News Release: Newest lupus drug in 60 years discovered in Canada, approved in USA


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Alberta life sciences researcher hopes therapy will become available to Canadians

EDMONTON, AB, March 24, 2021 /CNW/ – People living with lupus will soon have access to a breakthrough treatment discovered by an Albertan life sciences entrepreneur, who is creating a more globally competitive drug commercialization industry in Canada.

Dr. Robert Foster, an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta, discovered voclosporin in the early 1990s after founding a start-up drug company in his Edmonton basement. It would take nearly 30 years, but the drug would earn the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration to treat lupus-related kidney disease. Voclosporin was approved by the FDA earlier this year.

“This is a homegrown Canadian success story. The FDA doesn’t approve Canadian drugs often,” Foster said. ” Voclosporin will improve people’s lives; it’s a breakthrough for people living with lupus.”

Medical treatments for lupus are rare. Volcosporin is only the second treatment to come to market to treat lupus in more than 60 years. It is not yet approved for use in Canada. While Foster understands possible frustration from Canadians unable to access the new lupus therapy, he expressed hope and optimism for the future of Canada’s life sciences sector.

Since developing voclosporin, Foster has become CEO of Hepion Pharmaceuticals – a US company with its research and development headquartered in Edmonton. Hepion is now researching a treatment for fatty liver disease, and has joined forces with Alberta’s leading drug commercialization accelerator – Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API).

“The pandemic has reminded us of how many opportunities we have in Canada, and how the pharmaceutical industry can commercialize more important therapies safer and faster,” Foster added. “Alberta is well-positioned to help Canada compete in the international drug manufacturing industry. API is committed to the kind of innovation drug companies need to be successful.”

Interview with Dr. Foster: