Longtime UHN researcher Dr. Christopher Paige has been named Inventor of the Year for his work in immune-oncology, a promising therapeutic approach based on the premise that a patient's own immune system has powerful cancer-fighting capabilities if correctly activated and targeted.
Dr. Paige, who for close to two decades as UHN's Vice-President of Research, and later as Executive Vice- President (EVP) of Science and Research, championed commercialization as a strategy to transform discoveries into practical medical products to benefit patients, received the award at yesterday's UHN Annual General Meeting in the MaRS Auditorium.
Each year, UHN's Technology Development & Commercialization Office (TDC) selects and celebrates a UHN Inventor who demonstrates outstanding inventiveness in research coupled with important contributions to the advancement of healthcare via successes in commercialization.
The TDC cited Dr. Paige for recognizing back in 2006, "long before immune-oncology was the hot topic in cancer therapy it is today," that cytokines, which are a group of proteins made by the immune system that act as chemical messengers and are expressed in the tumour local environment, could powerfully stimulate a patient's immune system with little risk of side effects.
Working with Dr. Jeffrey Medin, Dr. Paige developed an approach whereby some of a patient's leukemia cells could be removed, engineered to produce IL-12 and re-introduced to the patient, which then stimulates T- cells to fight the cancer. Working with his clinical collaborator, Dr. Mark Minden, Dr. Paige has advanced the work to a clinical trial, which is now underway.
In 2015, leading figures in the cell-therapy industry created a company in Toronto and Boston called AvroBio Inc. and licensed this patented technology from UHN as Avro's first asset.
They successfully raised funds from top-tier American venture capital firms and are currently advancing this technology to market.
The TDC also recognized Dr. Paige for his "leadership in the development of research commercialization at UHN and more broadly in Ontario," during his time as EVP Science and Research, which ended in 2016.
"The fact that UHN technology has been licensed in three of the largest medical research deals in Canadian biotech history is a testament to the initiative that Chris launched and has continuously supported during his tenure as EVP of Science and Research," the TDC said in announcing the award.