March 25, 2019 - Robarts trainees Christopher Leclerc, MESc Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, and Jeffrey Levine, MSc Candidate in Physiology and Pharmacology, took home a top prize at the Proteus Innovation Competition.
Working as Team Celsus Biomedical, the duo developed a commercialization strategy for a neuroprotective monoclonal antibody that limits the damaging effects of inflammation after injury.
The antibody, a bioengineered protein, binds to and neutralizes immune cells that typically cause damaging inflammation within the first 24 to 72 hours following a traumatic event. Led by Robarts scientist Greg Dekaban, PhD, the technology has demonstrated promising preclinical evidence to address acute states of traumatic inflammation, such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and systemic inflammatory response syndrome.
“Currently there is no safe and effective treatment for the two million individuals affected by these injuries each year, leading to significant impacts on their quality of life and lifetime rehabilitation,” explained Leclerc. “Our treatment offers the potential to improve patient outcomes, increase patient quality of life and reduce the treatment costs associated with extensive physical and psychological rehabilitation.”
The Proteus Innovation Competition is an intense, four-month contest that takes three newly developed technologies and challenges teams to plan their commercialization. Three winning teams, one for each new technology, are each awarded $5,000. The experience also includes mentorship and training for participants, helping them develop entrepreneurial skills.
“We wanted to participate in a competition that pushed us to the edge of our comfort zone,” said Leclerc. “This experience demonstrated that we could successfully apply our knowledge towards real-world scenarios, develop viable commercialization strategies and potentially have a real impact on people suffering massively debilitating injuries.”
At Robarts Research Institute, trainees are part of multidisciplinary teams that bring a variety of technologies and expertise together to answer health research questions. Marlys Koschinsky, PhD, Scientific and Executive Director at Robarts, says this type of environment provides opportunities to see innovation in action.
“The training of tomorrow’s researchers needs to focus on a wide range of skill sets, including how to take innovative approaches to move discoveries through to applications with potential for commercialization,” she said. “These types of additional skills expose trainees to pathways for other types of employment opportunities in addition to academia.”