapeutics, a MaRS Innovation spin-off company, was featured by Business Without Borders' High Tech section in a Q&A profile with MI's President and CEO, Raphael Hofstein. Here's an excerpt:…