University Department: Professor of Paediatrics, University of Toronto
Through the cellular therapy laboratory and related cord blood banking I have been active in the field of developmental cell therapeutics. I have worked on early stage cellular therapy trials (T cell depletion and CD34 enrichment) and the development of cord blood as a cell therapy alternative (established 2 major cord blood banks, development of cord blood banking standards and regulation, and the study of cord blood as a biologic project). When I moved to Manitoba I established a research laboratory in the Regenerative Medicine department and built the Manitoba Centre for Advanced Cell and Tissue Therapy. My research focus has been on immune regulatory cells – myeloid derived suppressor cells and mesenchymal stem/stromal cells. The laboratory supports two major Canadian cooperative cell therapy trials – one evaluating mesenchymal cells for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MESCAMS trial) and the other evaluation a novel phototherapeutic approach to depleting alloractive T cells and enriching for T reg cells as a tool to treat steroid refractory GVHD (CARE trial of the CNTRP). Both have required development of GMP compliant cell manufacturing. The laboratory is working on the development of a relevant and reliable potency assay for mesenchymal stem cells utilizing a proteomic evaluation of resting and licensed MSC – finding that a combination of surface and intracellular changes correlates with suppressive function. The second major focus is on myeloid derived suppressor cells which are a population of immature myeloid cells with profound suppressive functions – able to shut down T, B and dendritic cell function. We have found that these cells are enriched in allogeneic stem/progenitor cell grafts and recover early post-transplant – making them excellent candidates for modulators of the immune environment post-transplant – both to prevent GVHD and enhance graft vs. leukemia/tumor activity.