Several Canadian and South Korean universities, hospitals, and research organizations are signing agreements to conduct joint research on a number of health and biotechnology areas. It’s all part of a MaRS Innovation and Korean Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) initiative to form a global partnership focused on commercializing biomedical and healthcare innovations and create new startups in the sector.
Last Thursday at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre in Toronto, the agreements for the first four of such collaborations were signed. The agreements were between:
The University of Toronto and the CHA University Bundang Medical Centre – The project involves the “development of injectable biomaterials to improve stem cell transplantation for spinal cord injury and degenerative spinal diseases.” The agreement was signed by Dr. Rick Hegele, vice dean of research, Faculty of Medicine at the U of T; and Dr. Inho Han, associate professor, Department of Neurosurgery, CHA University Bundang Medical Centre.
The research team will be led by Dr. Molly Shoichet (Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in tissue engineering) for the U of T, and Dr. Han for CHA University.
University of Toronto and Korea University Guro Hospital – Researchers from the two organizations will collaborate on the “development of new therapies for tissue regeneration and joint repair.” The agreement was signed by Dr. Brnhard Ganss, professor, and vice-dean of research, Faculty of Dentistry, at the U of T; and Dr. Chae Seung Lim, vice-president of research at the Korea University Guro Hospital.
The research will be led by Dr. Vanessa Mende, of U of T, a board certified periodontist focused on developing strategies for bone tissue engineering and bone regeneration; and Dr. Hae-Ryong Song, professor, and director of the Rare Diseases Institute in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Korea University Guro Hospital.
The Hospital for Sick Children and Ajou University Medical Centre – Their project involves “a genome-wide approach to creating therapeutic stem cells for cardiovascular and Alzheimer disease.” The agreement was signed by Cathy Seguin, vice-president of SickKids International, and Dr. Hyun Goo Woo, associate professor, Department of Physiology, Anjou University School of Medicine.
The research will be led by Dr. Woo and Dr. Hoon-ki Sung, a Korean-born doctor in the translational medicine program of the SickKids Research Institute.
The Sunnybrook Research Institute and the Severance Hospital Yonsei University Health System – This collaboration involves the “development of new multimodal therapies using stem cells and ultrasound for neurological and cancer surgery.” The agreement was signed by Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, Tier 1 Research Chair in imaging systems and image-guided therapies at Sunnybrook; and Dr. Oh Kim, of Severance Hospital.
The research will be led by Dr. Yoon Ha from Severance Hospital and Dr. Hynynen.
“This is a very good start,” said South Korean Consul General Jeong-Sik Kang last week. “I hope it will foster more innovations for years to come.”
He noted that healthcare is “increasingly taking centre stage in national and international policy,” and said he hopes the partnerships will create jobs and new technologies.
KHIDI has a track record of zeroing in on promising early-stage biomedical and healthcare projects and developing them through clinical stages, according to Dr. Rafi Hofstein, president, and CEO of MaRS Innovation.
“We believe that our joint pools of novel technologies and projects, together with KHIDI’s medical development expertise and strategic collaborations with global players is a perfect match,” he said.
Other collaborations that will be signed in the near future include:
- Toronto Western Hospital/ Toronto General Hosptial and Samsung Medical Centre – Advancing predictive models for the future of chronic disease patients using artificial intelligence
- Toronto General Hospital and Guru Hospital Korea University – Performance evaluation of body fluid cell counter by microchip
- Baycrest Health Sciences and Yonsei University College of Medicine – Development of ICT-based clinical trial system for elderly patients
- Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Gachon University Gil Medical Centre – Identification of a lead compound inhibiting target proteins in acral melanoma
- Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and ASAN Institute for Life Sciences – Molecular characterization of cell death pathway
- Mount Sinai Hospital/Toronto General Hospital and Ajou University School of Medicine – Development of scaffold for tracheal reconstruction using tissue engineering
The MaRS leadership and heads of several Canadian biotech and health research organizations, on several occasions last year and early this year, flew to South Korea to cement what would be a joint commercialization platform that would drive collaborative research between South Korean biomedical companies and health institutions and their Canadian counterparts.
KHIDI is South Korea’s only public organization focused on promoting and developing the country’s health industry. Together with the top 10 South Korean research-driven hospitals, KHIDI has expressed interest in collaborating with MaRS’s 15 institutions, including the U of T and its nine affiliated teaching hospitals.
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