MaRS: A history of innovation

Toronto General Hospital, circa 1913

The newly launched MaRS website features a “History of the MaRS Heritage Building.” As many of us still remember, the MaRS Heritage Building was formerly the “College Wing” of the Toronto General Hospital. Aside from being an architectural tour de force at the time, this building has a special history in the field of medical research.

Its construction in 1913 made possible a new and highly fruitful set of cross-institutional relationships between the Hospital, the University of Toronto Medical School and the private sector–an interesting parallel to MaRS’ contemporary vision of “Convergence Innovation.”

Over the next half century, the Toronto General Hospital–and the College Wing specifically–was the site of many important medical discoveries, the most famous being the discovery of insulin in 1921. The history examines this story in depth, not just for the sake of the reader’s edification (though it is a great yarn!), but because it illustrates beautifully the pivotal contributions that cross-institutional relationships made towards insulin’s discovery and commercialization.

It’s always a good idea to be skeptical when a corporation lays claim to a “legacy” when discussing its history. Nevertheless, the history is still very much a valid pursuit. It gives a historical context to the historic site that MaRS occupies. More importantly, it is highly relevant to MaRS, not as a historical innovation “mandate,” but as a lesson and historical parallel–an ancestor, if you will.

All in all, it’s a fascinating and colourful story with lots of old photos, and a good read if you have a moment or two. Enjoy!