Ensuring Health and Economic Impact

Oct 21, 2014

 

Dr. Catharine Whiteside

Each day in the laboratories of our Faculty, new discoveries emerge that take us one step closer to a breakthrough that will cure a disease or provide a new therapy for patients. The scientific curiosity that drives us and the training opportunities that discovery research provides to our students and trainees are core to our mission. Not only are we advancing the understanding of health and disease mechanisms, we are also contributing to our shared economic prosperity. What often stands between these research discoveries and transformation into approved diagnostic and therapeutic applications are the resources and expertise necessary to take the next steps.

MaRS Innovation (MI) helps bridge that gap by assisting in the development of potential commercial diagnostic and therapeutic products following research breakthroughs. The experts at MI help turn discoveries into businesses through industry partnerships, licensing arrangements and start-up companies. MI, which is led by President and CEO Raphael Hofstein, “… maximizes the commercial and social return on the research investment made by its member institutions,” of which U of T is a proud founding member along with our nine fully affiliated hospitals and their research institutes.

Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECRs) are also a key part of this effort. Established by the Federal government through the Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada program, the CECRs are not-for-profit corporations created by institutions such as U of T that match research excellence with the business community to bring new technologies to market faster. MI is, in fact, supported by this program. The Faculty of Medicine has attracted support for two of these Centres — both situated in the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. The first, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, was established in 2011 and is led by Professor Peter Zandstra and CEO Michael May. It is creating new bioengineering approaches to stem cell production for therapeutic use.

I am pleased to tell you we recently secured a second CECR, which is led by Professor Dev Sidhu, named the Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics. This Centre will build on the considerable success of the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC), focused on the production of synthetic monoclonal antibodies designed to treat cancer. The Centre’s role is to commercialize the research from TRAC and other entities to ensure the new knowledge gained from leading-edge discovery research is translated into new therapies for patients. It will also help establish biotechnology companies in Ontario to provide high quality jobs. Attracting a single CECR is a considerable achievement, but landing two of them is an unparalleled accomplishment that speaks to the high calibre of the Donnelly Centre and its researchers. 

Capitalizing on these opportunities is important for a number of reasons. First, it ensures that the potential of our biomedical research is realized. New knowledge can be brought from the bench to the bedside with the help of partners in the private sector. Second, capitalizing on these opportunities helps develop our local knowledge economy, producing good jobs for many of our own graduates. Finally, securing net revenues from licensing intellectual property and commercialization is an important stream of financial support that funds our research enterprise.

Creating companies is not why U of T Medicine exists. Also, it is not our prime motivator or the chief measure of our success. But it can be a beneficial outcome of our efforts, enabling attraction of private sector partners and contribution to job creation in Ontario. It is made possible by our stellar scholarship, our commitment to collaboration and our responsiveness to our local, national, and international health needs.


Catharine Whiteside
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions

 

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