On October 4, the Institute for Research Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal inaugurated its medicinal chemistry facility. Situated on the fourth floor of the Marcelle-Coutu Pavilion where IRIC is housed, the facility brings together 18 chemists and 5 biologists who are closely collaborating in the discovery of new therapies against cancer.

A crucial stage of drug discovery, medicinal chemistry enables the design of new biologically active molecules and the optimization of their therapeutic properties. These new molecules can then serve as pharmacological tools to dissect the biological processes at the origin of diseases such as cancer, and thereby offer candidate molecules for the development of new drugs in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry. “This inauguration marks a very important step in IRIC’s history. To fulfill our mission of developing new, more effective therapies against cancer, it is crucial to work with a team of chemists dedicated entirely to that activity,” explains Dr. Guy Sauvageau, IRIC Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, “I am confident that the work undertaken with the help of the medicinal chemistry facility will allow us to consolidate our research efforts and will foster the development of innovative anticancer therapeutics.” The infrastructure will encourage the establishment of important partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, a major partnership has already been concluded with the BioPharma leader Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY). Joel Barrish, Vice-President – Medicinal Chemistry at Bristol-Myers Squibb, underscored the importance for the private and academic sectors to collaborate for successful drug discovery and development: “Drug discovery is a multidisciplinary science that requires the seamless integration of many disparate fields across chemistry, biology and medicine – the sum truly is greater than the individual parts. While there are now a few other academic drug discovery labs that have emerged, IRIC was one of the first and it is certainly one of the leaders. It has a foundation of strong scientific teams in multiple areas of chemistry and biology with significant drug discovery experience. IRIC’s drug discovery unit has become a leader by combining ground-breaking basic science that attempts to unravel the fundamental causes of disease with an innovative organizational structure that enhances the opportunity to identify a drug candidate. We saw an opportunity to leverage these strengths at IRIC.”The project was made possible with an $8.7M investment grant from the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, an initiative of the Ministère du Développement Économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation and Industry Canada to renew Canada’s college and university infrastructure.

From the left: Gérard Boismenu, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the Université de Montréal and member of IRIC's board of directors; Anne Marinier, Associate investigator and Manager of IRIC's medicinal chemistry facility; Robert Tessier, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and member of IRIC's board of directors; Michel Bouvier, IRICoR Chief executive officer and IRIC Principal Investigator; Luc Castonguay, Director at the MDEIE; Guy Sauvageau, IRIC Chief executive officer and Scientific director; Guy Breton, Université de Montréal Rector, in IRIC's new medicinal chemistry facility.

About the Knowledge Infrastructure Program
The agreement signed by the Canadian and Québec governments is part of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, a $2 billion dollar, two-year initiative that aims to enhance infrastructure in colleges and universities and stimulate the economy. The projects include new buildings and active maintenance, renovation, repairs, and maintenance.

For more information on the Knowledge Infrastructure Program visit

To follow the progress of the Québec Infrastructure Program, visit

Carolyne Lord
IRIC | Université de Montréal