New Sunnybrook wing to battle diseases of tomorrow

The CEO of Sunnybrook hospital says its new research wing has remedies that reach far into the future.

On Friday Sunnybrook Health Science Centre unveiled its new Centre for Research in Image Guided Therapeutics, or CeRIGT Construction of the $160-million CeRIGT facility started after the Canada Foundation for Innovation awarded Sunnybrook a $75-million grant in 2008. Dr. Barry McLellan, Sunnybrook’s CEO, emphasized that CeRIGT will be introducing technology that will be able to treat incurable diseases in the future.

“These new therapies and devices are not just improved versions,” he said. “They will save lives and keep them out of hospitals.”

The new wing adds 150,000 square feet to the Sunnybrook Research Institute, including two new floors to allow space for labs. They feature a brain “dome” which is an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) focused ultrasound that could remove tumors without cutting through skin.

As well, a bio-molecular engineering lab will develop different vaccines to battle cancer cells. Dr. Aws Abdul-Wahid, post-doctoral research assistant for physical services, explained the vaccines’ significance.

“(They) will block the cancer cells and harness the patient’s natural body defence mechanisms to target the cancer cell and kill it, ” he said.

In addition, the CeRIGT centre has a cell-killing robot room. One of only four in the world, the robot uses a fully automated screening microscope that shows how drugs will affect individual cells in the human body.

In addition to Sunnybrook officials, Governor General David Johnston attended the opening.

“Today is a great day because this research centre has such magnificent potential to advance health care for the better,” he said.

Despite the attractive appearance of the facility, Dr. Michael Julius, vice-president of research at Sunnybrook commented on its practical value.

“While the space is beautiful,” he said, “it’s what all of these people are doing inside of it that really matters.”