Two U of T researchers, alumnus honoured with Manning Innovation Awards

Monday, October 29, 2018
Dan Drucker
Daniel Drucker, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, will receive the Manning Awards Foundation's Principal Award, which comes with $100,000, for his discovery and development of glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP-2) for short bowel syndrome

Two University of Toronto researchers and one alumnus will be awarded prestigious Innovation Awards in Toronto Wednesday night by the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation for their breakthrough innovations that are also commercially viable.

Daniel Drucker, a professor in the department of medicine, will receive the Principal Award, which comes with $100,000, for his discovery and development of glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP-2) for short bowel syndrome. 

Kamran Khan, an associate professor in the department of medicine and cross-appointed to the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and alumnus Morgan Wyatt both will receive a $10,000 Innovation Award. Khan is being recognized for developing a web-based tool to track the spread of infectious disease, while Wyatt has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by creating a company to market a paper-based compost bin for organic waste.

“The University of Toronto is proud of its winners of the Innovation Awards,” says Vivek Goel, U of T's vice-president of research and innovation. “To receive these awards, you need to have developed successful innovations with proven impact. These researchers are making a difference in Canada and the world.”

For almost four decades, the Ernest C. Manning Awards have recognized Canadians for developing marketable innovations. In all, the foundation will be giving out four awards Wednesday night. "In celebrating these outstanding innovators, and sharing their remarkable accomplishments, we are declaring we are well on our way to becoming a nation of innovators," says Jennifer Diakiw, president of the Ernest C. Manning Awards.

The award winners also gave TED-like talks Tuesday at the 2018 Manning Innovation Symposium and Pitch Competition, hosted by ONRamp at U of T Entrepreneurship.

Drucker, from the department of laboratory medicine and pathobiology, says the Principal Award “is a nice recognition of the GLP-2 story. I was nominated four years ago, but there wasn’t as much evidence of our drug’s impact in the marketplace then. So it’s nice to meet this award’s standards for commercial success now.”

In 1995 Drucker discovered the GLP-2 protein has a powerfully restorative effect on the intestines of small animals. A drug based on that discovery, called teduglutide, became available for human use in 2012, and it hit the Canadian market in 2015 under the name Revestive.

“It’s really the only approved chronic therapy for short bowel syndrome,” says Drucker, who is also a senior scientist at Sinai Health System’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. “Health-care providers are becoming more comfortable with it, but what’s really cool is that some patients who respond well to it are able to come off intravenous feeding completely.”

Patients with short bowel syndrome typically have had a portion of their intestine removed, often for treatment of Crohn’s disease, cancer or other conditions, and they can require intravenous nutrition daily or several times a week. This nutrition regimen limits their ability to travel, socialize and work. But up to 20 per cent of people who take the new drug require no intravenous nutrition, and many others see reductions in the number of regular intravenous sessions they need.

The treatment works by stimulating regrowth of the bowel lining and enhancing the absorption of nutrients – actions that Drucker says seem tailor-made for short bowel syndrome but which were entirely the result of curiosity-driven research.

“This was a basic science discovery,” he says. “No one planned it, there was no consortium involved. We stumbled on a discovery that led to an ‘aha’ moment, and that’s had a big impact later on.”