McMaster bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal off­shoot nets $33 mil­lion in fund­ing, paves way for sec­tor

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MARK MCNEIL mm­c­neil@thes­ 905-526-4687 | @Markatthes­pec

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

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