June 16, 2011
TORONTO, ON — In 1961, the University of Toronto’s own Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch (MD 4T8) broke ground when they published evidence proving the existence of stem cells in scientific journal Radiation Research. Fifty years later, U of T proved it is once again ahead of the curve by hosting the launch of two major stem cell and regenerative medicine initiatives: the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI), and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).
Over four hundred people packed the MacLeod Auditorium for the announcements on the evening of Tuesday, June 14. Dr. Michael May, CEO of CCRM, and Janet Rossant, Director of OSRI, acknowledged and thanked the Canadian government, industry partners, and the research community that helped in the development of the projects. The creation of the CCRM was made possible by the award of $15 million from the Government of Canada’s as part of its Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) competition. OSCI received infrastructure grants of $25 million from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Research Fund (ORF).
Both organizations promise to enhance and support work in stem cell and regenerative medicine research within Ontario. Professor Peter Zandstra, of the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto, CCRM Chief Scientific Officer, and OSCI Organizing Committee Member was proud and honoured by the role U of T played in both creating both projects, stating in an interview that “CCRM is built on the fundamental strengths in bioengineering and stem cell biology long supported by the IBBME and the University of Toronto and its teaching hospitals. We are very excited to work with interested regenerative medicine researchers in Ontario to help them develop and commercialize their innovative discoveries.”
Stem cells and regenerative medicine-based therapies have the potential to alleviate suffering caused by some of the most debilitating diseases in the world by bridging the gap between researchers and industry to ensure that innovations get from the labs to the hospitals. These efforts require strong partnerships between researchers and industry, and Dr. May emphasized the efforts towards a true “culture of collaboration.”
“We need to learn to reconcile technology push, where the research community in Toronto excels, with market pull,” noted Dr. May. “And we need to ensure that our researchers are being supported.” CCRM works with a consortium of sixteen companies that will be the recipients of research-driven technologies, including cells, reagents, medical devices, and therapeutics.
The partnership between OSCI researchers and CCRM will be key in building towards breakthroughs in RM, and translating these innovations into viable therapies. “We will be working together to take Ontario to the next level of health,” Rossant stated in her speech.
The Ontario Stem Cell Initiative is a “virtual” network of sixty-five stem cell scientists in Ontario and represents an expansion of the Toronto Stem Cell Initiative. “The infrastructure is built,” continued Rossant. She went on to note OSCI’s monthly seminars that feature lively debate and keep the ‘virtual’ network human. The first three OSCI-sponsored postdoctoral fellows were also presented at the event.
After the launch, attendees enjoyed talks on cutting-edge research from Dr. Fred Gage, The Salk Institute, Dr. Hideyuki Okano, Keio University, and Peter Zandstra, and a poster session.
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Sachiko Murakami, Communications Officer
Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME)
University of Toronto