Our involvement with the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network (CBDN) of Centres of Excellence and Cystic Fibrosis Canada fuelled Hancock’s interest in finding practical solutions to the problems of infection and subsequently inflammation. We have been involved in developing three types of anti-infective therapeutics based on his research on cationic host defence (antimicrobial) peptides.
Our early work on cationic antimicrobial peptides formed the basis for a Canadian spin-off company Micrologix. Micrologix (renamed Migenix, then BioWest Therapeutics) subsequently took variants of Bob’s peptides with direct antibacterial activity into clinical trials. Phase III clinical trials indicated efficacy in the clinic in preventing lethal catheter colonization and tunnel infections, a first for such peptides. While the peptide missed its primary target (despite significant efficacy in reducing tunnel infections and catheter colonization), these peptides have shown significant effects in Phase II clinical trials in treating the skin inflammatory disease Rosacea and severe acne after sub-licensing to Cutanea Life Sciences. These peptides are now considered one of the most promising novel technologies in antibiotic therapy, and recently demonstrated clear effectiveness in the clinic. Hancock was also involved in establishing other companies including Syngene (a plant disease company in Victoria), Helix Biomedix (use of peptides in cosmetic and medical treatments) and Vicuron (initial SAB member of this very successful San Francisco-based infectious diseases company). In 2011, Hancock co-founded Inimex Pharmaceuticals, a company that developed an entirely novel therapy based on our research on innate defence regulator (IDR) peptides which were shown to effectively treat infections through selective boosting of innate immunity. Inimex took these peptides through Phase I clinical trials and more recently the peptides were sublicensed to Soligenix which has shown success vs. oral mucosaitis in Phase II clinical trials.
Our novel vaccine adjuvant technology, developed with VIDO, Saskatoon as an offshoot of his immunomodulatory peptide work, was licensed to PREVENT for vaccination against Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Bob licenced out next-generation immunomodulatory (IDR) peptides for animal health to Elanco, the third largest animal Biopharma company in the world. Recently Hancock has formed two new BC virtual companies, ABT Innovations for development of peptides as anti-infective, anti-biofilm, immunomodulatory, adjuvant and anti-inflammatory agents, and Sepset to develop his innovative demonstration of a gene expression signature reflecting endotoxin tolerance that enable diagnosis of sepsis and associated organ failure in the emergency ward. Our major contributions to the companies in which Hancock has been involved has been to develop the underpinning technologies and provide strong scientific input. Bob has also served as an advisory board member or consultant 35 Biotech and Pharma companies. He is vitally interested in developing new (alternative) treatments for infections, which are greatly needed in the face of a burgeoning problem with antibiotic-resistant organisms and a dearth of new antibiotics.
As a result of his strong experiences in Biotechnology, Hancock has utilized his experience to advise many companies and individuals in early stage Biotech, both formally through consultancies and Board positions and informally by mentoring. In 2002, he was a prominent member of the group that founded the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). The CDRD aims to bridge the growing commercialization gap between medical discoveries from academia and the business opportunity required for their development into an actual medicine. It is a unique organization comprising members from all of BC’s academic institutions, with partnership from industry and government. Bob wrote and led a CFI grant proposal of CDRD that was funded for $20 million (including matching) and was one of only two proposals country-wide that achieved a perfect score in review. This provided the initial infrastructure for CDRD and also contributed to construction of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences/CDRD building on campus. The CDRD has grown to become a fully-integrated drug discovery enterprise with 85 talented full-time staff, attracted more than $200 million in funding, initiated more than 100 drug development projects and created several new spin-offs. Bob currently serves on the CDRD management team and as a special strategic advisor.