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.