The Phase I objective of the McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine (MCMM) was to position the University of Toronto health sciences community as a global leader in the application of molecular discovery to clinical care. MCMM was founded in 2001 by a $50M bequest from the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation, and is a joint initiative of the University of Toronto and four partner hospital institutions, University Health Network, Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The endowment was leveraged with partner contributions and matching funds from the Ontario Innovation Trust to enable a variety of infrastructure projects. The Founding Director was Dr. Keith Stewart (2001-2005), followed by Dr. Duncan Stewart (2005-2007), with Dr. Stephen Scherer serving as an Interim Director (2007-2009).
In the first phase of the MCMM, priority areas for investment included research operations, medical education, ethics, policy, outreach, as well as recruitment of new scientists and establishing infrastructure to support research activities. The specific areas of biomedical research encompassed computational genomics, drug discovery, global health, immunogenomics, and regenerative medicine. There were numerous successes in all areas of operation. For example, MCMM investments in The McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health (www.mrcglobal.org), the McEwan-McLaughlin Stem Cell Seminar and the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine MD/PhD Program, amongst others, were critical in initiating or advancing their respective agendas. Phase I activities are documented through annual meetings and reports to the External Advisory Board, Executive Committee, Oversight Committee and partner-granting agencies (summary data and press releases are found at www.mcmm.ca).
The University of Toronto's (UofT) announced geneticist Dr. Steve Scherer as the new Director of the McLaughlin Centre (previously called the McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine or MCMM). This new phase of the McLaughlin Centre, which were further build on the original $50 million dollar bequest from the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation, will emphasize the advancement of genomic medicine through research and education.
Genomic medicine is defined as "diagnosis, prognosis, prevention and/or treatment of disease and disorders of the mind and body, using approaches informed by knowledge of the diploid genome and the molecules it encodes".
The evolution of MCMM and congruent developments in Toronto including changes in administration, availability of resources, funding opportunities, and importantly the needs of the biomedical researchers, necessitated an updating of the Phase I MCMM model of operation.
Over the past 24 months the Interim Director (Dr. Scherer) working with Dean Catharine Whiteside and Vice-Dean Peter Lewis, the McLaughlin Centre Steering Committee comprising the Vice-Presidents of Research of the hospital partner institutions, and the McLaughlin Centre Board of Trustees, including University of Toronto President David Naylor, identified five areas requiring further development, including (i) the need to enhance the McLaughlin Centre brand including co-branding and leveraging with the partner institutions, (ii) funding new competitive time-limited projects that preferably operate at the interface of McLaughlin Centre partners with majority ownership by the McLaughlin Centre, (iii) building the most competitive environment to attract and retain a Director of international standing, (iv) maintaining ability to move quickly in new areas and to increase the McLaughlin Centre ability to attract involvement of new scientists and projects, and (v) to operate effectively and responsibly under a fixed-budget model.
Governance: The McLaughlin Centre currently operates out of administrative offices on the 14th Floor of the MaRS Toronto Medical Discovery Tower, as well as from administrative assistance at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr. Steve Scherer is Director and Jenny Kaderali is the Executive Assistant. Dr. Norman Rosenblum serves as Director of Education and is also the Director of the MD/PhD Program and the Clinical Investigator Program at the University of Toronto. The Director reports to the McLaughlin Centre Executive Committee, which is chaired by the Dean of Medicine and includes senior leaders from the partner institutions with expertise in genomic medicine and who do not necessarily represent their home institutions. The McLaughlin Centre Oversight Committee ensures faithful pursuit of the original purpose of the grant and that any major Centre changes remain authentic to this. Membership is via nomination by the President and appointment by Governing Council.
Funding: McLaughlin Centre research-grant funding will follow a competitive review-process. The fundamental platform for any project must remain "genomic medicine" as defined by the Director and advisors. A funding competition will be held based on invited grant applications passing an initial letter of intent stage.
All grants will be funded on a short-term basis (preferred 1-2 years) and fall into one of two categories, (i) seed or accelerator-type grants or (ii) higher-impact grants. There will also be funding for special workshops, travel and fellowships.
Following the original principles of the MCMM, Phase II funding will also promote inter-institutional grant applications from investigators representing multiple McLaughlin Centre partners, which also bring new co-funding to the projects.
The precise funding models including the amounts per grant, applications per year, open or request-style and type of peer-review committees will be further developed and adjudicated by the Director. There will be a research funding competition open to the 10 fully affiliated hospitals and their research institutes, as well as the Health Science Faculties at the University of Toronto (ie. the Toronto Academic Health Science Nework) in 2010. Details and timelines will be announced in June, 2010.
McLaughlin Centre funding of the MD/PhD Program and the Clinical Investigator Program at the University of Toronto will continue. The McLaughlin Centre Director and Director of Education will also explore other education, outreach and knowledge transfer opportunities.