Long before MaRS acquired it, the Heritage Building was famously associated with excellence in innovation. Formerly the ‘College Wing’ of the Toronto General Hospital (TGH) from 1913 to 2002, it was both a brilliant architectural centrepiece and a contributor to some of the last century’s most significant medical breakthroughs: insulin, the artificial kidney and the pacemaker, among many others. But its research legacy runs deeper. The new hospital site on College and University was not built simply to update the Toronto General’s facilities. It also enabled a cutting-edge research collaboration with the University of Toronto, inciting the University’s first serious exploits in biomedical research. The health legacy represented by the Heritage Building lies not merely in the numerous innovations it has produced, but in the innovative institutional relationships that birthed them.
Since its official opening on June 18, 1913 and through most of the 20th century, the TGH College Wing stood at the centre of a dynamic discovery district not unlike the new “Discovery District” envisioned by MaRS. It was built upon strong linkages between the TGH, the University of Toronto (which included Connaught Laboratories until 1972), the Ontario Ministry of Health, the City of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children and other hospitals of the area, all of which are key partners in the MaRS initiative today.
Indeed, the monumental discoveries that arose in Toronto are in large part products of this history of cross-institutional collaboration. In the story of insulin’s discovery and refinement, this collaborative environment might have been the deciding factor. The innovation legacy represented by the Heritage Building thus represents not just a distinguished lineage of medical breakthroughs, but a progressive institutional approach to innovation that echoes today’s push for “convergence innovation.”
Tags: MaRS Discovery District