University of Toronto

Medicine by Design

Canada has the potential to lead the world in regenerative medical technologies that can have a profound impact on human health. This kind of impact is made possible through Medicine by Design—a new University of Toronto initiative that is supported through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

The initiative also represents a significant economic opportunity for Canada. It will incorporate new technologies and scientific strategies into the University of Toronto’s regenerative medicine programs, and develop local capacity for manufacturing rapid lab-to-patient technologies that allows Canada to lead the transformation of the global medical industry and become a major international supplier of regenerative medicine technologies.

Medicine by Design builds on a history of Canadian leadership in regenerative medicine, which started with the discovery of stem cells in 1961 at the University of Toronto. Since the mid-2000s, biomedical engineers at the university have made several significant breakthroughs—from combining living cells with synthetic polymers to creating artificial organs and tissues.

The initiative is headed by a team of internationally recognized scientific leaders who have access to a network of research centres, infrastructure and experts at the University of Toronto. They will collaborate with colleagues in affiliated hospitals such as the University Health Network, the Hospital for Sick Children and Mt. Sinai Hospital; at regional, national and international academic partners such as the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research , Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform; and from organizations focused on advanced manufacturing and commercialization such as the Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics, MaRS Innovation, and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, which has an industry consortium of commercial partners, consisting of large multinationals, small-medium enterprises and emerging biotechnology companies.

The Medicine by Design initiative will focus on three pillars:

  • Cells by Design will create cells whose fate and function can be controlled to ensure safer and more effective therapies.
  • Tissues by Design will create complex tissues for use in research, drug-discovery and replacing lost or damaged tissue in humans.
  • Organs by Design will create and repair organs outside the body and demonstrate how these organs can be successfully transplanted into human patients.

The cell-, tissue- and organ-design initiatives will be supported by essential technology platforms, such as genomic engineering to discover biomarkers and cellular control circuits; immune engineering to control the body’s responses to disease and to transplanted cells, organs and tissues; and a program to manufacture stem cells on demand.

The support provided by the Fund will allow the University of Toronto and its partners to move from promising discoveries to new and better treatments for Canadians and people around the world.