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New Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research to place Ottawa at forefront of medical revolution

November 15, 2006

Stem cell research has the potential to transform medicine and provide pioneering regenerative approaches to treatment of some of the world’s most debilitating diseases, said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Director of the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, during the Centre’s grand opening ceremony in Ottawa today.

Renowned philanthropists Eric and Vizma Sprott officially opened the 30,000 square foot facility, which is part of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa.

“Eric and I are thrilled to be a part of this wonderful adventure in medical research,” said Vizma Sprott, who along with her husband Eric donated $7 million to create a permanent endowment to support the new Centre. “The thought that scientists at this Centre could one day discover a cure for some of the many diseases that are afflicting people around the world is very exciting. We are confident that our investment will pay enormous dividends some day.”

The idea and vision for the Sprott Centre came from Dr. Ronald Worton, CEO and Scientific Director of the OHRI. In the 1960s, Dr. Worton trained in the Toronto laboratories where stem cells were first discovered, and in 1986 he led the team that discovered the gene responsible for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

“I knew from my research that stem cells held the best hope for replacing and regenerating tissues lost due to genetic muscle disorders, and it quickly became clear that stem cells had the potential to treat and even cure many other diseases as well,” said Dr. Worton.

The first funding for the construction of the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research came from the Canada Foundation for Innovation in 2000. This was followed by a number of other grants from federal and provincial agencies, and unprecedented $8.6 million in donations from the community through The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

The Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research will eventually house more than 120 researchers and staff. It contains state-of-the-art equipment to visualize stem cells and unlock their molecular secrets. It also contains a special laboratory capable of producing highly purified therapeutic materials for clinical trials in patients.

The Sprott Centre will act as the hub of a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, including molecular biologists, physicians, and transplant specialists affiliated with the OHRI, the University of Ottawa, and The Ottawa Hospital. Members of this group have discovered new populations of adult stem cells in muscle and heart tissue. They are also investigating how stem cells might be harnessed to treat neurodegenerative disorders and vision loss. Research on bone marrow stem cells is already having a positive impact on patients.

The celebration was attended by Yves Tremblay, Chair of The Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors, and Dr. Gilles Patry, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa. Both spoke about the importance of partnership among hospitals and universities in bringing innovation into health care and training the next generation of researchers.

Today’s grand opening comes on the heels of another major stem cell event in Ottawa – the Annual General Meeting of Canada’s Stem Cell Network, which is also led by Dr. Rudnicki. The Network supports collaborative projects among more than 70 researchers across Canada, including 12 based at the OHRI.

The Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research was built and equipped with a total of $17.4 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Innovation Trust, the Kresge Foundation, and many generous donors who gave to the project through The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. Funding for additional equipment and operations has also been provided by the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Stem Cell Network.

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and an affiliated research institute of the University of Ottawa. With more than 1,200 scientists, investigators, trainees and support staff, the OHRI is investigating human health at every level. For more information, visit the OHRI Web site at www.ohri.ca.

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s mission is to inspire and enable people to support the highest quality health care at The Ottawa Hospital and lifesaving research at the OHRI. For more information, visit The Ottawa Hospital Foundation Web site at www.ohfoundation.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Paterson
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Tel.: 613-798-5555 ext. 19691
jpaterson@ohri.ca

Robin Percival
Media and Public Relations Officer
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
Tel.:798-5555 ext.18718
rpercival@ottawahospital.on.ca