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Advancing Knowledge and Practice Through Comparative Medicine


The Techna Institute formed Companion Healthcare Corporation [“CHC”] in 2013 with the purpose of the for the study of comparative medicine and adoption of leading practices in diagnostics and therapeutics. CHC is currently developing centres in Canada with collaborations with veterinarians, scientists, healthcare professionals, educational institutions and industry partners.


Comparative Medicine

Comparative medicine is described as a discipline in which the similarities and differences in biology among animal species are studied to enhance the understanding of mechanisms of human and animal disease [1]. Comparative medicine facilitates the translation of basic science knowledge into clinical applications.

The canine genome is completely sequenced and comparing genetic changes and similarities in dogs and humans allows further inside into disease mechanism and provides a powerful tool for discoveries[1] .

Animal Assistance

Animals with naturally occurring disease provide an underutilizes comparative medicine resource. There are many advantages of using animals with spontaneously occurring disease, compared with using animals with experimentally induced disease.

Aiding Advantages

  • Disease pathogenesis is often more similar to that in human beings;
  • Clinical trials may better predict human response and therapeutic safety;
  • Both human beings and animals benefit
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Available Programs

The development of a collaborative program for human and companion animals that services multiple purposes:

  • Deeper understanding of the disease
  • Developing and providing cancer treatment for dogs and cats
  • Faster translation of developed treatment options into the human clinic
  • Commercialization of novel methods and discoveries

Programs will include:


Comparative oncology focuses on similarities and differences of cancer in different species. Of special interest are natural occurring cancers in companion animals (dogs and cats) because their symptoms and pathology is often similar to corresponding cancers in humans. Up to 25 % of dogs develop cancer in their lifetime, often depending on their breed. For example, Golden retrievers are prone to lymphoma, certain terriers to bladder cancer and large breed dogs such as Irish wolfhound and Great Dane are predisposed to osteosarcomas. Breed specific cancers are of interest for research involving the genetic aspects of cancer. Because of the shorter lifespan in dogs, cancer progresses relative faster allowing for studies related to the development of metastases and survival. Additionally, for example, a disease-free period of 18 months in dogs with osteosarcoma or lymphoma corresponds to 7 years in a human osteosarcoma and lymphoma studies. In recent years the incidence of cancer in dogs has increased as they are living longer lives and the animal owners are very interested in new treatment options for their pets[2].


Certain neurological diseases are affecting companion animals in a similar way as humans. Epilepsy affects approximately 1% of humans worldwide and 3% of dogs in general and up to 20% in some breeds. The high prevalence in some dog breeds indicates a genetic component, similar to 40 % of human cases with epilepsy. These similarities in naturally occurring epilepsy allows for comparative studies between dogs and humans to advance understanding etiology and evaluate treatment options.

Aging dogs can develop a significant cognitive decline similar to humans with Alzheimer [3, 4]. Furthermore, similar neuropathological changes including beta-amyloid pathology in the canine brain have been found [5]. Additionally, dogs can suffer from a neurologic degenerative disease similar to Parkinson and degenerative myelopathy similar to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)[6].


Osteoarthritis (OA) affects at least 20% of dogs older than 1 year in the US [7]. The relative high occurrence of OA makes the dog an ideal species for translational research. Additionally, it is possible to perform arthroscopy in the anatomically similar to human joints of larger dogs. Spontaneous osteoarthritis in dogs allows studying for early detection biomarkers in blood and synovial fluid and follow changes with MR images of the joint. Treatments of osteoarthritis in dogs include systemic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and intra-articular injection. Cartilage resurfacing surgeries similar to humans using osteochondral grafts are also performed in dogs [8]. Joint replacements are frequently done in dogs with degenerative hip disease, knee and elbow joint replacements in dogs are in there early stages [9]. In contrast to osteoarthritis rheumatic arthritis is rare in dogs and occurs mainly in very small dog breeds. Other musculoskeletal diseases occurring in humans and dogs are the rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL in humans), stress fractures and degenerative disc disease. Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone caused by repetitive stress in contrast to sudden mechanical stress applied to the bone. It is mainly a problem in human athletes and occurs not only in race horses but also in racing greyhounds[10]. Degenerative disc disease occurs with various prevalence in different dog breeds and has many similarities compared to humans [11].


