Realizing the Future, Today

Oct 6, 2015

Dean Trevor YoungDean Trevor Young Heart valves produced by 3D printing. Severed nerves repaired through targeted drug delivery. Sight restored with stem cell photoreceptors.

Not very long ago, you could only read about such things in science fiction. But thanks to the dedicated work of many researchers at the University of Toronto, we are turning these ideas – and more – into science fact.

This summer, the University received an unprecedented grant from the Canadian government: $114-million from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund to support the new Medicine By Design initiative. Announced July 29, it will help Canada lead the global medical industry and become a major international supplier of regenerative medicine technologies and therapeutics. That industry is expected to reach $50 billion by 2019 and has the power to transform medical care here at home and around the word.

The University of Toronto is singularly positioned in Canada, and among the best in the world, to realize the promises inherent in regenerative medicine. First, the scale of our research enterprise gives us a critical mass that simply cannot be matched anywhere else in the country. Secondly, our collaborative approach to research makes it possible to reach across disciplines to uncover new discoveries and novel approaches that deliver real results. By bringing together researchers in fundamental science with clinicians and engineers, we can realize the future today.

What makes regenerative medicine so dynamic isn’t just the research itself, although it is inspiring. Instead, it’s the people who do it and how they do it. Consider University Professor Molly Shoichet as just one example. Molly is a polymer chemist with appointments in the departments of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, Chemistry, and the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME). She harnesses her understanding of fundamental chemistry to engineer new ways to deliver drug therapies that promote healing in patients. Professor Peter Zandstra, the new leader of Medicine By Design, is another great example. An engineer by training, Peter is a Professor at IBBME and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering. His research focuses on understanding how stem cells communicate with their progeny and how that influences self-renewal and differentiation.

We also have the broad network of partnerships that enables both leadership and collaboration. Medicine By Design will engage colleagues at affiliated hospitals, including the University Health Network, the Hospital for Sick Children and Sinai Health System and a number of unique and dedicated centres here like: the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine. We will also partner with other Canadian universities and those around the world like Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, Germany’s REBIRTH Cluster of Excellence, Peking University, Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform. The breadth of these partnerships is awe-inspiring. And, importantly, we will benefit from our partnerships with the Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics, MaRS Innovation, and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, to ensure our discoveries are quickly transformed into new treatments to help patients.

Medicine By Design is a great example of our commitment to discovery and partnerships, which are cornerstones for our Faculty. It also gives us new opportunities to prepare future leaders in this field through the research and training this initiative will enable. U of T Medicine was an early leader in the field of regenerative medicine; Medicine By Design ensures we will remain at the forefront into the future. This is something we can all celebrate. 

Trevor Young
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions

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