Media Releases

Mats Sundin Establishes Medical Fellowships at U of T, Karolinska Institutet

February 10, 2012

TORONTO, ON – For­mer Toron­to Maple Leafs Cap­tain Mats Sundin announced today he will estab­lish an elite sci­en­tif­ic exchange pro­gram in the field of devel­op­men­tal health between the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and Karolin­s­ka Insi­tutet in Stock­holm, Swe­den.

Sundin’s gift – one-third of $1 mil­lion dol­lars – was announced today at a press con­fer­ence at U of T. The gift will sup­port two fel­low­ships at world-renowned labs in Toron­to and Stock­holm where sci­en­tists are prob­ing how mater­nal health and our ear­li­est life expe­ri­ences can deter­mine sick­ness, health, learn­ing abil­i­ty and over­all well-being down the road.

“We all want our chil­dren to grow up healthy, with the best oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn and live free of dis­ease, but how do we make that pos­si­ble? What can we do to give our kids the best shot at reach­ing their full poten­tial?” said Sundin. “By estab­lish­ing this pro­gram at U of T and KI, we’re cre­at­ing an Olympic train­ing camp for our bright­est young minds to work with glob­al lead­ers and answer these chal­leng­ing ques­tions.”

“Every play­er knows we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to pass on our skills and knowl­edge to the next gen­er­a­tion – that’s how the sport moves for­ward, and sci­ence as well,” Sundin added. “It means so much to me to be able to sup­port these two great uni­ver­si­ties and their incred­i­ble dri­ve to find the break­throughs that can change our lives.”

His­tor­i­cal­ly, genet­ics were thought to be the sole fac­tor in deter­min­ing whether a child would grow up to be a healthy, well-func­tion­ing adult. Now, sci­en­tists are real­iz­ing that the inter­ac­tion between genes and the envi­ron­ment is crit­i­cal. Teams at U of T and KI are lead­ing the glob­al charge to fig­ure out what envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors – from breast-feed­ing to stress to nutri­tion – might impact the way a person’s genes are expressed, effec­tive­ly deter­min­ing their well-being from the ear­ly years to lat­er on in life.

“It is becom­ing increas­ing­ly clear that the ear­ly envi­ron­ment of the fetus and infant can have major influ­ences on sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to devel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar, meta­bol­ic and men­tal health dis­or­ders in lat­er life, not to men­tion on learn­ing and social func­tion­ing,” said Dr. Stephen Matthews, Pro­fes­sor of  Phys­i­ol­o­gy, Obstet­rics and Gynae­col­o­gy and Med­i­cine at U of T. “These elite research fel­lows will help us advance our under­stand­ing of this com­plex rela­tion­ship and assist in our efforts to build tra­jec­to­ries towards health and away from dis­ease.”

The Mats Sundin Award in Med­i­cine will estab­lish two post-doc­tor­al fel­low­ships in devel­op­men­tal biol­o­gy – one at U of T and one at KI. The fel­lows will be cho­sen from a high­ly-com­pet­i­tive pool of researchers at each insti­tu­tion, and start­ing in Sep­tem­ber 2012, they will trav­el to their part­ner insti­tu­tion for a year of research under the direc­tion of world-lead­ing sci­en­tists in the field. At U of T, Dr. Matthews and Dr. Stephen Lye, a Pro­fes­sor of Obstet­rics and Gynae­col­o­gy and Phys­i­ol­o­gy, will lead the pro­gram. Dr. Ola Her­man­son, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in Mol­e­c­u­lar Neu­rode­vel­op­ment, will lead the pro­gram at KI.

“Research that is hap­pen­ing right now at U of T and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet is result­ing in unprece­dent­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties to pre-empt, reg­u­late and even erad­i­cate some of the world’s most com­mon ill­ness­es,” said U of T Pres­i­dent David Nay­lor. “By estab­lish­ing these fel­low­ships, Mats Sundin is help­ing us mobi­lize the pow­er of our respec­tive research towards areas that intrin­si­cal­ly shape the human con­di­tion.”

“Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet is very proud to receive this gift. It is our clear goal to pro­mote inter­ac­tions like this and make the future even brighter for true young ambi­tious tal­ents in sci­ence,” said KI Pres­i­dent Har­ri­et Wall­berg-Hen­riks­son. “The sup­port from Mats Sundin is a great step to improve the already fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion between KI and U of T.”

The fel­low­ships build on a long and suc­cess­ful exchange pro­gram between U of T and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet dat­ing back to 1996. The exchange pro­gram lever­ages the very best research themes from both insti­tu­tions to train and devel­op stu­dents into future sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical lead­ers, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on mater­nal-infant health, neu­rode­vel­op­ment and regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine.

