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Alberta and Roche team up in an effort to improve health for organ transplant patients


Alberta government provides $1 million in funding to create new diagnostic system

February 9, 2006 Edmonton... Helping transplant patients fight organ rejection is the goal of a new research centre being established in Alberta. The Alberta Transplant Institute Applied Genomics Centre will be the site of a collaboration between the Alberta government, University of Alberta, Roche Molecular Diagnostics and Roche Pharmaceuticals. An agreement was signed between Roche Molecular Diagnostics and the University of Alberta as a result of the recent technology mission to California, led by Alberta’s Minister of Innovation and Science, Victor Doerksen.

Powerful drugs are often needed after a transplant to prevent organ rejection when a patient’s immune system tries to fight the new organ as if it were an infection. The centre is initially studying kidney transplant patients to develop a better understanding of transplant disease mechanisms and rejection. The information collected may have potential use in development of tools for diagnosis, monitoring, clinical trials and drugs for all types of organ transplants. These tools may one day help physicians better monitor transplant patients’ responses to anti-rejection drugs, and in turn better tailor the drug dose and type to each patient’s needs.

“This project demonstrates how Alberta’s reputation for medical research excellence attracts international life sciences and healthcare companies to invest here,” said Minister Victor Doerksen of Alberta Innovation and Science. “We are proud to be a part of this initiative, which could improve the quality of life for transplant patients, and make Alberta a leader in diagnostic technologies for organ transplantation. This investment in technology commercialization will ensure that the benefits of investments in research, technology and innovation - such as jobs, businesses and economic growth - stay in Alberta.”

Roche Molecular Diagnostics will provide access to the gene expression analysis technology for use in the study, together with dedicated scientific support. Roche Pharmaceuticals will contribute an unrestricted grant towards this project. Alberta Innovation and Science will provide funds and the University of Alberta and Capital Health will contribute funds, work space and resources.

This multimillion dollar project is designed to lead to the commercialization of new diagnostic technologies developed by the Genome Canada Transplant Transcriptome Project at the University of Alberta which is led by Dr. Philip Halloran. Development of commercial products will generate licensing royalties for the University of Alberta and there is a strong potential for spin-off company creation in Alberta.

University of Alberta Vice-President (Research) Dr. Gary Kachanoski said: “This support from the provincial government and Roche does two important things: it recognizes the considerable strengths we have at the University of Alberta in transplantation sciences, and second, it helps us build on those strengths. It also increases the likelihood that significant advances in the area will be made in Edmonton.”

“The funding will be used by the laboratories established by Genome Canada and Genome Alberta at the U of A to extend our gene chip project to develop new diagnostic tests in organ transplantation and apply these to patients to improve transplant outcomes and care,” explains Dr. Halloran, Canada Research Chair in Transplant Immunology and Director of the Alberta Transplant Institute.


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