University of Toronto expands research facilities through partnership with MaRS

The University of Toronto today announced it has acquired four floors in the new west tower of MaRS and will take a 20 per cent equity share in the building.

This new space will provide much-needed 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,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president of university operations. “U of T is committed to translating our research into lifesaving technologies, and this move comes much faster and at less cost than any alternative.”

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.

MaRS is also an ideal location – integrating 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.

“It is fitting and very exciting that the University of Toronto should become a co-owner of the MaRS West Tower, and a major presence in the building,” said President Meric Gertler. “We are a founding partner in MaRS, and U of T faculty, staff and students play a crucial role in the Toronto region technology cluster and innovation ecosystem.”

The first U of T groups to move over to the new MaRS tower are 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,” said Michael May, president and CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine. 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,” said 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 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 said. “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.”

The state-of-the art facilities are also a way to showcase the university’s research momentum.

“When people come to our floor in the MaRS building,” said May, “they’ll see highly qualified technicians in ‘space suits’ manufacturing cells in one corner, academic researchers analyzing data in another, and business professionals launching new companies in another. That’s an impressive scene, and it will help us attract and retain the best researchers, companies and investors.”