Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine announces 2.6M in research funding

Toronto, Ont. – May 9, 2018 – On Wednesday, May 9, 2018 the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM) will announce its latest round of research funding at its annual Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Symposium in Toronto. This year OIRM is supporting 16 Ontario research programs.

“The calibre of research being done in the province is incredible,” says OIRM president and scientific director, Dr. Duncan Stewart. “We had so many outstanding applicants this year whose projects were showing incredible promise, with many moving into clinical trials or towards commercialization. Ontario continues to show great leadership in the regenerative medicine space.”

UHN’s Dr. Michael Laflamme is one such awardee. Dr. Laflamme’s team is developing an injectable stem cell therapy, which has the potential to regenerate heart tissue and repair the damage done during a heart attack. 

Laflamme’s team has recently commercialized their cell production process with the creation of BlueRock Therapeutics—a $225M USD investment by Versant Ventures and Bayer. OIRM was an initial investor in this project and is pleased to continue to support this technology as it moves to the next phase. “OIRM’s funding has been absolutely essential for launching this work,” Laflamme says. “Without ongoing funding, we could not have reached this critical phase in our pre-clinical research.” Learn more about Dr. Laflamme’s research in our recent OIRM profile.

OIRM also announced funding for Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan of Toronto’s Krembil Research Institute for her research into the use of mesenchymal stromal cells for knee pain in osteoarthritis patients. Dr. Viswanathan is looking to learn what happens to stem cells when they are injected into the knee and why some patients respond differently than others.

“Studies like Dr. Viswanathan’s are helping to determine the safety and efficacy of stem cell treatments, which are increasingly being used for joint disease and sports injuries – often outside of North America,” says Dr. Stewart. “Her work aims to answer important questions that may alter when and how stem cell therapies can be used in the treatment of osteoarthritis.”

Today’s announcement included funding for the following projects:


Disease Teams ($370,000)

  • Michael Laflamme, University Health Network – Towards a Cell Therapy Application Using Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Heart Muscle Cells to Regenerate Injured Hearts
  • Lauralyn McIntyre, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute– Cellular Immunotherapy for Septic Shock (CISS): Research to Move Stem Cells Through the Clinical Pipeline
  • Freda Miller, The Hospital for Sick Children– Stem cell approaches to repairing damaged white matter in the brain of children and teenagers

Disease Teams ($250,000)

  • Michael Rudnicki – Ottawa Hospital Research Institute– Stimulating Muscle Repair for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
  •  Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker – University of Toronto– Generation and clinical use of white blood T-cells from stem cells for immune-regeneration and immunotherapy

Accelerator Grants($100,000)

  • Marc Jeschke, Sunnybrook Research Institute– A trial to improve wound healing using stem cells from patient’s own discarded burned tissue
  • Bernard Thebaud, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute – INCuBATOR: New Cell Treatments for Lung Injury in Babies – Getting research faster and safer into patients
  • Sowmya Viswanathan – Krembil Research Institute – What happens to cells injected in the knee of osteoarthritis patients?
  • Valerie Wallace – Krembil Research Institute– Cell transplantation to preserve central vision


Fellowship Award ($150,000 for 3 years)

  • Tatsuya Yamakawa – The Hospital for Sick Children– Discovering novel regulators of human totipotent stem cells.

New Ideas Grants ($75,000)

  • Benjamin Blencowe, University of Toronto – Elucidation of splicing-based mechanisms underlying cell fate control that represent targets in regenerative medicine applications
  • Maryam Faiz, University of Toronto – Making new neurons from resident brain cells: a new therapy for stroke repair?
  • Phillip Karpowicz, University of Windsor – A matter of timing: how the circadian clock regulates intestinal regeneration
  • Manoj Lalu, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute – Collaborative laboratory-based studies evaluating exosome therapy for acute lung injuy
  • Pierre Mattar, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute – Developing new reprogramming strategies for cell replacement therapy of glaucoma
  • Keir Menzies, University of Ottawa – Boosting cellular energy signals in muscle stem cells as a therapy for muscular dystrophy.

For more information on these and other OIRM-funded projects, visit OIRM.ca.

About OIRM:

The Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM) is a non-profit stem cell institute funded by the Ontario government and dedicated to transforming discoveries into clinical trials and cures. Through our commitment to collaboration and partnerships, we leverage our resources to fund and support promising advances. OIRM is a passionate champion for investigators and their patients as we build a healthier future for Ontario, Canada, and the world.


For more information:

Krista Lamb, Director, Communications and Marketing, OIRM

647-403-5627 – krista.lamb@oirm.ca