Young woman lying on a bed undergoing kidney dialysis to treat diabetic kidney disease
Credit: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

A combined industry and academia research project aiming to collect biomarkers and find therapeutic solutions for diabetic kidney disease will launch in Montreal with support from Roche, the Quebec Consortium for the Discovery of Medicines (CQDM), the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, local government, and other sources.

Brent Richards, a professor and endocrinologist at McGill University and the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, will lead the project, which is worth almost CA$10M.

The project aims to recruit thousands of patients with diabetes and assess the impact of gene and protein expression on the risk of developing diabetic kidney disease and provide information on how the condition progresses once established.

James Sabry is Global Head of Pharma Partnering at Roche, which will contribute CA$2.4M to the project. Speaking at the Effervescence event this week in Montreal, he said: “The data that we get from this collaboration will be hypothesis generating. It will allow us to think about new targets, new ways of diagnosing the disease and new ways of predicting who will respond to treatment and who won’t.”

Chronic kidney disease is common in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and affects around one in three adults with diabetes in the U.S. It is a common cause of kidney failure, resulting in the need for dialysis or kidney transplant. Despite this, there are currently no reliable methods of predicting who will develop the condition or preventing it and it is an area of unmet prognostic and treatment need.

“We’re working relentlessly on the therapeutic side to build new treatments for patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease,” said Sabry. “We’re also working on the diagnostic side to try to understand the disease better at a patient level. Combined with the data that we will get from this type of collaboration; this will allow us to optimize the treatment of these patients.”

As part of the project, Richards and team will create a biobank for diabetes and diabetic kidney disease research at the Jewish General Hospital. They will use proteomic and genomic approaches to identify biomarkers linked to increased risk for kidney disease and its progression in individuals with diabetes and will also search for new treatments. The project team plans to make the data collected openly available to academic and industry researchers both in Canada and elsewhere.

“The collaboration will not only allow us to help patients in Quebec, but it will also help patients worldwide because of the diversity of the population of patients here in Montreal,” said Sabry.

The life science and biotech sector in Montreal was also boosted this week with an investment of CA$20.3M by the Quebec government in the CDQM. The funding is designed to help develop an industrial sector focused on RNA-based therapies and vaccines in the city.

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