Funding to help biotech company develop COVID-19 therapies

The federal government has given a Markham-based biopharmaceutical research and development company working to develop therapies to treat the leading cause of death in COVID-10 patients a shot in the arm.

It will invest $23 million to accelerate Edesa Biotech’s Phase III clinical study to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of its monoclonal antibody therapy (EB05) for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID-19.

ARDS is a severe form of respiratory failure characterized by widespread inflammatory injury to the lungs. There are currently few meaningful treatments for moderate to severe cases of ARDS other than supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation. The mortality rate among patients is high.

Edesa focuses on developing and commercializing novel clinical-stage drugs for autoimmune and infectious diseases. “These breakthrough medicines have the potential to be important tools in both pandemic preparedness and biodefence,” says Edesa Founder and CEO Dr. Par Nijhawan.

In addition to accelerating its research plans, the funding Edesa receives from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) for its $61-million project will also allow it to reach more hospitals and move another significant step closer to commercialization, he reports. The company’s Phase II trials were funded by the SIF in 2021 and endorsed by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Task Force.

The SIF provides major investments in innovative projects that will help grow Canada’s economy for the wellbeing of all Canadians. The most recent SIF investment reflects the federal government’s commitment to medical innovation and economic growth, says Minister of Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development Mary Ng, MP for Markham-Thornhill.

The funding will allow Edesa to add 34 new positions and hire 26 co-op students to complement its existing workforce of 50, “bolstering our clinical trial capabilities and skills,” she adds.

The federal government earmarked $2.2 billion over seven years toward growing a vibrant domestic life sciences sector and securing pandemic preparedness in Budget 2021. “Building a strong, competitive domestic life sciences sector with cutting-edge biomanufacturing capabilities is our priority,” says Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne.

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