President and Scientific Director - Duncan Stewart

Duncan is a pioneering Canadian cardiovascular researcher who is recognized for his many important discoveries in blood vessel biology, as well as his dedication to translating these discoveries into benefits for patients and society. After beginning his career in academic cardiology at McGill University in Montreal, he moved to Toronto as Head of Cardiology at St. Michael’s Hospital and later became Director of the Division of Cardiology and Executive Director of the McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine at the University of Toronto. He was recruited to lead the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in 2007.

Duncan has made a number of seminal discoveries elucidating the importance of endothelial factors in health and disease, notably the role of the nitric oxide system in angiogenesis and of endothelin-1 in pulmonary hypertension.

Duncan is also a leader in developing cell and gene based therapies for cardiovascular disease. He led the first Canadian clinical trial to test an angiogenic gene therapy – using VEGF to try to stimulate heart repair in people who had suffered heart attacks. He also led the world’s first clinical trial of a gene-enhanced cell therapy for pulmonary hypertension, using endothelial progenitor cells engineered to over-express the endothelial nitric oxide synthase. He also leads the world’s first clinical trial of a similar therapy for post heart-attack repair, and he has played a key role in initiating the world’s first trial of mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of septic shock.

Duncan has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has received a number of distinctions and prizes, including the Dexter Man Chair of Cardiology and Research Achievement Award of the University of Toronto, and the Research Achievement Award of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. Throughout his career, Dr. Stewart has demonstrated leadership in bringing diverse groups of clinicians and scientists together to put Canada on the world stage for translational cardiovascular and regenerative medicine research.

As well as serving as President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Duncan is Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and CEO and Scientific Director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, an active senior scientist in The Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program and holds the Evelyne and Rowell Laishley Chair. He is also a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, Scientific Director of the Canadian Vascular Network and a practicing cardiologist.


Vice President, Strategy and Partnerships - Sandra Donaldson

Sandra has over 25 years experience in network development and scientific research. Prior to working with the OIRM, she was the Program Manager for the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative, where she expanded a Toronto-based initiative into a virtual network of over 145 stem cell research programs across the province. Sandra has also managed a clinical research program in spinal deformity, benign bone tumors and club foot deformity in Orthopaedic Surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children. During this time she collaborated to develop a North American Clinical Trials Network in paediatric orthopaedic surgery and managed its first international, multi-centre clinical trial across 50 institutions, overseeing all scientific, ethical and regulatory approval processes. Previously, Sandra worked in research programs at several Ontario hospitals including Women’s College, Mount Sinai, Princess Margaret and London Health Sciences Centre. She has published research in a variety of orthopaedic journals and was also a health columnist for CBC News Online. Sandra has a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario, a Certificate in Medical Writing and Editing from the University of Chicago, and is a member of the Canadian Society of Association Executives.



Director, Research- Cheryle Séguin

Cheryle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at The University of Western Ontario and a Scientist with the Lawson Health Research Institute and Children’s Health Research Institute. Cheryle obtained her BSc (1999) and MSc (2001) from The University of Western Ontario and her PhD in the area of cell biology and tissue engineering from the University of Toronto (2005). Following this, she became a postdoctoral fellow with Janet Rossant at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto ON, working in the field of early mammalian development and stem cell biology.

In 2009, Cheryle was recruited to The University of Western Ontario where her research program is centered on understanding stem cell fate and function. Her primary interest is examining cell fate determination within the intervertebral disc and the development of strategies to exploit the role of tissue specific stem cells for spine and skeletal tissue regenerative medicine. Her lab has been supported by operating grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and the Chordoma Foundation. Cheryle is a previous recipient of a Canadian Arthritis Network Scholar Award and is currently supported by a CIHR New Investigator Award and an Early Researcher Award from MRI.

At Western, Cheryle was co-Director of the Joint Motion Program, a CIHR Strategic Training Program in Musculoskeletal Health Research and Leadership and currently co-directs the Collaborative Training Program in Musculoskeletal Health Research.  Since 2011 she has served as Chair of the Stem Cell Network Training & Education Committee and has been involved with both OSCI and OIRM as a member of Governing Council.


