Ontario on oncology

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research seeds 3 companies from academic roots

The conventional gripe in Canada is that there is a dearth of early stage investment funds. But Ontario has an early stage vehicle that any U.S. state would be happy to have.

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research has a C$100 million ($100.1 million) annual R&D budget that it invests in early university research up to Phase I trials within the province. Last week, it announced three seed investments.

The funds went to an as yet unnamed cellular immunotherapy company; biomarker analysis play DVS Sciences Inc.; and another unnamed company developing an analysis system to validate leukemia biomarkers with small samples at a patient's bedside. The amount invested in each company wasn't disclosed.

A not-for-profit corporation OICR draws most of its R&D budget directly from the government of Ontario through the Ministry of Research and Innovation. The remainder comes from non-profits, VP of Commercialization and CCO Frank Stonebanks told Ebb & Flow.

OICR finances research through grants for university-based projects as well as by taking an equity or royalty stake in companies. It funds work in cancer stem cells, biologics, targeted therapeutics, genomics/proteomics, and devices and imaging, Stonebanks said.

The seed fund "was essentially created to be a bridge financing vehicle for mid- to late-stage R&D programs, to provide financing to them to get them as far across the valley of death as possible," Stonebanks said. The size of the fund has not been disclosed.

OICR previously provided research grants for the academic work upon which all three

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