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.

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