Media Releases

U of T‑hosted project to develop regenerative medicine products is awarded $15 million from the federal government

December 6, 2010

TORONTO, ON – A Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to-host­ed project to devel­op prod­ucts to treat dev­as­tat­ing health con­di­tions such as heart dis­ease, dia­betes, can­cer and spinal cord injuries has been award­ed $15 mil­lion by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

The Cen­tre for Com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Regen­er­a­tive Med­i­cine (CCRM) was one of four projects approved by the fed­er­al government’s Net­works of Cen­tre of Excel­lence on Dec. 6 as part of its Cen­tres of Excel­lence for Com­mer­cial­iza­tion and Research (CECR) com­pe­ti­tion.

The CCRM’s chief sci­en­tif­ic offi­cer will be Pro­fes­sor Peter Zand­stra of U of T’s Insti­tute of Bio­ma­te­ri­als and Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing and a lead­ing spe­cial­ist in regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine.  In addi­tion to U of T, the cen­tre includes six insti­tu­tions as research part­ners – The Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren, McMas­ter Uni­ver­si­ty, Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal, the Ottawa Hos­pi­tal Research Insti­tute and the Uni­ver­si­ty Health Net­work, as well as 16 inau­gur­al pri­vate sec­tor enter­pris­es engaged in regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine.

The Ontario Gov­ern­ment, through the Min­istry of Research and Inno­va­tion is also an impor­tant part­ner in CCRM and has been pro­vid­ing key infra­struc­ture and research sup­port to the stem cell and bio­ma­te­ri­als com­mu­ni­ties.

Zand­stra said the strength of the CCRM lies in its part­ner­ships.

“All our part­ner orga­ni­za­tions, in acad­e­mia and in the pri­vate sec­tor, are con­duct­ing lead­ing edge work in regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine that has the poten­tial to become impor­tant prod­ucts and tech­nolo­gies that will ben­e­fit the health and wel­fare of glob­al soci­ety,” said Zand­stra, who is also Cana­da Research Chair in Stem Cell Bio­engi­neer­ing and a sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­si­ty Health Network’s McEwen Cen­tre for Regen­er­a­tive Med­i­cine. “Uni­fy­ing this tal­ent around core plat­forms to enable new tech­nolo­gies may lead to tru­ly trans­for­ma­tive advances.”

The man­date of the fed­er­al government’s CECR pro­gram is to cre­ate inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized cen­tres of com­mer­cial­iza­tion and research exper­tise in four pri­or­i­ty areas in order to deliv­er eco­nom­ic, social and envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits to Cana­di­ans. The pri­or­i­ty areas include: envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and tech­nolo­gies, nat­ur­al resources and ener­gy, health and relat­ed life sci­ences and tech­nolo­gies, infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies.

Regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine is an emerg­ing field that encom­pass­es inno­v­a­tive meth­ods – such as stem cell ther­a­py, regen­er­a­tive bio­mol­e­cules, tis­sue engi­neer­ing and the use of bio­ma­te­ri­als – for treat­ing dis­ease and injury.  Advances in RM hold the pos­si­bil­i­ty, for exam­ple, of peo­ple with dia­betes being freed from hav­ing to use dai­ly injec­tions of insulin or enabling those par­a­lyzed by spinal cord injuries to walk again.

Zand­stra said that while sci­en­tif­ic inno­va­tion is vital, the com­mer­cial­iza­tion com­po­nent, which will be dri­ven by the CCRM, is key to bring­ing inno­va­tions to peo­ple around the globe.

“The prob­lem is that many new and poten­tial­ly life-chang­ing RM-based treat­ments nev­er reach patients because they are not suc­cess­ful­ly moved from the lab­o­ra­to­ry to a stage where they can be used in med­i­cine,” he said. “Our plan is twofold – to lever­age our advanced bio­med­ical research and engi­neer­ing and to cre­ate an RM com­mer­cial­iza­tion pipeline to get our inno­va­tions into the mar­ket­place and to peo­ple suf­fer­ing from these dif­fi­cult health con­di­tions.

“This is why our ini­tia­tive com­bines the tal­ents of aca­d­e­m­ic sci­en­tists and com­mer­cial­iza­tion experts.  The invest­ment and foun­da­tions we put in place over the next sev­er­al years are cru­cial to achiev­ing suc­cess and in ensur­ing that Cana­da is a glob­al leader in what is becom­ing an impor­tant indus­try.”

Pro­fes­sor Paul Young, Vice Pres­i­dent, Research at U of T, says part­ner­ships are vital­ly impor­tant in con­duct­ing great research and the CCRM will prove the val­ue of bring­ing uni­ver­si­ties, hos­pi­tals and pri­vate sec­tor enter­pris­es togeth­er.

“We are sin­cere­ly thank­ful to the Net­works of Cen­tres of Excel­lence for its invest­ment in this ven­ture,” he said.  “The CCRM will have an impor­tant future impact in improv­ing the health of peo­ple world­wide, in addi­tion to con­tribut­ing to the Cana­di­an econ­o­my.”

Also impor­tant in the devel­op­ment of CCRM was MaRS Inno­va­tion (MI), estab­lished in 2008 to man­age research com­mer­cial­iza­tion ven­tures for 16 uni­ver­si­ties and hos­pi­tals in Toron­to.

“MaRS Inno­va­tion worked close­ly with the teams at U of T and the affil­i­at­ed teach­ing hos­pi­tals to coa­lesce everyone’s inter­ests, cre­ate the pro­pos­al, and man­age the process,” said Dr. Rafi Hof­stein, MI’s pres­i­dent and CEO and a mem­ber of CCRM’s board of direc­tors.  “Indeed, we’re thrilled that our strate­gic approach to com­mer­cial­iza­tion has won  such a sig­nif­i­cant boost in such a short time.”

In addi­tion to the NCE’s $15 mil­lion, part­ner orga­ni­za­tions in the CCRM will con­tribute $13.7 mil­lion, bring­ing the total fund­ing for the project to $28,795,000.

The NCE was estab­lished by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in 1994 with the aim of mobi­liz­ing Canada’s best research and devel­op­ment tal­ent to build a more advanced, healthy, com­pet­i­tive, and pros­per­ous Cana­da.

- 30 -

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Media Rela­tions Office
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to