$3 million federal investment will fast track Faculty virology discoveries to the marketplace and patients

Investment will support commercialization efforts so patients can benefit from new treatment discoveries

FoMD staff - 20 August 2013

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta is world renowned for research advances in understanding how viruses work and for discovering treatments for viruses like hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Faculty member Michael Houghton recently developed a vaccine that could fight all strains of hepatitis C, while Lorne Tyrrell and his colleagues are known for advancing health and improving the lives of millions of people with hepatitis B.

On Tuesday, the federal government recognized that excellence in improving patient care by scientific and clinical research with an investment of $3 million in the Faculty's Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute. The money from Western Economic Diversification is earmarked for commercialization efforts - to provide financial support for the transition of research discoveries to the marketplace. These discoveries will impact Albertans, Canadians, and people around the world, providing treatments for serious illnesses.

"When Mr. Li made the donation to create the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, he emphasized the importance of translating discoveries to products that would help patients. The federal investment of $3 million through Western Economic Diversification is critically important to establishing the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute," said Tyrrell, the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology.

Houghton, the director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute and a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology, added: "This funding is very important to us and greatly facilitates our newly formed Institute to gear up fast and to start translating our virology research innovations into the clinic for commercialization opportunities."

The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, made the funding announcement on campus, noting the investment will go towards the institute's purchase of specialized equipment to conduct valuable pre-commercialization activities for the development and testing of new vaccines and therapies. These activities are expected to attract commercial investments that will impact patients by bringing new medical products to market. The institute's resources will increase the number of vaccines that are developed and commercialized in the Edmonton area, with the long-term goal of establishing a competitive and highly skilled virology cluster in Alberta.

"One of our government's priorities is to ensure the long-term competitiveness of Western Canada's economy and support a high quality of life for its citizens," said Minister Rempel. "We will achieve this by making strategic investments to accelerate innovation and assist late-stage R&D activities that enable local start-up companies to retain and commercialize new discoveries, such as vaccines to treat and cure viral diseases."

D. Douglas Miller, dean of the Faculty, said the federal government investment demonstrates the value and impact of the virology advances made at the U of A.

"Our skilled researchers work tirelessly to find solutions and treatments to improve lives. The faculty is a powerhouse of virology researchers whose collaborative work is internationally recognized. We are pleased that the Government of Canada recognizes our global expertise and sees the impacts that our medical research has on improving lives."