Turnstone Biologics: Highlighting how Health Research Makes Ontario Wealthier

Turnstone Biologics scientists

Turnstone Biologics: Highlighting how Health Research Makes Ontario Wealthier

An Ontario biotech start-up, Turnstone Biologics Inc. (Turnstone), has secured $41.4 million in new private investments to continue advancing cancer immunotherapy.

Turnstone was founded in 2015 to advance the development of novel oncolytic viral immunotherapies for cancer. The company’s technology is based on research led by Dr. John Bell (from The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa – pictured middle), Dr. Brian Lichty (from McMaster University – pictured right) and Dr. David Stojdl (from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario [CHEO] and uOttawa – pictured left).

The company’s series B financing is led by new investor OrbiMed, the largest investment firm dedicated to the healthcare sector globally, with participation from new investor F-Prime Capital Partners – both private investors from outside of Ontario.

Turnstone’s financing success highlights the capacity of Ontario’s health research enterprise to draw significant investment into our province, helping to drive Ontario’s knowledge and innovation economy by creating new jobs and bringing new products to market. Turnstone continues to receive support from existing investors FACIT and Versant Ventures, which led the company’s series A financing.

Turnstone’s most advanced product is an oncolytic Maraba virus that is engineered to express melanoma-associated antigen A3 (MAGEA3). This is currently being tested in a clinical trial led by The Ottawa Hospital, sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Trials Group, and funded by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Full results are expected to be released in 2017. Read more about it in this CAHO Catalyst story.

“This financing is incredible validation that we’re on the right track. We all want to be part of a scientific narrative that changes lives, and I believe that our immunotherapy approach is it.” – David Stojdl, senior scientists from CHEO and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

“We have had tremendous success with our technology so far, but this financial support as a commercial venture is essential in enhancing our ability to bring it to the bedside. We know there is so much potential.” – Brian Lichty, associate professor at McMaster University

“Community support has been and will continue to be crucial for our research. However developing new therapies is extremely costly, so we also need to engage the private sector to take our research to the next level. I want to express my deep gratitude to all the people who have helped get us to this exciting place.” – John Bell, senior scientist, The Ottawa Hospital; professor, University of Ottawa

A Few Facts

  • This is believed to be the largest venture capital (VC) deal in Ottawa since 2013, and the second largest biotech VC deal in Canada in 2016 (data obtained from Invest Ottawa).
  • The top journal Science called cancer immunotherapy the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013.
  • Numerous organizations have supported the research team, including the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Angels of Hope, BioCanRx, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CHEO Foundation, Hair Donation Ottawa, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and the Terry Fox Research Institute.

Read more about Turnstone’s financing success:

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Ontario’s 24 research hospitals contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Look for other examples on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter website and blog, and join the conversation about why health research matters for Ontario on Twitter, using the hashtag #onHWS.



Patient-oriented Research on Children and Youth

By Dr. Martin Osmond
CEO and Scientific Director, CHEO Research Institute (Ottawa, ON)

As part of the federal government’s recent strategy on patient-oriented research (SPOR), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Government of Ontario have invested in a Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) Unit in Ontario. The goal of the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT unit (OSSU) is to promote and support high quality patient-oriented research in Ontario that will contribute directly to health system and patient care improvements.

I want to take a moment to shine a spotlight on one of twelve centres that make up the Ontario Child Health SUPPORT Unit (OCHSU), an arm of the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT unit. OCHSU’s mandate is to create better health outcomes for children and youth. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is proud to be co-leading this collaboration of pediatric academic sites across Ontario along with the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Our extended network partner sites include McMaster Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, Kingston General Hospital, and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

The goal is to assist researchers in solving health problems that are important to children and their families. OCHSU does this by providing an integrated, province-wide clinical research infrastructure for child health researchers. By leveraging a ‘Clinical Trial hub’ at SickKids and a ‘Data Research and Database Management hub’ at CHEO, we engage our network partners to conduct world-class pediatric clinical trials that have the potential to transform our province’s healthcare system through high-impact, patient-oriented research for children and youth.

Our aim is to optimize children’s health outcomes by enhancing the efficiency, quality, and standards of child health clinical research across Ontario. We also promote the knowledge translation of clinical research into practice and policy, all with the aim of delivering cost-effective and safe healthcare.

Sounds good, but how do we do this?

We provide research consulting support and services to investigators who wish to address important questions on the health and wellbeing of Ontario’s children. Current studies include new approaches for treating concussion, novel supports for the transitioning of care for teens reaching adulthood, and determining safety profiles for drugs used frequently in children.

As part of the Data Research and Database Management hub, OCHSU experts at CHEO offer services related to clinical and health administrative data research and solutions for high quality data management in clinical trials.

As part of the Clinical Trial hub at SickKids, OCHSU experts offer support in areas such as clinical trial methods, biostatistics, health economics, and regulatory compliance.

Both hubs encourage and facilitate research opportunities where patients are involved in all stages of the design and conduct of the studies. In addition, we encourage projects that catalyze and build new stakeholder relationships, encourage new research collaboration, build capacity in child health clinical research, lead to healthcare system transformation, and develop new models for child health research.

Our collective goal is to enact major changes in policy that will improve outcomes and generate significant cost savings by the widespread implementation of the results of our research. By providing scientifically excellent, high-impact projects that tackle areas of major burden in child health, OCHSU will lead in the development of innovative research methods and will set the standards for child health research.

CHEO is one of Ontario’s 24 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Look for other RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter blog. To learn more about what’s needed to support Ontario’s health research enterprise, download our Policy Platform.

HWS Field Trips: Ottawa

HWS Field Trips: Ottawa

Touring Ottawas Research Hospitals

Research hospitals play a leading role in making Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter. To demonstrate the world-class research happening across our province, we kicked off our newest series, HWS Field Trips. Our first stop? The nation’s capital! We got a behind-the-scenes look at some of the research labs at the Bruyère Research Institute, The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal Ottawa, Montfort Hospital, and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

Continue reading “HWS Field Trips: Ottawa”

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