University of Toronto Mississauga Life Sciences Facility Soaring to New Heights

University of Toronto Mississauga Life Sciences Facility
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Innovative building will advance discoveries and enable research within the pharmaceutical sector

The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) is a catalyst for Peel Region’s dynamic life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors. A new advanced research facility at UTM will accelerate Mississauga’s global competitiveness in innovation and talent attraction.

UTM’s new life sciences building will enable a cutting-edge cancer drug discovery program to grow exponentially into an international research hub, the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry (CMC). CMC is a success story already leading transformative discoveries into molecular compounds that target cancer and other important diseases and launching spin-off companies in Mississauga.

“The CMC will be the anchor tenant in UTM’s New Science Building, which will open in 2023. It will expand CMC’s footprint from 4,000 to 90,000 square feet, and enable transformative drug discovery at scale,” says Alexandra Gillespie, Vice- President of the University of Toronto and UTM’s Principal.

“Drug discovery is extremely expensive and labour intensive,” says Professor Patrick Gunning, founder and Chief Scientific Director of CMC, a UTM professor in Chemical & Physical Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry. Gunning’s successful research model was the driving force behind the Centre’s creation.

“This new facility will be a fully integrated drug discovery centre that will help to fast-track research programs. We will be able to capture all the components, from computational chemistry to cell biology and biochemistry to synthetic chemistry and to early preclinical evaluation, that we currently have to outsource. That saves time and money.”

The new complex, seeded through a $7 million philanthropic investment by Mississauga-based Orlando Corp., will conduct ground-breaking research and train in-demand talent for the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors, which expect to grow by more than 65,000 jobs nationally before 2029.

“The University of Toronto is one of the world’s best research universities and that strength is growing in Mississauga, which has Canada’s second-largest life sciences sector by employment,” says Gillespie. “We are the only research university in Peel Region and we take that seriously. We will graduate more than 400 life sciences students this year alone. And that’s just the beginning.”

The New Science Building will also be home to research into forensic sciences and high-performance computing, as well as U of T’s Novo Nordisk Network for Healthy Populations, which aims to lead the fight against diabetes and serious chronic diseases.

The CMC attracts talent from Mississauga and around the world “who might otherwise have gone to Boston or California to do drug discovery,” says Gunning, who has authored about 120 papers and won 26 research awards.

CMC will grow to 130 graduate students, research associates and postdoctoral fellows, up from about 30 now. “Part of CMC’s long-term vision is to inspire a path toward entrepreneurship, and to empower emerging researchers to launch drug discovery companies,” says Dr. Elvin de Araujo, CMC’s Research Manager.

CMC spin-offs have also attracted about $70 million in private investment and employ more than 120 people, says Gunning.

“Drug discovery is one of the biggest industries in the world. Canada, Ontario and the GTA can produce more biotech companies and the CMC can be an incubator. We have shown that you can build these companies in Ontario and succeed.”

“Both the university and the City of Mississauga have empowered CMC’s increase in scale and backed the growth of the region’s biotech industry,” he says.

“Professor Gunning’s work into the next generation of pharmaceutical solutions for the most pressing problems is so leading edge,” says Gillespie. “He’s taking his place on the world stage and showing what Mississauga and Canada can do.”