Marathon of Hope
The Digital Health and Discovery Platform will be co-led by the Terry Fox Research Institute of Vancouver and Imagia, a Montreal-based AI company. (Graphic: UHN StRIDe Team)

​​UHN’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre will play a key role in a new $49-million Canadian Digital Health and Discovery Platform (DHDP) named for Terry Fox.

The DHDP will be pan-Canadian and bring together the best minds in cancer precision medicine and artificial intelligence (AI) to establish a world-leading innovation framework that will advance research and enable collaborations across the country.

The announcement of funding through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund was made Thursday in Montreal.

UHN will be a major partner in the DHDP, which will be co-led by the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) of Vancouver and Montreal-based AI company Imagia.

"We are thrilled to participate in this important initiative along with the Terry Fox Research Institute and Imagia," says Dr. Brad Wouters, UHN’s EVP Science and Research, who attended the announcement.

"This platform will enhance digital health discovery across the nation by providing a framework for research hospitals, academic institutions, industry, non-profit organizations and other partners to enable sharing of and access to data," Dr. Wouters says. "This will accelerate research and innovation in precision medicine — not only for cancer, but also ultimately for other chronic diseases."​

"We would like to thank Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for supporting this visionary endeavour to promote collaborative science."

‘Needed and impactful investment’

UHN was deeply involved in the preparation of the proposal along with TFRI and Imagia.

DHDP will build upon the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network, of which Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is a founding partner. This network forms the foundation for DHDP's vision to advance the intelligent use of digital information towards realizing precision medicine.

The Techna Institute, co-launched by UHN and the University of Toronto, will lead the open-source software development and change management initiatives to integrate these technologies in member hospitals.

Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN President & CEO, thanks the federal government “for this needed and impactful investment.

"UHN is home to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the world’s leading cancer research centres, and proud to play a key role in the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network," Dr. Smith says. "By working collectively across Canada, we will develop new models of collaboration to accelerate the translation of cancer research into clinical practice – meaning new treatments will reach Canadians faster than ever before."

DHDP comprises 95 organizations, including research hospitals, AI institutes, not-for-profits, venture capital, the private sector, charities and NGOs. While cancer will be the first disease area for the DHDP, the structure is broadly applicable and future plans will incorporate research on other major diseases.

Terry Fox set off in 1980 on his ground-breaking Marathon of Hope across Canada to raise money for cancer research, motivated by his determination to bring hope to countless cancer patients. He died in 1981, at age 22, after his cancer recurred and he had to abandon his run.

Terry’s dedication has inspired generations of Canadians and permeates the fabric of Canada today. More than 3.5 million Canadians run every September, inspired by Terry’s message that everyone can make a difference and further the vision that one day we will be free of cancer.

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