Lab Canada

U of T research facilities to expand in new partnership

Toronto, ON – The University of Toronto says it has acquired four floors in the new west tower of research hub MaRS and will be taking a 20 percent equity share in the building. The acquisition will provide space for laboratories and research facilities.

“This is a big step in our overall commitment to support our students, faculty and researchers in their work solving the most complex and devastating diseases of our time,” says Scott Mabury, professor & vice-president of operations for the University of Toronto.

The partnership solves an urgent need for new research space at the university by capitalizing on the existing building that is ready for occupancy. U of T’s longer term plans involve renewing existing research space as well as building new facilities.

Located at the edge of the university campus, MaRS will help to integrate the university even further into the fabric of one of North America’s largest biomedical research hubs. The space brings together researchers from a variety of biomedical and engineering specialties, clinicians, entrepreneurs and industry partners.

“Across our three campuses and in our partner hospitals, U of T researchers play a leading role in the Toronto region biomedical cluster,” says Meric Gertler, U of T’s president. “MaRS provides the context in which together we can make Canada a global leader in biomedical innovation, helping lay the foundations for the future prosperity of our city-region and our province.”

The first groups to move over to the new MaRS tower will be the Medicine by Design initiative, the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, and the SciNet advanced computing and data analytics centre. Other research groups from the Faculty of Medicine will move to MaRS to enhance existing networks in regenerative medicine, drug discovery and infectious disease.

“It’s amazing the innovation and creativity that happen when you bring people together under one roof,” says Michael May, president and CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM). His team is currently spread between different floors and he is eager to bring everyone together in the new MaRS tower.

May knows how even casual conversations among researchers and industry leaders can lead to innovation. He once invented a new biomaterial, which became a core product of his first spin-off company, based on a chance encounter with a U of T professor while on Via Rail. Years later, his work with CCRM involves bringing diverse researchers and an industry consortium of nearly 50 companies together to harness stem cells, biomaterials and molecules to tackle a range of diseases.

The not-for-profit centre takes a collaborative approach to overcoming manufacturing challenges and commercialization bottlenecks in the regenerative medicine field. Its first spin-off company, ExCellThera, will soon be expanding stem cells in cord blood to improve stem cell transplants for leukemia patients.

“We’re making connections that weren’t possible in the past – bringing together biologists, engineers, clinicians, manufacturing specialists and business professionals,” says May. “We’re building a critical mass that is putting Toronto on the radar as a top-tier biomedical research centre.”

Faculty of Medicine Dean Trevor Young says he is excited by the boost this will give to the university’s fundamental science researchers. “This is a great opportunity to help the basic science sector thrive,” he says. “Our researchers will benefit from working closely with the other great organizations at MaRS, and they’ll also be able to contribute their expertise in the design of new therapies.”

Reported by Carolyn Morris, University of Toronto.