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About Sickkids
About SickKids

November 2, 2009

Rossant leads Ontario Stem Cell research team thanks to $10 million boost from Ontario government

Dr. Janet Rossant, Chief of Research and Senior Scientist in the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology program at SickKids and University Professor in the Departments of Molecular Genetics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Toronto joined Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, the Honourable John Milloy on October 28 as he announced $10 million in funding for the Ontario Initiative in Personalized Stem Cell Medicine. This initiative, led by Rossant, is a joint project involving 30 leading stem cell researchers and six institutes of research across Ontario.

Focused on the advancement of stem cell research and the generation of new innovations in the production of embryonic-like stem cells, the Ontario Initiative in Personalized Stem Cell Medicine is poised to lead in the development of personalized medicine and cutting-edge health care products.

“Ontario is the home to the discovery of stem cells thanks to the pioneering research of McCulloch and Till in the 1960s,” remarked Dr. Rossant, “Ontario continues to be a leading hub of stem cell research and it is through our teamwork and collaborative efforts to work with the scientific community around the world that we will continue to make vast strides in a greater understanding of human disease and the pursuit solutions through personalized medicine.

The $10 million in funding from the ministry’s Ontario Research Fund will be divided between six institutions – SickKids, the University of Toronto, McMaster University, Mount Sinai Hospital, University Health Network and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. This investment is a match in funding to the $10 million provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Along with other partners, the total infrastructure investment for this initiative is $25 million.

SickKids will use $1.7 million of the funding to support the Ontario induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cell facility which is located at SickKids. In addition to providing support for the iPS cell bank, funds will be used for the purchase of state-of-the-art technologies to support iPS cell research. The Ontario iPS cell facility at SickKids is focused on generating disease-specific iPS cells to use as tools to study human disease.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are normal adult cells that have been coded to behave like embryonic stem (ES) cells. ES cells are pluripotent, which means they are capable of regenerating into any cell type in the body. iPS research is important as it allows us to induce adult cells to become other cells that are needed. Their main advantage is that they are made directly from patient skin cells without the ethical concerns of destroying human embryos. These can be used immediately to model human disease and to screen for novel drugs and small molecules to treat disease. iPS cells hold great potential for designing individualized and creating personalized organs and tissues for patients. Transplantation applications are particularly important as they provide the ability to use regenerated cells from patients own body, eliminating the risk of rejection as the cells work to generate new tissue.

World-renowned stem cell researcher, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, Professor, Department of Stem Cell Biology, Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University, Japan was also present to congratulate the team on their funding and show support for this research project. Yamanaka will serve as chair of the initiative's external advisory board.