Media Releases

Stem cell network and commercialization centre position Toronto at the forefront of regenerative medicine

June 16, 2011

IBBME’s Peter Zandstra at the nexus of stem cell research and development

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.


Per­ma­nent link to sto­ry:




For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Sachiko Muraka­mi, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer
Insti­tute of Bio­ma­te­ri­als and Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing (IBBME)
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Phone: 416–978-4801
Fax: 416–978-4317