Building on Canada's Strengths in Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine has the potential to transform healthcare by treating previously incurable chronic diseases and genetic disorders. Since the discovery of stem cells in the early 1960s by Canadian scientists Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch, significant advancements in regenerative medicine have followed, many by Canadian researchers and practitioners. With these advancements in regenerative medicine, and other countries investing heavily in stem cell science, it is vital for Canada to take stock of the field and better understand the current state of regenerative medicine science in the country. Recognizing this need, the Minister of Science, on behalf of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, asked the Council of Canadian Academies to convene an expert workshop to identify the key opportunities and challenges associated with regenerative medicine in Canada.

The workshop, held October 13-14, 2016 in Toronto, brought together perspectives from academia, medicine, funding agencies, industry, and patient advocacy and was informed by a literature review and bibliometric research. Released on Thursday March 9, 2017, the final workshop report, Building on Canada’s Strengths in Regenerative Medicine, is an insightful, high-quality, independent study that overviews the current strengths and weaknesses in regenerative medicine in Canada, and identifies key opportunities for success in the field. It is intended to contribute to a national dialogue and serve as a tool to help inform policy decisions related to advancing the field of regenerative medicine in Canada.

The Questions

1. What are Canada’s strengths in regenerative medicine (and why are they strengths)? Consider the following categories:

  • Basic research
  • Development of cell-based regenerative therapies
  • Drug, device, and technology development
  • Translation of therapies to the clinic
  • Human resources and capital
  • Collaboration/networks
  • Regulatory/ethics environment
  • Funding environment/resource allocation

2. Given these strengths, what are the opportunities that exist and barriers that must be overcome for Canada to ensure that it can excel at regenerative medicine in the international arena?

Key findings

Overall, the workshop report confirms that the field of regenerative medicine continues to be strong in Canada. Canadian research is both of high quality and highly cited, and it is the collaborative culture, enhanced by national networks that keeps Canada leading in the field.

Maintaining Canada’s leadership position in regenerative medicine requires ongoing efforts including continued stable and strategic investment in researchers, collaborative networks, and infrastructure.

The workshop report identifies several opportunities to strengthen the regenerative medicine community in Canada. Opportunities identified as particularly promising focus on:

  • formalizing the coordination among regenerative medicine initiatives and key players to speak with one voice on common priorities;
  • establishing long-term and stable support for current networks, including those focused on commercialization, to help address the so-called “valley of death” that exists when translating research discoveries to clinical and industry settings;
  • enhancing coordination and alignment between the federal regulatory system and provincial healthcare systems; and
  • supporting existing manufacturing infrastructure and growing the regenerative medicine industry in Canada to provide jobs for highly-skilled personnel while also benefiting the Canadian economy.

The workshop participants also considered several specific opportunities such as:

  • enhancing coordination of Canada’s regenerative medicine clinical trial sites to enable sharing of best practices related to funding, design, and recruitment;
  • continued support for cross-training programs to ensure future generations of Canadian researchers have wide-ranging skills suited to the multidisciplinary nature of regenerative medicine;
  • new incentives that encourage partnerships between research institutions and industry; and
  • increasing efforts related to public engagement and outreach.

Report and Related Products

The Workshop Steering Committee

To lead the development of the workshop and complete the necessary background research, the CCA appointed a four-member Steering Committee, chaired by Dr. Janet Rossant, C.C., FRSC, President and Scientific Director, Gairdner Foundation. Other steering committee members were Dr. Tania Bubela, Professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Dr. Allen C. Eaves, O.B.C, President and CEO, STEMCELL Technologies, and Dr. Michael Rudnicki, O.C., FRSC, Senior Scientist and Director, Regenerative Medicine Program and Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and CEO and Scientific Director, Stem Cell Network.

Workshop Participants

Workshop attendees participated in a two-day discussion to respond to the charge set out by Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and Health Canada. The participants had expertise, experience, and demonstrated leadership in Canadian research and development in the area of regenerative medicine; translating research into clinical practice; public awareness; supportive infrastructure such as funding and collaborative networks; and policies governing research, clinical translation, and delivery of therapies. For a complete list of workshop participants, visit the Workshop Participants page.

For additional information or media inquiries, please contact:

Samantha Rae Ayoub, Communications and Publishing Director at 613-567-5000 ext. 256 or

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