The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research invests $7 million in immuno- and bio-therapies in Ontario

TORONTO AND OTTAWA, Sept. 17, 2014 /CNW/ - Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), today announced OICR would provide $7 million in funding over four years to its Immuno- and Bio-therapies (ORBiT) Program, led by Dr. John Bell at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. The program includes collaborators at the Children's Hospital for Eastern Ontario (CHEO), McMaster University, NCIC Clinical Trials Group  and the University Health Network (UHN). The funds will be used to further promising research into oncolytic viruses, immunotherapies and oncolytic vaccine therapies, including a clinical trial evaluating the program's Maraba Oncolytic Vaccine platform.

"Oncolytic viruses and vaccines have long shown a great deal of promise, with the potential to offer patients targeted treatment for many forms of cancer. The recent advances in the field of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer patients further  underline the importance of developing innovative therapies targeting the immune system" said Dr. Hudson. "The work of Dr. Bell and his colleagues in the ORBiT Program is turning this promise into reality, bringing these therapies to the clinic and building the infrastructure in Ontario to ensure their long term success. OICR is proud to fund this innovative and exceptional work."

"This support for ORBiT is critical to moving our discoveries forward, so patients can benefit sooner in the clinic," said Dr. Bell. "With the funding announced today, we will soon be able to begin a clinical trial for a therapy that combines a new cancer-fighting virus, developed here in Ottawa, with a vaccine therapy. It is clearly helping to position us as leaders in the field."

The ORBiT Program was designed to address some of the key challenges in the development of bio-therapies in Ontario and rapidly translate leading laboratory discoveries into the clinic.

"At the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, we pride ourselves on our ability to quickly turn scientific discoveries into therapies that make patients' lives better," said Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO and Scientific Director of the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. "The ORBiT Program will allow us to do this better and faster and is a great example province-wide collaboration to improve the health of Ontarians."

This is the second round of funding for the ORBiT Program, which initially received $10 million from the Government of Ontario in 2009. Today's funding brings the total to $17 million over nine years.

"The Ontario government is proud to invest in Dr. Bell's innovative research, which has the potential to create a real improvement in the quality of life for cancer patients and their families," said Dr. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation. "Our strategic investments in key research collaborations such as these are positioning Ontario as a global leader in life sciences."

Oncolytic viruses and vaccines take advantage of the fact that cancer cells grow quickly and as a result have a weaker structure than normal cells. This makes them more susceptible to viral attacks than normal cells, meaning virus-based treatments can be designed and targeted to harm just cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unaffected.

Dr. Bell provides more information about the funding and how it will be used here:

About OICR

OICR is an innovative cancer research and development institute dedicated to prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, supported by the Government of Ontario. OICR's research supports more than 1,700 investigators, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees located at its headquarters and in research institutes and academia across the Province of Ontario. OICR has key research efforts underway in small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing. For more information, please visit the website at

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with its faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute includes more than 1,700 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Research at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute is supported by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

SOURCE: Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

For further information: Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Christopher Needles, Manager, Strategic CommunicationsEmail:, Telephone: 416-673-8505, Mobile: 416-319-5252, @OICR_news; Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Paddy Moore, Communications and Public Relations, Email:, Telephone: 613-737-8899 ext. 73687, Mobile: 613-323-5680

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