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$7M supports research into immuno- and bio-therapies


Toronto & Ottawa, ON – The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is providing $7 million in funding over four years to its Immuno- and Bio-therapies (ORBiT) Program, led by Dr. John Bell at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. The program includes collaborators at the Children’s Hospital for Eastern Ontario (CHEO), McMaster University, NCIC Clinical Trials Group  and the University Health Network (UHN). The funds will be used to further promising research into oncolytic viruses, immunotherapies and oncolytic vaccine therapies, including a clinical trial evaluating the program’s Maraba Oncolytic Vaccine platform.

“Oncolytic viruses and vaccines have long shown a great deal of promise, with the potential to offer patients targeted treatment for many forms of cancer. The recent advances in the field of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer patients further  underline the importance of developing innovative therapies targeting the immune system” said Dr. Tom Hudson, OICR’s president and scientific director. “The work of Dr. Bell and his colleagues in the ORBiT Program is turning this promise into reality, bringing these therapies to the clinic and building the infrastructure in Ontario to ensure their long term success. OICR is proud to fund this innovative and exceptional work.”

“This support for ORBiT is critical to moving our discoveries forward, so patients can benefit sooner in the clinic,” said Dr. Bell. “With the funding announced today, we will soon be able to begin a clinical trial for a therapy that combines a new cancer-fighting virus, developed here in Ottawa, with a vaccine therapy. It is clearly helping to position us as leaders in the field.”

The ORBiT Program was designed to address some of the key challenges in the development of bio-therapies in Ontario and rapidly translate leading laboratory discoveries into the clinic.

Oncolytic viruses and vaccines take advantage of the fact that cancer cells grow quickly and as a result have a weaker structure than normal cells. This makes them more susceptible to viral attacks than normal cells, meaning virus-based treatments can be designed and targeted to harm just cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unaffected.