Health Challenge program


This program will focus on developing technologies to support safe, accessible and affordable engineered cell and gene therapies. The program will work in close collaboration with academia and industry, aiming to transform health outcomes for patients with cancer and genetic diseases.


We invite researchers at Canadian and international universities, colleges, clinical research centres, centres of excellence and highly innovative firms with expertise in developing cell and gene therapies to express their interest in collaborating with NRC researchers on this program.

Current areas of focus

The program is scoping and organizing its research projects within three primary technology themes.

Theme 1: Next-generation chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapies

Theme objectives

  • Apply synthetic biology to engineer precision, safety and efficacy of engineered CAR therapies


  • Safe and efficacious next‑generation CAR therapies

Theme 2: Engineering induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for immune tolerance

Theme objectives

  • Apply synthetic biology to engineer immune tolerance of donor cells
  • Develop methods for expansion, characterization, cryopreservation and banking of foundational allogeneic cell lines


  • Universal donor cell

Theme 3: Gene therapies and delivery vectors

Theme objectives

  • Apply synthetic biology and nanotechnology to improve efficiency of gene editing and gene delivery ex‑vivo and in vivo
  • Improve viral vector scale‑up and characterization processes


  • Targeted viral and non-viral vectors for in vivo gene editing


Workshops with industry and academia to help scope its research activities and define project plans include the following:

  • November 13, 2018: Workshop at the Till & McCulloch Stem Cell Research Conference in Ottawa, Ontario (completed)
  • November 16, 2018: Workshop hosted by Life Sciences British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia (completed)
  • December 7, 2018: Workshop hosted by the NRC's Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre in Montréal, Québec (completed)

Contribution funding

The Health Challenge Program will contribute to collaborative research and development activities by academic institutions and small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in support of the program's objectives.

The program may provide contributions to early investments by collaborators in equipment needed for research in fundamental areas. Areas of early interest in technology platforms to support research activities include:

  • automation and mammalian cell gene editing capabilities genome foundry
  • microfluidics technology platforms for medical devices foundry
  • translational research and biomanufacturing for cell and gene therapy

The program will make further investments in research by academic and SME collaborators over the course of the 7‑year program lifespan.

Next steps and contact

The program will continue to work with stakeholders to refine the specific areas of focus and more information will be made available as this work progresses.

If you are interested in collaborating with us, making investments in this area, or if you have any questions, please contact: NRC.healthprogram-programmesanté


Biotechnology, biopharma, medical devices, digital technologies.

Contact us

Kelley Parato
Director, Health Challenge Program
Telephone: 613-990-1512
Email: NRC.healthprogram-programmesanté