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City advances research agenda

Research is patient care, said Health Sciences North's vice-president of research. "What we learn in the lab, we put into practice at the bedside or at the clinic to improve people's health,” said Dr. Francisco Diaz-Mitoma Dec.
Dr. Francisco Diaz-Mitoma, CEO and scientific director of the Advanced Medical Research Institute of Canada, poses in front of an architect's rendering of what the institute's new building will look like when it's built. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Research is patient care, said Health Sciences North's vice-president of research.

"What we learn in the lab, we put into practice at the bedside or at the clinic to improve people's health,” said Dr. Francisco Diaz-Mitoma Dec. 10 at the launch of a new research institute in Greater Sudbury.

The Advanced Medical Research Institute of Canada (AMRIC) is an autonomous research organization affiliated with Health Sciences North. Diaz-Mitoma, beyond his role with the hospital, is the CEO and scientific director of AMRIC.

As an autonomous organization, the institute has its own board of directors, led by Nicole Everest as chair.

AMRIC will focus on developing treatments that target health concerns and priorities in Northeastern Ontario and Northern Canada, including geriatric medicine, chronic and infectious diseases, and cancer.

A special emphasis will be placed on the development of new vaccines or finding new uses for existing vaccines to treat these conditions.

The institute will also aim to develop health research and the commercialization of therapies as major sectors of the economy.

AMRIC currently employs roughly 60 researchers and support staff, half of which has moved to the city over the past 18 months, including well-known researchers such as geriatrician Dr. Janet McElhaney.

Diaz-Mitoma said the institute is projected to make a substantial contribution to Northern Ontario's economy, with direct spending projected to be more than $20 million per year. It will also help to attract more medical professionals to Greater Sudbury.

Right now, researchers are working out of the current space at Health Sciences North's Ramsey Lake Health Centre.

However, within three years, Diaz-Mitoma hopes to be working out of a brand-new, 53,000-square-foot facility on the hospital's campus.

To realize this goal, AMRIC recently launched a five-year, $70-million capital campaign, which will also support the institute's operating costs.

Diaz-Mitoma said he hopes to garner money from all three levels of government, as well as individuals who wish to donate.

“That's doable,” he said. “When the economy is down, this is when you invest in projects that will have a very high return on investments.”

The creation of AMRIC is “truly a milestone moment in the history of health care in our city,” Diaz-Mitoma said. “We're very proud of it.”

Health Sciences North CEO Dr. Denis Roy said the creation of AMRIC is building upon the hospital's traditions.

Ground-breaking procedures such as conducting coronary angiographies through the wrist, infusing patients with their own blood during surgery and outpatient stem cell transplantation were all conducted in Sudbury, he said.

Echoing Diaz-Mitoma's words, Roy said research saves patients' lives.

“AMRIC will make a difference,” he said. “It will make a difference in the lives of our citizens, in the health of our community and in the reputation of our city.”

Mayor Marianne Matichuk talked about the history of the city's economy. A generation ago, the community faced a crisis, with depressed mineral prices and layoffs, she said.

Community leaders, though, were able to envision a day when the economy had become diversified enough to carry the city forward in what would have otherwise been difficult times, Matichuk said.

“A couple of years ago, Dr. Roy made a splash when he invited our community to envision another engine of opportunity,” she said.

“Dr. Roy's vision was to create a research institute devoted to the study of health sciences in our community. His vision was to turn the hospital and Greater Sudbury into a nationally recognized centre for medical research and innovation.”

The launch of AMRIC is “the next step in our evolution from a mining camp to a world-class centre of research and innovation,” Matichuk said.

To learn more about AMRIC or to donate to the capital campaign, visit its new website,

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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