In partnership with Canadian pharmaceutical companies, researchers from York’s Faculty of Science have received a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Development fund to advance the R&D of biopharmaceuticals. The funding is valued at more than $1.7M, including industrial and in-kind contributions.
Professors Derek Wilson (Chemistry), Sergey Krylov (Chemistry) and Chun Peng (Biology) have the bioanalytical and research expertise and together with Sanofi-Pasteur, Sciex, and Fluidigm Canada, they are launching the “Technology- Enhanced Biopharmaceuticals Development and Manufacturing” project, which will aim to improve tests for early-stage candidate drugs.
“We will develop a platform to rapidly determine detailed information about biologic drug candidates, including the nature of these molecules and specifically how they interact with their targets,” explains Derek Wilson, director of the Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry and lead of the project. “Creating such a platform will allow pharmaceutical companies to greatly accelerate and improve the quality of their drug discovery and development processes, making it easier to bring much needed drugs to market.”
Wilson, Krylov and Peng are experts in the techniques required to carry out this project. The mass spectrometry and electrophoresis technologies that will provide the unique analytical backbone for the platform are products of Wilson’s and Krylov’s research programs. Peng will contribute her unique expertise in microRNAs to sub-projects related to vaccine development. From the industry perspective, Sanofi will share its drug development systems, Sciex will contribute its world-leading mass spectrometry instruments, and Fluidigm will offer their unique CyTOF technology.
“The project will enhance York’s research profile in biopharmaceuticals development and manufacturing and provide an exceptional, industry-linked training environment for graduate students and post-docs,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “In addition, the technology and training that will emerge from this collaboration will meet the needs of the growing Canadian biopharmaceuticals industry.”
Biopharmaceuticals are drugs manufactured from biological sources and now represent the fastest growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry. But there is a major bottleneck in their development. Due to technological limitations and the molecular complexity of biopharmaceuticals, important details such as what a drug-target complex looks like are usually not available. This makes it difficult for companies to decide whether or not to pursue further testing of candidate drugs and it slows down drug development.