Lab Canada

Partnership blends engineering, science and biomedical research

Toronto, ON – St. Michael’s Hospital and Ryerson University have entered into a 20-year partnership to research and develop innovative health-care solutions and to support start-up biomedical companies seeking to improve patient care.


The partnership brings together Ryerson’s engineering and science strengths with St. Michael’s research and clinical expertise in a new 22,000-square foot state-of-the-art laboratory known as iBEST (the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology) where they will test practical ideas that can be brought to the patient bedside quickly.


Adjacent to iBEST is the Biomedical Zone, a 2,000-square-foot “incubator” that specializes in the development and commercialization of biomechanical products and technologies, including software, information technology, wearables, sensors, and medical devices, to care for and treat patients. The Biomedical Zone is built on the model of Ryerson’s DMZ (formerly the Digital Media Zone), which it says is the No. 3 ranked business incubator in North America.


Perched atop the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, both iBest and the Biomedical Zone were designed as open-concept work spaces, to facilitate brainstorming and sharing of ideas among people from different fields.


“Proximity breeds collaboration,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, surgeon-in-chief at St. Michael’s and a co-director of iBEST. “When you put scientists, clinicians and engineers in a room, you can come up with new approaches that will allow us to make advances in technology that we can bring to the patient bedside and improve patient care.”


iBEST is focusing its research in four areas:

– Advanced systems of delivering medications to maximize their effectiveness and minimize side effects, ranging from nanotechnology to medical devices capable of delivering personalized care.

– Creating new biomaterials and cell-based therapies to restore the structure and function of damaged tissues and organs, such as replacing knee cartilage for an arthritis sufferer.

– Biomedical imaging at the cellular and tissue level aimed at obtaining rapid diagnosis, providing real-time feedback during surgery and permitting targeted therapies for specific diseases.

– Using and creating tools that improve our understanding of massive amounts of health-care data.


The Biomedical Zone is an incubator for early stage health-care companies. Dr. Linda Maxwell, the zone’s founding and managing director, said it would support entrepreneurs, students, clinicians and other innovative thinkers as they develop products and solutions to today’s global health-care challenges, taking them from inception to the seed funding stage.


Unlike other incubators, the Biomedical Zone provides a combination of business and clinical development and support, tailored to the needs of the inventors and entrepreneurs. The other differentiator, Dr. Maxwell said, is its location on a hospital campus and true equal partnership between Ryerson, a university with a strong reputation for technology and engineering, and St. Michael’s Hospital, an acute care, downtown urban hospital – two very different, but synergistic partners.