In the next five years, Greater Sudbury could be the hub of pharmaceutical research in northeastern Ontario, creating an industry that could employ more than 1,000 people in the process. That was the hope expressed by the people involved in the Northeastern Ontario Cancer Therapeutics Research Initiative, also known as CTRI.
Mark Hartman, vice-president of the Regional Cancer Program at Sudbury Regional Hospital, made a presentation on CTRI at city council Nov. 24. He and Dr. Hoyen Lee have been working on the project, along with several other researchers. The city has already guaranteed $100,000 of funding per year over the next five years to CTRI, and the 10 researchers involved have also secured large portions of the remaining budget.
The total cost for the first five years is estimated to be $15,087,936, and covers the cost of new and existing equipment, operating costs, administration, training, and salaries. To date, CTRI has secured $7,543,968 of the funding.
Hartman said the city’s initiative in guaranteeing funding will help CTRI secure the additional funding needed to get off the ground and operate for the first five years. Funding requests have been made to FedNor, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, the city of Sault Ste. Marie and other smaller funding agencies.
Hartman said CTRI will unite researchers, who normally compete against one another in research and for funding, and increase the output of research. CTRI’s studies will also create opportunities for medical students to learn.
“We know if we train people locally, they tend to stay in the community,” Hartman said. Lee also noted several students who worked at his research laboratory went on to become doctors who opened practices in the community.
The initial CTRI project would provide about 25 full-time, quality jobs, Hartman said. Once the first five years have gone by, it is hoped the project would create spin-off pharmaceutical companies, which in turn would create additional jobs. CTRI would be split between Sudbury's Regional Cancer Program and Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
While the commercial pharmaceutical companies would sell the drugs, CTRI would remain the research body. Should an effective anti-cancer drug be discovered, tested and put into use, the potential exists for more than 1,000 jobs.
Hartman said in addition to the jobs provided by CTRI and the eventual spin-off business, the pharmaceutical business would attract students, investors, and boost tourism.
After the presentation, outgoing Ward 11 Coun. Janet Gasparini noted that more than 25 years ago, Greater Sudbury took a chance funding the Regional Cancer Program at the Sudbury hospital, and it has resulted in a better quality of life for people in the northeast. She said while the success of CTRI isn’t guaranteed, she hopes that down the road, people could look back on it as one of the good ideas that helped the city.