Transforming Discovery into Opportunity

Innovation, Commercialization and Spin-off Success

Posted on: February 29th, 2016 by jwhite

There has been a particular flurry of newsworthy activity within The Centre for Drug Research and Development of late — headlined by the innovative partnership between our spin-off Kairos Therapeutics and local leader Zymeworks Inc. — so I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief update to our stakeholders and partners.

I also wated to hlighlight the need to continue to create and nurture a comprehensive health sciences ecosystem that is well-supported and aligned through strategic collaboration, private and public sector investments and public policy.

As getting new drugs and other therapeutic products to market becomes more and more difficult, and the associated costs and risks become increasingly greater, the various players (from academic institutions and granting agencies to translational research organizations, incubators, and accelerators to foundations, government and industry) must support one another in effectively de-risking new technologies, leveraging resources, and filling the gaps in the development continuum.

It is only through such a complete, dynamic and fully-optimized matrix will British Columbia and Canada be not only the generators of world-class health research they are today, but also the generators of world-class innovation from the translation of that research.

The stories below are just a snapshot of the recent activities at CDRD that bring us closer to that vision. Stay tuned to more announcements in the coming weeks and months.

I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank all our stakeholders and partners for your ongoing support of CDRD, and contributions to our collective success. Together, we are enabling a vibrant and fully optimized global health sciences ecosystem that integrates and supports innovative research, commercialization and care.

With warm regards,
Karimah Es Sabar
President and CEO


CDRD Welcomes New Minister of Science, Dr. Kirsty Duncan; Parliamentary Secretary Mr. Terry Beech; and Chair of the BC Liberal Caucus The Honourable Dr. Hedy Fry

As our new Federal Government moves toward building a renewed Innovation Strategy for Canada, it is imperative that research and innovation leaders extend their expertise and support, and work alongside government to take collective action to enable Canada to re-take its rightful place amongst global innovation leaders.

In this context, CDRD was very pleased to host The Honourable Dr. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science; Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech; and The Honourable Dr. Hedy Fry earlier in February.

Led by our Co-Scientific Director, Dr. Kelly McNagny and VP of Scientific Operations, Dr. Jason Crawford, the group toured our labs and saw a glimpse of the disruptive translational work CDRD is conducting in anti-microbial resistance amongst other pressing therapeutic areas.

Zymeworks and Kairos Therapeutics Enter into Strategic Partnership and Optional Merger Agreement

CDRD recently shared exciting news from our spin-off company, Kairos Therapeutics which represented a tremendous milestone for both CDRD and Kairos — and fantastic news for the British Columbia and Canadian life sciences community.

In January, Zymeworks and Kairos Therapeutics Inc., both privately-held biotech companies headquartered in Vancouver, announced a new strategic partnership agreement.

Zymeworks, a leader in the development of bi-specific and multi-specific antibodies, made an undisclosed equity investment in Kairos (a CDRD spin-off company) which specializes in the discovery and development of antibody drug conjugates (ADCs).

Under the terms of this agreement, Zymeworks and Kairos also have the option to merge to further integrate their respective platforms, resources and pipelines.

We are excited to have been able to enter into this partnership with such a strong local company as Zymeworks, and look forward to taking this partnership to the next level, and realizing the tremendous potential it holds for the local industry and most importantly, for patients.

We also offer our sincere congratulations to Zymeworks which was subsequently awarded LifeSciences BC’s 2016 Company of the Year Award.

See more:

Zucara Therapeutics Inc. developing drug to prevent hypoglycemic episodes

Just days after the Kairos announcement, CDRD announced our next exciting spin-off company Zucara Therapeutics which was created in partnership with MaRS Innovation based on decades of diabetes research by renowned University of Toronto (U of T) professor, Dr. Mladen Vranic.

Zucara aims to develop a long-term therapeutic approach to prevent hypoglycemia in people with diabetes who are insulin-dependent. In pre-clinical models the company’s lead candidate shows great promise in restoring the body’s natural regulation of low blood sugar and reducing the severity or frequency of hypoglycemia.

