Originally from Scotland, Patrick Gunning completed his B.Sc. (hons) and Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, followed by post-doctoral studies at Yale University. In 2007, Gunning accepted a position as assistant professor with the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) Department of Chemical & Physical Sciences. Today, Gunning is a full professor and a Canada Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, has published close to 100 papers and won over 19 research awards (including recognition as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40). Over the past ten years, he developed a dynamic and diverse medicinal chemistry program targeting protein-protein interactions, a most challenging of targets. He and his team (the Gunning Group) develop inhibitors of proteins that drive the most rare and lethal of human cancers.
Gunning is the director of UTM’s Centre for Medicinal Chemistry (CMC), which develops compounds ready for advanced pre-clinical trials—the last stage in the drug development process before human testing, and one that very few academic labs are equipped to reach. The promise of CMC is to develop a larger pipeline of compounds that will likely result in more and better drugs to fight all forms of cancer as well as other diseases.
In the course of this work, Gunning has founded three companies, including Janpix Inc., an oncology-focused start-up, backed by $22 million in venture capital. Janpix represents CMC’s first breakout success and will further its work on STAT proteins by providing funding to ten researchers in Mississauga to focus on further testing and development. This venture marks the first time a direct STAT drug will go into clinical trials. CMC expects Janpix to be the first of many critical commercialisation projects.
Looking ahead, CMC will have access to IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence (AI) platform. AI has the potential to mine existing scientific literature on a host of potential compounds to identify promising trends, tasks that would otherwise take researchers an extremely long time to perform.
UTM will also construct a new science building, which will have CMC as its core tenant. The new building, seeded through a $7 million philanthropic investment by Mississauga-based Orlando Corp., will help accelerate the pace of drug discovery and allow CMC to realise its full potential. The much-needed infrastructure will elevate UTM’s entire research enterprise and establish CMC as a pillar of Mississauga’s life sciences ecosystem for years to come.