Prof. Ubaka Ogbogu receives New Frontiers in Research Fund Transformation Grant

The grant will support research to develop novel therapies for incurable neurological diseases

Lauren Bannon - 25 April 2023

Professor Ubaka Ogbogu of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law will be on the cutting-edge of gene therapy research as the bioethics and law lead for a project that has received a $24 million New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) Transformation Grant (with $538,687.50 awarded to Prof. Ogbogu).

“This news was exciting and rewarding,” he says. “A lot of work went into applying for the NFRF-Transformation grant, including four separate stages that ended with a presentation before a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral jury of reviewers. Only six grants were selected nationwide, so this was a very competitive process.”

Awarded by the Government of Canada, New Frontiers in Research Fund Transformation Grants support large-scale, Canadian-led interdisciplinary research projects that address a major challenge with the potential to realize real and lasting change.

Ogbogu and his collaborators’ project, titled "A pipeline approach to the rational design of gene therapy approaches to treat neurodegenerative diseases,'' involves investigators from across Canada who are world-leading experts in computational science, life sciences, physical sciences, biomedical engineering, clinical medicine, bioethics and science policy, health policy, knowledge translation and patient/community engagement research.

Led by Carol Schuurmans, professor and Dixon Family Chair in Ophthalmology Research and senior scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, the project seeks to explore ways to create next-generation treatments for various brain diseases that involve neuronal death or failure, including stroke, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's, by using gene therapy to create new neurons.

“The goal of the NFRF project is to develop novel therapies for incurable neurological diseases through an approach known as neuronal reprogramming,” says Ogbogu. “If the research is successful, it would break new ground and transform the clinical management of these diseases.“

As the law and bioethics lead on the six-year project, his role is to explore ethical, legal and regulatory matters that will impact and shape the development of this therapy, such as regulatory frameworks for clinical translation and marketing authorization, how the therapy and associated technologies can be designed for inclusive, global use and access, and the role that intellectual property will play in the translation and technology deployment process. Funding awarded to Ogbogu will also support the recruitment of post-doctoral fellows and research assistants to work on the project.

“I am very happy for the team and look forward to breaking new ground together as we seek to address scientific, regulatory, ethical and public policy challenges surrounding the development of novel therapies to address neurological disorders,” he adds.