Approximately 10% of all dogs in the US are affected by heart diseases. Congenital heart diseases are more common in dogs due to selective breeding compared to humans making the dog an ideal model to study the influence of genetic on congenital heart diseases [12, 13]. Common heart diseases in dogs are valvular diseases in small breed dogs and myocardial diseases in large breed dogs [14, 15].


[1] Lindblad-Toh K, Wade CM, Mikkelsen TS, Karlsson EK, Jaffe DB, Kamal M, et al. Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. Nature 2005;438:803-19.
[2] Paoloni M, Khanna C. Translation of new cancer treatments from pet dogs to humans. Nat Rev Cancer 2008;8:147-56.
[3] Head E. A canine model of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Biochim Biophys Acta 2013;1832:1384-9.
[4] Braidy N, Poljak A, Jayasena T, Mansour H, Inestrosa NC, Sachdev PS. Accelerating Alzheimer’s research through ‘natural’ animal models. Current opinion in psychiatry 2015;28:155-64.
[5] Woodruff-Pak DS. Animal models of Alzheimer’s disease: therapeutic implications. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD 2008;15:507-21.
[6] Morgan BR, Coates JR, Johnson GC, Shelton GD, Katz ML. Characterization of Thoracic Motor and Sensory Neurons and Spinal Nerve Roots in Canine Degenerative Myelopathy, a Potential Disease Model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Journal of Neuroscience Research 2014;92:531-41.
[7] Garner BC, Stoker AM, Kuroki K, Evans R, Cook CR, Cook JL. Using animal models in osteoarthritis biomarker research. J Knee Surg 2011;24:251-64.
[8] Fitzpatrick N, van Terheijden C, Yeadon R, Smith TJ. Osteochondral autograft transfer for treatment of osteochondritis dissecans of the caudocentral humeral head in dogs. Vet Surg 2010;39:925-35.
[9] Allen MJ. Advances in total joint replacement in small animals. The Journal of small animal practice 2012;53:495-506.
[10] Wernham BG, Roush JK. Metacarpal and metatarsal fractures in dogs. Compendium 2010;32:E1-7; quiz E8.
[11] Kranenburg HC, Hazewinkel HA, Meij BP. Spinal hyperostosis in humans and companion animals. Vet Q 2013;33:30-42.
[12] Hyun C, Park IC. Congenital heart diseases in small animals: part II. Potential genetic aetiologies based on human genetic studies. Vet J 2006;171:256-62.
[13] Parker HG, Meurs KM, Ostrander EA. Finding cardiovascular disease genes in the dog. Journal of veterinary cardiology : the official journal of the European Society of Veterinary Cardiology 2006;8:115-27.
[14] Van Vleet JF, Ferrans VJ. Myocardial diseases of animals. The American journal of pathology 1986;124:98-178.
[15] Connell PS, Han RI, Grande-Allen KJ. Differentiating the aging of the mitral valve from human and canine myxomatous degeneration. Journal of veterinary cardiology : the official journal of the European Society of Veterinary Cardiology 2012;14:31-45.

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Strategic Vision

CHC has a strategic vision to provide support for the application of knowledge gained from animals with spontaneously occurring disease to enhance the development of new diagnostic tools, vaccines, and therapies for human beings and animals.


CHC’s mandate is to work with a broad range of research, academic and industry partners to help fulfill an infrastructure need to support comparative animal research, including enhanced funding sources for domestic animal research and the development of domestic animal disease databases.

Knowledge Sharing

CHC also works towards the development of consortia to perform clinical trials, and implementation of strategies to increase the number of veterinarians with comparative medicine research focus as well as to advance the quality of care for companion animals through knowledge sharing from the human experience.


Partnering with academic and educational institutions is a core element of CHC’s knowledge and outreach programming. This fosters new knowledge and the ability to implement and expand the use of specialized skills, novel therapies and clinical practice in multiple disciplines.

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Our Scientific Advisory Board is lead by Dr. David Jaffray. Initial members of the Scientific Advisory Board were selected for their leadership and expertise in their disciplines. The Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of members representing key areas of focus for Techna’s comparative medicine programming and enable outreach to collaborations and partnerships from diverse disciplines, locations and areas of interest.

The Scientific Advisory Board will assist in the attraction and selection of programs and partners and be a point a valuable resource for enhancement, networking and collaboration for the partner network.

The Scientific Advisory Board meets annually to review existing and new programming and to advise on the future directions of the comparative medicine programs.

