Actium Research and McMaster University Collaborate to Commercialize Stem Cell Technologies

Posted: May 30, 2012 at 12:11 am

Arrangement pairs one of Canada's most successful biotech executive teams with academic discovery engine to address the need for better drugs targeting cancer stem cells and regenerative medicine.

TORONTO/HAMILTON, May 29, 2012 /CNW/ - Actium Research Inc., ("Actium" or the "Company") Toronto, and McMaster University ("McMaster"), Hamilton, have entered into a landmark collaboration covering McMaster's proprietary adult human stem cell lines, cancer stem cells and the directed differentiation platform developed by Dr. Mick Bhatia and his team at the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute ("The Stem Cell Institute"). Together these technologies and the expertise at The Stem Cell Institute provide leading edge tools for drug discovery and better treatments for serious illnesses.

Actium is a drug discovery and development company targeting two types of stem cells; cancer stem cells to improve survival and health outcomes and normal tissue stem cells to promote healing and address the need for cure in chronic diseases. Actium was founded by Dr. David Young and Helen Findlay. Dr. Bhatia joined as the scientific founder in 2012. The team will put their experience with managing drug discovery platforms, development pathways and product pipelines to work to build Actium into a leading biotech company.

Previously, Dr. David Young and Ms Helen Findlay were uniquely successful in creating ARIUS Research Inc. ("ARIUS"), a public biotech company, trading on the TSX, specializing in the discovery and development of therapeutic cancer antibodies based entirely on technology developed in its own research labs. ARIUS' FunctionFIRST technology was partnered with leading companies such as Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Japan's largest drug company, Genentech, the leader in cancer antibodies, and Protein Design Labs, a pioneer in antibody humanization. These and other partnerships represented over $400 million of value. ARIUS was a singular financial success story in Canada. The sale of the company to Roche in 2008 generated a five times return on capital, cash on cash, representing the largest return to date for investors in a Canadian biotech company. More importantly, the company created the first specific cancer stem cell drug to enter human clinical trials. The company was well recognized for its accomplishments: it was named as a top 50 company by the TSX Venture Exchange in 2005, a top 10 company by Ottawa Life Sciences Council in 2006, and Biotech Company of the Year by BioteCanada in 2009.

"After we founded Actium we were presented with many interesting technologies looking for commercialization support." said David Young, Actium CEO. "Ontario has a wealth of great researchers and I think with Dr. Mick Bhatia's leadership and the support from the community, the Stem Cell Institute at McMaster stands at the forefront. Much has been written about Canada's commercialization gap and desperate need to move our research from the bench into the clinic so that we benefit from medical innovation both as patients and as a society. The federal government placed a lot of emphasis on addressing this gap in the most recent budget and our agreement with McMaster represents a great example of academia working with the private sector to achieve these goals. Actium is pleased to join the other companies and groups working to see Ontario's medical research advanced to provide our physicians with new tools to achieve better outcomes."

McMaster University is committed to creating collaborations that help accelerate the pace intellectual property is transferred from its labs and to the marketplace, where it will have the greatest impact.

"This specific initiative will assist us in doing just that," said Mo Elbestawi, McMaster Vice-President, Research and International Affairs. "These discoveries from Dr. Bhatia's lab show great promise and we're delighted with his efforts to commercialize the results of his research, from which many will benefit."

Initially, Actium will develop anti-cancer stem cell drugs that are directed against a newly identified cancer stem cell marker in leukemia and breast cancer. Cancer stem cells are a unique group of cells within a tumor that do not respond to conventional therapies and may be responsible for cancers that spread or that return after treatment. The company will also work through research agreements with McMaster and The Stem Cell Institute to identify drugs that cause "normal" stem cells to become specialized as different tissue types to promote healing. In addition, the Actium strategy includes accessing technologies that expand drug development capabilities or fill pipeline gaps. The overall development strategy is guided by principles of pipeline management where projects compete with each other for resources, and allocations are made according to success-based performance metrics. "This is the most efficient way to allocate resources to the compounds with the best chances of becoming breakthrough drugs. In this horse race the winners go on to the next race until a champion is crowned", said Dr. Bhatia, Actium Chief Scientific Officer.

About McMaster University and the McMaster Industry Liaison Office

McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. With a research income of more than $395 million, McMaster ranks second in research intensity among Canadian universities. It is home to more than 23,000 students, 1,300 faculty members, and 70 world-class research centres and institutes. Through the McMaster Industry Liaison Office, the University facilitates the commercialization efforts of its faculty by connecting them to the marketplace.

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Actium Research and McMaster University Collaborate to Commercialize Stem Cell Technologies

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