AmacaThera Co-Founder, Chief Scientific Officer and University Professor Molly Shoichet is the new Scientific Director of PRiME Next-Generation Precision Medicine, a University of Toronto (U of T) Strategic Initiative based at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. As an accelerator for precision medicine, PRiME brings together multi-disciplinary research talent and innovators to tackle unmet needs in drug discovery, diagnostics, and disease biology.
“It is such an exciting time in precision medicine,” says Shoichet, who is the Michael E Charles Professor of Chemical Engineering at U of T. “We know that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work well in medicine. We can now take advantage of advances in omics – genomics, metabolomics, proteomics – AI, and engineered materials to design therapeutics more precisely for individual needs. From a research and translation perspective, it’s crucial that we address not just the complexity of disease but how we can diagnose and do a better job delivering these new treatments to patients.”
Since launching in 2019, PRiME has grown to include more than 90 faculty from 16 departments across U of T’s three campuses, with more than 200 graduate trainees connected to the initiative. Under the leadership of Shoichet, PRiME will focus on expanding translation of research advances through collaboration with U of T’s partner hospitals and industry colleagues, growing PRiME into a hub to enable researchers to develop new solutions for key clinical challenges.
“U of T is a powerhouse in biomedical research that is recognized throughout the world,” says Shoichet. “This is strengthened not only by researchers in fields like pharmacy and engineering, but by being part of a broad ecosystem that is uniquely poised to accelerate new solutions for unmet needs in human disease. PRiME brings the diversity of ideas into solutions-focused, multidisciplinary research that will help us move the needle.”
For example, PRiME principal investigators Professors Stéphane Angers and Molly Shoichet are collaborating with SickKids Senior Scientist Dr. Peter Dirks to tackle glioblastoma – the deadliest primary tumour for which there are no therapies. Working with commercialization partner TIAP and industry partner Amgen, PRiME scientists are identifying new therapeutic targets for glioblastoma by combining their expertise in gene editing and specifically-designed hydrogels. Shoichet is known internationally for innovative research in drug delivery, drug discovery and hydrogels. Materials and techniques invented by Shoichet and her team aim to both promote tissue repair in the brain and spinal cord and discover new drugs in cancer. An Officer of the Order of Canada and Fellow of the Royal Society (UK), Shoichet was awarded Canada’s most prestigious award for science and engineering in 2020 – the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science.
As the new Scientific Director of PRiME, with a cross-appointment at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, Shoichet is excited to bring her passion for research and translation to the initiative.
“The Toronto biotech ecosystem is thriving,” says Carolyn Cummins, Associate Professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and the Associate Scientific Director of PRiME. “I am excited to work closely with Professor Shoichet to deliver the potential of PRiME at this pivotal time.”
In the coming months, PRiME will launch many new programs and events for PIs and trainees to build inter-disciplinary and translational collaborations. This includes the new PRiME Inter-Disciplinary Catalyst Program and Fellowships in fall 2023, with partners from across the Toronto drug discovery community.