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Centre de recherche
Tuesday, June 15 2021
Press release

From the laboratory to the patient

The Collaborative Unit for Translational Research: a unique patient-focussed partnership between the NRC and CHU Sainte-Justine

Montreal, June 15, 2021 — The COVID-19 pandemic has put many of society’s activities on pause, but that hasn’t stopped scientists from mobilizing, rethinking and reinventing ways of doing research. This was the same case for the Collaborative Unit for Translational Research (CUTR), a partnership between the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre (CHUSJ-RC).

Researchers and collaborators from both institutions took advantage of the past months and their unique circumstances to improve their ways of working together on ambitious projects, including the establishment of a joint laboratory space located at the CHUSJ-RC, inaugurated on June 3 with the deployment of cutting-edge technological platforms.

Combining expertise to target multiple diseases

Immuno-oncology, neonatology, rare diseases... A portfolio of 15 innovative projects is already underway, 11 of which are co-funded by the two institutions and four of which have obtained external funding. These projects go to the heart of our understanding of disease, combining the strengths of the NRC and the CHUSJ-RC with the aim of developing precision medicine for the health of mothers and children. The focus is to nurture innovation in science and health and push the limits of what cutting-edge modern technology can offer patients.

The CUTR brings together the expertise and research capabilities of both institutions, creating synergies that make it possible to develop advanced prevention, diagnosis and intervention technologies and promote their transfer to patient care. NRC laboratories within the CHUSJ-RC are an important vehicle for this joint effort, as they allow the integration of personnel, expertise and shared technological platforms.

“Our collaborative unit will enable the deployment of a structure that supports innovation and fosters scientific excellence. It contributes to the growth of our research capabilities and confirms our world leadership in the field of mother-child research, said Dr. Jacques L. Michaud, Director of Research at CHU Sainte-Justine. We are extremely happy with this partnership and its future benefits. ”

>> View this collaboration’s flagship projects

Endless possibilities

The coming months and years will be an opportunity to further develop and pursue the infinite possibilities that this partnership opens up for the growth research that is focussed on healing.

The CUTR in a few figures:

  • 15 ongoing projects
  • Five areas of research:
    • Immuno-oncology
    • Perinatology
    • Rare diseases
    • Micro- and nanodevices
    • Therapeutic products and diseases
  • 23 research teams
  • $1.35 million in investments


Some of the flagship projects of this collaboration include:

Facing future pandemics
The current pandemic highlights the importance of being prepared to respond rapidly to new pathogens or emerging mutations of known pathogens. This preparation requires a deep understanding of the targets recognized by the human immune system. The creation of a state-of-the-art microfluidic platform to automate the discovery and characterization of these targets will help guide and accelerate the development of new vaccines to ensure long-term community protection.
New innovative cancer immunotherapy
Major advances in immunotherapy have been made in the past decade, including the development of cellular immunotherapy based on the recognition of a certain kind of protein, namely chimeric antigen receptors (CAR). Although this approach has proven to be effective against leukemia, it is of limited efficiency for the treatment of solid tumours. The CHUSJ-RC and the NRC will combine their expertise to develop and deploy an innovative strategy to produce more effective CAR cells from NK (natural killer) cells, which are derived from stem cells and known for their ability to kill cancer cells. These advances will accelerate the development of innovative cell-based therapies for the treatment of a wide range of cancers.
Spheroids to improve tumour treatments
By growing three-dimensional cancer cells—spheroids—in a Petri dish, a tumour’s natural environment and behaviour can be replicated. Using state-of-the-art fluorescence microscopy technology, we can better visualize the effect of the microenvironment, enabling the discovery of new, less toxic and more effective drugs.
Preventing premature births
Premature births are a major medical challenge due to their considerable short-, medium- and long-term impacts on the health of children. A large portion of these premature births are due to inflammation of the placenta associated with undiagnosed infections. Although this condition can be effectively managed, no diagnostic test has been developed yet. The NRC and CHUSJ-RC are joining forces to transfer and adapt a test, the result of years of research, to the needs of clinicians and their patients. The ultimate goal is to treat inflammation and thus reduce the number of premature births.
Fighting against rare diseases
A rare disease affecting both the heart rate and the peristaltic movements of the intestine, called “chronic atrial and intestinal dysrhythmia” (CAID), was recently discovered at the CHUSJ-RC. This disease is a severe syndrome caused by a rare genetic mutation, the majority of known cases of which are located in Quebec. By combining the CHUSJ-RC’s unparalleled clinical expertise in pediatric cardiology with the NRC’s cutting-edge molecular technologies, it will be possible to study the underlying biological mechanisms and genes responsible for this syndrome in order to identify potential treatment pathways for patients.


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About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre is a flagship institution in mother-child research affiliated with the Université de Montréal. Focussed on the discovery of innovative prevention methods, less intrusive and faster treatments and promising avenues of personalized medicine, it brings together more than 210 researchers, including over 110 clinical researchers, as well as 450 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The centre is an integral part of Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine, the largest mother-child centre in Canada. 

CHU Sainte-Justine

Maude Hoffmann
Communications, CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

For information: 

Florence Meney
Senior Advisor – Media Relations
CHU Sainte-Justine

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