McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Canada's first university vector lab opens at McMaster

Published: October 29, 2004
Vector Lab Photo
Bob Fitzhenry, left, and Jack Gauldie prepare to cut the ribbon of the Robert E. Fitzhenry Vector Laboratory with Dean and Vice-President John Kelton, right.

With a snip of scissors, McMaster alumnus Bob Fitzhenry today cut the ribbon to open Canada’s first university laboratory to be certified to provide vectors for use in clinical trials for patients.

He, along with University Professor Jack Gauldie, were officially opening the Robert E. Fitzhenry Vector Laboratory of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Health in the new Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery.

Fitzhenry, who donated $1 million to provide the laboratory, had been invited along with family and friends to visit the completed state-of-the-art facility.

Following the ribbon cutting, Gauldie and Maria Medina, manager of the Robert E. Fitzhenry Vector Laboratory, led the attendees on a tour of the facility, which is designed to meet Good Manufacturing Practice, regulations required to ensure the identity, potency, safety and purity of pharmaceutical products for humans.

Vectors are the delivery agents used to transport gene therapies or vaccines into a patient. Vectors are essentially a disabled common cold virus that has been injected with DNA to potentially enable it to shrink and perhaps even cure illnesses like breast cancer, infectious diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, asthma and HIV/AIDS.

Gauldie, director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine and Health and the Centre for Gene Therapeutics, pointed out that the new Fitzhenry lab will enable the University to produce its own vector material, saving the costs and time of obtaining them from the U.S. He noted that materials for an upcoming clinical trial cost $450,000.

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, said the facility will enable the University to shorten the time for scientific developments to move between the scientific lab bench and the patient’s bedside.

"McMaster has long been distinguished as a leader in innovation because of our bench to bedside approach. This is a major step forward for both McMaster and the Faculty of Health Sciences, and keeps the University on the front lines of the search for remedies to many diseases and medical conditions."

Kelton added that leading edge facilities are also helpful in recruiting new scientists to join the world class team working at McMaster in immunology and virology.

He thanked Bob Fitzhenry, a graduate of McMaster with his honors BA degree in political economy in 1954. As a businessman, Fitzhenry built the Woodbridge Corporation into a world-leading business in the international high-tech manufacturing sector.

"Your support and investment in your alma mater, is the kind of support we prize so highly here at McMaster," said Kelton. "You stand as an example to all of our students and graduates – by illustrating that support for the University can continue long after one’s formal studies have concluded.

"This lab is one more way that McMaster University is proving itself as a leading in medical research and innovation.

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