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MaRS Centre Phase 2 
University Ave and College Street, Toronto
Developer: Alexandria

MaRS Centre Phase 2 | 113m | 20s | Alexandria | B+H



From the Star, Business section:

Life on MaRS
Sep. 25, 2006. 06:53 AM

Toronto Star reporter Judy Steed has been living on MaRS for the past month, to capture some of the people, ideas and extraordinary developments in commercializing leading edge research at Toronto's Medical and Related Sciences Centre, which celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow. First of two reports.

When the Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Centre was struggling into existence, in the early 2000s, not a developer could be found to partner on the construction project.

Indeed, the only interest generated in the site — the historic, crumbling, yellow-brick Toronto General Hospital building on College St. just east of University Ave. — was for condominiums.

Seed money was begged and borrowed from friends of John Evans and the band of early supporters he rounded up. (Evans, former chair of Torstar Corp.'s board, founder of McMaster University's innovative medical school, is the current chair of MaRS.)

That was then, this is now.

One year after the MaRS palace of technology opened — in a monumental renovation and construction project that encompasses 700,000 square feet of state-of-the-art offices, incubators and research labs — developers have lined up to participate in phase two, one million more square feet hugging the corner of University and College. And there's a long waiting list of companies eager to become tenants, to participate in this dynamic marriage of scientific depth, management expertise, collaboration and inspiration.

Tomorrow, as MaRS chief executive Ilse Treurnicht celebrates the centre's first anniversary, the magnitude of its mission — to transform innovative research into viable, Canadian based companies — is starting to emerge.

But telling the MaRS story is a bit like connecting the dots of a massive creature — an octopus, maybe? — whose reach extends far beyond the walls of the institution, linking not only to Toronto's vast network of teaching hospitals and universities but to every corner of the planet.

From empty, echoing corridors a year ago, to 1,500 post docs, scientists and burgeoning entrepreneurs at work at 65 tenant-organizations, including 25 incubator firms, sparks are flying as Treurnicht and her team sharpen their focus on the hot spots of global technology:

Regenerative medicine (of great interest to aging baby boomers), including stem cell research, which could lead to a cure for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease.

Detection systems for infectious diseases and pollutants.

Diagnostics, including imaging (a highly competitive space in which Canadian scientists have a world-class reputation); pre-natal and molecular diagnostics. (The latter refers to examining people's DNA, doing scans to show efficacy of particular treatments — such as Herceptin, which mobilizes the patient's immune system to kill a certain type of breast cancer cell.)

Collaborative software (enabling people around the world to work on the same files).

Nano technology and its three main applications: biomedical, advanced materials and energy, including solar. Huge growth is anticipated in biomaterials — using human cells to create or mimic human tissue, rebuilding cartilage, harvesting the body's own molecules to stimulate the body to rebuild itself.

Walk along the corridors and you'll bump into everything from "virtual colonoscopies" to code that loads BlackBerries with every conceivable form of emergency information plus subway maps for every city in the world. There's a global health group with funding from the Gates Foundation to help redress inequities in health care in developing nations. And there are seasoned hands, "gray hairs," ready to nurture and grow the great ideas into viable companies.

It's an old story in the annals of Canadian R&D: we do great fundamental science "up here" but the best ideas end up "down there." The Americans are "the most avaricious competitors," as Evans puts it. Masters at commercializing new products, they overwhelmed Canadian scientists who lacked the business know-how to develop their businesses in this country.

An absence of strong industrial policies resulted, Evans says, in "the hollowing out of industry in Canada," while we are "lulled into complacency by the natural resources that are carrying us through at the present time."

That is unlike Sweden, a nation of only nine million people that just the same has its Karolinska Institute, "one of the best neuroscience research facilities in Europe," according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. A model for the creation of MaRS, Karolinska is a driving force for the economy of Sweden and the Stockholm area (where the Institute is based).

As MaRS should be, for Toronto.

For Treurnicht, a South African-raised scientist, the first challenge at MaRS was to grow an "innovation food chain, from small to large companies," based on a tenanting strategy that promotes diversity. "We're not just an incubator or a commercial real estate park for technology," she says.

Treurnicht manages the concept of innovation "very broadly," Evans notes. "We're not just trying to build new small companies; it's about stimulating the type of R&D that will change the nature of commerce. Ilse understands the big picture, and she's done it all — she's worked on the venture capital side, she's run a tech start-up, she has a PhD in the sciences, and she's a prodigious worker."

And she believes in the synergies sparked by collaboration.

