Three Ottawa-led stem cell trials get $2.2 million boost

November 23, 2016

Ottawa researchers bring in half of clinical trial awards from Stem Cell Network

Could stem cells help the body recover from septic shock, heart attack and liver transplantation? Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa are now in a better position to answer these questions, thanks to $2.2 million in peer-reviewed awards from the Stem Cell Network. The funding will support three clinical trials, representing half of the trials funded in this national competition and nearly a quarter of the overall funds awarded.

These and other Stem Cell Network awards were announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science for the Government of Canada and David McGuinty, Member of Parliament for Ottawa South, on November 24th at The Ottawa Hospital.

Septic shock trial

Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre (of The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa) and her colleagues* were awarded $1 million to lead the first multi-centre clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for septic shock. This deadly condition occurs when an infection spreads throughout the body and over-activates the immune system, causing the heart and other organs to fail. The trial will involve 114 patients at 10 academic hospitals across Canada. Dr. McIntyre and her colleagues recently treated nine patients in a Phase I clinical trial of this therapy. Results will be published in the future.

Heart attack trial

Dr. Duncan Stewart (of The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa) and his colleagues** were awarded $1 million to advance their world-first clinical trial of a genetically-enhanced stem cell therapy for heart attack. So far they have treated 29 patients in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. The new funding will help them add additional trial sites and treat approximately 70 more patients.

Liver transplantation trial

Dr. Harold Atkins (of The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa) and his colleagues*** were awarded $216,000 to see if a procedure involving stem cells may be able to prevent organ rejection in people who have had liver transplants. The procedure involves harvesting blood stem cells from a patient, destroying their immune system with strong chemotherapy, and then giving them back their own stem cells to grow a new immune system. The hope is that the new immune system will recognize the transplanted liver as part of the body, allowing the patient avoid the harsh drugs typically required to prevent organ rejection. The trial will involve 10 people. Dr. Atkins and his colleagues have used a similar procedure to treat auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.

In addition, Dr. Jing Wang (of The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa) is a co-investigator on a disease team award that aims to find ways to stimulate stem cells to repair the brain. This project is led by Dr. Freda Miller of SickKids, and was awarded $500,000. This project also has a clinical trial component.


“Research at The Ottawa Hospital continues to inspire us and the community we serve,” said Dr. Jack Kitts, President & CEO of The Ottawa Hospital. “The support announced today for the stem cell program and clinical trials enables us to create new knowledge and offer hope to our patients with the most debilitating and complex diseases.”

“Ottawa has become a world-leader in stem cell research thanks to a unique culture of collaboration between basic scientists and physicians, as well as experts in trial design and cell manufacturing,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital, professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the award recipients. “Today’s funding brings us a big step closer to figuring out how to harness the incredible potential of stem cells to treat devastating diseases.”

“Federal government funding is essential to foster the development of promising health treatments,” said Dr. Mona Nemer, Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa. “Our researchers are demonstrating once again the practical applications of their work, and how it might benefit many Canadians in the near future.”

“We are a nation of leaders and innovators, it is in our DNA,” said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, OC, Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Network, Director of the Regenerative Medicine Program at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “The regenerative medicine research sector is fueled by stem cells and today it is at a tipping point, with the potential to see breakthroughs in our generation. I am thrilled that the Stem Cell Network is able to power the foundation of scientific excellence that exists within Canada’s universities, research hospitals and institutes.”

Partner media releases

Stem Cell Network

Government of Canada

Co-investigators and key collaborators

*Septic shock trial: Duncan Stewart, Shirley Mei Dean Fergusson, Kednapa Thavorn, Timothy Ramsay, David Courtman and Shane English (all of The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa), John Marshall and Claudia dos Santos (both of St. Michael’s Hospital), Keith Walley (University of British Columbia), Brent Winston (University of Calgary), Alexis Turgeon (Université Laval), Geeta Mehta (Mount Sinai Hospital), Robert Green (Dalhousie University), Alison Fox-Robichaud (Hamilton Health Sciences), Margaret Herridge (University Health Network), John Granton (Women’s College Hospital), Paul Hébert (Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal).

**Heart attack trial: David Courtman (The Ottawa Hospital and uOttawa), Michael Kutryk (St. Michael’s Hospital), Chris Glover (University of Ottawa Heart Institute), Hung-Ly Quoc (Montreal Heart Institute).

***Liver transplantation trial: Gary Levy (University Health Network).

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

The University of Ottawa—A crossroads of cultures and ideas

The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

Stem Cell Network
Supporting and building Canada’s stem cell and regenerative medicine research sector has been the raison d'etre of the Stem Cell Network (SCN) since its inception in 2001. Its work has been supported by the Government of Canada from the beginning. SCN’s mandate is to act as a catalyst for enabling the translation of stem cell research into clinical applications, commercial products and public policy. In just over 15 years SCN has forged a national community that has transformed stem cell research in Canada, brought research to the point where regenerative medicine is changing clinical practice and established an outstanding international reputation. SCN has pushed the boundaries of what was a basic research area towards translational outcomes for the clinic and marketplace.

Media Contacts

Jennifer Ganton, The Ottawa Hospital, 613-614-5253,

Amélie Ferron-Craig, uOttawa, 613-863-7221,