[Above] The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre specializes in turning biological materials such as genes, cells and viruses into new therapies.
Making ‘living therapies’: The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre plays critical role in Canada’s life sciences sector
Biotherapeutics have enormous potential to improve health and save lives and Canada has the potential to lead the way in manufacturing these innovative therapies.
“By incorporating biological materials such as cells, genes and viruses, biotherapeutics can target the root cause of disease as opposed to just the symptoms,” explained Dr. Duncan Stewart, senior scientist in regenerative medicine and Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “These therapies are the future of medicine.”
Over the last five years, there has been an unprecedented surge in demand for biotherapeutics and biomanufacturing to produce innovative treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease and other conditions. The need for COVID-19 vaccines put even more pressure on the biomanufacturing system, but the demand predates the pandemic.
Filling a critical gap in Canada’s life sciences ecosystem
Since 2006, The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre (BMC) has manufactured more than 20 different kinds of biotherapeutics for human clinical trials in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.
“Our centre is the most experienced and successful of its kind in Canada, and we fill a critical gap in Canada’s life sciences ecosystem,” said Dr. Stewart.
With eight manufacturing suites and more than 40 full-time staff, BMC offers a full range of services to both academic and corporate partners, including process development, manufacturing and fill-finish, all done according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards.
Research could heal the lungs of preterm babies
In recent years, BMC has enabled a number of innovative clinical trials, including a world-first cell therapy trial to heal the lungs of preterm babies.
Very premature babies need extra oxygen and mechanical intervention to breathe, but this damages their lungs, causing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).
Dr. Bernard Thébaud and his team discovered that cells from the umbilical cord tissue, called mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), can heal lung injury and prevent BPD in newborn rodents. Working with BMC and other partners, they recently enrolled nine babies in a clinical trial of this promising therapy.
“This is a critical step towards a potential breakthrough therapy that could help premature babies in Canada and around the world,” said Dr. Thébaud, a neonatologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO and professor at the University of Ottawa.
[Left] Dr. Bernard Thébaud is leading a world-first cell therapy trial to heal the lungs of preterm babies.
Key partnerships advance training and pandemic preparedness
BMC also leads the first hands-on training program in Canada in biotherapeutics manufacturing, called CanPRIME, in partnership with the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College, Carleton University, Mitacs and BioCanRx.
BMC is also a playing a key role in the new Canadian Pandemic Preparedness Hub (CP2H). Co-led by uOttawa, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, and McMaster University, CP2H brings together industry, academia, healthcare, and government to move discoveries into clinical practice – quickly and cost-effectively.
“Our hub is particularly strong in biomanufacturing, which is the biggest gap in this process, and where BMC plays a key role,” said Dr. Stewart. “We have an incredible opportunity right now to expand BMC as part of The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus and solidify Ottawa’s role as a leading destination for health innovation and early-phase clinical trials.”
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute is a Member of Research Canada: An Alliance for Health Discovery and a Sponsor of the Parliamentary Health Research Caucus Morning Panel and Luncheon, Breakthrough Stem Cell Research & the Power of Regenerative Medicine. Visit rc-rc.ca to learn more.