Professor Shirley X.Y. Wu Receives Connaught Innovation Award

Professor Shirley X.Y. Wu is among nine University of Toronto researchers to receive a Connaught Innovation Award in 2017.

Professor Wu received this funding for her project to develop “Intelligent nanoparticle theranostics for CNS diseases.”

Diseases in the central nervous system, including neurodegenerative diseases, affect millions of Canadians and collectively represent the most expensive single disease category to the healthcare system. Alzheimer's disease is now the most expensive disease in North America, with estimated annual costs of more than $236 billion. In 2013, Alzheimer’s was the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death in Americans over 65. In the absence of new effective disease-modifying treatments, these numbers are expected to double within another generation. Unfortunately, despite tremendous efforts, there is no curative treatment currently for these diseases. 

One of the significant impediments to developing a cure for Alzheimer’s is the inability of therapeutic agents to penetrate the blood-brain barrier efficiently. Diagnosing the disease at an early stage is similarly problematic. Professor Wu’s Advanced Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery Laboratory will tackle these two major problems using a leading-edge nanotechnology that is able to deliver a variety of therapeutic and imaging agents across the blood-brain barrier. This award provides Professor Wu the funds to further develop new nanoparticle formulations for detecting early onset of Alzheimer’s disease by non-invasive imaging and intervening disease progression at early stage. Dr. Wu will work with Associate Professor Jeffrey Henderson of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, specialized in neurotoxicity and programmed cell death, and Professor Paul Fraser of the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, specialized in Alzheimer’s diseases. The proof-of-principle data obtained in this project through the support of the Connaught Innovation Award will help further engagement with commercialization partners.  

The Connaught Fund is the University of Toronto’s premier internal funding program. Founded in 1972, the Connaught Fund was created from the sale of Connaught Laboratories, which first mass-produced insulin, the Nobel award-winning discovery of U of T professors Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and J.J.R. Macleod. Over the past 45 years, the University has awarded approximately $130 million to U of T researchers for work that will have a transformative impact. The Connaught Innovation Awards provide researchers with valuable funds to aid in technology development, commercialization, and knowledge transfer.