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