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Canada’s first FOCIS centre takes aim at immune-mediated disease

London, ON July 14, 2003 A group of London researchers recently earned a prestigious international centre designation that aims to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for immune-mediated disorders, from diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis to cardiovascular disease and organ rejection.

London is the only centre in Canada to be awarded the designation, and one of only eight outside the US.

The newly formed FOCIS Centre for Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapeutics is a network of 25 multidisciplinary researchers led by Robarts Research Institute in partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and the University of Western Ontario. The 30,000-member Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) recently awarded the designation to the London group, whose primary goal is to foster novel collaborations that will speed discoveries from the lab to the clinic.

As the role of science in public health continues to be reviewed in the wake of the Walkerton E coli and Toronto SARS outbreaks, scientists say the timing for the centre couldn’t be better.

"While we are not focusing on infectious diseases like SARS, we know that there are often chronic immune-related problems associated with disease. For example, some of the survivors of the Walkerton crisis now have ongoing kidney problems," explained Dr Joaquin Madrenas, a clinician-scientist at Robarts and Director of the FOCIS Centre for Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapeutics. He is also associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Western and holds a Canada Research Chair in transplantation and immunobiology.

The London FOCIS Centre also has a mandate to promote disease prevention through public education as well as to enhance the educational opportunities in clinical immunology that are available to graduate and postgraduate trainees.

US-based FOCIS Centres include those at the Mayo Clinic, Duke, Dartmouth, Stanford and Yale universities. In addition to London, the other international FOCIS centres outside the US are located in Belgium (2), England, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Venezuela.