Innovation to Commercialization Award

New enzymes and processes for the removal of cell surface antigens from red blood cells to generate 'universal donor' O type blood for transfusion

Human blood comes in four major "types" — A, B, AB and O — which differ in the sugars on their red blood cells (RBCs). Correctly matching blood types before transfusions is essential to avoid immune responses that can be fatal. O type blood is known as a universal donor since RBCs from an O type person can be transfused into A, B, AB or O type individuals without harm. It is used in emergencies when there is no time to type the patient or the correct type is unavailable. Type O blood is often in short supply.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

3D printing of hydrogel tubing via reactive hydrodynamic focusing to replace single-use plastic medical tubing

Single-use plastic medical tubing is widely used in hospitals. Although practical, plastic tubing has a potentially life-threatening problem in that blood cells and proteins can deposit on the tubing to form clots. There are also problems with being unable to dispose of the plastic tubing in an environmentally-friendly manner. Commercially available plastic tubing has seen little change over the last 30 years.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

Novel carbon fibre breast positioning device (CARA) for reducing toxicity in breast radiotherapy

Radiation therapy is used to reduce the chance of breast cancer recurrence after surgical removal of the primary cancer in approximately 2,000 British Columbian patients and approximately 2 million women around the world annually.  Because the breast is a mobile organ sitting over the lungs and heart, these organs and other normal tissues may receive unwanted radiotherapy dose leading to serious side effects. Our group has designed a carbon-fibre device suitable for breast positioning in radiotherapy to optimize the position of the breast during treatment to reduce these side effects.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

Cytology-based DNA measurement for oral cancer screening

Oral cancer (OC) presents a global burden on society and the healthcare system with remarkably high incidence rates and poor prognosis. Despite the oral cavity being easily accessible for visual assessment and diagnostic procedures, it remains to be detected at an advanced stage when the prognosis is poor and radical interventions are necessary. An invasive biopsy of a clinically suspicious lesion is the current standard of care for OC diagnosis and lesion monitoring; however, repeated biopsies may not be feasible.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

Automated body composition analysis for precision medicine applications

There is growing evidence showing that the amount of muscle and fat one has in the body influences various aspects of cancer such as carcinogenesis (formation of cancer), response to chemotherapy drugs (to decide on the optimal dosage to the patient to destroy cancer cells while avoiding damage in other organs), death resulting from complications due to surgery, and overall survival outcomes. Conversely, cancer also causes loss of muscle mass. Accurate and easily available tools are thus needed to measure muscle and fat in an individual in the context of cancer treatment decisions.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

Multispectral RNA Mango: Synthesis of new multicolour fluorogens for incorporation into pathogen detection and identification kits

With the increasing prevalence of viral pathogens as exemplified by COVID-19, reliable and inexpensive detection is of increasing importance. Rapid testing allows appropriate and immediate treatment, which can have a profound effect on the treatment outcome. Early on-site detection is also greatly beneficial for hospitals and clinics since it would allow patients to be rapidly screened before entering the system.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

eSense: an online psychological intervention for women's health

Sexual dysfunction affects up to 1/3 of women across ages, cultures, and social conditions. The World Health Organization recognizes sexual health as a fundamental part of general health and quality of life. Our research shows that face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness (MBT) are effective for treating women’s sexual concerns. Yet these treatments reach only a small segment of women, and are accessible primarily to women who have the means to commute to large centres.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

Development and application of comprehensive T-cell receptor reactivity profiling technologies to aid in the discovery of novel immune cell therapies

The success of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy in the treatment of leukemia has spurred significant effort into developing similar "living medicines" for other cancer types. A large component of this effort is to discover new immune cell receptors that can be engineered into T cells, a specialized subset of immune cells, to function as the guidance system needed to attack and kill specific tumors. However, the difficulty associated with this lies in finding immune receptors that effectively target cancer cells but do not damage healthy tissues.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

Fucosylation inhibitors for convenient production of fucose-deficient antibodies

Therapeutic antibodies have revolutionized the treatment of cancers. The efficacy of many of these antibodies depends on their ability to recognize and bind to cancer cells. These antibodies then recruit immune cells to kill the cancer cells. Recent interest has focused on the different sugar molecules attached to the antibody and their role in helping or hindering the recruitment of immune cells. Specifically, eliminating one specialized sugar known as fucose from antibodies dramatically improves their ability to recruit immune cells and kill cancers.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2020

3D bioprinting personalized neural tissues for drug screening

Bioprinting can produce living human tissues on demand, opening up huge possibilities for medical breakthroughs in both drug screening and developing replacement tissues. The Willerth lab was the first group in the world to use the cutting edge RX1 bioprinter from Aspect Biosystems to bioprint neural tissues similar to those found in the brain using stem cells derived from healthy patients. Similar tissues can be printed using stem cells derived from patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, recapitulating the disease phenotype in a dish.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

Biomarker tests to diagnose and prognose acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

There are 2.6 million Canadians with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), representing 17% of adults between 35 and 80 years of age. COPD is a disease characterized by progressive loss of lung function that leads to shortness of breath, poor quality of life, reduced productivity, emergency visits, hospitalizations and deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that COPD will be the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, accounting for more than 7 million deaths/year and 11,000 deaths/year in Canada.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

Technology for image-based screening to enhance protein production

New medicines being developed to treat complex diseases, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis are increasingly becoming large and complex molecules, such as proteins. These molecules must be produced using cells grown in a laboratory or production facility. A key bottleneck in the development of such new medicines is producing sufficient quantities of these molecules for various stages of rigorous testing to ensure safety and efficacy. This project will develop a technology to generate better producer cells in order to increase their productivity.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

A smart multifunctional wound dressing for continuous monitoring and treatment of chronic injuries

Wound management is a major global challenge and poses a significant financial burden to the healthcare system due to the rapid growth of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and aging population. The ability to detect pathogenic infections and release drug at the wound site is of the utmost importance to expedient patient care. We recently developed an advanced multifunctional dressing (GelDerm) capable of colorimetric measurement of bacterial infection and release of antibiotic agents at the wound site.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

Novel nanomedicines for resolving inflammation as a treatment for type 2 diabetes

This project proposes a new nanomedicine approach to treat type 2 diabetes (T2D). Studies in humans and mice have shown that inflammation in fat tissues and the pancreas is a major driving force for the development of obesity-induced insulin resistance and diabetes. A major limitation of current drugs is that they distribute over the entire body, exposing all cell types, while only a small amount reaches the desired target cells at disease sites, such as macrophages in inflamed tissues. This results in limited drug efficacy and unwanted side-effects.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

Developing a safe and effective analgesic for chronic pain relief

About 6 million Canadians report a form of chronic pain, yet half of the sufferers do not get enough pain relief from their medications. This severely affects their quality of life and has significant social and economic burdens. Opioid medications, such as morphine, are the most powerful pain killers available, but these drugs also cause serious side effects, such as suppressed breathing, leading to a high risk of death from overdose.

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

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