RMConnectTO: Building networks to advance regenerative medicine

Author: Nicole Forgione, 10/12/17

Most people will tell you they hate networking. No matter how much we might dread awkward chit chat, networking and relationship building are key contributors to success, regardless of industry or job title. Because commercializing regenerative medicine (RM) technologies depends on collaboration across diverse sectors, relationship building is critical.

With this in mind, RMConnectTO was developed as a concept that we jokingly code named the “Big, Fun, Event.” Hosted by CCRM and held on September 28th, our primary goal was to create an opportunity for investors, members of industry, and top RM scientists to interact, and make connections that would advance commercialization. Add in a unique venue (the offices of Torys’ law firm in the heart of Toronto’s financial district), some art, a panel of RM professionals, and we had the ingredients to make an event to remember!

Following on the heels of CCRM’s official grand opening at the MaRS Discovery District, we were thrilled to host close to 80 guests from across the RM ecosystem for our invite-only event.

L-R Vanek, Townsend, Zandstra, Kili

The evening kicked off with a panel discussion covering hot topics in cell and gene therapy. We were fortunate to have Peter Zandstra (CCRM CSO, UBC and U of T), Phil Vanek (GE Healthcare), Karen Townsend (Torys LLP), and Sven Kili (GlaxoSmithKline) participate as panelists. Sharing their thoughts with the audience on key scientific trends shaping the field, intellectual property issues, and challenges with pricing and reimbursement, the panel covered a wide range of topics. (Head over to Twitter to read tweets about the panel and the event.)

Following the panel, guests were free to network and view an interactive projection art display by local artist Radha Chaddah. This exhibit invites people to wander through an empty room brought to life with images of laboratory grown cells projected onto the walls, floor, and ceiling. My favourite part of the night was watching people explore the exhibit and experience science in a completely new way.

Through organizing this event I learned that people in the RM community are looking for ways to access partners so that they can advance technology, but this process can be daunting. It’s rewarding to know that in creating RMConnectTO we are providing a venue that will spark those key relationships.

We hope our guests added to their networks, and were inspired by new ideas. We also hope they tell their colleagues about CCRM’s “Big, Fun, Event” so that next year’s version will be an even bigger success.

Art by Radha Chaddah

“Cell Cave” – art installation by Radha Chaddah



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Nicole Forgione

Nicole Forgione

Nicole Forgione manages key relationships with industry and proposals for government funding at CCRM. A strong grounding in academic research helps her to understand the science behind new technologies in cell and gene therapy that CCRM is working to commercialize. Dr. Forgione obtained her Master’s degree from the University of Toronto (U of T) in the Department of Zoology and continued graduate studies at U of T in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology, where she completed a PhD in developmental neurobiology under the supervision of Dr. Vince Tropepe. Dr. Forgione went on to pursue studies in translational science with Dr. Michael Fehlings at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto. Her post-doctoral work focused on animal models of spinal cord injury and cell based therapy for spinal cord regeneration. Nicole’s interest in science communication started early, with an undergraduate double major in English and Biology from Wilfrid Laurier University. Now she focuses her writing on anything and everything related to regenerative medicine technology. Follow Nicole on Twitter @DrNForgione.

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