Craig Simmons among five awarded new grant advancing drug discovery

June 17, 2015 — Professor Craig Simmons(MIE/IBBME) is among five Canadian researchers to receive $300,000 over two years by research associations CQDM and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE). The funding aims to support unconventional and innovative research projects to accelerate drug discovery in Quebec and Ontario.

The announcement was made on June 16 at the 2015 BIO International Convention in Philadelphia by CQDM and OCE, alongside Dr. Gaétan Barrette, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, and Dr. Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation, and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

The combined grant of $1.5 million to Quebec-based and, for the first time, Ontario-based researchers, is thanks to the partnership with OCE through CQDM’s 2014 Explore Program. The program focuses on early concept validation of cutting-edge technologies addressing crucial needs in drug discovery and development.

The funding will support Professor Simmons’ research in developing 3D liver tissue models, used to screen the effects of drugs. Co-principal Investigators include professors Michael Sefton (ChemE/IBBME), Denis Grant(Pharmacy) and research associate Dean Chamberlain (ChemE).

“The CQDM/OCE grant funds us to advance a new microfluidic technology as a tool to test drugs for their adverse effects on the liver before they are tested in animals or humans,” said Professor Simmons.

Most drugs are removed from the market due to ineffective or unexpected toxic effects that are not detected by current drug screening technologies. “Our improved liver model will identify and eliminate toxic and ineffective drugs earlier in the drug discovery process,” said Professor Simmons. As a result, the liver model will reduce the time, cost and reliance on animal testing for drug development.

Professor Simmons says the grant will also help accelerate the translation of the technology to end users such as pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and biology researchers.

“By the end of this project, we expect to deliver a new best-in-class liver model that is designed to be immediately implemented and to enable faster, less expensive, and more effective drug discovery and development,” he said.

“This innovative funding collaboration between CQDM and Ontario Centres of Excellence will help accelerate drug development through biopharmaceutical research and development in Ontario and Quebec,” said said Dr. Moridi. “The important work of the chosen project teams will help to improve the everyday lives for people in both provinces and beyond, by generating positive health and economic outcomes.”

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