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Genome Canada announces $5.9 million funding to St. Michael’s zebrafish lab to develop drugs to prevent intracerebral hemorrhage

Toronto, July 14, 2016

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen
Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen

Genome Canada has announced $5.9 million in funding for the Zebrafish Centre for Advanced Drug Discovery of St. Michael’s Hospital to develop drugs to prevent recurrence of intracerebral hemorrhage.

The federal parliamentary secretary for science, Terry Beech, announced in Victoria on July 11 that St. Michael’s was one of five recipients of Round 5 funding under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program, or GAPP.

GAPP partners with academic researchers and users in the private and public sectors to promote genomics-derived solutions to address challenges or opportunities facing users. The projects are expected to have considerable economic and social impacts in the near term, spurring innovation, commercialization and growth in Canada.

Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen, director of St. Michael’s zebrafish lab and academic leader for this project, will work with Edge Therapeutics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company based in New Jersey, to develop the best drugs for preventing intracerebral hemorrhage – a form of brain hemorrhage responsible for 10 per cent of all strokes. The co-founder and chief scientific officer of Edge Therapeutics is Dr. Loch Macdonald, a researcher at St. Michael’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and a user leader of this project.

“The Genome Canada grant in support of our Zebrafish Center will help facilitate our vision of making the Keenan Research Center for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s Hospital a world leader in disease models and rapid drug discovery,” said Dr. Arthur Slutsky, vice-president of research at St. Michael’s.

Intracerebral hemorrhage, or ICH, affects about 90,000 people in North America each year, more than half of whom either die or are disabled. Anywhere from one-quarter to 44 per cent of those who survive have recurring ICH. The annual economic burden of ICH is estimated at $300 million to Canada and $6 billion to the United States. Apart from treating hypertension, which is one of the causes of ICH, there is currently no way to prevent recurrent ICH.

“The Zebrafish Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital aims to be at the forefront of academic drug discovery,” Dr. Wen said. “Partnerships with industry, such as the one with Edge Therapeutics, are critical for our success and future growth. The Genome Canada GAPP program greatly enhances our industrial partnership and will accelerate the development of drugs for strokes.”

Zebrafish have become a popular organism for biomedical research. Zebrafish are vertebrates, they breed rapidly and prolifically and their hearts start beating at about 24 hours after fertilization. Because they are transparent, researchers can watch the effect of drugs in real time.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.