Bayer Supports Regenerative Medicine
Bayer Inc. recently partnered with BlueRock Therapeutics to develop stem cell therapies, which can be used to treat a range of diseases. Dr. Michael Laflamme, founding investigator for BlueRock Therapeutics, spoke about this innovative research at a luncheon with Rob McEwen, financial supporter of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine.
The Empire Club of Canada, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious speakers’ forums, prides itself on inviting prominent speakers to showcase Canadian’s best innovations. This was a perfect fit for Bayer, which recently sponsored a luncheon on its innovative work in regenerative medicine. The event featured Mr. Rob McEwen, Chairman & Chief Owner, McEwen Mining Inc., and Dr. Michael Laflamme, Senior Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute and founding investigator for BlueRock Therapeutics.
BlueRock First Anniversary
Almost a year ago, Bayer AG and Versant Ventures announced the launch of BlueRock Therapeutics, a next-generation regenerative medicine company developing best-in-class induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapies with the objective of treating a range of diseases using an industry-leading platform. Bayer and Versant jointly committed $225 million US, representing one of the largest-ever series A financings for a biotech company.
In Canada, BlueRock is focused on regenerating heart muscle for patients who have had a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) or suffering from chronic heart failure. The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada estimates that about 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure, a condition with no cure1. The American Heart Association estimates that 50 per cent of patients with heart failure will die within five years2. The goal of BlueRock’s program is to restore the electrical and contractile function of an injured heart through remuscularization with heart muscle cells derived from stem cells.
“It’s nice to see the recognition Bayer has received in supporting BlueRock Therapeutics and stem cell research” says Alok Kanti, CEO and President of Bayer Inc. Canada. “This is a significant investment and we have the best cardiac scientist in the world working on this challenge, right here in Toronto.”
Pioneering New Medicine Innovations
Rob McEwen, a successful mining executive, and his wife, Cheryl, are major financial supporters of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, which is a major collaborator working with BlueRock in the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. After several unfortunate deaths in their family, the McEwens became aware of the mounting issues facing healthcare. This was the motivation for their philanthropy towards medical research in regenerative medicines.
Rob and Cheryl spoke to the 150 guests about the major challenges facing the Canadian healthcare system; among them are the growing aging population and limited financial resources. During their address, the audience learned that Canadians are heading towards a healthcare system based on the “rationing” of services. Research holds out the promise of profoundly changing the delivery of healthcare. According to the McEwen’s, it is about improving the quality of life more than extending life.
A Leap of Faith
Dr. Laflamme, who recently spoke at a Bayer Employee Town Hall, explained the importance of pluripotent stem cells. He talked about preclinical success his team has experienced with transplanting cardiomyocytes derived from stem cells into rats and small primates. His team is also now working with infarcted pig heart and having success, which will hopefully lead to human trials in 2020. The ultimate goal of his work is to alter the course of disease and drastically improve quality of life for heart patients in Canada and around the world.
Recently, Bayer launched Leaps by Bayer, a movement to make paradigm-shifting advances in the life sciences, targeting breakthroughs that could fundamentally change the world for the better. Much of what we are aiming to achieve is not yet possible. This is precisely why Bayer is developing joint ventures with the world’s leading minds in biotech.
“Heart Failure.” Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2017, http://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/conditions/heart-failure.
Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;133:e38-e360.