MaRS Future of Medicine 2009: Home run for Ontario life sciences

The futures so bright...
The future's so bright...

Last week, we held the inaugural MaRS Future of Medicine conference here at the MaRS Centre in Toronto. This major partnering event attracted over 170 attendees including representatives from Agfa Healthcare, AstraZeneca, Baxter, Bayer, Cellular Dynamics, GE Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline, iPS Academia Japan, Merck, Roche and Sanofi Pasteur.

Why did so many industry delegates make the trip to Toronto? Perhaps to witness first-hand the incredible innovations that Ontario groups have been making in stem cell science and oncology – the main themes of the event.

In parallel to the presentations, MaRS Future of Medicine 2009 included a partnering track which hosted 80 meetings during the day.

Morning sessions focused on stem cells and their applications.  Janet Rossant (SickKids) and Peter Zandstra (U. Toronto) moderated an exceptionally strong roster of speakers including Andras Nagy (Mt. Sinai), James Ellis (SickKids), William Stanford (U. Toronto), Mick Bhatia (McMaster) and Freda Miller (SickKids).

In the afternoon the topics were advanced diagnostics, imaging and treatments in oncology.  The sessions, moderated by Tom Hudson and Bob Sutherland of OICR featured Greg Hines (ArcticDx), Shana Kelley (GenEplex), Scott Tanner (DVS Sciences), Cameron Piron (Sentinelle Medical), Aaron Fenster (Robarts), John Valliant (McMaster), Cameron Mahon (Profound) and Shyam Ramchandani (SzyfCo).

One other highlight of MaRS Future of Medicine 2009 was a spirited roundtable discussion on the topic “open source models for biotech.”  David MacNaughtan (DRI Capital) did a sterling job moderating the vigorous discussion between Rafi Hofstein (MaRS Innovation), Aled Edwards (Structural Genomics Consortium) and Ken Sonnenfeld (King & Spalding).

As the organizers of this event we knew that the session content was strong but could not have predicted the many warm comments we received from the attendees. It was great to hear things like, “I have been to many events like this but this  one is the best” and “we would never have been able to get an audience with pharma so easily without this event” and “this event is exceptionally well put together.”

We wish to express our deep gratitude to AstraZeneca Canada (presenting sponsor) as well as MaRS Innovation and OICR (session sponsors) for their generous support.

We also wish to thank the conference participants (speakers, moderators and panelists) and the many contributors at MaRS who helped make this event happen.

Over the next few weeks we will be making some highlights from the event available online.

See you at MaRS Future of Medicine 2010!