Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research

Terrence Donnelly’s Gift Comes to Life as Construction Begins on New Biotech Hub

MSB buildingThe glass tower of the Donnelly Centre can be seen just behind the 1960s Medical Science Building which will house the Accelerator for Donnelly Collaboration dedicated to translating discoveries made in the Centre into new patient therapies.

A revamped research space at the heart of the main University of Toronto campus will house the Accelerator for Donnelly Collaboration (AcDC), a state-of-the-art catalyst hub for biotechnology innovation and commercialization.

“The Accelerator for the Donnelly Centre enhances our capacity to continue advanced biomedical research and to increase the number of world class researchers at the Donnelly Centre,” says Terrence Donnelly, whose generous $10 million gift is helping fund its construction and whose initial gift helped found, in 2005, the Centre as an interdisciplinary biomedical research institute.

By providing a home to startup companies, and for scientists collaborating with Donnelly investigators, the AcDC will accelerate translation of research discoveries made in the Centre into new therapies while helping boost innovation, create jobs and retain research talent in Canada.

“The Toronto community is comparable to biotech hubs like Boston and the San Francisco’s Bay Area in terms of its academic research strength, but more programs are needed to help build and sustain a vibrant biotechnology sector,” says Brenda Andrews, University Professor and Director of the Donnelly Centre. “The AcDC will house key technology platforms established by Donnelly investigators, and provide space for interested scientists from the biotech sector to work directly with Donnelly scientists on new research projects”.

Learn more about how antibodies produced by the Centre's investigators are being turned into new immunotherapies for cancer.

AcDC logoLogo of the Donnelly Centre's biotechnology hub expected to launch in 2019. The AcDC was also made possible thanks to U of T’s Faculty of Medicine, which designated a space for it on the fourth floor of the Medical Sciences Building, adjacent to the Centre.  The existing research space is being renovated to convert it to the CL2 safety level for mammalian cell culture work and to accommodate robotics and other key infrastructure, with construction work ending by spring 2019.

In the 13 years since the Donnelly Centre was founded, its scientists have made important insights into how genes influence health. This research is helping pave the way for personalized medicine in which a person’s genetic make-up can be used to predict risk of disease and tailor treatment that’s right just for them. For example, using genome data, Donnelly Centre researchers have already developed a more effective way of targeting under-treated and highly lethal pancreatic cancer, and have provided compelling data that has set the stage for potential human trials.  The AcDC will catalyze these types of discoveries, which promise to produce tangible advances that will help patients.

Part of the income generated by the AcDC thorough industry partnerships will feed back into the Donnelly Centre, ensuring that its scientists can continue to make important foundational discoveries and recruit the best researchers.

The AcDC will also provide space to the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC) and Platform for Advanced Cell Engineering (PACE), the Centre’s flagship technology platforms for antibody and cell engineering, respectively. As a result, many groups that are working with the TRAC and the PACE will now have a rapid means to continue translational research through the AcDC.

“This new Accelerator means the distance between research bench and patients’ bedside will be shortened again. By bringing together the very best of private enterprise and academia, the AcDC will speed up breakthroughs in research leading to new drugs for today’s patient population and generations to follow,” says Donnelly.

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