About Mats Sundin

Mats Sundin (#13) played 981 career games with the Toron­to Maple Leafs, becom­ing the franchise’s all-time leader in goals and points, and cap­tain­ing the team for 11 sea­sons (1997–2008). Hail­ing from Brom­ma, Swe­den, Sundin ranks among the NHL’s great­est play­ers, stand­ing 21st (tie) in all-time goals and 26th (tie) in points. Inter­na­tion­al­ly, he is Team Sweden’s lead­ing points- and goal-scor­er (1991–2006),having rep­re­sent­ed Swe­den at three Olympics, sev­en World Cham­pi­onships, two World Cups of Hock­ey, the Cana­da Cup and World Junior Cham­pi­onships. He cap­tained Team Swe­den to an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2006 Win­ter Olympics in Turin, was select­ed as the recip­i­ent of the NHL’s Mark Messier Lead­er­ship Award in 2008, and retired as a play­er in Sep­tem­ber 2009.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Media Rela­tions
Tel: 416–978-0100

Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet, Press Office 
Tel: +46 8 524 860 77 




A 15-year Part­ner­ship between U of T and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet are two of the world’s most high­ly acclaimed teach­ing and research insti­tu­tions in the field of health.

2012 marks the 15th anniver­sary of the annu­al Inter­na­tion­al Exchange in Devel­op­men­tal and Peri­na­tal Biol­o­gy between U of T and KI.  The Exchange Pro­gram lever­ages the very best research themes from both insti­tu­tions to train and devel­op stu­dents into future sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical lead­ers.  These exchanges have par­tic­u­lar­ly grown in the areas of mater­nal-infant health (includ­ing genet­ics and epi­ge­net­ics), neu­rode­vel­op­ment and regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine (stem cell biol­o­gy).

Today, U of T and KI col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly pro­vide elite inter­dis­ci­pli­nary train­ing for grad­u­ate stu­dents, research fel­lows, clin­i­cal fel­lows and res­i­dents in the area of devel­op­men­tal biol­o­gy from both basic sci­ence and clinical/patient per­spec­tives.  

The Mats Sundin Fel­low­ship in Devel­op­men­tal Health

Begin­ning with this gen­er­ous gift from Mats Sundin, the U of T and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet will be estab­lish­ing a new fel­low­ship pro­gram designed to pro­vide an elite sci­en­tif­ic exchange and train­ing pro­gram that will devel­op future health lead­ers in both coun­tries.

Once oper­a­tional, each year the Mats Sundin Fel­low­ship will iden­ti­fy two post­doc­tor­al fel­lows in Stock­holm and Toron­to to par­tic­i­pate in this sci­en­tif­ic exchange, part­ner­ing each Sundin Fel­low with top sci­en­tists, schol­ars and clin­i­cians from both insti­tu­tions to pur­sue the most mys­ti­fy­ing ques­tions of med­ical sci­ence – par­tic­u­lar­ly as these ques­tions apply to the health of chil­dren.  Each Sundin Fel­low will receive a 2‑year bio­med­ical research exchange place­ment with­in this inter­na­tion­al lec­ture and sem­i­nar exchange pro­gram.

To be con­sid­ered for this pres­ti­gious and high­ly com­pet­i­tive award, can­di­dates will have to sub­mit a detailed sci­en­tif­ic research pro­pos­al which would under­go inter­na­tion­al exter­nal review fol­lowed by a per­son­al inter­view.

What is Devel­op­men­tal Health?

The field of devel­op­men­tal health is often under­stood as the search for under­stand­ing of how the dis­eases of adult­hood can be traced to con­di­tions with­in the first 2000 days of life. Researchers in this field seek to under­stand the ori­gins of dis­eases like obe­si­ty, anx­i­ety, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, can­cer and dia­betes, among many oth­ers. 

Con­sid­er this:

  • By 2030, chron­ic dis­eases like can­cer, dia­betes, men­tal ill­ness, heart and res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease will cost the world $47-tril­lion.
  • Over 60% of all deaths world­wide stem from non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases like these.  By 2030, deaths from these dis­eases could reach 52 mil­lion peo­ple per year. (World Eco­nom­ic Forum, Sep­tem­ber 2011)

In order to address these chal­lenges, sci­en­tists are look­ing for ways to reduce dis­ease at its point of ori­gin – which means under­stand­ing our genet­ic devel­op­ment. In par­tic­u­lar, sci­en­tists are exam­in­ing the envi­ron­men­tal dri­vers that can cause genet­ic vari­a­tion or change the “expres­sion” of genes dur­ing the ear­li­est stages of human devel­op­ment, and which can have hered­i­tary genet­ic con­se­quences passed down through gen­er­a­tions.  A key ques­tion in this field con­cerns mater­nal health and how we can pro­mote healthy preg­nan­cies and infan­cies in a way that will improve future adult health out­comes and pre­vent dis­ease.

Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet

Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet in Stock­holm, Swe­den, is one of the world’s lead­ing med­ical uni­ver­si­ties, account­ing for over 40 per cent of the med­ical aca­d­e­m­ic research con­duct­ed in Swe­den and offer­ing the country’s broad­est range of edu­ca­tion in med­i­cine and health sci­ences.  Since 1901 the Nobel Assem­bly at Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet has select­ed the Nobel lau­re­ates in Phys­i­ol­o­gy or Med­i­cine.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine

For more than a cen­tu­ry, U of T Med­i­cine has deliv­ered path break­ing advances in health research – from the devel­op­ment of insulin to the dis­cov­ery of stem cells.  U of T Med­i­cine is at the heart of Toronto’s unpar­al­leled health sci­ence net­work, which includes our health sci­ence fac­ul­ties, Toronto’s nine major research hos­pi­tals, dozens of research insti­tutes, and 20 com­mu­ni­ty-affil­i­at­ed hos­pi­tals and clin­i­cal care sites across the Greater Toron­to Area and beyond. This net­work of tal­ent includes more than 7,000 fac­ul­ty, along with 7,000 stu­dents at all lev­els, work­ing in every major branch of health.

Addi­tion­al Sup­port­ive Quotes:

“The Sundin Fel­low­ships will pro­vide an invalu­able sci­en­tif­ic exchange oppor­tu­ni­ty for some of our very best young minds – giv­ing these young researchers the chance to work with world-lead­ing sci­en­tists and lay­ing the foun­da­tion for a life­time of col­lab­o­ra­tion and dis­cov­ery between Swe­den and Cana­da.”

Catharine White­side, Dean, U of T Med­i­cine and Vice-Provost, Rela­tions with Health Care Insti­tu­tions

“We are delight­ed that the Sundin Fel­low­ships will strength­en the col­lab­o­ra­tion between Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.  Both uni­ver­si­ties pos­sess excel­lent research envi­ron­ments and can pro­vide the best train­ing to those com­pet­i­tive young stu­dents who wish to devel­op their careers and become glob­al lead­ers in their fields.”

Mar­tin Ing­var, Dean, Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet, Pro­fes­sor of Inte­gra­tive Med­i­cine at the Depart­ment of Clin­i­cal Neu­ro­science.

“The health and well-being of our chil­dren is at the core of our val­ues as a soci­ety.  We now know that the first 2000 days of life are crit­i­cal in set­ting chil­dren on opti­mal tra­jec­to­ries to health and well-being. This remark­able gift will focus the efforts of two of the world’s lead­ing research insti­tu­tions on the mech­a­nisms that estab­lish these tra­jec­to­ries and ways in which they can be opti­mized to improve the health, learn­ing and social func­tion­ing of our chil­dren.  By sup­port­ing exchange fel­low­ships between the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute, the lega­cy will not only fur­ther the careers of the future research lead­ers but dri­ve enhanced col­lab­o­ra­tion between our two insti­tu­tions.”

– Dr. Stephen Lye, U of T Pro­fes­sor of Obstet­rics and Gynae­col­o­gy and Asso­ciate Direc­tor of the Samuel Lunen­feld Research Insti­tute at Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal

 “It is such a great plea­sure and hon­or to par­tic­i­pate in this project. The Sundin Fel­low­ships will pro­vide an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty to coach these great tal­ents from Stock­holm and Toron­to in their career devel­op­ment to become top sci­en­tists in their fields. It will also bring two lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties and hock­ey nations even clos­er togeth­er.”

– Dr. Ola Her­man­son, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor, Sci­en­tif­ic coor­di­na­tor Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet-Cana­da, Co-orga­niz­er KI‑U of T exchange course, Depart­ment of Neu­ro­science, Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet

“I have had the plea­sure of involve­ment in this unique exchange between the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet in mul­ti­ple roles – first as a stu­dent and lat­er as a fac­ul­ty mem­ber. Both Stock­holm and Toron­to are pow­er­hous­es of Devel­op­men­tal Biol­o­gy and the fruit­ful intel­lec­tu­al (and social) exchanges between Swedes and Cana­di­ans nour­ished by the course have great­ly influ­enced stu­dents and fac­ul­ty alike. As for me, it has had, with­out a doubt, a pro­found influ­ence on my career devel­op­ment as a Clin­i­cian-Sci­en­tist. I look for­ward to con­tin­ued involve­ment in this unique exchange in the com­ing years.”

Dr. Robert Jankov, grad­u­ate of the long-stand­ing Annu­al Inter­na­tion­al Exchange pro­gram in Devel­op­men­tal and Peri­na­tal Biol­o­gy between U of T and Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet, now a U of T Pro­fes­sor and Physi­cian at Sick Kids.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Media Rela­tions
Tel: 416–978-0100

Karolin­s­ka Insti­tutet, Press Office 
Tel: +46 8 524 860 77