McMaster biopharmaceutical offshoot nets $33 million in funding, paves way for sector
A new biopharmaceutical company has received $33 million in venture capital financing to develop medical isotopes to treat cancer.
Fusion Pharmaceuticals is an offshoot of McMaster University’s Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) and will have 20 employees at a development facility at McMaster Innovation Park, says John Valliant, who founded the centre in 2008.
The new company will make use of McMaster’s nuclear reactor and pave the way for future biomedical startups at the innovation park.
The investment from Johnson and Johnson Innovation will be enough to carry the new company through clinical trials starting a year from now. Valliant said it typically takes seven to 10 years to bring a new drug to market.
“Medical isotopes come in different forms and different flavours,” he explained. “Some are used for diagnosis of disease. These ones are used to basically kill cancer cells.
“Targeted delivery of medical isotopes that emit alpha particles can be used to kill tumour cells with remarkable precision and unprecedented potency,” added Valliant, a Canada Research Chair in Medical Isotopes and Molecular Imaging Probes at McMaster.
The company will use expertise in radiopharmaceutical development and production with the aim of “targeting molecules to create a new generation of therapeutics that can address the need for better cancer treatments.”
Valliant says that among other things, the research is targeted at “cancers that really resist existing treatments. I think it provides an alternative for patients who are not responding to their current therapy.”
Rob Baker, McMaster’s vicepresident of research, calls it “a great news investment for Hamilton’s life sciences sector,” adding that “we’re looking forward to growing Fusion here, in our hometown.”
Valliant says the broader priority is to “help advance the worldchanging research happening at McMaster while connecting it to Hamilton, the province and the country.”
He’s “extremely excited about this being located in Hamilton” because it leverages expertise in the community and innovation park as well as the reactor.
When the reactor was built in 1959, it was intended for fundamental research along with developing medical isotopes for clinical use.
“They had forethought to create something that could be used for medical isotopes and this whole initiative is taking it to the next level and attracting international investments in Hamilton,” Valliant said.
The CPDC has more than 80 employees with locations and major partnerships in Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Boston. It is supported by the Networks of Centres of Excellence, the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research, McMaster University and industry partners.
This whole initiative is taking it to the next level ... JOHN VALLIANT FOUNDER OF CPDC AND A CANADA RESEARCH CHAIR