Research to establish a new therapeutic strategy for HIV and develop a predictive molecular test to determine skin cancer outcomes

MONTRÉAL, November 23, 2011 – Two research projects will be funded as part of the third competition of the Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund. The initiatives aim to establish a new therapeutic strategy for HIV and develop a molecular test to predict skin cancer outcomes. These innovative projects mobilize multidisciplinary teams of eminent researchers in Québec’s leading institutions. Created in March 2008, the Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund aims to support human health research projects in Québec.

Selected by the scientific evaluation committee of the Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund, which is made up of world-renowned experts, the projects will receive funding over three years in the amounts of $597 880 and $570 139, respectively. The research project entitled Impact des inhibiteurs intracellulaires du DCIR dans la pathogenèse de l’infection au VIH-1 [Effects of intracellular inhibitors of DCIR in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection] is led by Caroline Gilbert, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Microbiology-Infectiology and Immunology at Université Laval and researcher at the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec. Dr. Denis Sasseville, dermatologist and researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, will lead the project entitled Développement d’un nouveau test moléculaire basé sur la technologie d’analyse de l’ADN par annelage, sélection, extension et épissage (DASL) pour la prédiction de l’issue de la maladie chez les patients porteurs de lymphomes cutanés à cellules T [Development of a new molecular test based on DNA annealing, selection and ligation technology to predict illness outcomes in patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma].

“These two major projects are excellent examples of research with high technology transfer and marketing potential. Through our very successful partnership with Pfizer, seven important projects have been funded as part of three Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund competitions,” declared Rémi Quirion, Québec’s chief scientist and chairman of the board of directors of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé.

“I would like to congratulate the winning researchers on their projects and entrepreneurship. This initiative is an excellent illustration of the ways in which the partnership between Pfizer and the FRQS supports research projects that could lead to promising new drugs,” affirmed Paul Lévesque, president of Pfizer Canada. “To remain competitive at the international level, we must be perceived as a centre of excellence. This program helps bring together stakeholders in the life sciences sector.”

The fourth and last Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund competition is currently underway, and the results will be announced in April 2012.

A new therapeutic strategy for HIV

Despite research and drug development progress, there is still no way of eradicating HIV-1 infection. Researcher Caroline Gilbert has contributed to studies showing that dendritic cells play a role in the pathogenesis of the infection in terms of virus transmission and immune response development. Found in mucous membranes, they are the first cells able to capture HIV through receptors including DCIR (dendritic cell immunoreceptor). None of the drugs currently available are known to have positive effects on the quality of the immune responses or the interaction of the virus and dendritic cells. Driven by its recent discoveries, the four-member research team (Jean Legault and André Pichette at UQAC and Petronela Ancuta at the CHUM) is seeking to set out a new therapeutic strategy for HIV that blocks DCIR receptors to limit the transmission of the virus by dendritic cells. In fact, the interest of DCIR is twofold, since TCD4 lymphocytes also express the receptor following infection. DCIR inhibitors could therefore act on two cell types that play active roles in virus transmission.

A molecular test to predict skin cancer outcomes

Cutaneous T cell lymphomas constitute a group of skin cancers characterized by the accumulation of malignant T cells in the skin. In most cases, the prognosis is good for patients diagnosed when the disease is in its early stages and benign. However, the disease will progress and eventually lead to death in 15 to 20% of cases. Currently, there is no clinical criterion to determine which patients will receive a bad prognosis. The team led by Dr. Sasseville will work to develop a molecular test based on gene expression to identify these patients. The test will make it possible to detect and provide early treatment for patients at high risk of progression and spare low-risk patients the costly and toxic treatments and unnecessary tests. Researchers Jimmy Alain (CHUQ), Fatemeh Jafarian (MUHC), Elham Rahme (MUHC) and Nathalie Provost (CHUM) make up the research team.

About the Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund

Created in 2008 as part of the Quebec government’s research and innovation strategy, the Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund is aimed at stimulating public-sector research in human health in Quebec and acting as a catalyst for the commercialization of innovative projects. Projects submitted must not only address major human health problems, but also be large-scale initiatives. In addition, they must aim for concrete results that can lead to the commercialization of new therapeutic drugs, new know-how or new devices or technologies within three to five years.

About the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS)

The mission of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, which reports to the Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade, is to support health research to foster the wellness of Quebec’s population. Its mandate is to promote and financially support this research, to share knowledge and train researchers, as well as to establish partnerships necessary for the development of Quebec’s research and innovation system and advance the research internationally. The FRQS supports the activities of 11 groups, 19 centres and 16 thematic research networks. For more information, visit

About Pfizer Canada Inc.

Pfizer Canada is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc., the world’s leading pharmaceutical company. Pfizer discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines for humans and animals. Pfizer Canada is a leader in Canadian healthcare research, investing more than $137 million in research and development activities, contributions and partnerships in 2008. The company has invested more than $1 billion in R&D since 2000. Pfizer Canada’s commitment to helping Canadians live happier, healthier and longer lives extends beyond medication. To learn more about Pfizer Canada’s More than Medication philosophy and programs, visit

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Michelle Dubuc


Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé

Telephone : 514-873-2114, Ext. 235
Andrea Gilpin



Telephone : 514 693-4619