Note: This article originally appeared in BetaKit. Story by Doug Soltys.

MaRS Discovery District has a renewed focus on the health and biotech sectors, as the innovation hub announced today a major expansion to its tenant list. One such tenant is the University of Toronto, which has acquired a 20 percent equity stake in MaRS’ West Tower.

As part of an effort to blend medical discovery with entrepreneurship, the new anchor tenant (and original MaRS co-founder) will use its space in the West Tower for research in drug discovery, regenerative medicine, infectious diseases, and advanced computing. The initiative also includes the new Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, a partnership involving the University Health Network (UHN) and the Hospital for Sick Children, with a focus on new models for repairing damaged hearts. Representatives from MaRS and U of T indicated that the new tenancies create the opportunity for a ‘lab bench to bedside’ approach to medicine, whereby therapies developed in the labs can be taken directly to patients for trial.

U of T will be joined in the West Tower by a number of public and government health organizations, including health tech startups like Synaptive Medical, and LEAGUE, (and, of course, Facebook). LEAGUE founder Mike Serbinis explained to BetaKit his excitement for building his next world-changing business within MaRS.

“MaRS is the largest urban tech centre in North America, at the epicentre of healthcare delivery, research and policy,” Serbinis said. “It’s the perfect place to start a new company with a mission to transform healthcare.”

Today’s announcement brings the West Tower to over 70 percent fulfilment, with MaRS indicating that forthcoming announcements and stealth-operating tenants will see the building over 90 percent leased in the coming months. MaRS expects the West Tower to be fully leased in early 2016, ahead of the timelines recommend in the Expert Panel Report on the MaRS Phase 2 Building.

MaRS’ renewed focus on health tech coincides with expanding provincial activity. Previously unreleased data by MaRS provided to BetaKit states that the number of advanced health ventures in Ontario grew by 21 percent between 2013-2014, with new jobs in the sector increasing by 20 percent in that time period.

“Toronto’s world-class science has become a powerful springboard for new companies,” said MaRS CEO, Ilse Treurnicht. “We’ve seen this synergy in phase one. Now with the West Tower filling up, we’re on track to double the scale of this ecosystem of leading researchers, ambitious startups and innovative multinationals.”

MaRS West Tower Tenant List

  • University of Toronto
  • University Health Network
  • Ryerson University
  • Facebook Canada
  • Synaptive Medical
  • Emerald Technology Ventures
  • Love Energy Consultants
  • Rethink Sustainability
  • CTR Inc.
  • Intelligent Office
  • Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR)
  • Public Health Ontario
  • MaRS Innovation
  • Ontario Genomics Institute
  • The Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit (OSSU)
  • Institute for Diagnostic Imaging Research
  • Clinical Trials Ontario

To learn more about the tenants in MaRS’ West Tower, read the press release.