Cutting-Edge Gene Therapy Research: Professor Ubaka Ogbogu Secures $24 Million NFRF Transformation Grant

Professor Ubaka Ogbogu, a leading bioethics and law expert at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, has been awarded a $538,687.50 grant as the lead for a gene therapy research project that has received a $24 million New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) Transformation Grant. The project, titled “A pipeline approach to the rational design of gene therapy approaches to treat neurodegenerative diseases,” is focused on developing novel therapies for incurable neurological diseases through an approach known as neuronal reprogramming.

The project brings together investigators from various fields, including computational science, life sciences, physical sciences, biomedical engineering, clinical medicine, bioethics and science policy, health policy, knowledge translation, and patient/community engagement research. The team is led by Carol Schuurmans, professor and Dixon Family Chair in Ophthalmology Research and senior scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto.

The goal of the project is to explore ways to create next-generation treatments for various brain diseases that involve neuronal death or failure, including stroke, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s, by using gene therapy to create new neurons. If successful, the research would break new ground and transform the clinical management of these diseases.

As the law and bioethics lead on the six-year project, Professor Ogbogu’s role will be to explore ethical, legal, and regulatory matters that will impact and shape the development of this therapy. This includes examining regulatory frameworks for clinical translation and marketing authorization, designing the therapy and associated technologies for inclusive, global use and access, and considering the role of intellectual property in the translation and technology deployment process.

Professor Ogbogu’s successful grant application was the result of a highly competitive process that involved four separate stages and a presentation before a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral jury of reviewers. Only six grants were selected nationwide, making this a significant achievement for both the professor and the University of Alberta.

In addition to funding for the project itself, the grant will also support the recruitment of post-doctoral fellows and research assistants to work on the project. Professor Ogbogu expressed his excitement for the team and his eagerness to break new ground together as they seek to address scientific, regulatory, ethical, and public policy challenges surrounding the development of novel therapies to address neurological disorders.


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