The SickKids Innovation Showcase is an annual event that celebrates the most advanced health and life sciences ideas from the labs of SickKids researchers. Attendees get unparalleled access to emerging innovative health technologies with high potential for market disruption and impact.

On May 18, our Industry Partnerships & Commercialization office welcomed close to 200 guests to the first in-person annual event. Held in the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, attendees saw six groups of SickKids researchers present their innovative therapeutic technologies to a panel of health and life sciences investors. Each presenter was tasked with answering probing questions from our panelists, demonstrating the utility and market potential of their innovations. Attendees also took part in a lively networking reception following the event to connect with the health and innovation community in attendance, and to further discuss advancing these promising therapeutics.

From novel therapies to fight bacterial diseases to ground-breaking treatment options that target aggressive human cancers, presentations at this year’s Innovation Showcase serve as a strong reminder of SickKids’ trailblazing efforts in paediatric health care. The Industry Partnerships & Commercialization office is proud to play a role in the advancement of these innovations, and grateful for the opportunity to host an event that puts them on display.

Thank you to all presenters, panelists, sponsors and attendees for making the 2023 SickKids Innovation Showcase a success! We’re looking forward to welcoming you back in spring 2024.


Jacki Jenuth, PhDPartner
Juliana Muñoz Escobar, PhDAssociate
Katie Spielberg, PhDAssociate
Kuldeep Singh Neote, PhDEntrepreneur-in-Residence

Innovative Health Technologies

A sneak peek of each of our highlighted technologies. Registered attendees will also receive our Showcase Pitch Book – a non-confidential brief for each of these technologies.

Martin Post, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist, Translational Medicine
Professor, Departments of Paediatrics, Physiology, and Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, University of Toronto

Michael Litvack, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Research Associate, Translational Medicine

Sheena Bouch, Ph.D.

Research Associate, Translational Medicine

Patients with lung cancer have some of the worst prognosis of all cancers and are in need of more effective therapeutic treatments. The Post lab at The Hospital for Sick Children has harnessed the power of the lung innate immune system by developing a method for the in vitro differentiation of human stem cells into human Alveolar-Like Macrophages (ALMs). These ALMs have been engineered to limit the propagation of the “don’t eat me” signal commonly expressed by tumour cells, allowing for phagocytosis of the tumour cells. Furthermore, they can be targeted to tumour cells while remaining sequestered from the rest of the body. This could prevent many of the off-target effects observed with systemic immunomodulatory antibody and T-cell directed therapies. The Post lab has also successfully delivered their ALM-based therapy through various pulmonary administration methods in pre-clinical models. These uniquely engineered ALMs represent a novel cell therapy platform that could revolutionize the way lung cancer and other lung diseases are treated.

Xi Huang, PhD

Senior Scientist, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology
Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics

Glioblastoma (GBM), which accounts for 60% of adult brain tumours, is the most common and aggressive brain cancer with a median survival of 15 months. The standard of care combines surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy using the DNA alkylating agent temozolomide (TMZ). More than half of GBM patients develop TMZ resistance. Dr. Xi Huang (The Hospital for Sick Children) and his lab recently discovered a novel ion channel complex expressed only in GBM cells that promotes tumour growth. They used multiple mouse orthotopic xenograft models derived from i) patient-derived TMZ-sensitive cells, and ii) patient-derived TMZ-resistant cells, and targeted the ion channel complex with a novel designer peptide administered through cannula mediated delivery. Remarkably, the designer peptide demonstrated robust killing of both types of GBM cells and extended the survival of GBM-bearing mice, thereby addressing a tremendous unmet clinical need. This novel peptide, which acts through a unique and unprecedented mechanism of action, provides an effective method which may be translated into a new drug to treat GBM at a global scale.

