Honouring Dr. John Evans: Evans family donates $10 million to MaRS Discovery District

Fund will support the MaRS Solutions Lab – and help prepare young Canadians for global leadership

Toronto, February 24, 2012 – MaRS is delighted to announce that it has received a generous gift of $10 million from the Evans family, honouring the remarkable contributions of Dr. John Evans, Chair Emeritus of MaRS and one of its founders.

The Evans family has generously supported MaRS since its inception. This gift will fund the development of the MaRS Solutions Lab – a new initiative that will help exceptional, young Canadian leaders approach complex, 21st-century challenges from an integrated, multi-disciplinary perspective.

“Today’s world needs MaRS more than ever,” said Dr. John Evans. “Much as this project mattered in 2000, it is even more important today. We face extraordinary challenges and opportunities, and there is no recipe book for this future. We hope the Lab will equip young people to develop inspired recipes and go out and change the world.”

A renowned healthcare, academic and business leader, as well as entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Evans has passionately advanced the frontiers of innovation in Canada and abroad, driving change in health research, education, business, civic engagement and public policy.

“What has happened over the last 10 years at MaRS far exceeds our expectations of what could be possible. It is exciting to imagine the difference MaRS can make in the next decade, and we are delighted to invest in this future,” said Derek Evans, on behalf of the Evans family.

In 2000, together with several other visionaries, Dr. Evans developed the concept behind MaRS: a bold idea for a Toronto convergence hub that would help innovation flourish, bring important research discoveries to patients and the marketplace, and foster the growth and success of promising new companies in an intensely competitive world. These companies, in turn, would build a thriving knowledge economy, providing high-value jobs for talented young Canadians right here at home, while their products and services would improve the quality of life in Canada and beyond.

The MaRS Centre opened in the fall of 2005, and will double in size in 2013 with the completion of its Phase 2 development. Today, MaRS anchors a vibrant innovation community, supporting thousands of young entrepreneurs through education, skills development, market research, and access to customer, talent and capital networks. In the past two years alone, MaRS has advised more than 2,000 startups—the leading cohort of which has raised more than $300 million in capital—and directly created over 1,500 new Canadian jobs.

The Evans family gift will support the new MaRS Solutions Lab, a fitting tribute given that the Lab’s mission is tied firmly to Dr. Evans’ overarching personal and professional aspiration:  improving the lives of individuals and communities both in Canada and internationally. And, consistent with John Evans’ approach, the Lab’s mission will be fulfilled by encouraging others to stand up and lead on national and international stages.

In particular, the Lab will focus on expanding the problem-solving capabilities of young leaders who will work in the Lab as MaRS Fellows. Selected through an open competitive process, the MaRS Fellows will benefit from the unique advantages of the MaRS environment: distinguished mentors; a systems view of the innovation process; a hands-on approach to collaboration; a focus on execution; access to leading entrepreneurs and expertise covering a wide range of disciplines; connections to finance; engagement of policy makers; and a global network of sister institutions and thought leaders.

Much like a traditional science lab, the MaRS Solutions Lab will be dedicated to problem-solving in a highly experimental environment, through repeatable, rigorous protocol. MaRS Fellows will learn and grow by tackling the tough problems confronting humanity on our hot and crowded planet.

Their leadership and positive problem-solving skills will be portable across businesses, academe, social enterprises and governments. As such, the MaRS Fellows will reflect the inspiration that John Evans provided to so many during his remarkable career, across varying sectors in Canada and abroad.

“On behalf of MaRS, I would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to the Evans family for this incredibly generous gift. Dr. Evans’ impact on MaRS, our community and country is profound, and we are committed to make the MaRS Solutions Lab a worthy tribute to this truly remarkable Canadian,” said Dr. Ilse Treurnicht, CEO, MaRS Discovery District.

As part of a ceremony and tribute held yesterday at MaRS Discovery District, and completely unrelated to the Evans family gift, the MaRS Board formalized its longstanding decision to designate the Heritage Building of the MaRS Centre as the Evans Wing, recognizing Dr. Evans’ key role as the inspiration behind MaRS and embodiment of its values and mission.

The Heritage Building, like John Evans, is the heart of the MaRS Centre, and has a rich history of innovation. It housed the first clinical trials of insulin 90 years ago and, by a fitting coincidence, was also the site where John Evans spent countless hours as a post-graduate medical trainee over 50 years ago. This designation not only honours Dr. Evans as a founder and remarkable leader at MaRS, but also highlights MaRS’ mission of taking the best ideas and most important discoveries and putting them to work to make the world better, and doing so in a way that brings the best of all of us to the process – reflecting the unique leadership style of this great Canadian.

“John Evans is a remarkable individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to so many areas in Canada and globally,” said Gord Nixon, President and CEO, RBC, and Chair, MaRS Discovery District. “He is the founder and driving force behind MaRS, and the designation of the Evans Wing is a wonderful way for us to demonstrate our gratitude and admiration.”

About Dr. John Evans
Dr. Evans is a Companion of the Order of Canada, member of the Order of Ontario, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London), Master of the American College of Physicians and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has received countless other honours during his career. He has been inducted into both the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. As the founding Dean of McMaster University’s School of Medicine, Dr. Evans was a pioneer of the much-acclaimed “problem-based” model of medical education. Among his many other achievements, Dr. Evans served as President of the University of Toronto, and was also founding Director of the Population, Health and Nutrition Department of the World Bank in Washington, DC. As Chair of Allelix Inc., Dr. Evans was associated with the birth of biotechnology in Canada. He has served as Chairman of Torstar Corporation, Chairman of Alcan Inc., Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation, and many other business and community boards. Dr. Evans played a catalytic role in many of Canada’s most important innovation pillars, including the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the establishment of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. He was a Founder of MaRS Discovery District and served as the first Chair of the Board of Directors for 10 years.

About MaRS
MaRS Discovery District (Twitter: @MaRSDD) is a mission-driven innovation centre located in Toronto. MaRS works with partners to catalyze, accelerate and amplify innovation. MaRS supports entrepreneurs building Canada’s next generation of growth companies.

For more information, contact:
Chris Stevenson
Director, Communications
(416) 673-8104