Collaboration could create 100 jobs At McMaster Innovation Park
“This is a big deal, man,” enthused Dr Mo Elbestawi, McMaster’s vice-president of research and international affairs, referring to a deal just signed with the world renowned Fraunhofer IZI institute to commercialize some of Mac’s bio-technology research. At fruition the agreement will see up to a hundred German and Canadian researchers working side by side at the McMaster Innovation Park developing cutting edge cell technologies in a new field known as personal medicine. Down the road it could result in a whole new industry based in Hamilton—Bio Technology.“We’re talking about creating therapies for 100,000 or 200,000 patients through the manufacture of human cells that are tailored to the individual patient,” Dr. Elbestawi explained. “We will use you own cells to create medicine in your own body.”
Fraunhofer specializes in commercializing research. It maintains 66 institutes in Germany and has a staff of 22,000 with an annual budget of approximately $2.5 billion. Of that, more than 70 percent is derived from contracts with industry and public financed projects. These institutes play an important role in the economic development of key sectors of the German economy. Mac will be partnered with a Fraunhofer institute currently operating in Leipzig.
Initially, Fraunhofer-IZI is interested in 2 research areas in which McMaster University is recognized as a global leader. They are looking at work in cancer immunotherapy under Professor Jonathan Bramson and work on the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis led by Assistant Professor Leyla Soleymani. “We wanted to hit the ground running,” said Dr. Elbestawi, “allowing researchers on both sides to get to know each other.”
McMaster will handle the entire operating cost of the project estimated at $20 Million annually but is looking for assistance with the capital cost of renovating a warehouse on the Innovation Park site to house the new institute. McMaster will contribute the 40,000 square foot building, conservatively valued at $4 Million, and have received a $4 grant from the Ontario government. They have applied to the City of Hamilton for $4 Million and expect to get $8 Million from the Federal Government.
“This project does what universities are supposed to do,” said Dr. Elbestawi—creating jobs and attracting new industry.” He believes the agreement could result in Hamilton becoming a centre for bio-technology. As a result of the Fraunhofer deal already three German Pharmaceutical companies are looking at setting up shop in Hamilton, Dr Elbestawi noted. “This is just the beginning. It puts us on the map at the international level.” The new facility should be ready in approximately 18 months.
The Fraunhofer Institute of Cell Threapy and Immunology (IZI) in Leipzig Germany that will be partnering with McMaster.
Signing the collaboration agreement between Fraunhofer and Mac (l-r) Steve Collins, McMaster; Patrick Deane, President of McMaster; Frank Emmrich, Director of Fraunhofer IZI and Dr. Mo Elbestawi, McMaster’s vice-president of research and international affairs