On Friday, April 26, the Honourable Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, viewed the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute’s (TBRRI) xenon polarizer. The equipment was recently installed at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC), where the Minister conducted a brief tour. The Province of Ontario provided $1 million towards the purchase of the polarizer to support the research of Dr. Mitch Albert, scientist at TBRRI and Research Chair and Professor of Chemistry at Lakehead University.
Specifically, the funding provided substantial help to offset the purchase of the state-of-the-art xenon polarizer to advance imaging research, translate discovery to clinical trials, and commercialize products such as smaller scale HP (hyperpolarized) gas MRI products for broad distribution world-wide.
The xenon polarizer is expected to be operational within the next few weeks, and used in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of treatments of various lung disorders.
“Our government takes great pride in supporting the incredible thinkers and innovators in Northwestern Ontario. From cutting-edge, imaging technology to world-leading scientific research on the diagnosis and treatment of breathing disorders, the TBRRI is a jewel of the Northwest. Innovation like this is what leads to incredible health breakthroughs, new companies in new industries and new jobs,” says Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation.
“TBRRI is transforming patient care at TBRHSC as researchers and clinicians work together to solve clinical challenges. We were pleased to celebrate the arrival and installation of the polarizer with Minister Moridi, whose government is clearly committed to supporting life-saving and life-enhancing medical research,” says Andrée Robichaud, President and CEO of TBRHSC.
“Thanks to the generous support from the Province of Ontario, Dr. Albert and his team are even closer to improving imaging capability for our patients, which translates to earlier detection, better treatment plans, and improved patient outcomes,” says Dr. Roxanne Deslauriers, Acting Vice President, Research, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) and Scientific Director, TBRRI.
Dr. Albert is an experienced innovator who co-invented hyperpolarized (HP) gas MRI, a new technology that improves imaging for asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, lung and breast cancer, stroke, atherosclerosis, and diseases of the brain.
Keith Jobbitt, Chair of the TBRRI Board of Directors, notes the importance of funding patient-centred imaging research to fuel the growing bio-medical economy in Northwestern Ontario. “The $1 million contribution by the Ministry of Research and Innovation supports Dr. Albert’s important Research and Development platform, and brings expertise, equipment and grants to develop new technology, translate ideas to clinical trials, and, ultimately, commercialize the technology for use in Canada and world-wide,” he says.
The xenon polarizer enhances the MRI signal by 100,000 times to produce highly detailed images of changes occurring in body tissue, including the lungs and brain, which have traditionally resisted conventional MRI. HP gas MRI is also non-invasive, avoids the use of ionizing radiation, and is tremendously valuable to medical science.
Leading-edge medical research in Northwestern Ontario is further supported by donations from the community. Gifts to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation through the Health Sciences Discovery Fund help bring Discovery to Life.