Ryerson University and St. Michael's Hospital are launching a 20-year partnership to get engineers and clinician scientists working shoulder to shoulder, creating new health technologies for patients.
The agreement, announced on Wednesday, will cost around $9-million, building a 22,000-square-foot engineering research lab on the seventh floor of the hospital's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and creating an incubator space to commercialize biomechanical products.
The new Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Science Technology, or iBest, grew out of informal collaborations between the hospital and Ryerson's engineering faculty, which sit a few blocks apart in downtown Toronto. It aims to develop, test and deploy new devices to help treat and care for patients.
"The bigger picture this relates to is the fact that science and medicine are dependent on advances in engineering to move forward," said Ori Rotstein, director of the Keenan Research Centre at St. Michael's, which will house iBest.
The collaboration began almost by chance, when Dr. Rotstein sat next to Ryerson provost Mohamed Lachemi, then the dean of engineering, at an event more than two years ago. The two soon set up an annual symposium to get engineers and scientists together, which has since helped nurture collaborations. For example, hospital researcher Howard Leong-Poi and Ryerson professor Michael Kolios have worked together on novel technologies using ultrasound to attack disease in the body.
St. Michael's already hosts internships for more than 200 Ryerson students in nursing, psychology and other programs, and researchers at both institutions have at times co-supervised graduate students.
"You can't underplay the importance of collaboration," said Sheldon Levy, Ryerson's president, who expects the new institute to be a magnet for talent. "Both of us, bottom line, are trying to be able to secure the best human resources. Ours include the best graduate students, and this really does help."
Ryerson, which does not have a medical school, will shoulder the majority of the institute's construction costs, but its students and faculty will gain access to the expertise of clinician scientists, as well as the ability to test their inventions on animals, and eventually patients. The new institute will house about 15 Ryerson professors and 40 students doing research in health care.
The institute will also be home to a 2,000-square-foot incubator space, modelled after Ryerson's popular Digital Media Zone, which has grown into a major hub for student start-ups, which offers a template for moving research out into the marketplace.
"The culture of the Zone is actually the commercialization of some of the activity there, and it really takes off," Dr. Levy said.
Construction will begin in the spring, with Ryerson expecting to move in a year later, in 2015.