Director, Clinical Translation - Tom Waddell

Tom is the Pearson-Ginsberg Chair, Division of Thoracic Surgery, University of Toronto and Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at University Health Network, including Toronto General Hospital. Tom received his MD from the University of Ottawa in 1987, where he received the Gold Medal in Surgery. He completed surgical internship at St. Michael’s Hospital before joining the University of Toronto General Surgery Residency Program. He pursued basic laboratory training for 5 years as part of the Surgical Scientist Program, completing his MSc with Alec Patterson in 1992 and his PhD with Greg Downey in 1995.

He received numerous honours for his research work including the Governor General’s Gold Medal and the Royal College Prize for Resident Research. He completed General Surgery training in 1997 and his Thoracic Surgery fellowship in 1998. Following completion of clinical training he undertook an additional year of laboratory research as a McLaughlin Fellow at Imperial College in London, England. He has earned numerous distinctions, including the Blalock Scholarship from the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, a CIHR New investigator Award, a CFI New Opportunities Fund Award, the George Armstrong Peters Prize in the Department of Surgery, a Wightman-Berris Individual Teaching Award, and was recognized with the R. Fraser Elliott Chair in Transplantation Research in 2005 and the Richard and Heather Thomson Chair in Translational Research in 2010.  In 2011, he received the highest research honour from the University of Toronto Department of Surgery, the Lister Prize.

He co-founded two companies related to lung re-conditioning for lung transplantion (EVLP).  He continues to lead one of these, XOR – Labs Toronto Inc as CEO.  XOR – Labs Toronto is developing medical devices to facilitate EVLP.

Director, Education and Outreach- Penney Gilbert

Penney is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and holds cross-appointments in the Department of Biochemistry and the Donnelly Centre at the University of Toronto. Penney obtained her BSc (1999) from Haverford College and her PhD (2006) from the University of Pennsylvania in the area of cell biology and mammary oncogenesis. Following this she switched research focus and became a postdoctoral fellow with Helen Blau at Stanford University in California working in the field of skeletal muscle stem cells under the support of an NIH Pathway to Independence K99/R00 Award.

In 2012, Penney was recruited to the University of Toronto where her research program is focused on skeletal muscle endogenous repair. Her team engineers and studies three-dimensional models of human skeletal muscle and explores muscle stem cell mechanobiology with the goal of identifying signaling pathways that can be tweaked to boost the function of skeletal muscle stem cells in the body. Her lab was supported by grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Connaught Fund, and U of T Faculty of Medicine Dean’s Fund. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Ontario Research Fund, Medicine by Design CFREF, and an Early Researcher Award from MRI currently support her work.

At the University of Toronto Penney is Chair of the IBBME Distinguished Seminar Series, and she is a member of the IBBME Curriculum Committee, the Collaborative Program in Developmental Biology Steering Committee, and Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy Animal Care Committee. Penney has been involved with OIRM as a member of the Governing Council and is an Associate Member of the American Society for Cell Biology Women in Cell Biology Committee.


Senior Communications Advisor - Lisa Willemse

Lisa is a communications professional with 18 years experience working in the technology, child development and health research fields, most recently with the Stem Cell Network. Her background includes training in fine art, communications and journalism and she spent several years working as a freelance editor, writer and photographer for a range of Canadian and US-based publications. In 2014, she was invited alumni-in-residence for the acclaimed Science Communications program at the Banff Centre. She is involved in several online art and science-based initiatives, including contributor to the Canadian Blood Services and Genome Alberta blogs and Board member for Science Borealis, a Canadian science blog aggregator. She also volunteers for local mountain biking and cross country ski clubs in her area. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @WillemseLA



Senior Manager, Operations and Science - Jodi Garner

Jodi has over 10 years of academic, healthcare and research operations experience. Prior to joining OIRM, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Janet Rossant, most recently as the lab manager. Jodi was also the manager of the Embryonic Stem Cell Facility at the Hospital for Sick Children for the last 5 years where she has worked with a variety of researchers in the field of stem cell biology. She has extensive experience in establishing and leading technical training workshops and managing various research initiatives. Jodi holds a MSc in Stem Cells and Regeneration from the University of Bristol, her thesis work focused on investigating different states of pluripotency in human embryonic stem cells. 


Administrative Lead - Stella Desouza 

Stella has more than 20 years of experience in administrative leadership, support and improvements that were primarily focused in the health care, government and non-profit sectors. Prior to joining OIRM, Stella worked with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences where she managed, reported and provided support on a number of initiatives and multiple assignments in privacy, data, technology and security. She is a certified programmer, with a strong background in privacy principles and practices, information, project management and administrative processes.