Media Releases

U of T inventor-entrepreneur honoured with Governor General’s Innovation Award

May 5, 2017

Honour recognizes outstanding Canadians who contribute to the country’s success and inspire the next generation

Toron­to, ON – The mol­e­cules he works with are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye, but for Pro­fes­sor Paul San­terre, who is being hon­oured with the 2017 Gov­er­nor General’s Inno­va­tion Award, it’s what you do with those mol­e­cules that counts.

One of six awardees to be rec­og­nized at a spe­cial cer­e­mo­ny at Rideau Hall on May 23rd, Santerre’s award rec­og­nizes his sweep­ing entre­pre­neur­ial vision for sci­en­tif­ic inquiry — and its vital role in shap­ing Canada’s inno­va­tion econ­o­my.

He is one of the world’s lead­ing bio­ma­te­ri­als researchers and a pro­fes­sor in the Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry and the Insti­tute of Bio­ma­te­ri­als & Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing (IBBME) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. San­terre is also a lead researcher at the Trans­la­tion­al Biol­o­gy and Engi­neer­ing Pro­gram, part of the Ted Rogers Cen­tre for Heart Research.

“We’d like to con­grat­u­late Pro­fes­sor San­terre for win­ning the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s first-ever Gov­er­nor General’s Inno­va­tion Award,” said Vivek Goel, the university’s vice-pres­i­dent of research and inno­va­tion. “This is a won­der­ful recog­ni­tion of his cut­ting-edge research and his efforts to bring those inno­va­tions to mar­ket, enabling Cana­di­ans and oth­ers to lead health­i­er lives.”

One of Santerre’s most suc­cess­ful inven­tions is Endexo™, a sur­face-mod­i­fy­ing, flex­i­ble mate­r­i­al that can be applied to med­ical equip­ment to solve sev­er­al key med­ical chal­lenges. For exam­ple, it can pre­vent blood from stick­ing and clot­ting to sur­faces when man­u­fac­tured into med­ical tub­ing — one of the major rea­sons for catheter fail­ure —with­out the need for blood-thin­ning drugs. San­terre com­mer­cial­ized Endexo and oth­er sur­face-mod­i­fy­ing mol­e­cules through U of T start-up com­pa­ny Inter­face Bio­log­ics, Inc. (IBI). Now in its six­teenth year, IBI has three dis­tinct mol­e­cule-based tech­nol­o­gy plat­forms that can be applied to hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, with an esti­mat­ed poten­tial worth in the bil­lions.

Bro­ken Hearts and Bone Tape       

Use­ful for far more than med­ical devices, Santerre’s sur­face-mod­i­fy­ing tech­nolo­gies are designed to work in har­mo­ny with the body’s nat­ur­al repair process­es.

With a col­lab­o­ra­tive team at the Ted Rogers Cen­tre for Heart Research, San­terre was recent­ly award­ed a three-year, $600,000 Col­lab­o­ra­tive Health Research Project grant to con­tin­ue to devel­op a biodegrad­able car­diac patch. Adapt­ed from the same basic con­cepts under­ly­ing his sur­face mod­i­fy­ing mol­e­cules, the patch per­suades dam­aged car­diac tis­sues to re-form while it slow­ly degrades into mate­ri­als that the body can eas­i­ly flush. Impor­tant­ly, the mate­ri­als in the patch will calm immune respons­es — pre­vent­ing fibrot­ic scar tis­sue from form­ing on the heart — and reduce the risk of heart fail­ure.

Yet anoth­er appli­ca­tion of the tech­nol­o­gy could rev­o­lu­tion­ize how com­pli­cat­ed cran­io­fa­cial frac­tures are repaired. Rather than sur­gi­cal­ly insert­ing plates and met­al screws into the head and face, a ceram­ic-based “bone tape” that pro­motes bone growth could be applied to frac­ture sites. Sur­geons will be able to apply this ceram­ic-based bone tape direct­ly to frac­tures with­out the added need for glue, screws or pins. Like with the heart patch, the mate­ri­als are designed to calm immune respons­es and slow­ly biode­grade as new bone forms, ensur­ing bet­ter cos­met­ic out­comes as well as faster heal­ing times.

“This is inven­tion spin­ning off inven­tion,” San­terre said, cred­it­ing his suc­cess as a researcher in part to the col­lab­o­ra­tive and cross-dis­ci­pli­nary cul­ture being fos­tered by the uni­ver­si­ty and its part­ner­ships, such as that formed between Sick Kids, UHN, and U of T to cre­ate the Ted Rogers Cen­tre for Heart Research, where Santerre’s lab is locat­ed. “It’s tru­ly amaz­ing to watch. When vis­i­tors come here they can’t believe its col­lab­o­ra­tive nature,” he added.

