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New $115M Canadian Center to use Genomic, Other Methods to Improve Heart Health

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A C$130 million (US$115 million) gift will bring together three Toronto-based healthcare organizations to create a new research center to improve heart health.

Among the methods that the new center will use are genomic technologies to decode the genetic underpinnings of cardiac disease.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), the University Health Network, and the University of Toronto today announced the creation of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, funded by a donation from the Rogers family, the largest private gift ever made to Canadian healthcare, the organizations said.

With facilities at each of the three institutions, the center will bring together research in personalized genomic medicine, stem cells, bioengineering, patient treatment, and disease management under one umbrella.

Michael Apkon, president and CEO of SickKids, said in a statement that the collaboration will have a global impact. “Together we hope to accelerate discovery and cardiac care at an unprecedented pace.”

Research will cover the entire human life span, from childhood through adulthood, with each partner focusing on improving a particular aspect of cardiac health. SickKids will perform genomic studies to reveal the genetic foundations of cardiac disease to better predict it before it occurs and to provide personalized medicine to both children and adults. In 2012 it partnered with Life Technologies, now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, to establish the Centre for Genetic Medicine, with a goal of sequencing 10,000 pediatric genomes per year.

University Health Network, applying approaches from bioinformatics, molecular diagnostics, personalized medicine and remote technology, will focus on translating discoveries into advances in healthcare delivery.

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering will apply stem cell technology and novel approaches in cellular and tissue engineering to the cutting-edge science of regenerating heart muscle, coronary vessels, and heart valves. Research at the University of Toronto will also focus on how genetic, cellular, and molecular signaling networks function as the heart develops. 

“This exceptionally powerful network of researchers and educators is translating exciting ideas, innovation, and therapies in stem cell research and regenerative medicine into clinical settings where they will address the most challenging problems across the spectrum of heart disease,” Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, said.

The research center will bring together more than 30 expert scientists and clinicians from the three institutions, as well as up to 80 graduate students, postdocs, and clinical fellows.