Lab Canada

New company puts Ottawa at the forefront of stem cell research in Canada

Ottawa, ON April 24, 2003 The Ottawa Health Research Institute (OHRI) has announced the launch of a new spin-off company dedicated to researching and developing new stem cell-based therapies for some of the world’s most disabling diseases.

StemPath Inc represents one of the few stem cell companies working exclusively in the area of adult stem cells. The ambitious company was created through C$1 million in start-up funding from Genesys Capital Partners, manager of the Triax-Covington New Generation Biotech Funds, a venture capital group focused on biotechnology.

“This company has grown out of a strategic initiative on the part of the Ottawa Health Research Institute to build up intellectual property in the area of stem cells and stem cell biology,” says Dr Michael Rudnicki, director of the molecular medicine program at the OHRI and future director of the Institute’s Centre for Stem Cell and Gene Therapy. The 30,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled for completion in 2004, will be one of the largest stem cell research facilities in the country.

“Our goal is to identify drugs that modulate the behavior of adult stem cells, promote their activity and stimulate regeneration,” says Dr Rudnicki, who, along with OHRI senior scientist Dr Lynn Megeney, is a founding scientist of StemPath Inc.

Led by Dr Megeney, the two Ottawa scientists and their research teams recently identified a population of cells in cardiac tissue that have stem cell-like activity. The hope is that, given the right mixture of factors and environment, this population of pluripotent stem cells could become fully functioning cardiac muscle cells. The transplant of healthy heart muscle cells could provide new hope for patients with chronic heart disease or for those who have suffered a heart attack. StemPath scientists will also investigate the function of stem cells in skeletal muscle.