Dr. Molly Shoichet

05
May 2017
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Dr. Molly Shoichet awarded prestigious Killam Prize

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Recognized for the contributions she has made throughout her career to advancing the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine, University of Toronto’s Dr. 

Recognized for the contributions she has made throughout her career to advancing the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine, University of Toronto’s Dr. Molly Shoichet has been awarded a 2017 Killam Prize along with $100,000 to advance her work.

“This award will accelerate our research and our efforts to improve the lives of people everywhere who are living with the effects of cancer, stroke, blindness and other currently irreversible conditions” commented Dr. Shoichet in an article published by the University of Toronto.

Dr. Shoichet’s research focuses on using biomaterials to enhance the effectiveness of stem cells in the treatment of conditions such as blindness and stroke.  She developed a hydrogel platform to deliver stem cells to the brain and eyes to restore vision by 15 per cent.  For that, and her other contributions to the field of stem cell research, Dr. Shoichet received the 2016 Till & McCulloch Award.

Beyond her research endeavors, Dr. Shoichet is a strong advocate for women in science and technology careers and was the L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Laureate, North America for 2015.  She also advocates for Canadian innovation and co-authored a piece published last year in iPolitics to promote Canada’s global leadership in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

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15
Sep 2016
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Canada’s stem cell community ready to innovate

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When it comes to innovation, Canada’s stem cell community is ready to roll.

That’s the message conveyed in an opinion piece in iPolitics, the must-read publication for those involved in — or merely fascinated by — Canadian politics.…

When it comes to innovation, Canada’s stem cell community is ready to roll.

That’s the message conveyed in an opinion piece in iPolitics, the must-read publication for those involved in — or merely fascinated by — Canadian politics.

The article responds to the call from Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, for “fresh ideas and a joint action plan that will make innovation a national priority and put Canada on a firm path to long-term economic growth.”

The iPolitics piece points out that Canada’s stem cell community has “seen the writing on the wall, consulted, and forged a plan to act. It’s a blueprint designed to ensure our world-class talent grows here at home, that Canada reaps the economic rewards and that we remain a global leader in this sector. The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy has tremendous support across the country and is ready to be implemented.”

Three powerful voices united to co-author the article:

  • Peter MacKinnon, LLD, is President Emeritus of Athabasca University and former President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan. His national appointments include the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service and the Science, Technology and Innovation Council of Canada
  • Molly Shoichet, PhD,holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering at the University of Toronto. She was the North American recipient of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science in 2015
  • James Price, MBA,is President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

“We wanted to make it clear that by making the Strategy a component of its Innovation Agenda, the Government will be putting stem cells to work for Canada’s future,” said Mr. Price.  “Not only will this set things in motion for many more people to be treated with new therapies, it will boost the economy and assure that thousands of new high-quality jobs will be created in this burgeoning industry.”

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09
Aug 2016
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Dr. Molly Shoichet

Breakthroughs can produce a lot of hope, but also frustration

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You read about a stem cell breakthrough that could lead to a whole new way of treating — maybe even curing — a disease. …

You read about a stem cell breakthrough that could lead to a whole new way of treating — maybe even curing — a disease. Then … nothing happens.

The gap in time between a medical science discovery and actual clinical application can seem like a millennium, especially if you are living with the disease in question.

This week in the Toronto Star, Dr. Molly Shoichet articulately — and compassionately — explains why it takes so long to move from the “Eureka!” moment in the research lab to a “We can treat this” scenario at the hospital bed.

She knows first-hand, having worked with a University of Toronto team including Drs. Derek van der Kooy,  Cindi Morshead, Brian Ballios and Michael Cooke that created a hydrogel to help transplanted stem cells thrive in the brain and eye. By injecting photoreceptor cells, the team was able to restore vision by approximately 15% in blind mice.

Their 2015 discovery garnered plenty of media attention, sparking hope that people with macular degeneration — a currently incurable condition — could have a new treatment. More than a year later, no such treatment is available or even on the horizon.

“For many people with macular degeneration, or any degenerative disease for that matter, studies like mine often produce a lot of hope, but also frustration that the ‘product’ is not available to them,” she writes in the Star.

As Dr. Shoichet explains, it can easily take 17 years or more to move a discovery from the lab to the patient.  It takes lots of testing with animals before a new treatment can safely move to the three stages of human clinical trials, with all the attendant regulatory controls and approvals.  It involves plenty of hard, painstaking work. And it costs lots of money.

But Dr. Shoichet remains optimistic. The opportunity to improve the lives of people with deadly diseases is what drives scientists to get up in the morning and get to work.  As she writes, “I am optimistic we will deliver on the promise of regenerative medicine — but it won’t happen right away.”

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07
Apr 2015
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Dr. Molly Shoichet

Dr. Molly Shoichet and the future of regenerative medicine

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A few weeks ago, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Molly Shoichet was named as one of five recipients of the L’Oreal/UNESCO Women in Science Award.…

A few weeks ago, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Molly Shoichet was named as one of five recipients of the L’Oreal/UNESCO Women in Science Award.

Dr. Shoichet, the first Canadian to claim the prize since 2009, was recognized “for the development of new materials to regenerate damaged nerve tissue and for a new method that can deliver drugs directly to the spinal cord and brain.”

Dr. Shoichet, whose work is mainly focused on drug delivery and stem cell transplantation strategies, shares her excitement about stem cells and the field of regenerative medicine in a video interview with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).

“There is so much on the horizon of regenerative medicine that is exciting,” says Dr. Shoichet. “Our lab is really focused on the central nervous system, because there is really nothing apart from rehabilitation for these traumatic diseases like stroke, spinal cord injury and even blindness.”

You can view the other installments in the Regenerative Medicine Leadership Series here.

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