Approximately 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and half of these patients will die as a result of their disease. Similarly, orphan fibrotic diseases are severely debilitating, potentially life threatening, and can frequently lead to cancer. No effective treatments exist for most fibrotic diseases. Founded in Canada in 2011, Forbius is a clinical-stage company that's on a mission to change this and discover life-saving treatments for cancer and fibrosis – with preclinical help from the NRC.
The NRC's Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre hosts the largest research and development team dedicated to the preclinical advancement of biotherapeutics in Canada, with approximately 340 employees working in state-of-the-art facilities located in Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax. Its primary goal is to develop therapeutics and vaccines to address unmet medical needs that hold the potential for improving the health and quality of life of Canadians. At the same time, it's also committed to providing collaborators and business partners with support for innovation, including strategic research, and scientific and technical resources, which enable the development of solutions to accelerate and de-risk the drug development pipeline for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada. Whether it be by developing new biotherapeutics internally and making them accessible to Canadian SMEs, or by providing scientific and technical expertise for the development of external assets and/or providing access to its R&D facilities, the NRC plays a critical role in the success and growth of Canadian SMEs.
Forbius' recent successes in moving AVID200, a potential breakthrough treatment for cancer and fibrosis, into human trials is a direct result of a strong scientific and business collaboration between itself and the NRC. Following the publication of an initial proof-of-concept for an AVID200 prototype drug by NRC scientists in 2012, the NRC and Forbius entered into a co-development agreement in 2016 to accelerate the drug's clinical development path. Throughout the course of the partnership that followed, the team at the NRC was responsible for designing and carrying out critical experiments that allowed Forbius to reach critical corporate milestones. The company has since received approval to move ahead with clinical development from both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AVID200 is currently undergoing Phase 1 clinical testing in solid tumors and orphan fibrotic diseases across Canada and the United States. Initial clinical results are expected in 2020.
Prior to the work on AVID200, Forbius also partnered with the NRC on AVID100, a highly potent therapeutic that selectively targets cancer cells that overexpress a cancer-causing gene called EGFR. AVID100 holds significant potential for the treatment of highly aggressive cancers, including lung, head and neck, and triple negative breast cancers. AVID100 is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials across centres in Canada and the United States.
"Our goal is to transform the lives of patients by developing urgently needed anti-cancer and fibrosis therapeutics," says Ilia A. Tikhomirov, President and CEO of Forbius. "We have a natural partnership with the NRC, which is focused on foundational, cutting-edge discoveries and pre-clinical research that Forbius can then rapidly advance into clinical trials. With 2 novel agents entering clinical trials in less than 3 years, the collaboration between Forbius and the NRC has been extremely successful and could lead to saving many lives."
Initially located in the NRC Royalmount industrial wing, Forbius recently expanded to new Canadian headquarters located in Montreal's Old Port district. The company has grown from a single employee to 40 people, opened new offices in the U.S., and has attracted approximately $100 million in capital. Clinical trials and continued product development are ongoing, and the future is looking bright for this Canadian company. A complete list of Forbius' ongoing trials can be found at clinicaltrials.gov.