November 29, 2021
Commercialization at UHN is thrilled to recognize Princess Margaret Senior Scientists Drs. Daniel De Carvalho and Scott Bratman as the joint winners of UHN's 18th annual Inventor of the Year Award.
They received the award for their work on advancing a specialized form of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) technology, known as cfMeDIP-seq. cfMeDIP-seq is an ultra sensitive cell-free DNA methylation pattern detection technology being developed to spot different types of cancers via liquid biopsy. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), CfMeDIP-seq is now transforming the landscape of cancer diagnosis and disease management.
These advances in cfMeDIP-seq technology would also not have been possible without important contributions from TeamUHN, including Dr. Michael Hoffman and the other members of the De Carvalho, Bratman, and Hoffman laboratories.
The foundational discoveries were also enabled through close collaboration with numerous other investigators at UHN, including Drs. Philippe Bedard, John de Almeida, Neil Fleshner, Steven Gallinger, David Goldstein, Natasha Leighl, Fei-Fei Liu, Geoffrey Liu, Mark Minden, Catherine O'Brien, Trevor Pugh, Lillian Siu, Anna Spreafico, John Waldron, Ilan Weinreb, Wei Xu, and Gelareh Zadeh.
With extensive support from Commercialization at UHN, Drs. De Carvalho and Bratman have recently co-founded the precision medicine UHN start-up Adela to realize the full potential of cfMeDIP-seq so that it can be used to improve the lives of patients. Supported by a US$60 million financing round in the spring of 2021, Adela is now developing a platform capable identifying multiple types of cancers and other conditions through a single blood test. In addition to its U.S.-based offices, Adela established operations at the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower in close proximity to UHN resources and facilities, which will enable ongoing cross-collaboration to nurture further growth in the local biotech economy.
Drs. De Carvalho and Bratman were quick to recognize the commercial potential of the cfMeDIP-seq platform as a disruptive technology in the precision medicine area and set out to develop it for clinical application. They have worked with the team at Commercialization at UHN to advance it towards patient care, and both now serve in leadership roles at Adela.
Building on multiple high-impact publications in Nature, Nature Medicine and most recently, Clinical Cancer Research, Adela's Series A financing round is one of the biggest in Canadian biotech history.
"The immense potential of our core technology has already been demonstrated across 10 different cancer types," says Dr. De Carvalho. "We took advantage of the fact that there are a large number of characteristic DNA methylation markers in the blood of cancer patients. Using this knowledge, combined with machine learning, we developed a robust and cost-efficient approach to profile or 'read' DNA methylation in this circulating DNA."
"Adela's technology has the potential to revolutionize how we detect and diagnose disease," says Dr. Bratman. "With Adela, we expect that from a blood draw, doctors will be able to diagnose cancer and identify patients who are at a higher risk of relapse and might benefit from more aggressive treatment.
"We can also monitor treatment response – all with just a blood test and no need for surgical extraction of cancer tissue for biopsy," he says. "These applications demonstrate the power of the methylation-based platform used in Adela across a wide range of clinical settings."
"We are thrilled to recognize the world-class science, collaboration and commercialization of this ground-breaking liquid biopsy technology," says Dr. Brad Wouters, Executive Vice President, Science and Research at UHN. "It is exciting to see another UHN and Toronto ecosystem technology making bold strides towards improving health by including a broader spectrum of patients in need."
About the technology
The DNA methylome is a rich source of information about human disease. Adela's genome-wide methylation enrichment technology uniquely captures information efficiently from the entire methylome and distinguishes the most-highly informative (i.e., "methylated") regions of the genome from non-informative regions and preferentially targets them for sequencing. In addition, the CfMeDIP-seq technology platform boasts significant efficiency in that it does not require bisulfite conversion, which is a chemical treatment that is cost intensive and causes loss of valuable genomic material and information.
About the UHN Inventor of the Year Award
Proudly sponsored by Commercialization at UHN, the UHN Inventor of the Year Award recognizes an inventor or team who has made a substantial and noteworthy contribution to developing healthcare innovations with high commercialization potential.
Every day, new discoveries are made across the UHN campus that will impact the lives of Canadians, and the global community. UHN is committed to supporting promising new technologies for commercialization by moving these discoveries through the development pipeline and the annual UHN Inventor of the Year Award recognizes leading excellence in this area.
For more information, please visit: Commercialization at UHN
Past UHN Inventor of the Year Winners include: