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Ceremony launches $68-million Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics

Toronto, ON – A new research facility in the heart of Toronto’s downtown medical and academic research core will soon be home to genetically altered mice which hold the keys that can unlock secrets about some of the world’s most complex and devastating human diseases.

With a broad range of state-of-the-art technologies and a team of scientists housed under one roof, the $68-million Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics (TCP) will be one of the world’s most comprehensive discovery hubs for cures and treatments for chronic and often fatal diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and schizophrenia.

“The TCP promises to provide a unique local, national and international resource for studying mouse models of human disease,” said Dr Janet Rossant, CEO of the centre, at an official “laying the foundation” ceremony held last week to mark construction of the 120,000-sq-ft facility, set to open in 2006 in Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lebovic Research Centre

The facility is an innovative, scientific collaboration between four research hospitals – the University of Toronto – Mount Sinai Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children, University Health Network and St. Michael’s Hospital – to operate a centralized, state-of-the-art mouse facility for genetic research involving generation of mutant mice, physiological phenotyping, behavioural analysis, imaging, pathology and cryopreservation for storage and distribution.

“Our centre will not only be one of the largest in the world, it will bring together, in a one-stop shop, the experts of these world-class academic teaching hospitals,” said Dr Rossant. As well, the TCP will be affiliated with the vibrant new MaRS Discovery District up the street, a world-leading biomedical research consortium.

But the TCP will not be “Toronto-centric” said Dr Rossant. In fact, its researchers will also freeze embryos and sperm of genetically altered research mice and distribute them to academic, industrial and pharmaceutical research partners through the Canadian Mouse Consortium to create a foundation for further research synergy. It will also archive and distribute genetically altered mice worldwide as part of an international consortium.

The centre was made possible in large part through a $26.8-million grant from the Ontario Innovation Trust and a like amount from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which together provide 80% of construction and equipment costs.

The partnering hospitals will provide the remaining 20% of capital costs while the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF) and other funding agencies are helping to provide operating costs.

The TCP will be governed by a board comprised of senior leaders from the participating hospitals. It will include about 180,000 mice, in an estimated 30,000 holding cages

“This ccntre is an exciting opportunity for Toronto to stay at the forefront of genetic research world-wide,” added Dr Rossant.