As an internationally acclaimed research centre for infection, immunity, inflammation and bioinformatics, Dalhousie is quickly becoming a world leader in the discoveries and development of new vaccines, antiviral drugs and other life-saving viral therapies, collectively referred to as “viroceuticals.”
Recent breakthroughs in viroceuticals research at Dalhousie are now being applied to the treatment and prevention of a host of life-threatening illnesses, with major impacts for the advancement of public health on a global scale.
“Through innovative research approaches, our recent advances have shed light on our ability to use harmless viruses as vehicles to fight harmful viruses, repurpose viruses to fight cancer and to exploit the ‘natural’ viruses in our human bodies to combat threatening, foreign viruses,” says Dr. Craig McCormick of Dalhousie’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology. “Continued research will cement Dalhousie as a world-class research enterprise in this area, and help us combat both current and emerging threats to global health such as cancer, influenza pandemics, Zika and dengue, to name a few.”
Indeed, Dalhousie has recently led the remarkable discovery of cancer-fighting viruses through this research. Termed “oncolytic viruses”, these viruses can be used to selectively kill cancer cells and teach the immune system to mount an anti-cancer assault. Subsequent licensing of the first oncolytic virus for the treatment of advanced melanoma has added an entirely new method of cancer treatment to the global toolbox, beyond existing treatment options such as chemotherapy and radiation.
In other recent viroceuticals research, in collaboration with the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, Dalhousie has been actively working towards developing an effective vaccine for dengue virus and has recently demonstrated promising results of a novel, molecular-based approach in animal trials. Published in many prominent journals worldwide, this research could provide us with an effective vaccine for a virus that affects as many as 400 million people per year around the world, reducing catastrophic illness, suffering and death from dengue virus in the foreseeable future.
“Part of our strength here at Dalhousie is our strong network of expertise, which we consistently leverage to expand opportunities and drive innovation,” says Dr. McCormick. “The first effective Ebola vaccine, for example, was recently brought to first-in-human clinical trials in collaboration with Canada’s leading vaccine centre, located at the IWK Health Centre. Through this partnership, we’re repeatedly able to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a range of vaccines, antivirals, and cancer-fighting viruses, making Nova Scotia a viable hub for both fundamental research at Dalhousie through to clinical trials and testing at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology.”
Leading many other global breakthroughs in viroceuticals research, Dalhousie is currently capitalizing on powerful momentum and is actively developing new viroceuticals for first-in-human clinical trials.
In addition to generating a significant business opportunity for both the health and biotechnology sectors in Atlantic Canada, this viroceuticals research can help us to eradicate life-threatening illness, diminish chronic disease, shorten treatment times and decrease the physical, emotional and economic burden that such illnesses can impose.
With DMRF’s support, we can help cement Dalhousie as a hub for world-class research in this area, and more importantly, provide pivotal solutions to public health threats that impact each and every one of us every day – locally, nationally and internationally.