Archived — Canadian asset map for stem cell and regenerative medicine

Overview of stem cell and regenerative medicine research in Canada


3.1 Canada's Global Position in Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research

Canada has been a leader in the stem cell research field since Canadian researchers Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch of the Princess Margaret Hospital/Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto first proved the existence of stem cells (hematopoietic) almost 50 years ago.Footnote 2 For this achievement, they were awarded the 2005 Lasker Prize (often described as America's "Nobel").Footnote 3 Their work has contributed to the development of several lifesaving therapies, such as bone-marrow transplantation to treat cancer. In fact, more than 42,000 people worldwide have been treated using blood stem cells to renew their blood supply.Footnote 4 Furthermore, through the continued training of researchers in their and their former students' labs, Canada has continued to make significant contributions in this area:Footnote 5

In fact, Canada's importance in hematopoietic stem cell research up until at least 2000 was illustrated by a Nature Immunology review that found 15 of the 32 most important papers in the field over the period from 1960–2000 were authored by Canadians.Footnote 8 In the field of embryonic stem cell research, Canada ranked second in the number of publications from 1991–2001, and first in both total citations and citations per paper.Footnote 9

However, in recent years Canada has been slipping in importance, mainly because of a slowdown in comparative research funding. Thus, according to the MaRS Regenerative Medicine 2009 Industry Briefing report,Footnote 10 in 2009 Canada occupied 4th position in the global rankings of stem cell researching countries aft er the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), and South Korea in terms of government funding and 3rd in terms of influential stem cell patents (after the US and UK), although it still had a leading position (1st) in terms of citations. Although the South Korean investments mentioned above have probably declined recently following the bogus cloning research results of Hwang, other governments (e.g., Germany, the EU) and US states have been making significant and growing investments (Drew Lyall [Executive Director, SCN], personal communication). Thus, since 2007, individual US states other than California have promised over $1 billion in stem cell research funding, generally over a 10 year period (e.g., Connecticut $100 million, New Jersey $250 million and New York $600 million),Footnote 11 while Wisconsin has established a $750 million public-private partnership for such research.Footnote 12 California alone is investing $3 billion in the full spectrum of stem cell research and therapeutic development, from fundamental research to manufacturing facilities to clinical trials and beyond.Footnote 13

3.2 Funding for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research

The majority of funding information was obtained from federal government sources. Funding information was also available on the Terry Fox Foundation (TFF), US National Institutes of Health (NIH), AllerGen, the Ontario Government, and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation websites. Dollar figures were not provided on the websites of other provincial governments. Although the SCN breaks down its funds for individual research projects, only total NCE funding for the Network was used in the analysis (see Appendix 1 Methodology).

A minimum of $277.5 million from the aforementioned sources was spent on stem cell and regenerative medicine research over the last five years (2006/7–2010/11). As illustrated in Figure 1, CIHR was the largest funder, providing 36 percent of the funds. The NCE funds, at 10 percent of the total, were those dedicated to the SCN.

Figure 1: Source of Funding for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Research 2006/7 to 2010/11 ($277.5M)

Source of Funding for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Research 2006/7 to 2010/11 ($277.5 million)

Based on the data contained in the BC Regenerative Medicine Asset Map, the aforementioned funders included in this analysis probably account for only 50 percent–60 percent of funding in stem cell and biomaterials research for regenerative medicine. Thus, over the last five years, approximately $460 million–$560 million were probably spent on research into these fields. Information contained on the websites of various researchers indicates that other funders include:

3.3 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research Centres

As listed in Table 1, 25 of Canada's universities are associated with stem cell and regenerative medicine research. If the individual research institutes within or affiliated with these universities are also counted (see Appendix 4), then Canada has at least 68 centres where researchers are investigating stem cells and regenerative medicine. Information on the most important of these centres can be found in Section 8.

Table 1. Canadian Universities Associated with Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research
Province University
British Columbia (BC) Simon Fraser University
University of British Columbia
University of Victoria
Alberta (AB) University of Alberta
University of Calgary
Saskatchewan (SK) University of Saskatchewan
Manitoba (MB) University of Manitoba
Ontario (ON) Carleton University
McMaster University
Queen’s University
University of Guelph
University of Ottawa
University of Toronto
University of Waterloo
University of Western Ontario
York University
Quebec (QC) École polytechnique de Montréal
McGill University
University of Laval
University of Montreal
University of Quebec or Montreal
University of Sherbrooke
Nova Scotia (NS) Dalhousie University
New Brunswick (NB) New Brunswick Heart Centre
Newfoundland & Labrador (NL) Memorial University

3.4 Funding and Researchers by University and Province

As illustrated in Figure 2,Footnote 14 65 percent of the $277.5 million in funding went to Ontario (ON). Québec (QC) received 15 percent followed by British Columbia (BC) and Alberta (AB) (9 percent each).

Figure 2: Total Funding by Province 2006/7 to 2010/11 (Total $277.5 million)

 Total Funding by Province 2006/7 to 2010/11 (Total $277.5 million)

Associated with the fact that Ontario received the most funding, the University of Toronto received the lion's share of funds between 2006/7 and 2010/11, at $117 million (Figure 3Footnote 14). All other universities received less than $50 million.

Figure 3: University Funding Over $10M (2006/7 to 2010/11)

University Funding Over $10M (2006/7 to 2010/11)

Using the definitions stated in section 2.2. and the Methodology (Appendix 1), 416 researchers (in professor, associate professor, or similar positions) were identified as working in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine research. A list of them can be found in Appendix 3a. Although all these researchers have obtained grants for stem cell and related research and/or mention stem cell and related research on their websites, it should be noted that they oft en work in additional research areas and stem cells may not be their key focus.

A breakdown of the number of researchers working in each province and institution can be found in Appendix 4. The provincial spread of researchers is illustrated in Figure 4. Forty seven percent reside in Ontario, 25 percent in Quebec, 13 percent in British Columbia and 9 percent in AB. In terms of universities, the University of Toronto (or its affiliated institutions) houses by far the greatest number of researchers (26 percent), followed by the University of British Columbia (12 percent), the University of Ottawa (8 percent), McGill University (8 percent), and Université de Montréal (8 percent) (Figure 5 and Appendix 4). Information on individual research institutions affiliated with these universities can be found in Section 8.

Figure 4: Number of Researchers By Province

Number of Researchers By Province

Figure 5: Number of Researchers By University

Number of Researchers By University

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