University Health Network (UHN) is Canada’s premier academic health sciences centre. Our three-hospital complex focuses on excellence in cancer care (Princess Margaret Hospital), cardiac care, organ transplants and the treatment of complex patient needs (Toronto General Hospital) and neurological and visual disorders, arthritis and musculoskeletal disease and community health (Toronto Western Hospital).
UHN’s three research institutes (Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto General Research Institute, Toronto Western Research Institute) house 536 principal investigators and their research programs in 735,000 sq. ft. of space, with research funding in excess of C$261 million (2009).
As the University of Toronto’s largest affiliated teaching hospital, UHN collaborates with highly regarded partners across a variety of sectors. Together, these synergistic relationships lead to significant improvements towards human health.
UHN’s Research Institutes
Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI)
Established in 1952, the Ontario Cancer Institute—the research arm of the Princess Margaret Hospital—is one of the leading centres for cancer research in the world.
OCI researchers employ state-of-the-art tools in genomics, proteomics, structural biology, molecular biology, biophysics and the behavioural sciences. With these tools they analyze cancerous cells at the molecular level; test gene and cellular therapies for cancer and other diseases; develop new technologies for diagnosing and treating cancer; determine the effects of diet and behaviour on cancer risks; and develop and test informatics tools for the large-scale analysis of patient populations. OCI also includes The Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute and The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research.
Toronto General Research Institute (TGRI)
Toronto General Hospital is well known for its excellent clinical care and ground-breaking research efforts that underlie its surgical and medical innovations. Research at the laboratories and clinics of the TGRI has led to major breakthroughs in organ transplants, cardiac pacemakers and novel therapies for endocrine and autoimmune disorders. Some of these breakthroughs include the world’s first single and double lung transplantation and the use of insulin to treat diabetes. TGRI’s research program includes research in cardiology, transplantation, immunology and autoimmunity, infectious diseases, tissue injury and diabetes.
Toronto Western Research Institute (TWRI)
Located at the Toronto Western Hospital, TWRI is home to the research programs associated with the neural and visual sciences, musculoskeletal disease and urban and community health programs at UHN. Neuroscientists here explore the function of the nervous system as they develop treatments for spinal cord injuries, cerebral ischemia, vascular malformations, brain tumours, neurophthalmologic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Their investigations are aimed at revealing the causes of, and generating therapies for, these ailments.
UHN Research at a Glance:
- Over 500 scientists and clinician scientists
- Total research funding > $261 million
- Clinical studies and corporate contracts > $34 million
- Funding from over 225 Canadian and international research granting agencies and foundations, as well as from companies in pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors and UHN’s three Foundations.
• Analytical Genetics Technology Centre
• Microarray Centre
• Proteomics Group
• Global eHealth
• Advanced Optical Microscopy Facility
• Laboratory for Applied Biophotonics
• Wright Cell Imaging Facility
• Applied Molecular Profiling Laboratory
• Laboratory for Applied Biophotonics
A Home for Innovation
UHN is undergoing a vast physical transformation that includes new research spaces. UHN’s Toronto Medical Discovery Tower, completed in 2005, is part of Phase I of The MaRS Centre.
This 15-floor, 400,000-sq. ft. building has been designed with state-of-the-art biomedical research facilities and houses some of Toronto’s most advanced programs in genomics, integrative biology, infectious diseases, image-guided therapy, structural biology, regenerative medicine, stem cell research and drug discovery as part of the research institutes of UHN. In 2013, TWRI will open its doors to the Krembil Discovery Centre (KDC), a $165 million state-of-the-art facility that will span nine floors, 150,000 square feet of lab space and 50,000 square feet of clinical research space. Upon its completion, the KDC will rival the most modern research facilities worldwide and will house some of the country’s leading research programs associated with the neural and visual sciences, musculoskeletal disease and community health programs.
Clinical Trials at UHN
UHN researchers conduct up to 1,000 clinical trials each year. The broad base of clinical and research expertise and availability of supporting services makes UHN a centre of choice for conducting clinical trials. UHN researchers have full access to the Clinical Trial Support Unit (CTSU) – mandated to facilitate research involving patients – which provides a multitude of services including: clinical study coordination; correlative studies support; data safety monitoring board; lab space; mentoring and support and monitoring space and training.
Partnering with UHN
The UHN Technology Development & Commercialization office (www.uhnres.utoronto.ca/tdc/) is responsible for fostering innovation and technology transfer at UHN. This office spearheads partnership activity by assessing and protecting intellectual property (IP) generated at UHN by commercializing IP through licensing or spin-off companies and by negotiating contracts and agreements on behalf of our researchers.
UHN currently manages over 160 different patent families in areas including biomarkers, cancer metabolism, cell therapy, cancer stem cells, global health, depression, brain and spinal cord injuries, image-guided therapy, lung transplant, and nanotechnology.
- Cancer researchers Drs. Mitsuhiko Ikura and Vuk Stambolic (OCI) demonstrated that nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology can be used to monitor changes in protein structure and activity in real-time.
- With international collaborators, Drs. Katherine Siminovitch (TGRI) and Jenny Heathcote (TWRI) showed that changes in three specific genes are strongly associated with the risk of primary biliary cirrhosis.
- Dr. Shaf Keshavjee (TGRI) and his team used gene therapy to repair previously unsuitable donor lungs for transplantation in human and animal models of end-stage lung disease.
- In a clinical study of Parkinson’s Disease, TWRI’s Drs. Andres Lozano, Elena Moro, Jonathan Dostrovsky and William Hutchison discovered that deep-brain stimulation in a specific region of the brain helped to improve walking and other non-motor features such as rapid eye movement.
- Drs. Pamela Ohashi and Tak Mak (OCI) devised a method to boost the body’s immune system and direct it to specifically target cancer cells.
- Dr. Michael Tymianski (TWRI) and colleagues used gene therapy to selectively block a protein in the hippocampus region of the brain, effectively preventing irreversible brain cell death following stroke.