McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster University to play key role in new Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Published: November 26, 2014
Mick Bhatia
Mick Bhatia, director, McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, will lead a Disease Challenge Team with funding from the new Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

McMaster University stem cell researcher Mick Bhatia will lead one of three teams in tackling the province's highest-priority diseases, with funding from the new Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM), the Ontario government announced yesterday.

McMaster was also named one of the OIRM's key institutional partners, which include the University of Ottawa, University of Toronto and Western University and its affiliated research hospitals.

The Government of Ontario has given $3.1 million to the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI) and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) to form the OIRM, a research, development and commercialization institute dedicated to the translation of stem cell research into curative therapies for major degenerative diseases.

To support advances in this field and to address the staggering costs of chronic and degenerative diseases affecting Ontario's aging population, the OIRM announced funding of three Disease Challenge Teams to build on existing leading-edge research already ongoing across Ontario.

Disease Challenge Teams will focus on:

  • Fixing damaged hearts with heart muscle derived from stem cells
  • Restoring vision in macular degeneration through stem cell therapies
  • Developing novel stem cell strategies for immunotherapy

In working on the third focus, Bhatia is working to grow replacement tissue from stem cells. His team already discovered how to turn stem cells into dendritic cells, a special kind of immune cell that can instruct the patient's immune system to kill tumours. Since it will take billions of cells to treat a patient, Bhatia is working with the CCRM to increase cell production. He says the $250,000 in funding awarded to his team will help move the project closer to the clinic.

Bhatia is director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCC-RI). He also holds the Canada Research Chair in Human Stem Cell Biology and is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

He said that the importance of this work being recognized by the Ontario government with the establishment of the OIRM is "very vindicating and validating."

He added: "Moving forward, this gives us a nice mechanism, to attract industry and the private sector, which is endorsed by the government."

McMaster was at the table for about three years to develop the OIRM, said Bhatia, and, with the University being named a partner, the provincial government is saying "Regenerative medicine and stem cells is our next big program, and McMaster has a big role to play," said Bhatia. "It's good for Mac."

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