As the holiday season, and the close of this year approaches, it’s the perfect time to visit the fabled ‘spirits’ of past, present and future, in true Dickensian style!
2011 brought some exciting new initiatives to the Institute, including the opening in March of the new Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Musculoskeletal Research.
The new Centre will help advance the research of the hospital’s world-renowned experts (scientists, orthopaedic surgeons and pathologists) in stem cell biology, arthritis, sarcoma, osteoporosis and more. These include Drs. Rita Kandel, Marc Grynpas, Jay Wunder and Andras Nagy, as well as their research teams. The initiative represents Canada’s first collaborative effort involving scientists and clinicians dedicated to discovering and applying new knowledge into bone and tissue regeneration, including the development of biological joint replacements.
This Summer, Steve Lye led a successful proposal worth $1 million to create a new Institute for Human Development, an initiative he is helping lead to understand how early experiences and the environment shape our individual health and potential. The Institute—centred at the University of Toronto—is well positioned to become one of the top initiatives of its kind worldwide, and 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, with a focus on prevention and health promotion. Thanks to Steve and the members of the Women's and Infants' Health research group, the Lunenfeld is playing a leadership role in this initiative.
Our metrics continue to track for continued success of the Institute, as evidenced by international and national rankings, as well as our dedicated efforts in securing highly competitive grants. Mount Sinai Hospital was placed within North America’s highest performing institutions according to the 2010 SciMago world ranking of life sciences, comparing favourably with institutions such as Johns Hopkins and Princeton. We continue to publish the highest fraction of primary studies in the highest impact journals, and, again, our Institute was the top performer in Canada. This is a testament to the “job 1” pursuit of excellence and quality of research being conducted here.
Also continuing this year was Mount Sinai’s involvement in the Ontario Health Study, a population-based health study aimed at investigating the factors that increase individual and community risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and other common illnesses. The study, directed by Lyle Palmer, is designed to become the largest volunteer cohort study ever conducted in Ontario, and will set the stage for enhanced population-based studies for years to come.
For a look to the more immediate future, 2012 will bring a number of initiatives to the fore.
- We are continuing to upgrade the research infrastructure of the Lunenfeld and are working towards a complete renewal and expansion over the next three to five years so that our facilities and environment match our level of scientific achievement.
- We intend to launch an exciting and major new initiative in 2012: the Ontario Birth Study. Steve Lye and Alan Bocking are leading this program, which is aimed at recruiting all pregnant women admitted to the hospital for antenatal care, and following the course of their pregnancy. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Toronto and our sister institutions, Steve and Alan also hope to track the health of mothers and their children over the course of their lifetime.
- The Rebecca MacDonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases is also embarking on a coordinated program to analyze their large database of patients’ genetic and clinical information to identify genes that confer risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and influence the course and outcomes of this illness. Some of the genetic approaches they are using to analyze these data sets are among the first of their kind in North America, and will help lead to dramatic benefits and personalized care for people with arthritis. This program will also prototype and develop infrastructure for Mount Sinai to better support our efforts in personalized medicine through enhanced informatics.
And as the renovations continue early next year, the Lunenfeld’s 9th floor will also see renovations to the robotics lab, as well as a state-of-the-art genomics laboratory for Fritz Roth, and upgraded office and tissue culture facilities.
We must also remember the reality of the global economic downturn. There is tremendous pressure on governments to reduce their deficits and this will likely translate into reducing expenditures on research. Our best defense, always, is to ensure we maintain our competitiveness and ability to excel. There’s no room for Scrooge here!
So as this year closes there is much to celebrate in your recent achievements and much to look forward to in future promise.