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WORLDiscoveries® Vanguard Awards celebrate commercial potential of health research

Dr. Matthew Hebb awarded as Innovator of the Year

Drs. David Hill, Matthew Hebb and Amit Chakma

Dr. David Hill, Scientific Director, Lawson Health Research Institute; Dr. Matthew Hebb, Lawson scientist and 2017 WORLDiscoveries® Vanguard Awards Innovator of the Year; and Dr. Amit Chakma, President, Western University. 

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London, Ontario’s leaders in health innovation and commercialization were celebrated at WORLDiscoveries®’ third annual Vanguard Awards on Thursday, September 28 at Windermere Manor. Scientists from Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) were recognized in all three award categories with Dr. Matthew Hebb taking the night’s top honour – Innovator of the Year.

WORLDiscoveries® is the technology transfer and business development office for Lawson, Western University and Robarts Research Institute. The Vanguard Awards recognize researchers from all three organizations who, in partnership with WORLDiscoveries®, have achieved market-readiness milestones over the past fiscal year.

“Lawson scientists undertake more than 500 new clinical trials and partner on over 600 research projects annually. But to make an impact on patient care, we must partner with industry to move our innovations forward,” said Dr. David Hill, Scientific Director at Lawson. “The Vanguard Awards show the strength and potential of our research as recognized by our commercial and industry partners. I was honoured to announce Dr. Matthew Hebb as this year’s Innovator of the Year.”

The Innovator of the Year award is given to individuals who demonstrate excellence in innovation within their field. The award highlights achievements of personnel who contribute to a culture of commercialization and entrepreneurship by creating a product or service that is beneficial to society. Dr. Hebb, a Lawson scientist, neurosurgeon at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and assistant professor of neurosurgery at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, was recognized for the development of two innovations that offer hope in treating two deadly diseases – Parkinson’s disease and glioblastoma.

In the first innovation, Dr. Hebb is creating tools to advance Parkinson’s disease research and therapeutics across the globe. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by progressive neurological impairment caused by the death of cells in the nervous system.

Dr. Hebb and his team provided a novel description of brain-derived progenitor cells (BDPCs) isolated from the brains of living Parkinson’s disease patients. These cells express neurotrophic factors which protect and stimulate re-growth of disease-affected neurons. BDPCs are expandable in cell culture and hold great promise to further study Parkinson’s disease and advance potential cellular therapies.

Dr. Hebb’s work has resulted in a patent and a partnership with STEMCELL Technologies to develop innovative tools for Parkinson’s disease research. This will make new Parkinson’s disease research tools available to researchers around the world, helping to advance our understanding of the disease.

This partnership also furthers Dr. Hebb’s efforts to develop new autologous cell-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease. By using a patient’s own BDPCs, Dr. Hebb hopes to slow or halt disease progression and stimulate regeneration of damaged brain circuitry to provide a long-term strategy that combats the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

In his second breakthrough, Dr. Hebb is addressing the most common and aggressive cancer arising from the adult brain - glioblastoma.

Current glioblastoma treatment options are limited. Even with treatment, survival is typically extended to only 12 to 15 months after diagnosis. Dr. Hebb and his team hope to improve patient outcomes through the development of a new treatment called Intratumoral Modulation Therapy (IMT).

IMT works by placing electrodes in multiple locations within a tumour or within the area where a tumour has been removed. The electrodes deliver therapeutic electrical stimulation that disrupts a tumour cell’s ability to divide and resist other therapies, which results in the tumour cell’s death.

Dr. Hebb first published this work in 2016 and filed a patent titled “Intratumoral Modulation Therapy”. There has been considerable interest in his work from leaders in the biotechnology industry as it addresses a critical need and has high application potential. Currently, he is pursuing the development of special-purpose bioelectrodes that will optimize the therapeutic response in the most common clinical scenarios encountered with glioblastoma.

In addition to Dr. Hebb’s Innovator of the Year award, Lawson scientists were recognized in the “Patent Issued Award” and “License Agreement Award” categories. Winners from Lawson include:

Patent Issued Award

  • Gediminas Cepinskas, Abdel-Rahman Lawendy and David Sanders: US patent issued August 2016 For the technology known as: The Severity of Microvascular Dysfunction and Tissue Injury Due to Compartment Syndrome Is Diminished by the Application of CO-Releasing Molecules (CORM-3)
  • Ruth Martin: Australian patent issued October 2016 For the technology known as: An Oral Swab

License Agreement Award

  • Tom Ross: License Agreement signed with Evision Inc. on January 16, 2017 For the technology known as: Financial Assessment & Capacity Test
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