Announced on Dec 7, 2018
On December 6, 2018, University Health Network (UHN) announced the creation of the McEwen Stem Cell Institute. The sixth institute within its research community, the McEwen Institute is focused on stem cell research and the promise of regenerative medicine and cell therapies.
Formerly the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the evolution to the McEwen Stem Cell Institute signals the progress of the research since it was first formed in 2007. In collaboration with research institutions, clinical programs at UHN, and supporters from around the globe, investigators within the new institute will work to harness the potential of stem cell biology to accelerate the development of more effective treatments for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and blood cell diseases.
The McEwen Institute will be led by Dr. Gordon Keller and will launch with an initial focus on developing cell therapies in four areas with significant potential to move quickly from theory to therapy:
Blood: Developing cells in the blood system to replace missing or damaged blood cells and to create potential immune-based therapies to treat cancer (Dr. Gordon Keller, PhD)
Diabetes: Developing stem cell therapies to regenerate beta cells to treat diabetes and eliminate the need for insulin injections (Dr. Cristina Nostro, PhD)
Heart: Developing stem cell therapies to remuscularize and repair the heart (Dr. Michael Laflamme, MD, PhD) and creating stem cell-derived biological pacemakers to eliminate the need for electronic pacemakers (Dr. Stephanie Protze, PhD)
Liver: Creating new liver tissue from pluripotent stem cells to repair damaged livers and reduce the need for transplants (Dr. Gordon Keller, PhD)
“The launch of the McEwen Stem Cell Institute builds on our legacy of innovation in stem cell and regenerative medicine research,” says Dr. Bradly Wouters, Executive Vice President of Science and Research, UHN. “The Institute will help to usher in entirely new forms of cell-based therapies to tackle some of the most important human diseases. It is intensely focused on the creation of new therapies and will become an integral part of the life sciences hub in Toronto that could fuel industry and research for decades to come."
In support of this new initiative, BlueRock Therapeutics announced today significant new funding for engineered cell programs for cardiac disease and the creation of a research chair in regenerative medicine at the McEwen Institute. Additionally, the company stated that it would be doubling its operational space in Toronto to enable potential therapeutic programs and an expanded research collaboration with the new Institute. BlueRock was established in 2016 with a $225 million investment - one of the largest in biotech history. The work of Drs. Gordon Keller and Michael Laflamme, principal investigators at the McEwen Institute, is part of BlueRock's first efforts to commercialize an approach to regenerating heart muscle in patients who have had a heart attack or suffer from chronic heart failure.
“Our relationship with BlueRock has been critical in helping us accelerate our work,” said Dr. Gordon Keller, Director, McEwen Stem Cell Institute. “This most recent investment underscores their commitment to our work and will allow us to move more rapidly to test these therapies in patients.”