Details at:

MS Society of Canada and CDRD to Accelerate Promising New Therapeutics for Progressive MS

The MS Society of Canada and CDRD announced the launch of two new innovative drug development programs in the fight against multiple sclerosis (MS) as part of their ongoing strategic partnership.

Following a rigorous international search and subsequent peer review by experts in MS and translational research, projects with Dr. Veronique Miron (University of Edinburgh) and Dr. David Granville (University of British Columbia & viDA Therapeutics) were selected to be developed in collaboration with CDRD’s drug development team.

The collaboration between CDRD and the MS Society represents an opportunity for investigators at the cutting-edge of MS research to move their technologies more quickly through preclinical development and facilitate use by people living with progressive MS.

More info at:

CDRD Spin-off Companies Selected to Present at Dose of the Valley

Two of CDRD spin-off companies, Zucara Therapeutics and Sepset Biosciences, were chosen to present at “Dose of the Valley” in San Francisco on February 9 & 10, 2016. Dose of the Valley, created by the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, brought together prominent investors, biopharma companies, and Canadian life science companies.

Zucara and Sepset were among only 20 companies invited to pitch their innovative technologies, receive mentorship and to network with potential collaborators and investors. Both companies received valuable advice and are currently in discussions with numerous potential investors and partners.

Read more:

Developing a Blood Test for Concussion

CDRD and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) have teamed up to develop a fast, effective and portable test for traumatic brain injuries, commonly known as concussions. The test is based on protein biomarkers research by Dr. Changiz Taghibiglou, at the U of S College of Medicine. Early studies indicate that high levels of one of these biomarkers, cellular prion protein (PrPC), show up in the blood soon after a concussion.

More info:

CDRD Immunotherapy Initiative Bearing Fruit

Last quarter, CDRD launched a new spin-off company, Immcure Therapeutics Inc. which aims to find innovative cancer therapies through immunotherapy – a powerful therapeutic approach that uses the human body’s immune system to treat disease by inducing or suppressing an immune response. It was founded by our former Senior VP of Drug Development, Dr. Gregorio Aversa who left his role to become Immcure’s founding President.

Earlier in 2015, Western Economic Diversification provided support to CDRD to launch its Immunotherapy Initiative. This enabled the organization to collaborate with academic and private sector partners to develop new technologies, and potentially identify new targets for immunotherapy. The creation of Immcure is a direct result of this support, and is a significant step forward in advancing this very promising class of therapeutics.

For more information about CDRD’s Immunotherapy Initiative, please contact Dr. Chris Bond, Head Biologics:

View full Immcure announcement details:

Meet Fahimeh, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Drug Development Training Program

Dr. Fahimeh Shidmoossavee is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Medicinal Chemistry Division. Fahimeh obtained her PhD (2008-2013) in Bio-Organic Chemistry from Simon Fraser University (SFU) where she conducted several projects with an interdisciplinary focus on the use of complex organic synthesis, enzymology and spectroscopic techniques to study therapeutically important enzymes with a view to develop and test potential therapeutic agents.

As a CDRD Post-Doctoral Fellow, Fahimeh intends to broaden her drug development skills in a collaborative environment where biologists, biochemists, and chemists are working together to get new therapies to patients in a safer, more effective manner.

To date, we have had over 160 trainees work with us, and seen 94% of our Post-Doc alumni go on to secure full-time employment in their chosen field. You can meet more of our trainees here: alumni profiles.

For more information about CDRD’s Training Program contact Sweta Rajan, Training Program Manager:


To CDRD spin-off company Precision NanoSystems for winning the LifeSciences BC Growth Stage Medtech Company of the Year Award and the recent BC Export Award for Emerging Exporter. The company also completed a $13.4 million private Series A financing deal in 2015.

To our President and CEO, Karimah Es Sabar for winning an Influential Women In Business Award from Business in Vancouver.

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