Medicine by Design awards $1 million to advance new ideas in regenerative medicine

Jun 13, 2018

Three Faculty of Medicine researchers are among five U of T recipients of a 2018 New Ideas Award from Medicine by Design.

The awards, each worth $100,000 per year for up to two years, support innovative early-stage research that has the potential to make a significant impact on regenerative medicine research and translation.

As a 2018 awardee, Jane Batt, associate professor in the Department of Medicineand a respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital,is investigating whether ultrasound-mediated gene delivery can help skeletal muscle repair itself after traumatic injuries that result in peripheral nerve damage. She is collaborating with Howard Leong-Poi, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and head of the hospital’s Division of Cardiology.

Maryam FaizMaryam Faiz Maryam Faiz, an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Anatomy, has a New Ideas Award project to examine whether astrocytes — one of the most abundant cells in the central nervous system — can be reprogrammed to replace lost cells following stroke and ultimately restore cognitive function. She is collaborating with Cindi Morshead, Chair of the Division of Anatomy.

Donna Wall, professor of Immunology and Paediatrics, will look at the impact of inflammation on the success of blood stem cell transplants, and whether patients experiencing inflammation due to infection or other immune responses need to undergo different preparation to reduce the risk of rejection. Wall is also section head of the Blood & Marrow Transplant/Cell Therapy program and a senior associate scientist in developmental and stem cell biology at SickKids. Her collaborators on this project are John Dick, professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and a senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network; and Rebecca Marsh, clinical director of the Primary Immune Deficiency Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“Through these New Ideas Awards, Medicine by Design is sowing the seeds of new discoveries and catalyzing innovation,” said University Professor Michael Sefton, executive director of Medicine by Design and a faculty member at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineeringand the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “These projects are high-risk, but they also have the potential to advance regenerative medicine in significant ways.”

The other recipients of a 2018 New Ideas Award are:

Paul Santerre, a professor at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineeringand the Faculty of Dentistry. He is developing nanoparticles to deliver genome-editing machinery to skeletal muscle cells, potentially opening up a new way to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Santerre is collaborating with Ronald Cohn, Chair of the Department of Paediatrics at U of T and Paediatrician-in-Chief at SickKids, and Anthony Gramolini, professor in the Department of Physiology.

And Melanie Woodin,who is a professor in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology. Her project involves repurposing chemogenetics — a tool scientists already use to study normal brain function — to target and regulate the activity of brain cells affected by ALS, creating the neurological equivalent of a remote control. Read more on Woodin’s research.

Medicine by Design selected these projects through a competitive, peer-reviewed process. This is the fifth time Medicine by Design has awarded New Ideas funding. Learn about previous New Ideas projects.

Medicine by Design also supports 19 collaborative team projects that are accelerating regenerative medicine discoveries in a variety of disease areas, including heart failure, diabetes, and neural diseases. Building on decades of made-in-Toronto discoveries, Medicine by Design is developing new peaks of excellence and strengthening Canada as a global leader in regenerative medicine thanks to a $114-million investment from the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

With thanks to Ann Perry, Medicine by Design

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