Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute

Current Projects

The Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute (LKSAVI or AVI) is the translation and commercialization hub of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. Since its inception, the AVI has managed and explored various commercialization projects aimed at improving human health. Currently, the AVI’s active broad portfolio of programs include vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, as well as the development of research tools, each project of different scope and maturity stages.

The following is a selection of some of the projects currently under development and management at the LKSAVI.

Vaccines

  • Group A Streptococcus Vaccine

    The AVI has established a partnership with Dr. Michael Good, a world-renowned vaccine researcher who has developed a novel vaccine against Group A Streptococcus (GAS). GAS are bacteria that can cause a broad spectrum of mild and life-threatening infections. Dr. Good’s team from Griffith University has developed a novel vaccine product that is expected to act both on skin and pharyngeal presentations. The vaccine product is currently being manufactured under GMP conditions and will be ready for a Phase I clinical trial in 2019.

    Group A Streptococcus Vaccine

  • Hepatitis C Vaccine

    Under the direction of Dr. Michael Houghton, a world leader in the HCV and vaccine fields for almost three decades, the AVI team of specialists is developing a vaccine against Hepatitis C. Although Hepatitis C can now be treated, there is no vaccine to prevent the infection. Furthermore, due to the high cost of the drugs, and the potential for reoccurrence after treatment, there is still a high unmet need for a prophylactic vaccine, especially in countries with high incidences of infection.

    The team has designed a novel vaccine and is currently manufacturing it under high-quality GMP conditions for human use. GMP production is a result of the association of the AVI with the Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing (ACTM), both at the University of Alberta. Phase I clinical trials are expected to start mid to late 2019.

    Hepatitis C Vaccine


Therapeutics - Small Molecules

  • Alzheimer's Disease

    The AVI is working with Dr. Jack Jhamanadas, a Distinguished University Professor in the Division of Neurology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. Dr. Jhamandas is a practicing neurologist and neuroscientist whose research focus includes the study of misfolded proteins in Alzheimer's, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by deposits of β-amyloid. In collaboration with the AVI, utilizing the Blue Gene supercomputer to screen over 6M compounds, one identified hit has been developed into a lead compound that can reverse the symptoms in ex vivo experiments. This promising research is actively being pursed and developed for human treatment.

    Alzheimer’s Disease Pipeline

  • Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) Treatment

    HCMV is a virus that mostly affects immunocompromised patients, such as transplant patients and neonates, although it is becoming increasingly implicated in brain cancer.  The gold standard HCMV treatment ganciclovir, associated with a range of serious adverse effects, is a known carcinogen and displays only modest efficacy. Thus, the discovery of a new class of treatments for immunocompromised patients infected with CMV represents a critical medical need.  

    Although a relatively new to the AVI portfolio, this project has already accomplished significant progress. Dr. James Nieman, the AVI’s lead medicinal chemist, has identified a lead compound that is approximately 10-times more active than ganciclovir, and displays less toxicity. Additional novel analogues are currently being synthesized to further improve the activity versus toxicity relation.

    Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) Treatment
  • NAFLD (Non-alchohlic fatty liver disease) Treatment

    Non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, such as NASH, are becoming the most common chronic liver disease affecting 80 to 100 million people in North America alone. There is currently no approved treatment for these conditions, typically resulting in costly liver transplants.

    The AVI has innate expertise of this field, our liver disease experts Dr. Michael Houghton & Dr. Lorne Tyrrell (AVI Director and Co-Director, respectively). As a result, the AVI has formed a collaboration among leading global scientists in the same field to develop small molecule inhibitors of protein-protein interactions believed to mediate the NAFLD disease process. Using its leading computational modelling capabilities, the AVI has identified possible inhibitors that are in the process of being tested.

    Non Alchoholic Fatty Liver Disease Treatment Pipeline


Therapeutics - Biologics

  • Oncolytic Poxvirus For Cancer Therapy

    Oncolytic viruses specifically infect and kill cancer cells. In addition, they direct immune responses to themselves and the cancer cells they have infected, leading to highly effective tumor clearance. Dr. David Evans, a world-renowned poxvirus expert, has developed a new oncolytic vaccinia virus.

    The LKSAVI is currently co-supporting the manufacturing of the oncolytic vaccinia virus under GMP conditions. Efficacy animal studies show that the clinical oncolytic poxvirus (UAB-211) safely and specifically targets cancer cells and produces long-term remissions in ~50% of the treated animals. Induced anti-tumour immunity is also observed. A phase 1 clinical trial in non-invasive bladder cancer patients is scheduled to begin in 2019.

    Oncolytic Poxvirus for Cancer Therapy

Diagnostics

  • AIH (Autoimmune Hepatitis) Monitoring Test

    The AVI is developing a new test for the monitoring of autoimmune hepatitis. Since the current procedures are non-specific, expensive and invasive, the new test (which measures blood cytokine levels) is expected to be well received by the medical community, attempting to evaluate the remission or relapse of this disease. The AVI is currently conducting a validation study to confirm its clinical utility. Upon confirmation, the test’s parameters will be validated and standardized to then pursue its commercialization in North America and Europe.

    Autoimmune Hepatitis Monitoring Test Pipeline


Key Research Tool

  • Hepatocyte Cell Line

    Dr. Tyrrell’s research team, in collaboration with the AVI, has developed a novel hepatocyte cell line that can be used in R&D to test hepatotoxicity of novel drugs under development. The cell line has showed promising results in preliminary experiments and is currently being evaluated side-by-side against the standard cell line to demonstrate superiority. The technology has been patented around the world. Drug-induced liver toxicity is a major cause of clinical failure and we anticipate this technology can be of great research and medical value. 

    Hepatocyte Cell Line Pipeline