Brian Wilhelm and partners received vver $2 million for pediatric leukemia research project

Published on November 21, 2022

An unprecedented partnership bringing together the Conseil québécois sur la découverte du médicament (CQDM), the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the Cole Foundation, the Oncopole, philanthropists and Quebec companies has awarded $8,485,132 to four teams Montreal-based for their research projects on pediatric cancers. Among them is the team of Brian Wilhelm, director of the High Throughput Genomics Research Unit at IRIC and Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal.

The project, “Use of nanotechnology to detect acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL), and development of new targeted therapies,” has received a grant of $2,301,036 for three years. Its objective is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric leukemia, which is among the childhood cancers that have retained the worst prognosis over the years.

” Our work will focus on characterizing new anti-leukemia compounds that we have recently discovered, so that they can eventually be tested in clinical trials”, explains Brian Wilhelm. In parallel, he will collaborate with Delphine Bouilly, Director of the Design and Application of Electronic Nanobiosensors Research Unit at IRIC and Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the Université de Montréal, on the development of a nanoscale electronic biosensor to detect and monitor the evolution of leukemia.


Designing more sensitive instruments that can be used directly in the healthcare setting

“This is where nanotechnology, with its remarkable sensitivity at the molecular level, opens up new avenues,” says Delphine Bouilly. “The nanosensors we are developing combine extremely sensitive nanomaterials and specific antibody derivatives; they are designed to detect targeted biomarkers directly, without requiring amplification or molecular labeling steps which are costly in terms of time, equipment and personnel”, adds the researcher. These sensitive, portable and easy-to-use nanosensors therefore have the potential to enable faster, simpler and more economical diagnostics.


A diverse and experienced team

In addition to Delphine Bouilly’s laboratory, the teams of Dr. Sonia Cellot from CHU Sainte-Justine and Frédéric Barabé from Université Laval will contribute to the project. The four laboratories have been working together for several years. “Our complementary expertise allows us to work together to solve complex problems that would otherwise go unsolved,” says Brian Wilhelm.

Various partners will also have their role to play in the realization of the project. MédiMabs, a commercial partner based in Montreal, specializes in the manufacture of antibodies and will be involved in the development of electronic detection systems at the nanometric scale. Cyclenium Pharma is a second partner which, by sharing its collection of compounds, could contribute to the discovery of anti-leukemia molecules working in synergy with those currently in development at IRIC’s Drug Discovery Unit, supported by IRICoR. As cancers are multiple, it is important to develop treatments that are equally multiple.