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St. Mike’s, Ryerson celebrate incubator partnership

Linda MaxwellTORONTO – St. Michael’s Hospital and Ryerson University celebrated the formal launch of a 20-year partnership to research and develop innovative healthcare solutions and to support start-up biomedical companies seeking to improve patient care.

The partnership brings together Ryerson’s engineering and science strengths with St. Michael’s research and clinical expertise in a new 22,000-square foot state-of-the-art laboratory known as iBEST (the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology) where they will test practical ideas that can be brought to the patient bedside quickly.

Adjacent to iBEST is the Biomedical Zone, a 2,000-square-foot “incubator” that specializes in the development and commercialization of biomechanical products and technologies, including software, information technology, wearables, sensors, and medical devices, to care for and treat patients. The Biomedical Zone is built on the model of Ryerson’s successful DMZ (formerly the Digital Media Zone), the No. 3 ranked business incubator in North America.

Perched atop the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, both iBest and the Biomedical Zone were designed as open-concept work spaces, to facilitate brainstorming and sharing of ideas among people from different fields.

“Proximity breeds collaboration,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, surgeon-in-chief at St. Michael’s and a co-director of iBEST. “When you put scientists, clinicians and engineers in a room, you can come up with new approaches that will allow us to make advances in technology that we can bring to the patient bedside and improve patient care.”

iBEST is focusing its research in four areas:

• Advanced systems of delivering medications to maximize their effectiveness and minimize side effects, ranging from nanotechnology to medical devices capable of delivering personalized care.

• Creating new biomaterials and cell-based therapies to restore the structure and function of damaged tissues and organs, such as replacing knee cartilage for an arthritis sufferer.

• Biomedical imaging at the cellular and tissue level aimed at obtaining rapid diagnosis, providing real-time feedback during surgery and permitting targeted therapies for specific diseases.

• Using and creating tools that improve our understanding of massive amounts of healthcare data.

“Partnerships with outstanding institutions such as St. Michael’s Hospital demonstrate Ryerson’s commitment to engaging with the city, creating exceptional experiences for our students and researchers, and fostering an innovation ecosystem,” said Mohamed Lachemi, interim president, Ryerson University.

“Through initiatives like iBEST and the Biomedical Zone, Ryerson is building a new path for post-secondary education that is creating jobs, enabling social change and generating long-term economic growth.”

The Biomedical Zone is an incubator for early stage healthcare companies. Dr. Linda Maxwell (pictured), the zone’s founding and managing director, said it would support entrepreneurs, students, clinicians and other innovative thinkers as they develop products and solutions to today’s global healthcare challenges, taking them from inception to the seed funding stage.

“The ethos of the Biomedical Zone is to cultivate enterprises developing innovation that will help the patients who really need it, while addressing reduction of healthcare costs and delivery of high quality care,” said Dr. Maxwell, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, who did some of her training at St. Michael’s.

Unlike other incubators, the Biomedical Zone provides a combination of business and clinical development and support, tailored to the needs of the inventors and entrepreneurs.

The other differentiator, Dr. Maxwell said, is its location on a hospital campus and true equal partnership between Ryerson, a university with a strong reputation for technology and engineering, and St. Michael’s Hospital, an acute care, downtown urban hospital – two very different, but synergistic partners.

Some of the current ventures in the Biomedical Zone include companies exploring assistive devices for the mobility impaired, improved sanitization for portable healthcare electronics, advanced sensors that allows the medical team to control their operating room computers while scrubbed for surgery using simple hand gestures and high-fidelity procedure-specific surgical simulators that allow trainees to practice surgical procedures before operating on live patients.

About St. Michael’s Hospital
St Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future healthcare professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Ryerson University
Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 28,000 students, including 2,300 master’s and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and 140,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past five years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca.

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