Investigators at the Lunenfeld hold cross-appointments in various departments in the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto and extensively collaborate with campus-based researchers. This academic partnership has helped position the Lunenfeld as one of the top academic-affiliated institutes worldwide.
For example, a new initiative led by Dr. Stephen Lye showcases how our collaborations with University-based scientists and others are breaking new ground in several areas of research, and are garnering international attention for novel programs and studies. Dr. Lye helped establish a group that is leading the development of a new Institute for Human Development dedicated to understanding how early experiences and the environment shape our individual health and potential. The Institute—centred at the University of Toronto—is poised to become one of the top initiatives of its kind worldwide.
Dr. Lye and his research team are investigating how genes and the environment interact to shape who we are and how healthy, or unhealthy, we may become. This model (including the science of epigenetics) is uncovering how our environment interacts with certain genes to modify their activity or to switch them on or off permanently, and how the conversation between genes and our environment starts in the womb, and continues in our early years of life.
To help kick-start the Institute, Dr. Lye was recently awarded an inaugural $1 million Connaught Global Health Challenge Award from the University. He will work with multi-disciplinary researchers including co-senior investigators Drs. Carl Corter, Alison Fleming, Jennifer Jenkins, Stephen Matthews and Marla Sokolowski. The award gels a partnership between Mount Sinai Hospital, the department of physiology, OISE and UT Mississauga, and is intended to add additional partners over time.
The Institute is an especially exciting initiative, in that it integrates the research of investigators from multiple disciplines and backgrounds to focus on how developmental trajectories impact our lives from the earliest stages of development through to adulthood. Dr. Lye and his team hope that, by understanding how to modify these trajectories, they can improve health, optimize learning and enhance the relationships and social functioning of our children as they develop.
In effect, Dr. Lye’s work and this partnership with the University will support research that is transformative in scope: the answers that emerge from this project will have a far-reaching impact on our health and social systems, helping to optimize the development and well-being of our children.