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Collaboration to advance cardiac, diabetes and depression technologies


Toronto, ON – MaRS Innovation has formed a research collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and its Canadian affiliate, Janssen Inc., to advance technologies focused on cardiac, diabetes and depression through three projects.

The projects’ principal investigators are researchers from the University Health Network (UHN), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Toronto. This announcement follows Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s commitment in December 2013 to collaborate on early-stage drug development projects.

The three projects are:

Improving cardiac surgery outcomes: Through work at UHN’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, researchers are developing new technology to detect electrical drivers in patients with atrial fibrillation, a common type of arrhythmia. Preliminary testing suggests this technology may increase the success of atrial fibrillation catheter ablation, which depends upon accurately locating focal electrical sources when scanning the heart. The project will be led by Dr. Vijay Chauhan of UHN’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.

Blood test for depression: Investigators at CAMH and Indoc Research (formerly the Ontario Cancer Biomarker Network) are testing a new peripheral blood biomarker for major depressive disorder that may help to identify when a patient is experiencing or at risk of developing the disorder. The biomarker may also help researchers to develop new therapeutics for treating the condition. The project will be led by Dr. Jeff Meyer of CAMH, in collaboration with Dr. Ken Evans of Indoc Research.

Diagnostic for gestational and type 2 diabetes: University of Toronto research has identified a specific metabolite elevated in both gestational and type 2 diabetes patients. Researchers are examining if this metabolite could serve as a predictive diagnostic for the diseases.The project will be led by the University of Toronto’s Dr. Michael Wheeler.

“These three projects reflect the quality of innovation present in Toronto’s research community for our industry partners, and Toronto’s progress in addressing healthcare issues of international concern,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “Johnson & Johnson Innovation is a long-term strategic partner of MaRS Innovation and of our members; our collaboration reflects the benefits to accessing our members’ deal flow through MaRS Innovation. Through these deals and other scientific exchanges, we see increased interest in Toronto’s innovation and entrepreneurship community.”

While Johnson & Johnson Innovation/Janssen are providing financial and in-kind support, details about the funding are confidential, according to Elizabeth Monier-Williams, spokesperson at MaRS Innovation. However, she adds the three projects are already underway, and the goal is to advance them as licenses.

Monier-Williams also says that as the commercialization agent for three universities, nine teaching hospitals, OICR and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, MaRS Innovation’s goal is always successful commercialization. To that end, the organization also creates start-up companies, depending on the technology’s most appropriate path to market.