Building world-class institution from scratch

TORONTO, June 12, 2015 – “What we need to strive for, right from the start, is to build a spirit and framework of cooperation and teamwork that ensures that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The ‘parts’ Dr. Mansoor Husain is referring to are University Health Network (UHN), The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto (U of T) – and the ‘whole’ is the innovative new Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.

As executive director (interim) of the Centre, Dr. Husain is leading the effort to “build a world-class institution from scratch.” Working closely with scientific leads from each organization – Dr. Heather Ross of UHN, Drs. Ronald Cohn and Seema Mital of SickKids, and Craig Simmons of U of T – Dr. Husain has a number of set objectives in mind, not only for the crucial first 90 days, but to set the tone for the future.

“We want to meaningfully catalyze research activities at the Centre,” he said. “This means engaging all three partners, and not just from the research perspective, but from multiple perspectives, including science, business, communications, and engagement of champions and groups beyond the Centre’s walls.”

The Centre itself has two distinct funds in place: one for innovation and one for education.

“To be really innovative, we need to collaborate not only with our three internal partners, but with other institutions,” he notes. “We need to seek the best ideas from around the world and bring them here. We are not going to be a granting agency, but we need to be creative in providing seed funding and attracting other funding for promising research.”

One way to do so may be through research competitions. Perhaps two or three competitions per year, structured to meet the Centre’s unique focus. “Our review panel has to be different,” Dr. Husain explains. “It has to include expertise of the highest level, but it also has to be nimble and intuitive – able to recognize ideas both for their scientific excellence and their scalable value to the specific mission of the Centre.”

“I envision something beyond the traditional peer-review approach, something that embraces science, commercialization and the entrepreneurial spirit. We need to be able to say to the scientific community around the world ‘here are our mission, values and goals – if you have excellent ideas that fit with these, we are interested in hearing about them. Come and work with us in Toronto’.”

Through the Education Fund, the Centre’s goal is to attract the best trainees from Canada, the U.S. and across the globe. “We already have some excellent resources to draw from within our partner organizations and cross-cutting programs, such as the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the Congenital Heart Disease Programs at SickKids and UHN. We can build on this.”