IMS50 Ori Rotstein Lectureship in Translational Research

IMS50 Ori Rotstein Lectureship in Translational Research

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By: Jason Lo
Photo courtesy of IMS

On October 4th, 2018, the Institute of Medical Science (IMS) held its eighth annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research, showcasing current research and innovation in areas of surgery and translational medicine. The lecture is named in honour of Dr. Rotstein, who served as IMS Director from 2001—2011, helping to shape the IMS into the success that it is today.

Dr. Mingyao Liu, current Director of IMS, was the first speaker to arrive on stage. With this being the final event celebrating 50th anniversary of the IMS, Dr. Liu recounted all the events that took place this past year including IMS50 editions of Scientific Day and Student Undergraduate Research Program Research Day, an international conference, and a 50th anniversary gala. Dr. Liu highlighted that the department is second in the world for publishing research papers, giving the young scientists in the crowd another reason to be proud of where they stood that day.

Just as Dr. Liu was finishing his last sentence, keynote speaker Dr. Molly Shoichet rushed through the door, fresh from the airport, and took to the stage. Dr. Shoichet was the first Chief Scientific Officer of Ontario and holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering, as well as a full professorship at the University of Toronto. She has also been honoured with the Order of Ontario and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award for her innovative contributions. Students marveled at all that could be accomplished within a lifetime.

Dr. Shoichet’s speech, Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells to Repair the Central Nervous System  focused on her team’s development of the hyaluronan and methylcellulose (HAMC) based injectable hydrogel—designed to be fast gelling, HAMC is an ideal vehicle for uniform stem cell delivery and a supporting platform for cell proliferation. Dr. Shoichet retold the journey from the initial discovery in the lab to the development of her own company, AmacaThera, dedicated to developing and commercializing injectable hydrogel for a wide range of medical applications. This demonstration of taking a laboratory finding to a wider audience is a perfect example of the translational research that the lecture series showcases.

Dr. Shoichet explained that previous experiments have shown that the hydrogel can deliver neuronal stem and progenitor cells (NSCs) to the retina in an animal model of blindness. HAMC had improved survival and integration of transplanted NSCs leading to improved visual function. Dr. Shoichet’s delivery method could solve the transplantation problem that has hindered stem cell research since its inception.    

After the riveting keynote speech, Dr. Rotstein led a panel discussion entitled Science and Society in the Media with panelists Dr. Ana Andrezza (Assistant Professor, Departments of Pharmacology & Toxicology and Psychiatry, CAMH), Dr. Andreas Laupacis (Professor, Department of Medicine, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute), Dr. Andy Smith (President and CEO of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre), Dr. Jim Woodgett (Professor, Department of Medical Biophysics, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute), and keynote speaker Dr. Molly Shoichet. Combatting poor scientific reporting is a pressing issue in today’s society, and Dr. Smith emphasized that scientists should develop their scientific reporting skills in their respective fields. Dr. Woodgett also encouraged the young scientists in the room to develop fact-based arguments. The panel exuded a sentiment of empowerment for students to not shy away from the media and an audience.

With that came the end of the special 50th edition of the Ori Rotstein Lecture and the 50th anniversary celebrations. The innovative hardwork and insight of the panelists and keynote speaker reminded all in attendance of the difference they can make. To be part of such a thriving department is a privilege—here’s to 50 more years of the IMS.