Feds award $114M grant to U of T for regenerative medicine program
Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, July 28, 2015 3:27PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 28, 2015 5:34PM EDT
TORONTO -- The University of Toronto has been awarded a $114-million federal grant for a new regenerative medicine program aimed at developing innovative cell-based treatments for such major diseases as cancer, diabetes and blindness.
The seven-year grant -- the largest in the university's history -- is the first of five to be awarded to post-secondary institutions under the Canada First Research Excellence Fund established by the federal government last year.
Peter Zandstra, a professor in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, said the goal of the university's Medicine by Design program is to accelerate the impact of regenerative medicine on patient care and to translate discoveries in the field into economic benefit.
"But in order to do that we really need to add new technologies and new capabilities to the regenerative medicine tool box," Zandstra said in an interview following the grant's announcement Tuesday.
"What the program allows us to do is to bring engineers, scientists and clinicians together, but also to start to build capacities in computational biology ... and synthetic biology to design new cell types, new devices and new tissues that can be used therapeutically."
Medicine by Design will involve more than 50 researchers and clinicians from the university and affiliated health-care institutions -- Sick Kids Hospital, the University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital.
The program also has partnerships with Peking University, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, the UK Regenerative Medicine Program and Sweden's Karolinska Institutet.
"This investment is something that propels the University of Toronto in the area of stem cell research to really become the world leader of regenerative medicine," Ed Holder, minister of State for Science and Technology, said after announcing the grant to create Medicine by Design.
The program, which has partnered with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, also plans to establish several start-up companies to supply leading-edge technologies in the field to a growing international market.
"We'll be able to design cells, tissues and organs from the ground up," Zandstra said, noting that regenerative medicine is at an "inflection point."
Stem cells and engineered cells are already being used in therapies for some patients and for testing new drugs in the lab -- but harnessing their full potential to treat cancer, heart disease, arthritis and a host of other conditions is considered the holy grail of regenerative medicine.
"So we envision a future where we can use cells to provide potential cures for many of these diseases."