David Jaffray, Chair

Executive VP Technology and Innovation, UHN
Director, Techna Institute
Senior Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
In 2002, Dr. Jaffray joined the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Ontario as Head of Radiation Physics and a Senior Scientist within the Ontario Cancer Institute. Dr. Jaffray holds the Fidani Chair in Radiation Physics and is a principal in the STTARR Innovation Centre of the University Health Network. He is appointed as a Professor in the Departments of Radiation Oncology, Medical Biophysics, and Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. His primary area of research over the past 10 years has been in the development and application of image-guided radiation therapy. He has over 5 patents issued and several licensed, including, kilovoltage cone-beam computed tomography for image-guided radiation therapy. Dr. Jaffray has won each of the major prizes in the field of the medical physics, including, the Sylvia Sorkin-Greenfield Award, The Farrington Daniels Award, and the Sylvia Fedoruk Award. In 2004, Dr. Jaffray was identified as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 and was recognized by The University of Western Ontario with their Young Alumni Award. His current research interests focus on the development of novel approaches of targeting and applying radiation therapy and translating these advances to clinical practice.

Ryan D’Arcy

Ryan is a professor in the School of Computing Science and the School of Engineering Science. He also holds a position at the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation BC Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovations. His education consists of a PhD, Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada, 2002, a MSc, Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada, 1998, and a BSc, Psychology and Biology, University of Victoria, Canada, 1996.
His research is driven fundamentally by the interface between neuroscience and non-invasive biomedical imaging. The work blends basic studies of complex neural systems with clinical work that uses functional imaging to improve the treatment of brain diseases and disorders. Ryan works in many field including: Neuroscience – Systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuroscience, and neuropsychology; Imaging – High field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, magnetoencephalography (MEG), high density electroencephalography (EEG), evoked potentials (EPs), event-related brain potentials (ERPs), source analysis, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS); Clinical – Brain injury, epilepsy, brain tumours, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis; and Translational – Medical devices and imaging software.

Howard Dobson

Howard Dobson is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology. His career has spanned several decades and includes general veterinary practice, academic veterinary radiology and work in contract research. As a faculty member at the University of Guelph he was integral in the development of new imaging services for both clinical practice and research. More recently he has worked in imaging based contract research with both Canadian and US companies. Most of his research has focused on the interface between animal and human diseases.

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Upcoming Facilities

CHC is establishing its initial locations in Toronto, Ontario and Surrey, British Columbia – as part of its Innovation Boulevard. Each location will be equipped with advanced diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities including: MRI, PET/CT, Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy and Surgical Suites and have additional capacity for the installation and implementation of novel equipment and practices of its partners.


Coming Soon

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CHC is seeking partnerships and collaborations to support its veterinary and comparative oncology platforms. Collaborators and partners will be sought through a process commencing with a call for Expressions of Interest outlining the nature, scope and material needs and contributions related to areas of interest.


  1. Principal Investigators conducting research in comparative oncology and veterinary medicine
  2. Industry partners seeking application of knowledge, equipment, products or methods for exploration or validation
  3. Academic partners seeking program implementation and knowledge transfer
  4. Research institutions seeking the provision of complementary products and services
  5. Parties seeking to become a collaborator or partner must follow the link below to fill out the Expression of Interest form and upon completion it will be sent to Techna’s email for review by CHC’s Scientific Advisory Board. Qualifying parties will be contacted and formal submissions incorporating information related to grant submissions will be requested.

Please follow this link to complete the aforementioned form

Academic Partnership

CHC is currently working with a network of academic institutions to provide programming and training platforms to advanced high quality personnel and practice enhancement. CHC is continuing to recruit partners in all aspects of veterinary and health practice and will establish an Academic Advisory Board to further attract international relationships and access. CHC is seeking academic and training institutions in the following areas for partnership:

  • Medical Technologies
  • Veterinary Assistant & Medical Equipment Technicians
  • Veterinary Continuing Education and Programming

Research and Education Partners


Industry Partnership

CHC is reaching out to industry partners to further utilize and advance their products in the veterinary and healthcare practice. Through our Scientific Advisory Board and its Chair, Dr. David Jaffray, industry partners can work together with innovators and practitioners to advance their products and optimize protocols. CHC will provide an integrated platform of technical knowledge and healthcare practice in an environment suited for the rigours of research and validation.

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