PHC Announces $7.5 Million in New Research Funding
Vancouver, October 16, 2007 — A total of $7.5 million in new research funding for Providence Health Care and its partners was announced today. Of that total, $4.25 million is being contributed by Pfizer Canada.
The first investment is for targeted research at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the second is to establish the first Canadian research chair in cardiovascular disease prevention. Both research initiatives are to be housed in St. Paul’s Hospital, part of Providence Health Care.
The development in Canada of an important tropism virus strain test for HIV/AIDS with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS will receive support with a $3 million investment by Pfizer. Currently available only in the United States, this blood-screening test would be one of the solutions available to deal with HIV/AIDS drug resistance in Canada because it enables identification of the tropism of the virus. This would then allow physicians to prescribe the appropriate treatment regimen.
Pfizer Canada also contributed $1.25 million for the creation of the first Canadian research chair in cardiovascular prevention research. This new, innovative Simon Fraser University chair will be named the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital. Other contributions to this chair include $1.5 million from Simon Fraser University, $1 million from an anonymous donor to St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation and $750,000 from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon, for a total of $4.5 million, making it one of the largest in the country.
“Our support of these two B.C.-led initiatives demonstrates Pfizer Canada’s commitment to excellence in healthcare research in the province Pfizer Canada is also announcing the contribution of $1.25 million and for the benefit of all Canadians,” says Paul Lévesque, President and CEO of Pfizer Canada. “We are extremely pleased to participate in bringing to Canada a novel test – called a tropism test –- which will benefit all HIV/AIDS patients experiencing resistance to their current treatment and allow their physician to better target the appropriate treatment regimen.”
“The second investment is a unique academic partnership to create the first Canadian chair in cardiovascular prevention research, and Pfizer Canada is proud to bring this vision to reality. This Chair is of paramount importance because much of what we know about cardiovascular disease is preventable,” adds Mr. Lévesque.
“We thank Pfizer for making this significant investment in both the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the Providence Heart and Lung Institute at St. Paul’s Hospital,” said Dianne Doyle President & CEO of Providence Health Care. “These initiatives will further our research agenda in two important areas of emphasis – HIV/AIDS and cardiac – and help the patients that we serve.”
Tropism test beneficial to all HIV/AIDS patients in Canada
“Dr. Richard Harrigan and his team at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS will initiate a large scale program to develop and validate a rapid and novel laboratory blood test as a means of predicting HIV tropism. The tropism test allows identification of patients who respond to certain targeted HIV medications,” explains Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “The HIV patient being tested can have his specific type of tropic strain identified (either CCR5-tropic or CXCR4-tropic).”
Chair in cardiovascular prevention research – a first in Canada
“The chair’s research program aims at better understanding cardiovascular diseases and prevention strategies. This is a must as cardiovascular disease can be prevented in many cases, yet it is still the leading cause of death in Canada. This new chair will leverage the public health research strength of Simon Fraser University’s new and rapidly growing Faculty of Health Sciences and build on the clinical and academic programs at St. Paul’s Hospital,” says Dr. Michael Stevenson, President and Vice Chancellor of Simon Fraser University.
“This initiative fills an important gap provincially, nationally and internationally. The Heart and Stroke Foundation is pleased to be part of this important endeavour, supporting the advancement of life-saving research that will make a difference to the heart health of British Columbians. In BC alone, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has contributed over $100 million since the 1950s to support world-class research at BC universities and hospitals,” adds Bobbe Wood, President & CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon.
“This new endowed chair is not only the first of its kind in Canada, but it is also an opportunity to recruit a world-renowned scientist focused on cardiovascular disease prevention to British Columbia,” said Dr. Andrew Ignaszewski, Division Head of Cardiology at St. Paul’s Hospital/Providence Health Care. “I would like to thank all of our partners for coming together to support this initiative – one of the largest endowments in cardiovascular care in the history of Canadian medicine and research. Our team is looking forward to raising funds to establish more endowed chairs in support of world-class research within Providence’s new Heart and Lung Institute at St. Paul’s Hospital.”
Backgrounders on the tropism test, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and the “Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital” are available upon request.
For more information:
Sylvie Tessier, Pfizer Canada tel. (514)247-9467
Stephen Burega, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS tel. (604)506-3734
Anne McLaughlin, St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation tel. (604)806-8917
Erica Branda, Simon Fraser University tel. (778)782-3353
Gavin Wilson, Providence Health Care tel. (604)806-8583
Tom Gies, Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon tel. (604)671-4042
Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research - Backgrounder
Thanks to donor support, Simon Fraser University, St. Paul’s Hospital/Providence Health Care and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon are about to launch an international search for Western Canada’s first Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research. Based at the Heart Centre, part of the Providence Heart + Lung Institute at St. Paul’s Hospital, the Chair will hold a full time tenure appointment in SFU’s new Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research – located at St. Paul’s Hospital and a member of the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU - will be the catalyst for an expanded cardiovascular research program aimed at a better understanding of cardiovascular disease and new prevention strategies. Although preventable in many cases, cardiovascular disease – including heart and blood vessel disease and stroke - is still the leading cause of death for British Columbians.
The key contributors to this $4.5 million endowed chair are: Pfizer Canada Inc. ($1.25 million), the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon ($750,000) an anonymous $1 million dollar donor to St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation and Simon Fraser University ($1.5 million).
The chair will leverage the public health research strength of Simon Fraser University’s rapidly growing Faculty of Health Sciences and build on the strengths of the clinical and academic programs at St. Paul’s/Providence Health Care.