A big part of MaRS is the opportunity for networking and learning. "Entrepreneurship 101" was flooded with applicants last fall, drawing 400 post docs and other researchers. "There hadn't been any training for scientists in how to build their own companies," Treurnicht says. In addition to the basics, "we're giving them `deeper dives' on developing management teams, marketing plans and dealing with regulatory issues."

Up the glass-walled elevator to the incubator space — small offices filled with people seated at computers — one notices all the different accents and faces drawn from diverse cultures.

"Silicon Valley was largely an immigrant-driven phenomenon," says Veronika Litinski, PhD, MBA. The Moscow University graduate spent two years at the University of California, Berkeley (as a research scientist in DNA repair and cancer biology) and worked with investment banks (in venture finance) in the U.S. before becoming the director of MaRS's Venture Group.

MaRS is similarly immigrant-driven, she says, attracting top scientists from around the world. But it's no cakewalk to get in.

Litinski is working with 110 life sciences and information technology enterprises — only two dozen are tenants in the building — but before they're accepted into the Venture Group, she's blunt with them about their "great ideas."

"How do you think you're going to make money?" she asks. "Who else thinks it's such a great idea?" She helps them investigate "the patent space, the competitive space, market trends," to determine if there are already five people in the world ahead of them developing the same concept.

On average, "out of every 100 companies with potentially attractive technologies, less than 10 per cent grow into successful enterprises," she says. "We will hopefully improve that ratio and encourage people to pursue big opportunities."

Take Claron Technology: When computer engineers Doron Dekel (from Israel) and Claudio Gautti (from Italy) moved into MaRS last August, "Claron was just the two of us and the building was under construction," says Dekel, 49. "Now we're 10 people, moving up to a larger space on the fourth floor. It's a huge advantage, being here."

Dekel, a graduate of Israel's Technion, Institute of Technology, came to Canada in 1988 when he landed a job at Mississauga-based Cedara Software (then called ISG Technologies). Cedara was an early provider of 3D imaging technology and algorithms that could be integrated into clients' own programs. (Algorithms are mathematical recipes that the computer can execute to solve problems.)

In a CT scan, Dekel explains, 3D technology compresses thousands of images into a three dimensional picture of the human body that can be rotated and "examined" on screen, for diagnostic purposes.

Dekel — now a Canadian citizen — became head of development at Cedara, and hired Gautti out of Milan in the early 1990s. They joined forces, leaving Cedara in the late 1990s, and worked on a few start-ups before forming Claron Technology in 2001.

Specializing in software for 3D imaging, they had a prize client: Philips Medical Systems, a division of the Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics empire, which had sales of 30.4 billion euros in 2005.

Claron's big breakthrough was the MicronTracker, a camera that functions "as a GPS (global positioning system) for surgeons," explains Gautti, 41. "It gives them the capacity to navigate for `keyhole surgery' with as little damage to the patient as possible."

Dekel demonstrates, wielding a pointer, placing it on a model of a human head, and aiming the MicronTracker at black and white chequered markers, called "Xpoints," on the pointer. The camera transmits an image, in real time, to the computer screen, enabling the surgeon, with precision accuracy, to "see into" the patient's brain and excise the tumour.

Claron has sold 80 cameras around the world, from North America to China and Japan. (The camera costs $10,000 and is manufactured in British Columbia.)

In the meantime, Dekel, head of Claron's algorithmics division, came up with a better way to do a "virtual colonoscopy" based on a CT scan. The data is processed and visualized — as if slicing vertically through the colon and flattening it out — enabling doctors to detect polyps that could lead to cancer.

It's a quick, non-invasive procedure compared to a traditional colonoscopy. Claron's "virtual" method of unfolding the colon wall and detecting polyps is fast and effective.

The firm's main focus is improving efficiencies in the health-care system by reducing the time radiologists spend reviewing data from CT scans. Claron can eliminate (or mask out) images of bones, enabling radiologists to focus on blood vessels — to detect blockages, for instance — and to read scans faster.

"It used to be that there weren't enough CT scanners," Dekel says. "Now we've got the scanners but there's more and more data and not enough radiologists to interpret the data." With Claron's new software, radiologists can read data two to four times faster than under the old method, "enabling two to four times more patients to get CT scans," for certain types of examinations.

What did MaRS do for Claron?

Says Dekel: "MaRS helped us do market studies. We thought we should raise money; they gave us feedback about our business plans, and we decided we had enough cash."

Says Litinski: "They elucidated their own strengths and ultimately developed new products of their own."

As a result, "Claron is much stronger today," Dekel says. "Our revenues are increasing and we can get quite far ahead without having to give away the company."

Typical of many of the enterprises at MaRS, Claron hires from the global workforce — posting jobs online, often conducting interviews by email, using "trick" math questions to assess potential hires' ability to think creatively and deal with frustration.

