BBDC Grant Facilitates the Translation of a Basic Research Discovery

June 18, 2019

As a result of discoveries facilitated by a $1 Million Transformational Diabetes Team Research Grant from the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre, a new biotechnology company, Fibrocor Therapeutics L.P. has been formed.  The company was spun out of St. Michael’s Hospital and Sinai Health Systems in Toronto in early 2017 by the BBDC grant recipients and Fibrocor co-founders Drs. Richard Gilbert, Darren Yuen and Jeffrey Wrana.  Fibrocor specializes in the development of tissue-specific therapeutics to treat the underlying cause of fibrotic diseases of the kidney and other organs.

“The purpose of the BBDC Transformational Diabetes Team Grant was to bring the BBDC’s leading researchers from multiple disciplines together to focus on solving or significantly advancing a specific diabetes issue, the results of which would be of a transformational nature,” said Dr. Gary Lewis, Director of the BBDC. “This was the largest grant awarded in the BBDC’s history and it is gratifying to see that this grant assisted a team of BBDC scientists in moving to the next phase in the translation of their research discovery.”

With seed funding by MaRS Innovation and partnership with the multinational drug discovery and development company, Evotec A.G., Fibrocor succeeded in developing a highly innovative, small molecule, fibrosis inhibitor program. The idea of developing anti-fibrotic drugs for the treatment diabetic kidney disease represents a paradigm shift in the way the disease is approached despite the longstanding knowledge that diabetic kidney disease is characterized by fibrosis.  By merging unbiased transcriptomic data from human kidney biopsy tissue with clinical and histological parameters, the Fibrocor team was able to generate a ‘map’ of potential therapeutic targets.  After validating one such target in cells and in vivo, the company’s partner, Evotec, began synthesizing a series of new drugs to selectively modulate it.  And with remarkable speed in what can sometimes be a painstakingly slow process, Fibrocor was able to develop a potential new drug in less than a year.

 “The company owes a huge debt of thanks to the University of Toronto’s Banting & Best Diabetes Centre for getting it all started”, said Dr. Richard Gilbert, Canada Research Chair in Diabetes Complications and Fribrocor Chief Scientific Officer. They are also grateful to those who now keep the enterprise moving onwards and upwards including Rafi Hofstein, President and CEO of MaRS Innovation; Mark Steedman, Fibrocor CEO and President; the partnership with Evotec; and underlying it all, the continuing discoveries of the scientific founders.