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About Sickkids
About SickKids

June 26, 2007

SickKids spin-off will seek new treatments for diabetes

Approach anything but complacent

A breakthrough understanding in the cause of Type 1 diabetes and critical aspects of Type 2 diabetes that may lead to new treatments for the disease has been licensed to a spin-off company, Afference Therapeutics Inc. based in Toronto.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) signed an exclusive license with Afference to accelerate development of the technology and commercialize new treatments for the disease. The discovery was published in the journal Cell last December by Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, senior scientist at SickKids Research Institute and professor of Paediatrics and Immunology at the University of Toronto and Dr. Michael Salter, senior scientist at SickKids Research Institute, professor of Physiology and director of the Centre for the Study of Pain at the University of Toronto.

“As the Conference Board of Canada’s recent report clearly shows, innovation matters,” says SickKids President & CEO Mary Jo Haddad. “Our approach is all about the edge innovation gives Canada. By entering into this licensing agreement with Afference, we will avoid the ‘David-Goliath partnership’ that economist William Baumol describes, and instead follow the journey from bench to bedside right here at home.”

The agreement between SickKids and Afference includes the licensed patents, technology, and intellectual property related to neuropeptides and sensory (pain) nerves, as well as future patents generated by the research program.

Lorne Meikle, a leader in biotechnology initiatives in Toronto and Canada, joins Afference Therapeutics as CEO. A native of Edmonton, Meikle has been active in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical field for more than 30 years. Responsible for developing Ontario’s biotechnology strategic plan, Meikle was founding president of BioCatalyst Yorkton Inc., a venture management company specializing in the initiation and management of early-stage healthcare companies including GeneSense—now part of Lorus Therapuetics, and BCY LifeSciences.
After chairing Bio 2002’s executive committee he joined the board of Toronto Biotechnology Initiative (TBI), and served as its president for three years and as a director for BIOTECanada.

“We set up Afference to rapidly develop an area where we have the capacity and skills to make a difference,” says Dosch, who is also a founder and chief scientific officer of Afference. “Lorne’s leadership and his proven track record are tremendous assets. We are thinking big. We are excited about the opportunity for innovation in medicine, and for improving lives.”
The SickKids research group has long been pursuing links between diabetes—a disorder which affects two million Canadians—and the nervous system. Late last year the group found an unsuspected control circuit between insulin-producing islets and their associated sensory or pain nerves. This circuit sustains normal islet function and is abnormal in animal models of the disease. The team developed therapeutic strategies to reset this control circuit, reversing new-onset Type 1 diabetes as well as normalizing insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes models, literally overnight and without unwanted side effects.
Their research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Alberta Heritage Foundation, Banting & Best Diabetes Centre, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, the Canadian Arthritis Network, the Canadian MS Society and SickKids Foundation. The team’s dynamic next steps include human sensory nerve studies, DNA sequencing projects and patient treatment trials within less than two years.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada’s most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in the country. As innovators in child health, SickKids improves the health of children by integrating care, research and teaching. Our mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized care by creating scientific and clinical advancements, sharing our knowledge and expertise and championing the development of an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca. SickKids is committed to healthier children for a better world.

Contact information for Afference
Keith Bullen
HarbourCastle Capital Inc.
416-350-2794

Shelley Romoff
Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-5046
email: shelley.romoff@sickkids.ca