Although preterm birth is the leading health problem during pregnancy, there has been little progress in developing effective tools that predict risk for and prevent preterm birth. Laboratories worldwide are producing excellent research outputs, but the rate of translating these outputs into clinical products to help women and their babies lags far behind the need.
We have designed a Discovery to Market Ecosystem in women’s pregnancy and newborn health to address this need. Our objective is to bridge the gap between discovery science and business, translating our research findings into diagnostic and therapeutic tools and creating commercialization frameworks to support future developments. This presents our trainees with the opportunity to gain experience in commercializing their research findings. We have two approved patents and three more under review. We also founded two biotech startup companies to commercialize our diagnostics and therapeutics for preterm birth.
Livmor Biosciences, Inc.
Our leukocyte migration assay (LMA) is a bioassay based upon a naturally occurring biological event that happens in preparation for labour and delivery (for a summary, see Diagnostics). Our goal is to convert it into a simple diagnostic that can accurately predict preterm birth timing with a simple, non-invasive blood draw.
The LMA has three applications. It can predict preterm birth delivery within a week, and it can predict which 30% of women presenting with symptoms of threatened preterm labour will deliver early, so they can be admitted to the hospital while not admitting the 70% who will deliver at term. Third, it can inform when rural and remote women can be transferred to a high-level centre shortly before their term deliveries. Altogether, this diagnostic will not only help provide a healthy start to life for newborns, but it will be economically valuable for health systems.
Maternica Therapeutics, Inc.
Our collaborators in Montreal have designed small peptide allosteric antagonists targeting the IL-1 and IL-6 receptors (for a summary, see Therapeutics). Rytvela (IL-1R) and HSJ633 (IL-6R) antagonists specifically block pathways leading to preterm delivery while leaving other pathways unaffected. Our preclinical data in mice and human cells show that these antagonists decrease inflammation in mother and fetus, block preterm delivery, and protect the fetus from inflammatory harm.