Sensitizing compounds for cancer-treating viruses find new use in vaccine production

Mitacs Elevate fellow from the University of Ottawa aids production of vaccines

Beyond understanding how oncolytic viruses work, Rozanne and other researchers at the University of Ottawa have studied how these viruses can be enhanced with “viral sensitizers,” small molecules that increase their efficacy. Recently, her research into how viral sensitizers can therapeutically enhance oncolytic viruses has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The 2009 H1N1 outbreak and subsequent vaccine shortage gave the Ottawa-based company ChemVirion R&D the idea to use these viral sensitizer compounds to enhance vaccine production, explains their president Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo. But as a small company, it needed additional resources to move this research forward. So ChemVirion partnered with Rozanne and her supervisor, Dr. John Bell, at the University of Ottawa to undertake a Mitacs Elevate fellowship (then called a Mitacs Industrial Fellowship), which focused on commercial-level vaccine production using the viral sensitizers.

Rozanne’s research into vaccine production attracted the interest of new industry partners.  As a result, a new Mitacs Elevate fellow at the University of Ottawa is now furthering her research into viral sensitizers and vaccine production.

Rozanne benefitted from her fellowship’s professional development component. She developed new skills to bring to her collaboration with ChemVirion:

The [Mitacs] Step workshops, especially the Project Management ones, helped me bridge the differences between working in academia and working with an industrial partner,” Rozanne says.

Although the Mitacs project has since concluded, both Rozanne and Dr. Diallo say the impact of its work is still being felt. “It was a great opportunity to develop with this project and the collaboration is still evolving,” Rozanne advises.

For ChemVirion, the fellowship helped propel the research and attract interest from new industry partners. Dr. Diallo says the program is beneficial not only to companies like his, but to emerging researchers like Rozanne: “Mitacs fills a gap to help academia leverage existing investments and connect with industry. It gives researchers the opportunity to move into industry if they want—this is critical, as there are fewer jobs for researchers in academia alone.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Elevate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Elevate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia,  the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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