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Scientist taps into crowdfunding movement

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St. Albert Gazette by Amy Crofts | July 6, 2013

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Research Barry Barclay is trying crowdfunding to finance an upcoming trip to a cancer conference in Halifax. Photo: Chris Colbourne/St. Albert Gazette

Reaching out to find a cure

Barry Barclay has been working to keep a promise for the past 35 years, a promise he made to his first wife Glenna as she lay dying in her hospital bed.

His vow was to help find the cure for cancer, a disease that took Glenna’s life at the age of 31.

These days Barclay, a trained microbiologist, supervises research and development projects involved in cancer prevention at his St. Albert-based company Planet Biotechnology Inc.

He hopes to raise $5,000 through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo in order to cover travel and workshop expenses to attend a conference, the Halifax Project: Getting to Know Cancer, in August.

“This is a meeting where scientists are coming together … in an atmosphere of openness, co-operation and pooling their knowledge,” Barclay explained. “I think this new approach will yield some real breakthroughs, in the truest sense of the word.”

Barclay will be collaborating with other researchers to look at cancer more holistically. He said he thinks an enzyme involved in DNA synthesis and repair – thymidylate synthase – has been so effective in targeted chemotherapies because the enzyme itself is a metabolic switch.

Similar to a thermostat in a house, cells will incur damage when the switch is turned on or off all the time. Barclay said tumours are made up of a mixture of these types of cells and subsequently respond differently to chemotherapy drugs.

“Tumours are now heterogeneous from the beginning, so you cannot have a single therapy that will deal with all these cells because they all have different properties,” he said.

Organizers of the Halifax Project recognize the use of combination chemotherapy, but as stated in the background information for the conference, they will be discussing the use of natural plant compounds – phytochemicals – for molecular targeting.

Barclay said he plans on publishing his findings after the meeting, assuming he can get there.

“It’s very hard, as a private company, to get grants,” he admitted, adding that is one of the reasons he has tried his hand at crowdfunding. “Rather than individual support, I’m also trying to get corporate sponsorships.”

Crowdfunding is defined by the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada as “the raising of funds through the collection of small contributions from the general public using the Internet and social media.”

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