York scientists partner with industry on $1.7 M grant for drug development


TORONTO, April 27, 2016 – There is currently a major bottleneck in the development of biopharmaceuticals – drugs manufactured from biological sources – but York U researchers in partnership with Canadian pharmaceutical companies have received more than $1.7 million to speed things along.

The funding, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Development fund, includes industrial and in-kind contributions and will help advance the R&D of biopharmaceuticals.

Biopharmaceuticals represent the fastest growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry, but there is a major delay in their development. Due to technological limitations and the molecular complexity of biopharmaceuticals, important details such as what a drug-target complex looks like are usually not available. This makes it difficult for companies to decide whether or not to pursue further testing of candidate drugs and it slows down drug development.

“We will develop a platform to rapidly determine detailed information about biologic drug candidates, including the nature of these molecules and specifically how they interact with their targets,” said York U researcher and project lead Derek Wilson, director of the Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry. “Creating such a platform will allow pharmaceutical companies to greatly accelerate and improve the quality of their drug discovery and development processes, making it easier to bring much needed drugs to market.”

Wilson, along with science Professors Sergey Krylov and Chun Peng have the bioanalytical and research expertise to help. Together with Sanofi-Pasteur, Sciex, and Fluidigm Canada, they are launching the “Technology- Enhanced Biopharmaceuticals Development and Manufacturing” initiative, which will aim to improve tests for early-stage candidate drugs.

The researchers are experts in the techniques required to carry out this project. The mass spectrometry and electrophoresis technologies that will provide the unique analytical backbone for the platform are products of Wilson’s and Krylov’s research programs. Peng will contribute her unique expertise to projects related to microRNA-driven immunomodulation, which will provide insights into vaccine development. From the industry perspective, Sanofi will share its drug development systems, Sciex will contribute its world-leading mass spectrometry instruments, and Fluidigm will offer their unique CyTOF technology.

“The project will enhance York’s research profile in biopharmaceuticals development and manufacturing and provide an exceptional, industry-linked training environment for graduate students and post-docs,” said Robert Haché, York’s Vice-President Research & Innovation. “In addition, the technology and training that will emerge from this collaboration will meet the needs of the growing Canadian biopharmaceuticals industry.”

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Media Contact:

Sandra McLean, York University, 416-736-2100 ext. 22097, sandramc@yorku.ca