Creating space for discovery: New medical research centre will fuel innovation

Posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2022


By David McFadden
Research Writer

The largest investment in the University of Ottawa’s history will create a luminous 350,000 square-foot medical research complex that will fuel the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine’s bio-innovations for generations and help shape the future of Canada’s health care systems with medical discoveries leading to novel treatments.

A finely calibrated hub for discovery, the state-of-the-art complex on the Alta Vista campus will serve as a bubbling cauldron of new ideas and findings. The Advanced Medical Research Centre (AMRC) will add major velocity to the Faculty of Medicine's efforts to address the great scientific challenges of the 21st century – from neuroscience and molecular medicine to pandemic preparedness and artificial intelligence.

Slated to open its doors in 2025, the facility will be home to laboratories, core research facilities, and other infrastructure to support world-class research innovation, medical education, and several training programs.

At the Faculty of Medicine, there's growing excitement around the AMRC vision – and what it means for our community, our patients, and our vibrant research ecosystem.

“The need for biomedical innovations has never been greater than now. Canada’s health care systems require a re-engineering and a re-thinking of how we can best optimize research activities and talent pipelines along the continuum for accelerating discoveries and translating them into practice – and that’s exactly what we’ll do,” says Dr. Bernard Jasmin, dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “We’re ready to lead the way.”

What might the new uOttawa facility look like? It's early days, but initial architectural renderings show a sleek, ultra-modern tower marked by a richly textured façade of elegant lines and controlled admission of natural light. The design emphasizes environmental sustainability and the creation of spaces that will foster collaborations leading to exciting "ah-ha" moments for interdisciplinary teams with different but complementary expertise.

“This will create a vibrant, diverse, and well-integrated science community in which investigators, trainees, and the private sector will be able to share knowledge, ideas, resources, and infrastructure,” says Dr. Marceline Côté, a Faculty associate professor who is the holder of the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and Antiviral Therapeutics. “This will not only drive science innovation but also represent a rich training environment.”

As part of the Ottawa Health Innovation Hub – a one-of-a-kind ecosystem drawing from the very best of the National Capital Region – there will be dozens of startup companies housed in the complex, ramping up commercialization of new discoveries, and accelerating bench-to-bedside translation.

Not only will this provide a big leg up for expanding the reach of our bio-innovations, but it will help steer our graduate students' and postdoctoral fellows' careers where they wish them to go. For learners like Redaet Daniel, a 27-year-old PhD candidate in virology who eventually plans to transition from academia into industry, the new complex’s offerings will help refine transferable skills.

“It sounds like we'll really be able to grow the skillsets of our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows by having a ton of different core facilities and all of these new techniques,” Daniel says.

Indeed, a continual objective will always be to develop the next generation of top research and entrepreneurial talent by fostering the careers of up-and-coming investigators while constantly evolving to meet the needs of science education.

This will be greatly aided by the AMRC’s modular laboratories, according to Dr. Katey Rayner, the Faculty’s Assistant Dean for Research and Special Projects. Having the ability to customize labs will allow uOttawa to swiftly expand programming as needed so we can stay in a point position for science education and best prepare learners in disciplines that are growing in the future, she says. It will also help the Faculty of Medicine recruit and retain top research talent.

“We always punch above our weight in terms of research excellence, productivity and training the next generation of scientists. The new AMRC complex will allow us to continue this state-of-the-art research and bring our Faculty of Medicine researchers closer together to foster collaboration, but now with even more capacity for growth,” Dr. Rayner says.

Dr. Jocelyn Côté, Vice Dean for Research, says the Faculty's leadership is excited by the unique opportunities to "help design a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility specifically tailored to enable realization of the Faculty’s vision and lofty goals for years to come.”

Dr. Jasmin says the future looks very bright for the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine as it goes from strength to strength on the national and international stage. Ticking off just a few examples, he notes the Faculty’s growing global reputation, research prominence and impact, and development of new graduate programs.

“This is a very exciting time for the Faculty of Medicine,” he says. “The Advanced Medical Research Centre will greatly benefit our patients, our learners, our researchers, and all other valued members of our community."

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AMRC atrium

The proposed atrium of the Advanced Medical Research Center (AMRC).

AMRC exterior

Early architectural design showing exterior of the AMRC.

AMRC lab

A proposed laboratory at the new medical research complex.

AMRC common space

Image credits : University of Ottawa


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