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About Sickkids
About SickKids

September 17, 2018

Celebrating a legacy of science, discovery, innovation and learning, the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning marks five years

It was five years ago that the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning (PGCRL) opened its doors to over 2,000 researchers, trainees and staff. Today, it lays the foundation for excellent patient care at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), attracts the world’s best researchers, runs leading-edge facilities and conducts innovative interdisciplinary research.

Photo of PGCRL

Designed as a state-of-the-art laboratory and learning facility, this multi-level interactive space is fulfilling its role of enhancing collaboration through research neighbourhoods where scientists and trainees from a variety of disciplines work side by side; generating out-of-the-box solutions.

The PGCRL acts as a catalyst that sparks interaction to fuel the innovations, which ultimately accelerate improvements in child health outcomes both locally and around the world. The common ‘water cooler’ areas provide scientists, clinicians and students a space to gather and incubate new solutions to treating childhood diseases. This is critical for translating research discovery into clinical impact.

“Looking back at five years of work, I am so proud of what this building represents as a part of SickKids. It continues to be a crucial enabler for Toronto and Canada in attracting and retaining world-class leaders in child health research. Over the next five years, we will continue to be a forward-looking institution driven to discover new breakthroughs, achieve new heights and solve new problems,” says Dr. Michael Salter Chief of Research, SickKids and Northbridge Chair in Paediatric Research.

As the largest child health research tower in the world, the PGCRL demonstrates daily the power of bringing together some of the world’s brightest minds to collaborate and advance paediatric health care. With one in four SickKids researchers securing Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Grants since 2013, compared to one in seven nationally, it is clear that the PGCRL is leading the way in medical breakthroughs.

Collaboration by Design – Forging new links between data scientist and clinicians.

Since 2011, Dr. Anna Goldenberg and the PGCRL’s Goldenberg lab have worked alongside SickKids clinicians, finding novel ways to look at medical problems with machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence (AI). The PGCRL is helping position SickKids as an AI leader in medicine. The critical mass of experts in one location has given Anna and her team access to scientists and clinicians across disciplines, making it easy to form new collaborations and quickly gain deep insights into medical issues. Projects in the Goldenberg lab are driven by a clinical need. The team uses AI to develop and test predictive algorithms that harness data and identify solutions for better care: for example, to improve resource use in the emergency room, prevent cardiac arrest in critical care patients, assess if young patients at high cancer risk will benefit from invasive screening before the age of six, and identify when treatment interventions are needed between appointments for patients with childhood arthritis. Medicine is being re-shaped by efforts to find meaning in big data.

All seven of the Research Institute’s programs have reported major breakthroughs over the last five years. Check out the at the bottom to see just some of the highlights that have come out of the PGCRL.

Cell Biology – A cell biology Senior Scientist and his team showed that a drug commonly used to treat malaria had potential to prevent neurodegeneration in cells from patients affected by Zellweger syndrome.

Children’s Health Evaluative Services – Researchers are creating “Prenatal Sprinkles” that will enable nutrients to be absorbed bin different parts of the maternal digestive tract to improve the health of pregnant women and newborns in low-income settings in Africa and South Asia.

Genetics and Genome Biology – A game-changing study identified for the first time that a significant portion of all human cancers are hypermutant and these hypermutant tumours create distinct footprints that determine important information on how the tumour will behave and how it will respond to treatment.

Developmental and Stem Cell Biology – Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant paediatric brain cancer. A recent study showed that these cancer cells can circulate though the bloodstream when it was previously assumed that metastasis of this brain tumour was through the cerbrospinal fluid. This research can help contribute to improving diagnosis of the disease.

Molecular Medicine – Molecular Medicine is home to the immunologist who first uncovered the symptoms of Roifman Syndrome (a congenital condition which bears his name), and later discovered the genetic cause behind it.

Neurosciences and Mental Health – Discovered that there are at least two forms of ADHD; one is a genetic risk and the other develops after traumatic brain injury.

Translational Medicine – A TM research team developed an ELISA test to detect antibodies to Stenotrophomonas maltophilia in the sera of cystic fibrosis patients.