Volume 35 Number 8 Edmonton, Canada December 5, 1997


New kid on the block: AltaRex Corporation

High-tech research company sets up shop in U of A labs and offices

Folio Staff

Dr. Antoine Noujaim

AltaRex Corporation has officially opened its laboratories and corporate offices on the U of A campus. An Alberta-based biopharmaceutical company, AltaRex focuses on developing products for the diagnosis and treatment of cancers.

Minister of Advanced Education and Career Development Clint Dunford joined AltaRex's Dr. Antoine Noujaim, president and CEO, Dr. Rod Fraser and Mayor Bill Smith to formally welcome staff and open the newly-renovated laboratories in the Dentistry/Pharmacy Building Dec. 4.

"This is a model of things to come," says Noujaim. "We are leading the pack in what I believe is the great synergy between innovation and technology." The U of A's president wants to see more of this synergy. "Our goal is to reinvigorate, reconnect and significantly enhance our partnership with our broader community in the public and private sectors," says Fraser.

Noujaim says AltaRex chose to locate on the university campus for strategic and practical reasons. "This company thrives on ideas and innovation. Where can you do that best? This is a chance for our scientists to interact with the academic community." In addition, the company can lease or rent sophisticated lab equipment on campus. "We can conserve dollars to fund people instead." And its presence, says Noujaim, serves to increase awareness of research projects on and off campus.

U of A students also stand to benefit. "We train a number of undergraduate and graduate students and we fund several research programs. A summer student may eventually end up working for AltaRex as we expand in the future," says Noujaim. It's a first-hand look at high-technology research, says the professor emeritus.

Dr. Dick Moskalyk, dean of pharmacy, says the faculty gains access to research opportunities with AltaRex scientists while the company can take advantage of the university library and faculty expertise in allied disciplines.

AltaRex's lead therapeutic cancer product is called Ovarex. It's a vaccine for advanced ovarian cancer, currently in phase two and three clinical trials in Canada, Europe and the United States. Ovarex is not a preventative vaccine. It stimulates the immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells and prolong the lives of patients. AltaRex is also developing products to treat breast, prostate and gastrointestinal cancers. The company received a National Research Council/ASTech Innovation in Industrial Research award this year for its research in prostate cancer. AltaRex is a publicly-traded company and employs 50 people.

"We've received support, not only from university administrators, but also from janitors to the president. It's very satisfying. People are going out of their way to make this happen," says Noujaim.

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