JLABS @ Toronto
JLABS @ Toronto is a 40,000-square-foot life sciences incubator located at the MaRS Discovery District.(Photo: JLABS @ Toronto)​

Two University Health Network (UHN)-based start-ups, Nanovista and AVROBIO, will join the newly opened Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS (JLABS) life sciences incubator in Toronto after winning a Quick Fire Challenge and being awarded residency.

Nanovista, Inc. and AVROBIO were the UHN winners of the new space in JLABS, a 40,000-square-foot life sciences incubator located at MaRS Discovery District.

Nanovista, Inc. focuses on providing multimodal visualization agents designed to improve the performance of image-guided high-precision cancer therapy.

This early stage start-up company was co-founded by UHN scientists Drs. Jinzi Zheng and David Jaffray, together with a UHN-affiliated University of Toronto professor, Dr. Christine Allen.

Nanovista's innovative solution enables surgeons to perform high-precision cancer surgery, facilitating the resection of increasingly small tumors that are often invisible. This helps preserve as much of the surrounding healthy tissue as possible, which minimizes side effects for the patient.

"Joining JLABS will provide us with valuable business and commercialization expertise, bringing us one step closer to delivering this product to market to help patients," said Dr. Zheng. "Being part of an innovation community will also enable us to learn from each other and our experiences, and bounce ideas around with the other start-ups."

AVROBIO is a clinical stage company focused on transformative ex-vivo gene therapies targeting cancer and rare diseases, with a priority on the development of two novel cell and gene therapies pioneered within the UHN labs of Dr. Christopher Paige and Dr. Jeffrey Medin, (now at the Medical College of Wisconsin).

The catalyst for creating AVROBIO was to accelerate scientific breakthroughs around the convergence of cell and gene therapies, whereby a patient's own cells can be effectively modified to treat serious debilitating disease.

AVROBIO's two initial programs are leveraging the established safety and effectiveness of ex-vivo gene therapy to provide patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and Fabry disease (an orphan indication) with new therapies that will potentially significantly improve both their quality of life and lifespan. Phase I human clinical trials are underway at UHN.

"AVROBIO is very proud to have won valuable lab space via the JLABS Quick Fire Challenge," says AVRIOBIO President and CEO Geoff MacKay. "Our company originates from UHN labs and it is very important for us to situate in close proximity to both the founding science as well as near the soon to commence clinical trial at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre." 

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