Engineering life-enhancing research

Sentry Scientific

Innovative bio-engineering research by two Waterloo chemical engineering professors could significantly improve the health of people who receive organ transplants.

Murray Moo-Young (right), a distinguished professor emeritus in the chemical engineering department, and Perry Chou, a chemical engineering professor, co-invented a biopharmaceutical drug to treat or prevent autoimmune disease and organ transplant rejection.

The advantage of their compound is that it’s formulated to target just the transplanted organ with minimum global suppression of the immunosystem unlike many anti-rejection drugs now available, explains Chou.

“It’s almost a miracle drug,” says Moo-Young, who along with Chou, are researchers in the university’s Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology.

It’s taken the chemical engineering professors about six years to develop their research supported by the industrial partner, Argos Therapeutics. They admit they experienced challenges along the way.

“Initially we thought it was very easy to make the compound from our developed bioprocess, but then there were problems during the testing phase, which is  typical of new drug development,” says Moo-Young.

The obstacles led to what Moo-Young describes as “some interesting research projects” undertaken by three chemical engineering doctoral students.

Positive pretrial clinics

Moo-Young and Chou’s research was recently patented by Argos Therapeutics Inc., the U.S. company for which the chemical engineering professors conducted the contract research. The patent has been issued in the UK, France and Germany, and is pending in several other countries and the United States. It may eventually be issued in Canada by Argos Therapeutics that now owns the patent, says Moo-Young.

“There have been positive preclinical trials at medical institutes in the US, Canada and Germany, a prerequisite to FDA approval for commercialization of a new drug,” says Moo-Young.

According to Chou, the Canada Research Chair in Biomanufacturing, down the road the bio-pharmaceutical drug could be used to improve human healthcare.

Moo-Young and Chou are becoming experts on bioengineering and biotechnology research collaboration – they have also teamed up to develop an innovative strategy for biofuel production.