Announcing the new Alberta Transplant Innovation Fund – ATIF – $1.2M to accelerate transplant research and innovation in Alberta
The University Hospital Foundation, Alberta Economic Development and Trade and Astellas Pharma Canada, Inc. (Astellas) announced last week a new research and innovation partnership that will have a direct and tangible impact on some of the most vulnerable Albertans – those waiting for organ transplantation.
The three organizations have partnered to establish the $1.2 million dollars Alberta Transplant Innovation Fund (ATIF). Through the collaboration of researchers, clinicians, industry leaders, government and philanthropy, ATIF will fund research aimed at improving the care available to transplant patients, and accelerating the translation of this research into technology that is commercially viable – and therefore available to clinicians and patients.
“The University Hospital Foundation is a proud supporter of the University of Alberta Hospital’s transplant program, having invested over $6 million to advance transplant patient care and technology,” says Bob Bessette, Chair of the University Hospital Foundation.
“Through the Alberta Transplant Innovation Fund we are taking that support to the next level, proudly partnering with Astellas and Alberta Economic Development and Trade to establish this fund, which is set to address some of the most significant challenges faced by transplant patients, and the medical experts who care for them.”
Alberta has historically faced low donor rates, and a high need for transplantable organs. In 2015, 300 organ transplant were performed at the University of Alberta Hospital, Alberta Health Services’ centre for organ transplantation in Northern Alberta, and the most comprehensive organ and tissue donation centre in Canada. These transplants were received from 84 organ donors. Meanwhile, 401 patients were waiting for an organ transplant in Edmonton.
from left: Michael Tremblay, President of Astellas Canada; Dr. Lee Anne Tibbles, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary and Medical Director, ALTRA Southern Alberta Transplant Program; Dr. Lori West, Professor at the University of Alberta and Director of both the Alberta Transplant Institute and the Canadian National Transplant Research Program; Dr. John Howell, Associate Director Medical Affairs at Astellas Pharma; Fran Paradiso-Hardy, Senior Director of Medical Affairs at Astellas Pharma; and Farid Foroud, Govt of Alberta Economic Development and Trade (EDT).
“This combination of low donor rates and high need for organs means that many Albertans do not receive the organs they so desperately need, and are left waiting on the transplant list – often until it is too late,” explains Dr. Lori West, Director of both the Canadian National Transplant Research Program and the Alberta Transplant Institute, and a pediatric transplant cardiologist.
In addition to addressing the need for organs and increasing donation rates, the ATIF will provide funding for researchers who seek to advance transplant technologies, improve care for transplant patients, and increase organ donation rates. But learning new ways to approach Alberta’s transplant challenges is not enough – this research must be taken to the next step and made commercially viable if it is to have the intended impact on Albertans.
“Alberta has and continues to be a leader in Immunology and Transplant research, both within Canada and globally,” said Fran Paradiso-Hardy, Senior Director of Medical Affairs, Astellas. “The ATIF creates the opportunity for future groundbreaking discoveries, helping more patients receive the life-changing gift of a transplant and to live a longer, better life with it.”
Through this partnership, Astellas is investing in the future of transplant in Alberta by supporting research in this area.
“It’s our hope that by supporting leading edge technologies, we can help make a difference for patients awaiting a transplant and their families. Innovation plays an important part of building an economy for the future – but the most important role it can play is helping save a loved one’s life,” says Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
“With hundreds of Albertans waiting for an organ transplant, increasing transplant research and innovation will go a long way towards helping even more Albertans get the lifesaving surgeries they need,” adds Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health.
Alberta’s Life Sciences Sector is emerging as an important economic contributor. In 2014 revenues for the sector topped $1 billion; contributing 18,000 jobs to the Alberta economy. The remarkable advances in organ transplantation over the last two decades has created a burgeoning demand for transplant procedures, at a time when the Canadian healthcare system is facing constraints in resources and funding. Through partnerships with industry, researchers working in this sector will have access to both the economic investments and the commercial expertise they require to grow the industry, to benefit the health of all Albertans.
Through its strategic establishment, ATIF will help establish Alberta as a commercial hub for transplant technologies. And the partnership establishes the opportunity for other industry partners to invest in Alberta’s Life Sciences Sector, and to partner with Alberta’s dynamic medical research community to advance future innovation and excellence in Alberta.
The University Hospital Foundation has demonstrated its capacity and expertise in managing such private, public and philanthropic partnerships. Strategic Partnerships with the University Hospital Foundation bring together industry, public sector and philanthropic collaborators to advance innovation, and translate made-in-Alberta innovations into solutions that impact the health of all Albertans.
Details on the funding opportunities through the ATIF will be announced shortly.