Nicola Jones, M.D., FRCPC, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist, Cell Biology
Staff Physician, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Professor, Departments of Paediatrics and Physiology, University of Toronto

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infects the stomach of half of the world’s population. It is recognized by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen that causes gastric cancer – the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Current treatment for H. pylori fails to reach the recommended eradication rates due to increasing antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, no current therapy targets the pool of bacteria that produce the virulence factor vacuolating cytotoxin (VacA), which live inside gastric cells and serve as a reservoir for persistent infections and gastric cancer. Dr. Nicola Jones (The Hospital for Sick Children) and her research team discovered that VacA inhibits a protein called TRPML1 to protect the bacteria from antibiotic treatment, leading to infection recrudescence after therapy. The Jones lab has identified an orally available novel gut-restricted small molecule that can reverse this phenomenon by activating TRPML1. They have successfully demonstrated that TRPML1 activation can eradicate intracellular H. pylori in infected cells and have also shown their novel compound can control the progression of infection in vivo. With appropriate support from a development partner, this promising gut-restricted compound is only 12 months from an IND submission.

Roman Melnyk, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist, Molecular Medicine
Co-Director, SPARC Drug Discovery Facility
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is the leading cause of hospital acquired diarrhea and antibiotic associated colitis, affecting 500,000 people annually and incurring $5B USD of inpatient hospitalization costs. Once colonized in the gut, C. difficile releases a highly potent toxin called TcdB that destroys the colonic epithelial barrier, leading to watery diarrhea, fever, nausea, and abdominal pain. Studies show neutralizing TcdB alone is sufficient to prevent primary C. difficile infection and recurrence, however, current treatments targeting TcdB are expensive, only moderately effective, and are difficult to administer. Capitalizing the therapeutic potential of the TcdB target, the Melnyk lab (The Hospital for Sick Children) and Dosa lab (University of Minnesota), synthesized novel gut-restricted bile acid variants to inhibit TcdB and treat C. difficile infection. Initial testing of a promising candidate molecule revealed it is a highly potent inhibiter of TcdB in vitro, is non-toxic to human cells and prevents disease recurrence in in vivo mouse models. Gut-restricted bile acids are promising next-generation therapies for treating C. difficile infection.

Jason T. Maynes, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
Curtis Joseph and Harold Groves Chair in Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
Associate Chief of Perioperative Services
Research Scientist, Molecular Medicine

John Coles, M.D., FRCSC

Cardiovascular Surgeon, Labatt Family Heart Centre
Senior Clinician-Scientist, Translational Medicine
Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto

Heart failure is the single largest contributor to morbidity and mortality in the developed world, affecting 1-2% of the adult population. However, current treatments are limited to targeting symptomatic pathways and do not improve organ function. Evident in most forms of heart failure, cardiac fibrosis accelerates patient mortality but is currently untreatable. Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is a key cardiac scaffolding protein involved in heart development, transduction of mechanical stress between the extracellular matrix and the intracellular cytoskeleton, and induction of cardiomyocyte survival pathways. Research in the Coles and Maynes labs (The Hospital for Sick Children) have identified inhibitors of ILK binding to α-parvin, demonstrating that inhibition of the interaction rescues cardiac function. Their first-in-class drug disrupts a promising new therapeutic target for heart failure and fibrosis patients.

Jennifer Crosbie, Ph.D., C.Psych

Psychologist, Department of Psychiatry
Susan J. Bradley Health Clinician Scientist
Associate Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a childhood onset clinical disorder, with characteristic symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Although hyperactivity tends to decrease with age, inattention and impulsivity continue to be frequent problems throughout adulthood. Cognitive-based video games have been shown to improve the symptoms of not only ADHD, but other neurodevelopment disorders (i.e. autism) in which patients struggle with executive function and emotion regulation. Drs. Jennifer Crosbie and Russell Schachar (The Hospital for Sick Children) have created a video game-based assessment and rehabilitation software. The application, which recently underwent a randomized clinical trial with over 200 patients, aged 6 to 12, involves the embedding of cognitive assessment and rehabilitation tasks within an engaging video game environment. It trains cognitive control and working memory for ADHD patients and other neurodevelopmental disorders with executive function deficits. The digital therapeutics market is valued at approximately 4.2B USD, as interest in harnessing technology to supplement or potentially replace traditional clinical therapy grows. As a form of rehabilitation therapy intelligently disguised as an interactive video game, this technology has strong potential to improve the quality of life of millions of patients worldwide who struggle with neurodevelopmental disorders.


Thank you to our sponsors who have generously supported us in making this event possible.


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