Established in 2004, the Faculty of Health Sciences’ mission is to understand the many factors that shape health experiences over the life course from a population perspective, and to apply this knowledge to develop policy. The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) promotes a population and public health approach that recognizes the interactions and relationships among multiple determinants of health. FHS represents a consortium of disciplines, straddling molecular and cellular processes, field-based investigation, intervention and evaluation, as well as policy processes, that together address issues relating to the health of communities through education, research, and service.
The Heart Centre at St. Paul’s is home to B.C.’s largest and most comprehensive referral centre for patients with heart disease. It is a major teaching facility for cardiac professionals and a leader in the investigation and treatment of heart disease. Launched in June 2007, the Providence Heart + Lung Institute at St. Paul's Hospital merges and integrates all of Providence’s heart and lung research, education and care programs under one umbrella. Its mandate is to transform cardiovascular and pulmonary research and care—transferring new care solutions from the laboratory to the clinics and communities to improve the lives of British Columbians.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy. Across Canada, more than $1.1 billion has been invested by the Foundation into research support since the 1950s.
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS - Backgrounder
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is embarking on the development of a novel screening method for HIV patients to identify if their strain of HIV is either CCR5 or CXCR4 tropic. This distinction identifies patients who will respond to treatment by certain targeted HIV medications and will also significantly personalize HIV treatment.
CCR5 and CXCR4 are chemokine receptors in the human body. HIV is able to use either CCR5 or CXCR4 as co-receptors to gain entry into T cells, which help coordinate the human immune system.
Pfizer Canada has earmarked $3M for the development of this Canadian screening method, which is a second generation tropism assay. More specifically, this screening assay will help determine if the patient’s strain is CCR5-tropic and likely to respond to a CCR5 antagonist, or CXCR4-tropic and unlikely to respond to a CCR5 antagonist. CELSENTRI (maraviroc), recently approved by Health Canada and marketed by Pfizer, is one such CCR5 antagonist for which the test will be used
The Centre aims to develop a screening method that is simpler, more cost-effective and more widely available than the current testing process. This particular investment from Pfizer allows the Centre to utilize cutting edge laboratory equipment and research methods.
The study’s primary investigator will be Dr. Richard Harrigan. Harrigan is the director of the Centre’s research laboratories. His research has focused primarily on HIV drug efficacy and resistance and the genetic basis of HIV drug resistance.
About the Centre
Founded in 1992 by St. Paul’s Hospital and the provincial Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is a key provincial resource seeking to improve the health of people with HIV through the development, ongoing monitoring and dissemination of comprehensive investigative and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases. The Centre manages and monitors the health of all HIV patients receiving treatment in British Columbia. St. Paul’s Hospital is one of seven care facilities operated by Providence Health Care, Canada’s largest faith-based health care organization.
Dr. Julio Montaner is the director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the president-elect of the International AIDS Society (www.IASociety.org). The International AIDS Society is the world’s leading independent association of HIV/AIDS professionals with more than 11,000 members.
Dr. Montaner has more than 20 years experience in HIV/AIDS research and developing and conducting HIV-related clinical trials. He has published extensively with regard to respiratory complications of HIV and the use of antiretroviral therapies. He has also played a central role in the evaluation of alternative therapeutic approaches and has pioneered multiple drug rescue therapy. Dr. Montaner contributes significantly nationally and internationally in the transfer of research advances into clinical practice and the development of the HIV/AIDS Therapeutic Guidelines.
What is tropism?
• Tropism is the route that the HIV virus uses to enter the CD4+ T-cell (also known as immune cells that protect the body from infection). HIV can either use a CCR5 co-receptor or a CXCR4 co-receptor to enter the CD4+ cell. In the case of HIV, the virus is mostly CCR5-tropic meaning it will only use the CCR5 co-receptor to enter the cell. As the disease progresses the amount of CXCR4-tropic virus increases and it will use the CXCR4 co-receptor to enter the cell. The following describes the various categories of HIV viruses:
• CCR5-tropic HIV use only the CCR5 receptor
• CXCR4-tropic HIV use only the CXCR4 receptor
• Dual-tropic HIV can use either the CCR5 or CXCR4 receptor
• Mixed-tropic HIV reflects that a single individual can have a mixed population of HIV (i.e., CCR5-, CXCR4- and/or dual-tropic HIV).
What are CCR5 and CXCR4?
• CCR5 and CXCR4 are proteins (medically known as chemokine receptors) on the surface of CD4+ cells in the human body. These receptors signal other cells involved in immune function to move to or remain in an area of inflammation.
• About 1 percent of Caucasians of European ancestry has no CCR5 co- receptors on the surface of their cells; however, they appear to have normal immune function suggesting that blocking the CCR5 co-receptor may not affect normal immune function.
What percent of people infected with HIV/AIDS likely have CCR5-tropic HIV?
• Studies have shown that approximately 80 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV or who are untreated, only have the CCR5-tropic virus.
• In the natural progression of the disease, this drops to 50-60 percent in patients being treated with anti-retroviral medicines
What is a tropism test?
Tropism tests are tests used to determine which co-receptor (CCR5 or CXCR4) each patient’s strain of HIV uses to enter the cell.
How is the test performed?
A blood sample is drawn from the patient and it is shipped to a laboratory at Monogram Biosciences (San Francisco, CA) where a test, is performed to determine the tropism.
How long will it take to get results?
Because the diagnostic process is multi-step and labor intensive, results may take anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks.
How much will the required tropism test cost?
The cost of the tropism test will be assumed by Pfizer Canada Inc. for the immediate future.
Tiko Kerr, Vancouver Artist and patient of Dr. Julio Montaner