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Toronto (Nov. 8, 2011) - The Techna Institute, an innovation hub poised to integrate and fast track research, development and commercialization of new healthcare technologies, launches today at University Health Network (UHN) and the University of Toronto (U of T).
Dr. Christopher Paige, VP, Research at UHN says: "Techna is a fresh way of thinking about research and development. Technological innovation holds the key to understanding many diseases and Techna provides the platform for excellence where scientists, clinicians, engineers, entrepreneurs and industry can combine their skills to save lives all over the world."
The new institute – formally The Techna Institute for the Advancement of Technology for Health – is housed in the old Banting building at U of T, 100 College St., across the street from the MaRs complex – a symbolic location that epitomizes the very heart of Canadian world "firsts" in healthcare research and innovation in Toronto’s Discovery District.
Dr. Catherine Whiteside, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions at U of T, says: "Techna will provide an environment for faculty and students in clinical, biomedical and bioengineering fields to work collaboratively to create biotechnical solutions for diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. The clinical and graduate departments involved in Techna will design new teaching and learning opportunities to prepare the next generation of biotechnology innovators."
The Techna team will cross traditional silos to take research on developing technologies for improving health into the clinic as quickly as possible," says Director David Jaffray, UHN Head of Radiation Physics and a Senior Scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute, the research arm of the health network’s Princess Margaret Cancer Program. Dr. Jaffray is also a Professor of Radiation Oncology and Medical Biophysics at U of T and holds the Orey and Mary Fidani Family Chair in Radiation Physics at Princess Margaret Hospital.
The Techna mandate to focus specifically on healthcare technologies is designed to ensure that rapidly advancing technology already used in other sectors is integrated as quickly as possible into disease management and healthcare delivery, says Dr. Jaffray. "Techna provides a process and framework to help innovation reach the patient."
Dr. Jaffray cites two examples of healthcare technologies currently being tested in clinical research: a "GPS" system for surgeons that integrates real-time data in three-dimensional images for greater precision while operating; and software for mobile applications to help patients, such as diabetics, track and manage their own health data.
Start-up funding of $10 million was initiated by a $5 million "challenge" donation to The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation from Toronto-area philanthropist Carlo Fidani, who has a long-standing interest in building unique environments for collaboration and innovation. Another donor has provided a further $1 million, and the Foundation is committed to raising the rest.
"Thanks to Mr. Fidani and the Foundation, we can now accelerate advances in other diseases, just as we have done in cancer," says Dr. Jaffray, a renowned innovator and leader in the development of image-guided radiation therapy who also pioneered the development of Cone Beam CT for radiation planning and treatment, now used worldwide.
University Health Network consists of Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.
Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has assembled one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in breadth and depth on any other Canadian campus. U of T faculty co-author more research articles than their colleagues at any university in the US or Canada other than Harvard. As a measure of impact, U of T consistently ranks alongside the top five U.S. universities whose discoveries are most often cited by other researchers around the world. The U of T faculty are also widely recognized for their teaching strengths and commitment to graduate supervision.
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