Alberta Ocular Gene Therapy Team Funded by Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions

28 March 2013.

The Alberta Ocular Gene Therapy Team has been successful in securing $5 Million over 5 years from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions. The Team, based at the University of Alberta, is led by Dr. Ian MacDonald, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and co-led by Dr. Tania Bubela, Associate Professor, School of Public Health.

The funding will create a Centre of Excellence for Ocular Gene Therapy at the University of Alberta. It will support a full translational platform to bring gene therapy research to the clinic. The platform will build on the “first” for Canada gene therapy clinical trial for choroideremia.  The funding will further support research into gene therapy for diseases of the cornea, led by Dr. Ordan Lehmann, and other genetic diseases of the retina.

Across the world, there are a number pending gene therapies for genetic eye diseases. Building a Centre of Excellence here in Alberta will create access for Albertans and Canadians to this promising therapeutic approach, whether developed in Alberta or internationally. Ocular gene therapy presents an achievable goal of personalized medicine and could either restore vision or prevent further vision loss.

The Team brings together basic scientists, gene therapy researchers, geneticists, genetic counsellors, clinicians, ophthalmic surgeons, ethicists, experts in regulatory affairs and public health policy to create a translational pathway for ocular gene therapy. The focused goal of this initiative is to develop the capacity and ability to deliver ocular gene therapy in the clinic in Alberta.

The Team will make use of the significant investment already made to the University of Alberta by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Government in the creation a “GMP” (good manufacturing practice) facility that is capable of producing vectors for gene therapy. As well, both of these funders, have already invested in the purchase of clinical research test equipment that can be used in these clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the proposed treatments. This testing will be led by Dr. Yves Sauvé.

The Team is further supported by a CIHR Rare Diseases Emerging Team Grant and funding from Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Choroideremia Research Foundation Canada.

Link to Funding Announcement:

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