Expanding Boundaries: CRAFT and Unity Health Toronto Revolutionize Medical Research

Expanding Boundaries: CRAFT and Unity Health Toronto Revolutionize Medical Research

In a remarkable move, the Centre for Research and Applications in Fluidic Technologies (CRAFT) has announced a groundbreaking expansion that includes Unity Health Toronto, a renowned academic hospital network and esteemed Canadian health research institute. This extension, slated until 2028, solidifies a dynamic partnership between the University of Toronto (U of T), the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), and Unity Health Toronto to pioneer advancements in microfluidic devices with far-reaching implications for human health.

This enhanced collaboration, supplemented by a significant $21 million investment, will provide invaluable support to numerous U of T trainees as they collaborate alongside NRC scientists, engineers, and clinical scientists. Together, they will embark on exciting projects focused on diagnostics bio-fabrication and organ-on-chip systems.

With Unity Health Toronto joining forces with CRAFT, a new realm of possibilities arises as clinicians now work hand-in-hand with scientists. This collaboration opens avenues to develop cutting-edge microfluidic technologies that can detect and monitor infection risks in intensive care units and rapidly identify arterial peripheral diseases. Importantly, by testing and validating these technologies directly in care settings, the integration of clinical expertise will accelerate the path towards real-world implementation and foster collaborations with industry partners.

The transformative vision behind CRAFT centers on harnessing microfluidics to revolutionize scientific and clinical domains in Canada and globally. Spearheaded by Dr. Teodor Veres, Director of R&D at the NRC’s Medical Devices Research Centre and Co-director of CRAFT, this initiative aims to empower the next generation of students to forge groundbreaking advancements in microfluidic devices. These advancements have the potential to reshape disease diagnosis and treatment, ushering in a new era of precision medicine.

Microfluidics, with their unique ability to manipulate fluids on a microscopic scale, harbor immense potential across a range of disciplines, including engineering, medicine, biology, and chemistry. They offer diverse applications, such as rapid diagnostic devices that facilitate bedside testing for diseases, eliminating time-consuming laboratory processing. Furthermore, microfluidics play a vital role in biosensors, enabling remote communities to transmit accurate data to specialists, breaking down geographic barriers to healthcare access.

One inspiring collaboration in progress involves Dr. Claudia dos Santos, a critical care physician and scientist at Unity Health Toronto. Dr. dos Santos is collaborating with CRAFT researchers to develop a microfluidic instrument capable of detecting biomarkers for sepsis within the confines of the ICU. This revolutionary instrument promises faster diagnosis and treatment for sepsis, a condition that can prove fatal if not promptly addressed.

Another cutting-edge application of microfluidics involves organ-on-a-chip technology, enabling the growth of cells, tissues, and even working organ sections outside the body. These biological models hold immense potential for high-throughput screening of therapeutic molecules, enhancing precision medicine by identifying ideal therapies tailored to individual patients’ needs.

Since its establishment in 2018, CRAFT has rapidly grown and now encompasses three research and development facilities: the Tissue Foundry, the Device Foundry, and the NRC Device Fabrication and Scale-Up facility. These state-of-the-art facilities foster collaboration between academia, students, industry, and government, facilitating the translation of groundbreaking research into real-world applications.

With 125 unique users from U of T and affiliated hospitals in 2023 alone, CRAFT has already made significant strides. The initiative has engaged 44 researchers and 114 trainees, resulting in 69 peer-reviewed publications, 22 patent submissions, and the establishment of three spin-off companies.

As Dr. Axel Guenther, a mechanical engineering professor at U of T and co-director of CRAFT, emphasizes, this success is the result of a collaborative effort supported by the NRC, U of T’s Division of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and faculties of Engineering, Arts & Science, Medicine, and Pharmacy. Moving forward, the partnership with Unity Health Toronto promises to revolutionize patient care by harnessing the power and potential of microfluidic devices in clinical settings.

The groundbreaking research facilitated by CRAFT and Unity Health Toronto exemplifies the limitless potential of cross-disciplinary collaborations. By seamlessly integrating expertise from clinical practice, scientific research, and engineering ingenuity, these institutions are paving the way for a future where innovative microfluidic technologies transform the landscape of healthcare, improving diagnostics, treatment, and patient outcomes. A visit to their open research facilities, attendance at their Microfluidics Professional Course or their October 12, 2024, research symposium will provide invaluable insights into the next forefront of medical research and application.

An FAQ Section Based on the Main Topics and Information Presented in the Article:

1.
Q: What is CRAFT and what is its mission?
A: CRAFT stands for the Centre for Research and Applications in Fluidic Technologies. Its mission is to harness microfluidics to revolutionize scientific and clinical domains in Canada and globally.

2.
Q: Who are the partners involved in the expansion of CRAFT?
A: The partners involved in the expansion of CRAFT are the University of Toronto (U of T), the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), and Unity Health Toronto.

3.
Q: What is the purpose of the collaboration between Unity Health Toronto and CRAFT?
A: The collaboration aims to develop cutting-edge microfluidic technologies that can detect and monitor infection risks in intensive care units and rapidly identify arterial peripheral diseases. It also aims to accelerate the path towards real-world implementation by integrating clinical expertise.

4.
Q: What is the role of microfluidics in healthcare?
A: Microfluidics, with their unique ability to manipulate fluids on a microscopic scale, have diverse applications in healthcare. They can be used in rapid diagnostic devices, biosensors, and organ-on-a-chip technology for high-throughput screening of therapeutic molecules.

5.
Q: What is an example of a collaborative project involving microfluidics?
A: One example is the collaboration between Dr. Claudia dos Santos, a critical care physician and scientist at Unity Health Toronto, and CRAFT researchers to develop a microfluidic instrument capable of detecting biomarkers for sepsis within the ICU.

6.
Q: What are the research and development facilities under CRAFT?
A: The research and development facilities under CRAFT are the Tissue Foundry, the Device Foundry, and the NRC Device Fabrication and Scale-Up facility.

7.
Q: What are some key achievements of CRAFT so far?
A: CRAFT has engaged researchers and trainees, resulting in peer-reviewed publications, patent submissions, and the establishment of spin-off companies.

8.
Q: How can I learn more about the research and application of microfluidic technologies?
A: You can visit CRAFT’s open research facilities, attend their Microfluidics Professional Course, or join their research symposium.

Definitions for Key Terms or Jargon Used Within the Article:

1. Microfluidic devices: Devices that manipulate fluids on a microscopic scale, with applications in various disciplines like engineering, medicine, and chemistry.

2. Organ-on-a-chip: Technology that enables the growth of cells, tissues, and even working organ sections outside the body for the purpose of research and testing.

3. Sepsis: A potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to infection, leading to organ dysfunction and failure.

4. Precision medicine: An approach to healthcare that seeks to tailor medical treatments to individual patients based on their genetics, lifestyle, and environment.

5. High-throughput screening: A process used in drug discovery to quickly test a large number of potential drug candidates.

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nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
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