With innovation and entrepreneurship on the lips of everyone from the Prime Minister and Governor General to funding agencies and community partners, we have a huge opportunity here at U of T Medicine.
Spend some time with Professors Paul Santerre and Joseph Ferenbok and you’ll see what I mean. They are the enthusiastic co-directors of the Health Innovation Hub (H2i), one of a number of startup accelerators across the University of Toronto working with budding entrepreneurs in pursuit of success. It’s part of a broad network at U of T available to help transform smart ideas into new products and opportunities.
As Profs. Santerre and Ferenbok will tell you, entrepreneurship is an area with enormous potential for a university as rich in talent as U of T. The entrepreneurial spark can attract resources to further research, transform discoveries into solutions and create employment for our students and others. And we have new opportunities available, not only through our network, but also thanks to our expanded engagement in MaRS and our partnership in JLABS. In fact, U of T is increasingly a “driving force” for startups, according to Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS.
It’s a natural progression from a proud history of business development at U of T Medicine. One of our most famous examples is the establishment of the Connaught Laboratories by Professor John FitzGerald. Founded as the U of T Anti-Toxin Laboratories in 1914, it became a leading producer of antitoxins and vaccines to fight rabies, diphtheria, tetanus and smallpox. It was also the first lab to produce large quantities of insulin, ensuring this revolutionary treatment could be quickly delivered to patients after its discovery at U of T. Today, that lab is the cornerstone of Sanofi Pasteur and the profits from its sale endowed the Connaught Fund, which is the largest internal university research funding program in Canada.
This tradition continues today with a new generation of innovators with ties to U of T Medicine. Consider Dr. Joshua Liu, who completed his MD here in 2013. He is the co-founder of SeamlessMD, which helps support surgical prep and recovery through the use of mobile devices and home computers. Research on hospital readmissions he conducted as an undergraduate medical student uncovered the challenge that would lead to Liu’s solution.
In that same spirit, H2i is currently seeking input on health system “bugs” – challenges in need of a solution – as part of its Health Edge Initiative. Teams of students will tackle these real-world problems, gaining valuable entrepreneurial experience and potentially sparking new ideas to take to marketplace or the clinic.
It’s inspiring to imagine what a fearless, entrepreneurial mindset could unlock. In the words of Thomas Edison, “there is a way to do it better – find it.”
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions
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