Stem Cell Network, Canada

SCNUpdated November 2014

Background Information on the Organisation

By funding and aligning universities, industry, government and non-governmental organizations, the Stem Cell Network (SCN) is the key means of pursuing Canadian excellence and global leadership in applied stem cell research. SCN-funded research addresses pre-clinical issues that are too late for traditional academic grants but too early for industry sponsorship.

More than 120 scientists, clinicians, engineers, and social scientists with international reputations work closely together within the SCN to bring rigor and innovation to Canadian stem cell research. SCN is a Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), Canada’s flagship science and technology program.

Annual Research Budget

Nationally, between $50M and $100M is invested in stem cell and regenerative medicine research each year, depending on how broadly the field is defined. Most flows through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, one of Canada’s three granting councils. Further information included below.

Stem Cell Budget

Stem Cell Network’s budget: ~$6M per year, of which $4.5 is spent on research activities. The Stem Cell Network has now allocated the last of its research funding under its current structure (Networks of Centres of Excellence)

Stem Cell Strategy

The SCN research portfolio includes four Strategic Programs. These cover areas in which Canada is internationally competitive and can have a significant impact through strategic investment.

  • Strategic Program 1: Cellular Therapeutics – promotes development of novel cell-based approaches for tissue repair and regeneration within specific disease models.
  • Strategic Program 2: Pharmacological Applications – focuses on developing novel stem cell-related therapeutics based, for example, on stem cell activation, self-renewal and/or differentiation.
  • Strategic Program 3: Technology Development – aimed at generating novel technologies for stem cell related research and therapeutics which would enable Program I & II research.
  • Strategic Program 4: Public Policy and Ethical, Legal and Social Issues – addresses the public policy implications of Strategic Programs 1, 2 and 3, as well as other issues relevant to the SCN mandate.

Recent Research Achievements and Outupts

  1. Dr. Michael Rudnicki won the Till and McCulloch award in recognition of his work to better understand the development of muscle tissue from muscle stem cells.
  2. Dr. Guy Sauvageau and his team, with funding from the Stem Cell Network, published a ground-breaking paper on the development of a drug that can expand the number of usable stem cells in a single unit of umbilical cord blood. (Science 19 September 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6203 pp. 1509-1512)
  3. Drs. Freda Miller and Don Mabbott launched a Phase III clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of the drug metformin to induce neural repair in children whose brains were damaged as a result of cancer treatments. This research arose via funding from the Stem Cell Network.
  4. Dr. Tim Kieffer and his group publish findings showing the development of glucose-sensitive beta cells from embryonic precursors, a step towards treatment of diabetes. (Nature Biotechnology 32, 1121-1133(2014))
  5. Strong public outreach efforts from the Stem Cell Network led to the development and launch of an international science exhibit on stem cells and the production of a series of award-winning animated videos, called Stem Cell Shorts. Both projects help to explain stem cell basics to children and teen audiences.  (http://vimeo.com/stemcellnetwork/videos)

New Funding Initiatives

The Stem Cell Network research program is comprised of the following categories;

Stem Cell Drug Discovery Programs

Stem Cell Drug Discovery projects are one-year initiatives, pursuing focused research questions to identify compounds that modulate stem cell function and demonstrate potential clinical applications.

The maximum SCN funding for each award will be $100,000. With an investment of $2M in these Stem Cell Drug Discovery programs, SCN anticipates funding 20-25 Stem Cell Drug Discovery grants over 2011-15.

Impact Research

Impact projects are one year initiatives that pursue focused research questions with high potential for translational impact in the areas of clinical translation, commercialization or public policy. Selection of Impact Grants is based on the recommendations of the SCN Research Management Committee which evaluates the proposals against the following criteria: relevance to SCN’s four strategic programs, relevance to the Impact research program, research excellence, likelihood of completion within the one year time frame.  SCN investment is up to $100,000 per project for one year for Clinical Translation and Commercialization grants and $50,000 per project for one year for Public Policy grants. SCN anticipates funding 10-20 impact grants over the next four years.

Changes to Stem Cell Related Policies

The Panel on Research Ethics is seeking public comment on is in the process of revising the 2nd edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2) (http://www.ethics.gc.ca/eng/resources-ressources/news-nouvelles/nr-cp/2013-09-12/). The Panel proposes to fully integrate CIHR’s Guidelines for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research (the Guidelines) (http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/42071.html) into TCPS 2. The integration of these Guidelines addresses the Agencies’ goal of providing a single reference document for the ethics of all research involving humans conducted under the auspices of institutions eligible for Agency funding.

National (or Regional) stem cell network or contact point

Philip Welford, Executive Director, Stem Cell Network

pwelford@stemcellnetwork.ca

Stem Cell Network website: http://www.stemcellnetwork.ca/

Other Major Funders of Stem Cell Research

Analysis of Canadian SC and RM funders (http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/lsg-pdsv.nsf/eng/hn01746.html#fundingStem)  identified the major funding sources to be: Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) (via the SCN), Terry Fox Foundation (TFF), Canada Research Chair (CRC), the Ontario Government, US National Institutes of Health (NIH), NSERC, Genome Canada, and others such as AllerGen and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. A minimum of $277.5 million from the aforementioned sources was spent on stem cell and regenerative medicine research over the last five years (2006/7–2010/11).

CIHR (http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/193.html) was the largest funder, providing 36 percent of the funds over this period.

  • In 2011-12, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research spent $74 million in stem cell research.

The aforementioned funders included in this analysis probably account for only 50 percent–60 percent of funding in stem cell and biomaterials research for regenerative medicine. Thus, over the last five years, approximately $460 million–$560 million were probably spent on research into these fields. Information contained on the websites of various researchers indicates that other funders include:

  • ALS Society of Canada
  • Canadian Cancer Society
  • Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Christopher Reeve Foundation (US)
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation (of Canada and Ontario)
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute (US)
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Canada and US/ International)
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association (Canada and US)
  • National Cancer Institute of Canada
  • SickKids Foundation
  • US Muscular Dystrophy Association
  • Various companies (e.g., Roche Foundation for Anemia Research; Bayer)
  • Canadian Stem Cell Foundation

Helpful Web-Links

 

Previous Member Update

October 2013

January 2012

 

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