The project aims to mass produce treatment for cancers and rare diseases, with NGen touting it as a way to position Canada as a leading manufacturer of therapy tools for genetic disorders.
“This project … will drive innovation in the treatment of diseases and genetic disorders.”
On hand for the announcement, made at MaRS Discovery Centre in Toronto, was Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development (ISED). He called the project “an important first step” and “game-changer” that has the potential to save lives.
“The NGen Supercluster is just getting started establishing Canada as a global hub for the world’s most advanced manufacturing,” Bains said. “Without immediate and targeted action that builds upon Canada’s existing strengths, we risk falling behind in the global innovation race. This project … will drive innovation in the treatment of diseases and genetic disorders once considered untreatable.”
NGen’s first project is being led by Intelligent Vector Solutions (iVexSol), a newly established Toronto-based manufacturing company that will work to produce viral vectors, which are molecular-level tools used to treat patients suffering from late-stage cancer and genetic disorders, including rare forms of leukemia and blindness. According to ISED, this is meant to help meet rising global demand for innovative gene therapy treatments.
“Over the past 30 years, LVVs [way lentiviral vectors] have delivered an outstanding safety and therapeutic record,” stated NGen. “But they are produced using legacy methods that are costly, inefficient and hard-to-scale. These limitations have caused global shortages of this critical reagent and slowed the progress of clinical trials leading to the development of lifesaving CGTs [cell and gene therapies].”
The first project will see $4.2 million in investments through NGen, with the federal government contributing $1.8 million and the additional $2.4 million coming from industry and private partners. iVexSol is partnering with GE Healthcare, BC-based StemCell Technologies, and non-profit consortium Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), to develop the new viral vectors manufacturing process.
“This process will help address the manufacturing barriers that hamper the current production of this gene therapy tool, such as outdated and inefficient processes, and will minimize the cost and footprint it takes to manufacture the vectors while maintaining a high level of quality and safety,” ISED stated.
NGen is the final Supercluster, of the five federal government-funded clusters, to announce projects. BC-based Digital Supercluster was the first to announce, in March, followed by the Prairies-based Protein Supercluster, Quebec-based SCALE.AI, and Atlantic Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, which all announced their projects in June.
Under the agreement signed last November, the federal government will invest around $230 million into NGen, which is meant to be matched dollar-to-dollar by private investments. The government states that NGen Supercluster is expected to create more than 13,500 jobs and add more than $13.5 billion to the Canadian economy over the next 10 years.
Feature image by Meagan Simpson