Our process for developing new cancer drugs is long and difficult. First, new compounds must be designed to perform specific functions at the molecular level, based on what we've learned in earlier iterations. Then, these compounds need to be carefully synthesized, purified, and characterized by highly trained chemists. Next, the compounds are painstakingly screened for potency against cultured lines of human cancer cells. The very best performing compounds enter small animal trials, and eventually proceed to more rigorous animal studies as well as sophisticated toxicology studies if they continue to show promise. Only compounds that show exceptional potency and safety in all of these experiments will be considered for human studies. At this point the drug candidates must be prepared on a much larger scale in a good manufacturing practices facility, which is very costly. Significant funding is required to take a compound to Phase I human trials, and this cost exceeds what is available through academic grants. Industrial partners and venture capital become very important for getting a potential drug to the point of human studies. In conjunction with an industrial partner, we have one candidate drug that is scheduled to enter Phase I human clinical trials for bladder cancer.
For the past five years or so, support for scientific R&D has been dwindling in Canada. Funding agencies have been cut to the bone; pots of research money have become smaller and scarce. Even promising health research such as our PDT agents is difficult to sustain.