Transforming Discovery into Opportunity

CDRD helps fuel emerging companies that are ready to rocket!

Posted on: March 17th, 2016 by jwhite

The annual Ready to Rocket awards were recently handed out to BC technology companies that are best positioned to capitalize on the technology sector trends resulting in faster expected growth than their peers. From clean tech to life sciences to information and communications, start-up companies are thriving in BC’s growing technology sectors.

Amongst the life sciences companies, there are a few noteworthy recipients that CDRD has helped enable as part of our active role driving the re-invigoration of the life sciences industry overall. Included on the 2016 Ready to Rocket Life Sciences and Life Sciences Emerging Rocket lists, are four direct CDRD spin-off companies including:

  • Kairos Therapeutics – Launched in 2013 as a direct outcome of the formation of the CDRD Biologics Division, Kairos is optimally positioned to be a key player in bringing this new class of drugs to cancer patients. The company is now focused on developing the next-generation antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) platform based on inventions discovered, developed and validated in-house at CDRD. Earlier this year, Kairos also announced an equity investment and optional merger agreement with BC-based Zymeworks – which was subsequently named as LifeSciences BC’s 2016 Life Sciences Company of the Year.
  • Sitka Biopharma – CDRD worked with UBC researchers Dr. Helen Burt, Dr. Don Brooks and Dr. Martin Gleave (Vancouver Prostate Centre) on their initial idea of developing a new treatment for bladder cancer patients. The concept was broadened to become a Mucoadhesive Drug Delivery Platform with the potential to develop multiple treatments using other drugs, in other cancers. CDRD brought drug development expertise and managed the project in collaboration with the UBC researchers (validated lead candidate; demonstrated proof-of-concept in a proven animal model; new patents filed; clear business case and clinical/partnering strategies; network of clinical experts, potential investors and corporate partners).
  • Precision NanoSystems – Incubated in its early days at CDRD, Precision creates innovative solutions for the discovery, development and manufacture of novel nanoparticles for use as medicines and in medical research. The company recently attracted a $13.4M Series A investment led by US-based venture capital firms, and was also named LifeSciences BC’s 2016 Growth Stage Medtech Company of the Year.
  • Zucara Therapeutics – Zucara, a spin-off company by CDRD and MaRS Innovation, is advancing a novel technology that is showing promise as a long-term therapeutic approach to prevent hypoglycemia in diabetes patients who are insulin-dependent. The formation of Zucara is an excellent example of a number of partners working together to commercialize an innovative and much needed therapeutic. By building on existing complementary strengths and sharing risk and reward – rather than duplicating efforts – we have been able to successfully advance this technology from the academic lab towards the clinic.

In addition, CDRD has carried out key drug development work with three other companies named to the 2016 Ready to Rocket list: Augurex Life Sciences Corp, Imstar Therapeutics, and MSI Methylation Sciences. In total, over one-third of all the life science companies included in the 2016 List have received support, mentorship and/or expertise from CDRD.

Norma Biln, CEO, Augurex Life Sciences Corp. commented, “While Augurex is a commercial-stage diagnostics company, the protein that we are measuring through the JOINTstat™ blood test (14-3-3η) is also a drug target for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Because of the biologics expertise that resided at CDRD though John Babcook’s team at the time, Augurex decided to do some preliminary work to validate our “druggable target” observations. The work-up that the CDRD team did helped direct several of our next steps and identify some pitfalls to avoid as we moved our anti-14-3-3η therapeutic programs forward. The team was flexible, collaborative and a pleasure to work with.”

Ready to Rocket is a unique business recognition list that profiles technology companies with the greatest potential for revenue growth. Each year, based on analysis of trends that will drive growth in the information technology sector, Rocket Builders identifies the top private companies that are best positioned to capitalize on the trends for growth. Thealzel Lee, Senior Partner at Rocket Builders, said that “2015 has seen significant investments in BC’s life science companies, and advances in progress has increased revenue and headcount. The major trends influencing this sector include evolving regulatory issues, the need for efficiency in healthcare delivery, and the ongoing convergence with IT technologies.”

CDRD’s work with small to medium enterprises (SMEs) is not limited to the companies mentioned above. In addition to being a technology Incubator, creating our own spin-off companies based on promising academic research from across the country, CDRD is also a company accelerator, supporting scale-up companies such as: viDA Therapeutics, Eupraxia Pharmaceuticals, and Cyon Therapeutics.

An example of how CDRD’s expertise has been utilized with viDA Therapeutics: CDRD is working with viDA’s team to develop their patented lead drug candidate, VTI-1002, advance it to a commercial stage, and in doing so, position the company for further private sector investment and/or strategic partnership. The drug compound is a highly-specific and potent inhibitor of an enzyme, Granzyme B (Gzm B), which has been found in elevated levels in patients with autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases including lupus, abdominal aortic aneurysm, chronic skin ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

CDRD synthesized and provided GzmB inhibitor drug compounds that were used by viDA as part of validating the GzmB as a target for their therapeutic strategy. viDA’s novel treatment will be initially delivered by a topical cream, and the two partners are now collaborating to develop a clinical-grade formulation to support further efficacy studies and eventual human trials.

viDA’s President and CEO, Alistair Duncan said, “There is an immediate unmet clinical need to develop an effective therapy. Working with CDRD has helped to accelerate the development of our technology in addition to generating additional funding from industry. This has allowed us to hire more staff and investigate other uses beyond DLE – essentially building viDA’s core value and strategic positioning.”

For more information on how CDRD may support your company, contact Dr. Jason Crawford, Vice President, Scientific Operations at

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