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About Sickkids
About SickKids

November 26, 2014

Rossant is interim leader of new Ontario institute tackling costly degenerative diseases

The Ontario government will contribute $3 million to form the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM), the Hon. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, announced at SickKids Nov. 25.

The new institute is a collaboration of Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI) and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), involving scientists from universities and hospitals in Ontario.

Dr. Janet Rossant, Chief of Research at SickKids and Director of OSCI, will serve as Interim Director of OIRM, and Peter Zandstra as co-director. He is Professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering.

The announcement was made at an OSCI symposium at SickKids’ Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. Both Moridi and Rossant spoke of the significance of the OIRM being announced in the city where James Till and Ernest McCulloch proved the existence of stem cells. “Ontario is the birthplace of stem cell discovery; it’s wonderful to be able to continue this legacy,” said Rossant, who is a celebrated international leader in stem cell research.

The OIRM will be a research, development and commercialization institute dedicated to the translation of stem cell research into curative therapies for major degenerative diseases. Regenerative medicine harnesses the power of stem cells, biomaterials and molecules to repair, regenerate or replace diseased cells, tissues and organs. It has the promise to treat, manage and perhaps cure some of the most devastating and costly diseases in the world today.

The new institute will fund three teams to build on existing leading-edge research already ongoing across Ontario. The teams will focus on

•       Fixing damaged hearts with heart muscle derived from stem cells;

•       Restoring vision in macular degeneration through stem cell therapies; and

•       Developing novel stem cell strategies for immunotherapy.

For now the administrative home for the OIRM will be located at U of T but it is a virtual operation with 145 stem cell and regenerative medicine research programs, staffed by approximately 1,400 scientists, trainees, technical and administrative staff. An additional 45 employees at the CCRM include commercialization and business development staff, as well as scientists and technical staff.

“Ontario is thrilled to support this collaborative initiative, which holds the promise to help treat, manage and cure some of the world’s most devastating diseases while offering significant economic benefits,” said Moridi. “This new institute will help secure Ontario’s leadership position in the critical field of regenerative medicine.”

The institute builds on the commercialization efforts that CCRM began when it was launched three years ago, said Michael May, President and CEO, CCRM. “Today we’re in a strong position to move Ontario’s discoveries through the pipeline and into clinical trials through our advanced manufacturing facilities, and have a significant impact on the health of Canadians and the huge burden overwhelming the health-care system.”