Techna logo on UHN scrubs
The Techna Institute was launched at UHN 10 years ago this week. (Photo: UHN)

Ten years ago, Carlo Fidani kicked off the creation of a new research institute with a donation that challenged UHN to accelerate the development and integration of technology into healthcare.

Matched with further fundraising from The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, the Techna Institute was born.

This gift was critical to launching Techna, and also for setting its initial course: by anticipating the needs of the research hospital of the future, the entrepreneurial philanthropy was able to create an entirely new business model to solve important challenges in healthcare.

Techna has become a new kind of incubator, a technology incubator, providing the engineering, software development, project management and regulatory expertise needed to develop technologies to the point where they can be integrated into clinical care.

To support the demand, the Techna Technology Development Team has grown exponentially, roughly doubling each year from the original three members until reaching its current size of 50.

"We have created a pool of professionals who are available to the community to lead, manage and carry out work in health technology productization," says Dr. Luke Brzozowski, Senior Director, Techna and Diagnostics Innovation. "Because of Techna, UHN is equipped to rapidly advance health technology without having to hire the people for each project in isolation and without having to acquire or develop the skills which may only be needed for a portion of the project."

Group shot of ribbon cutting
Cutting the ribbon to officially launch the Techna Institute at its home in the Banting Building. (L to R) Paul Alofs, CEO of The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation (later re-named The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation), Dr. Christopher Paige, UHN VP of Research, philanthropist Carlo Fidani, Dr. David Jaffray, Inaugural Director of Techna, Dr. Mary Gospodarowicz, Medical Director of the Princess Margaret, and Dr. Bob Bell, UHN CEO. (Photo: UHN)

The Techna team provides services regardless of who owns the technology. The team has worked with start-ups, multinational firms and technologies that are fully from within UHN.

Its successes over the years include work with:

  • Acumyn was created by UHN's Technology Development and Commercialization (TDC) office to commercialize AQUATM, a software platform that brought all the demanding quality assurance tests and calibrations a radiotherapy clinic needs to perform into a single place, helping to manage and automate these complex tasks. Acumyn was acquired by global radiotherapy giant Elekta.
  • Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) works with their partners to discover, develop and distribute the next generation of imaging agents and targeted radiotherapeutics for the detection and treatment of human diseases.
  • iRT was founded to introduce the Integral Quality Monitor (IQM) System to the radiation therapy community that offered fully automated, real-time verification of all complex treatment techniques.
  • Elekta has been a leader in precision radiation medicine for almost five decades.​
  • RaySearch is a world leader in software for radiation therapy, supporting around 2600 cancer clinics worldwide.
  • POINT Biopharma is a clinical-stage global pharmaceutical company that develops next-generation radioligand therapies for the treatment of cancer.
  • Roche ​is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people's lives.

"We've had several remarkable programs and projects in UHN's Sprott Department of Surgery in partnership with Techna," says Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, UHN Surgeon-in-Chief. "Techna is a technology accelerator that enables our success in transforming innovative ideas into practice as demonstrated in our initiatives such as Telemonitoring, Surgility, the Surgical Wait Information Management System (SWIMS) and the drone ​delivery of organs for transplant."

Dr. Bradly Wouters, UHN's EVP Science & Research and Techna's Interim Director, says "Techna was UHN's first research institute that wasn't tied solely to one of the UHN member hospitals, and that helped us focus on the impact our research and technology development expertise could have on UHN and healthcare more broadly."

Techna has helped strengthen connections between clinicians, scientists and engineers, and through that accelerate the adoption of innovative solutions into clinical practice, he says.

"Techna's approach has already made progress toward solving clinical needs and technology challenges, and their agility was very helpful during the challenges presented by the pandemic," Dr. Wouters says. "I'm excited to see how Techna helps UHN advance technology over the next 10 years!"

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