Nearly 200 biomedical researchers, clinicians and student trainees from Ryerson University and St. Michael’s Hospital gathered at the Keenan Research Centre in Toronto to explore healthcare research collaborations at the annual Institute for Biomedical Engineering Science and Technology (iBEST) symposium. iBEST’s goal is to pioneer new medical technologies and guide fundamental research from bench to bedside.

iBEST is a partnership between Ryerson University and St. Michael’s Hospital that brings together Ryerson’s engineering and science strengths with St. Michael’s biomedical research and clinical expertise to translate research concepts into testable healthcare solutions.

There is both a need and immense opportunity to develop new diagnostic techniques, treatments and new preventative strategies that promote high-quality, accessible health care that meets the needs of our diverse communities according to Dr. Wendy Cukier, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, Ryerson University and an iBEST Executive Committee member who presented at the symposium. “Developing these new technologies and approaches is not enough,” she said. “Scientists and engineers constantly have new ideas and develop new technologies, new products and services, but innovation can only occur when those ideas and technologies are actually adopted. Without adoption, there is no innovation.”

“Nowhere is this more true than in the health care sector,” Dr. Cukier added. “However, I truly believe that iBEST, and the Ryerson and St. Michael’s partnership, has the potential to address this by bringing innovation to the very way in which we think about research and commercialization while keeping our focus on the end users and the impact of our research and inventions.”

The annual iBEST symposium provides a platform for some of the country’s leading biomedical, technological and clinical experts, their student trainees and their community and industry partners to meet other experts in the field and to form a collaboration to solve health research challenges.

Dr. Ori Rotstein, director of the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s, spoke to the iBEST symposium attendees about the goals of the newly founded institute and its greatly anticipated research facility, opening in the fall on the seventh floor of the Keenan Research Centre at St. Michael’s.

“iBEST will solve health research challenges and rapidly pilot, modify and introduce biomedical innovations to improve the health of Canadians,” said Dr. Rotstein, who is co-director of iBEST and a member of the iBEST Scientific Operating Committee. “We hope that iBEST advances collaborative health research discoveries—including publications, patents, products and companies—and delivers results for Ontario’s economy and, more importantly, its patients.”

One of the symposium sessions, called “what’s my thing”, offered a great opportunity for participants to share their research interests in a unique way with other participants. Each panelist delivered a 90-second elevator-pitch style presentation about what area of research and/or project he/she is currently working on. This brief synopsis gave other panelists and attendees valuable information about possible collaborations.

The day also included opportunities for networking and a more in-depth exploration of the work of researchers attending through the popular and informative iBEST Expo, which is a trade show of research projects, demonstration of technologies, and tours of the soon-to-be-opened iBEST space. “The scientific Expo allowed people who were interested in what was presented in the earlier ‘what’s my thing’ session to get more details about the research programs of the investigators,” said Dr. Michael Kolios, associate dean of research and graduate studies, Faculty of Science, Ryerson University and iBEST scientific operating committee member. “I received very positive feedback from symposium attendees. This year’s symposium exceeded expectations,” he added.

Providing world-class training to graduate students and research trainees to develop the next generation of innovators and multi-disciplinary talent is a goal of iBEST. To that end, the event provided an opportunity to work towards meeting this goal. The symposium also featured the iBEST Angels’ Den competition, in which teams of students and trainees from Ryerson and St. Michael’s submitted health-related research proposals for interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects. Five teams were shortlisted to deliver presentations to a panel of judges.

First-place winners were Michael Sugiyama (St. Michaels’s) and Shabab Momin (Ryerson), whose project involved the use of a lung ultrasound to precisely target treatment to the injured lung in acute respiratory distress syndrome. Second were Mark McVey (St. Michael’s), Muhannad Fadhel (Ryerson) and Eno Hysi (Ryerson) for their proposed study using photoacoustic imaging to track the severity of sickle cell crises. Third place went to Victoria McCutcheon (St. Michael’s) and Pooya Sobhe Bidari (Ryerson) for the development of a high-throughput model of traumatic brain injury in zebrafish for the purpose of new drug discovery for the treatment of this important clinical problem.

Dr. Cukier closed the symposium by saying, “I think you will all come to see what we believe – Ryerson is perfect for St. Michael’s and St. Michael’s is the perfect partner for Ryerson. A match, as they say, made in heaven. We share a common desire to service our community and a common goal to improve the quality of life of patients so they can receive care conveniently and in the appropriate settings. To really make a difference. Today’s event not only highlighted the work of iBEST, but it also brought together hundreds of current and future generations of researchers and clinicians, and I am confident those discussions will help take us to the next level.”