A Hub of Inno­va­tion

In addi­tion to his own grow­ing com­pa­ny, San­terre has been guid­ing his stu­dents in com­mer­cial­iz­ing their dis­cov­er­ies through start-up com­pa­nies, such as the recent­ly found­ed Polu­miros Inc., which is devel­op­ing its first prod­uct for mar­ket: a non-inflam­ma­to­ry, biodegrad­able “tis­sue filler” for replac­ing breast tis­sue after breast can­cer surg­eries. San­terre also helps to men­tor more than 70 trainee-based start­up com­pa­nies across U of T in his role as co-direc­tor of the Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Medicine’s Health Inno­va­tion Hub (H2i).

For San­terre, the H2i Hub and the oth­er eight accel­er­a­tors present­ly active on cam­pus points to a seis­mic shift in Canada’s intel­lec­tu­al insti­tu­tions, as the uni­ver­si­ty aligns itself with entre­pre­neur­ship. It’s a move he views as crit­i­cal to Canada’s eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and its abil­i­ty to com­pete in the glob­al health care and inno­va­tion indus­tries.

Health care rep­re­sents the world’s largest and fastest grow­ing eco­nom­ic mar­ket, con­tribut­ing as much as $1 out of every $5 to the GDP in North Amer­i­ca. But while Cana­da — Toron­to in par­tic­u­lar — is poised to become a world leader in this growth indus­try, San­terre points out that this can’t be accom­plished with­out major invest­ment from Cana­di­an uni­ver­si­ties.

“The argu­ment that acad­e­mia should steer away from con­tribut­ing to applied knowl­edge with an entre­pre­neur­ial per­spec­tive is no longer as ten­able as it once was,” said San­terre, who was award­ed the NSERC Syn­er­gy Award for Inno­va­tion in 2012, the Ernest C. Man­ning Inno­va­tion Award’s Prin­ci­pal Award in 2014, and U of T’s pres­ti­gious Con­naught Inno­va­tion Award ear­li­er this year.

“I extend to Paul my most sin­cere con­grat­u­la­tions on this well-deserved hon­our,” said Daniel Haas, Dean of the Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry. “This award is a recog­ni­tion of Paul’s inge­nu­ity and dri­ve to bring the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, and by exten­sion, Cana­da, to the fore­front of the inno­va­tion indus­tries through its applied and clin­i­cal research, and a direct reflec­tion of his enor­mous impact.”

“Pro­fes­sor Santerre’s out­stand­ing research and inven­tions are a bril­liant exam­ple of how mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion can address com­plex chal­lenges and help peo­ple live longer, health­i­er lives,” said Cristi­na Amon, Dean of the Fac­ul­ty of Applied Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing. “On behalf of the Fac­ul­ty, my warmest con­grat­u­la­tions to him on this rich­ly deserved and pres­ti­gious recog­ni­tion.”

Now in its sec­ond year, the Gov­er­nor Gen­er­al Inno­va­tion Awards pro­gram rec­og­nizes “trail­blaz­ers and cre­ators” who con­tribute to a cul­ture of inno­va­tion in Cana­da.

A full list of the Gov­er­nor Gen­er­al Inno­va­tion Award win­ners can be found here:



Com­bin­ing the rigours of bio­log­i­cal and clin­i­cal research with a supe­ri­or edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence across a full range of under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate pro­grams – with and with­out advanced spe­cial­ty train­ing – the Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to has earned an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion as a pre­mier den­tal research and train­ing facil­i­ty in Cana­da. From the cut­ting-edge sci­ence of bio­ma­te­ri­als and micro­bi­ol­o­gy, to next-gen­er­a­tion nanopar­ti­cle and stem cell ther­a­pies, to ground-break­ing pop­u­la­tion and access-to-care stud­ies, the mis­sion of the Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry is to shape the future of den­tistry and pro­mote opti­mal health by striv­ing for integri­ty and excel­lence in all aspects of research, edu­ca­tion and clin­i­cal prac­tice.  / @UofTDentistry


The Ted Rogers Cen­tre for Heart Research aims to devel­op new diag­noses, treat­ments and tools to pre­vent and indi­vid­u­al­ly man­age heart fail­ure – Canada’s fastest grow­ing car­diac dis­ease. Enabled by an unprece­dent­ed gift of $130 mil­lion from the Rogers fam­i­ly, the Cen­tre was joint­ly con­ceived by its three part­ner orga­ni­za­tions: The Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren, Uni­ver­si­ty Health Net­work, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. Togeth­er, they com­mit­ted an addi­tion­al $139 mil­lion toward the Cen­tre – rep­re­sent­ing a $270 mil­lion invest­ment in basic sci­ence, trans­la­tion­al and clin­i­cal research, inno­va­tion, and edu­ca­tion in regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine, genomics, and the clin­i­cal care of chil­dren and adults. It is address­ing heart fail­ure across the lifes­pan. / @trogersresearch

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For media inquiries, con­tact:

Erin Vol­lick, Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry
416–979-4900 x. 4381

Jeff Jur­main, Ted Rogers Cen­tre for Heart6 research
Tel: (416) 946‑8305
Mobile: (647) 293‑3414