Important discovery by Université de Sherbrooke researchers opens door to innovations in cancer treatment
$2.5 million to launch Télogène, a new biotech business
Sherbrooke, le 6 avril 2000 – Sofinov, a subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, T2C2/Bio and the Société Innovatech du sud du Québec are investing $2.5 million in Télogène, a new business in the biotechnology sector founded by professors Benoît Chabot and Raymund Wellinger of the Université de Sherbrooke faculty of medicine.
Télogène is the result of major discoveries by the professors' research teams on a section of the human chromosome called the telomer, which plays a central role in the division, multiplication and death of the cells in the human body. The researchers have succeeded in identifying a protein (hnRNP-A1) that directly influences the structure of telomer. This discovery may allow control over the functioning of telomer, and therefore allowing us to cause the disappearance of cancerous cells or to cancel the effects of aging on a cellular level.
The investment, equally divided among the three companies, follows seed money provided by Innovatech and T2C2/Bio, will allow Télogène to actively pursue research and development, to refine and market therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer, the aging of cells and other conditions that affect the blood cells. To accomplish its mission, the company will be setting up laboratory facilities at the Institut de pharmacologie de Sherbrooke.
The director of investments for Innovatech, Jean-Jacques Caron, is very happy to see the launch of Télogène, and congratulated all the partners involved in the project. "We had to develop a business plan to meet the needs of the researchers, the Université de Sherbrooke and those of the investors," Mr. Caron explained. "With everyone's help and the strong common will to succeed, Télogène is now reality." Mr. Caron also explained that one of the major priorities for Innovatech is to create a biotech industry in the area. "The Université de Sherbrooke, Sofinov and T2C2 are very important players in the development of technology in our region. The biotech industry creates high-skill jobs and generates major economic benefits. The Sherbrooke region is emerging in this sector and we have all the tools needed to accelerate its growth. The Télogène project is a good example." Télogène is the second business in the biotech sector to work at the Institut de pharmacologie de Sherbrooke with the financial backing of Innovatech. The other is Neokimia.
Concerning the research done by Télogène in the fight against cancer, professor Chabot described the important discoveries made about telomer, a protective portion of the chromosomes located at their extremities. "In the normal life of a cell, each time it divides it loses part of the telomer and the complete erosion of this structure causes the death of the cell," he explained. "However, cancerous cells have learned to stabilize their telomer and prevent their erosion -- a phenomenon common to ALL forms of cancer, without exception. Our goal is to identify the components involved in the maintaining of telomer in sick cells. This will allow us to intervene and kill cancerous cells. We can also foresee applications related to cellular aging, because telomers are also associated with this phenomenon."
Mr. Chabot thanked the Université de Sherbrooke for its determining role in the creation of Télogène, and thanked the new business's financial partners -- Sofinov, T2C2/Bio and Innovatech.
Given the current context where governments and taxpayers increasingly demand that universities prove their social worth, Université de Sherbrooke rector Pierre Reid pointed out that the launch of Télogène shows once more that a discovery made in a university that is neither the biggest nor the most pretentious of Québec universities can have a major economic impact on our society and a social impact for the whole planet. "The discoveries of professors Chabot and Wellinger demonstrate once again that the real world-class research cannot be measured by the size of an institution's budgets but on how the researchers perform," declared the rector.
T2C2 is composed of two limited partners: T2C2/Bio and T2C2/Info. They specialize in the health sciences sector, which includes biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, and in information technologies, which include multimedia, software, electronics and telecommunications. The two companies have assets totalling $62.5 million.
A member of the national and international network of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec -- the biggest investor in Canadian businesses -- Sofinov offers strategic financing to innovative technology businesses that show good potential for growth and profit and whose leading-edge* position augers well for the future. The company also develops partnerships with venture capital funds in Canada, the United States and Europe. Since it was created in 1995, Sofinov has built a portfolio of 134 investments valued at $1.1 billion, in companies in a variety of sectors, such as biotechnology and health, industrial and information technology. Together, the subsidiaries of the Caisse that specialize in private business investments have a portfolio worth $12 billion.
The Société Innovatech du sud du Québec is a high-tech venture capital firm focused on the pre start-up, start-up and development phases of businesses with a high potential for growth and are becoming key players in their market. This corporation owned by the Québec government has funds of $50 million.
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Source and Information :
Société Innovatech du sud du Québec
Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
(514) 842-3261 ext. 3006