A $1.5 million platform grant awarded by Brain Canada in 2015 in partnership with the Marigold Foundation, McGill University, the Quebec Pain Research Network, and the Réseau de médecine génétique appliquée, allowed Prinicpal Investigator Jack Puymirat and his team to create a Quebec core facility dedicated to the production of pluripotency-induced human stem cells (hiPSC). The goal of the platform was to produce cost-effective, high quality hiPSCs using advanced methods that could be used by researchers across Quebec. The hope was that this would increase the pace of stem cell research, and help build translational bridges that facilitate the clinical use of stem cells to treat patients. Additionally, the platform would create hiPSC lines from patients with brain diseases which would lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie these neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric diseases in order to help develop novel treatments.
The grant ended in 2018 and significant progress was made over the three years. In addition to the establishment of the core facility in Quebec, the platform was also used as leverage to obtain new grants, to develop new collaborations, and to educate the public about hiPSCs and their potential as therapeutic agents.
The core facility was able to produce very high quality hiPSCs at 50% of the costs. Over the past two years, 50 lines of iPSCs were developed for different researchers, which would not have been possible without the Brain Canada grant. In addition, the platform allowed for the creation of a biobank of hiPSCs for several neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. In a second step, the platform was able to form new partnerships with the Parkinson Network of the FRQS and the Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute at McGill University to expand the scope of the project to include a neural production platform and a genome publishing platform.
The core facility also played a role in training students. An iPSC production training workshop and iPSC symposium were organized, which brought together 50 and 140 participants, respectively. Outreach activities were also developed to educate the public about human iPSCs and their therapeutic uses.
“The large-scale production of hiPSC from patients with several brain disorders represents a new avenue for modeling neurological diseases, drug screening and the development of cell therapy and personalized medicine.” – Jack Puymirat, Université Laval