Alberta Ocular Gene Therapy Team Funded by Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions

28 March 2013.

The Alberta Ocular Gene Therapy Team has been successful in securing $5 Million over 5 years from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions. The Team, based at the University of Alberta, is led by Dr. Ian MacDonald, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and co-led by Dr. Tania Bubela, Associate Professor, School of Public Health.

The funding will create a Centre of Excellence for Ocular Gene Therapy at the University of Alberta. It will support a full translational platform to bring gene therapy research to the clinic. The platform will build on the “first” for Canada gene therapy clinical trial for choroideremia.  The funding will further support research into gene therapy for diseases of the cornea, led by Dr. Ordan Lehmann, and other genetic diseases of the retina.

Across the world, there are a number pending gene therapies for genetic eye diseases. Building a Centre of Excellence here in Alberta will create access for Albertans and Canadians to this promising therapeutic approach, whether developed in Alberta or internationally. Ocular gene therapy presents an achievable goal of personalized medicine and could either restore vision or prevent further vision loss.

The Team brings together basic scientists, gene therapy researchers, geneticists, genetic counsellors, clinicians, ophthalmic surgeons, ethicists, experts in regulatory affairs and public health policy to create a translational pathway for ocular gene therapy. The focused goal of this initiative is to develop the capacity and ability to deliver ocular gene therapy in the clinic in Alberta.

The Team will make use of the significant investment already made to the University of Alberta by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Government in the creation a “GMP” (good manufacturing practice) facility that is capable of producing vectors for gene therapy. As well, both of these funders, have already invested in the purchase of clinical research test equipment that can be used in these clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the proposed treatments. This testing will be led by Dr. Yves Sauvé.

The Team is further supported by a CIHR Rare Diseases Emerging Team Grant and funding from Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Choroideremia Research Foundation Canada.

Link to Funding Announcement:

Health Canada Consultation Meeting: scheduled!

We have made another step towards the recruitment phase of our clinical trial! A preliminary meeting with Health Canada has been scheduled for the end of April. At this meeting we will be reviewing the overall content of our clinical trial application. The meeting is meant to ensure that there is a clear understanding of expectations of both the applicant and the reviewers. Then we will be submitting the completed application within a month of our meeting!

For more information, click “Our Progress” at the top of this page!


In March 2012, researchers at the University of Alberta received $1.3 million in funding from the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Choroideremia Research Foundation Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The funding was the first step, but many more are needed to prepare for a clinical trial. In 2012, the research team received ethics approval for the clinical trial from the Health Research Ethics Board at the University of Alberta. The team has also set up all of the equipment that will allow us to follow the progress of participants in the clinical trial. The equipment was funded by a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

However, before the clinical trial can take place, we need approval from Health Canada. We are working hard to put together all of the information that Health Canada needs to make a decision about the safety of participants in the trial. This is called a clinical trial application and we hope to have it ready in early 2013.