Dekel introduces a few members of the Claron team: Vlaldimir Rochlin, 46, a physicist, educated in the Ukraine, worked for Philips in Haifa. Dan Matei, 34, robotics specialist from Romania. Iryna Gordon, 28, computer scientist from the Ukraine with a masters degree from UBC. Monowar Hossain, 28, from Bangladesh, a computer scientist who did his masters at York University.

"We tolerate everything except intolerance," Dekel says.

Tomorrow: How MaRS reaches out to the world.



Thanks for the article.

It appears that much good will come from this complex. I wonder when the shovels for phase two will hit the ground. It appears that getting tenants and financing will not be an issue.


Expanding Beyond MaRS

Hopefully MaRS will create a demand for more office space beyond its complex into the surrounding area. I can see office space popping up south of College in renovated townhouses and along College and south on Spadina. Many of the Victorian commercial buildings along Spadina have empty upper stories; this may be a good way to put them to use.


Re: Expanding Beyond MaRS

Second part from the Star:

Bridging medicine's great divide
Researchers at Toronto's MaRS Centre are on mission to dispense latest health-care advances from the West to the developing world
Sep. 26, 2006. 01:00 AM

Toronto Star reporter Judy Steed has been living on MaRS for the past month to capture some of the people, ideas and extraordinary developments in commercializing leading edge research at Toronto's MaRS Centre, which celebrates its first anniversary today.

Roaming around MaRS, you run into people.

In the elevator with Ilse Treurnicht, MaRS CEO, and John Evans, board chair, Rob Moffat raves about a MaRS workshop on "the power of pictonics."

"I've been thinking about it all weekend," says Moffat, 40, president of privately held crisis communication software maker Wallace Wireless, a tenant in the MaRS incubator. "It's about the power of visual thinking, with this guy Dave Gray ...." (More on Gray later.)

Off the elevator, Moffat flashes his BlackBerry and shows off Wallace's product, clicking through emergency measures procedures so complete and complex that a room at a bank, shelves lined with thick binders, was once required to store all the data.

A senior executive at Scotiabank — "our first big client," Moffat says — had observed that the binders were out-of-date and useless in an actual emergency. "If our employees had the information on their hip, they'd use it."

The light bulb went on. Moffat's partner, Gary Bauer — the code guy — came up with groundbreaking technology that could "push the content" out to a BlackBerry.

"That was back in early 2001, when BlackBerry didn't have many partners," Moffat says. "We were the first to provide emergency and continuity management `on board.' People didn't get it right away."

After 9/11, they did.

What do you do in case of fire? Explosion? Toxic spill? Lights out? How do you get money, power and communications in an emergency?

Moffat clicks through data on his BlackBerry. The universal United Nations identification symbols for toxic chemicals, poisons and antidotes pop up, with information on what to do, who to call and how to take the next step. Moffat and Bauer moved into MaRS last year with seven employees. Today, Wallace Wireless has 18, including the requisite "grey hair," Joe Nardi, "a Canadian software legend," in Moffat's words.

A former senior executive at business software maker Cognos Inc. in Ottawa, Nardi has "seen it all before — several times," he says with a grin.

He's helping the Wallace team "take that entrepreneurial spirit and innovation and turn it into a product that's repeatable, for the mass market."

"We're learning how to commercialize," Moffat says. "It's like a rock you're pushing up a hill; pretty soon, you're building momentum, you're at the top and you want to make sure everything is in place for take off."

The Wallace "solution" is in use by dozens of U.S. government agencies, ranging from the Department of Transport to the U.S. Geological Survey, which manages earthquakes. More than 6,500 U.S. government buildings are linked on the system. Canadian clients include major banks, senior government ministries, Sun Life Financial Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc.

Toronto, Moffat notes, is the wireless capital of the world. "T.O. has more wireless development people and more RIM partners than anyplace, anywhere."

"We don't need to take a back seat to Silicon Valley," Nardi says. "MaRS is a great rallying point. There's great dynamism here. You walk in the building, you feel it."

"Yeah," says Moffat, "like `the power of pictonics.'" As a MaRS tenant, he attended Dave Gray's workshop on graphic maps that illustrate business processes and products. Gray, founder of flight simulator, had been brought up from St. Louis by Peter Evans, an adviser to the MaRS Venture Group, a not-for-profit venture capital networking organization.

Gray showed 1,000 slides, hip-hop style, in a three-hour session that "blew me away," Moffat says. He spent the weekend "doing his homework," and dumped the data in Gray's lap. In an hour, they mapped out an "Xplanation" graphic to tell the Wallace story. "Dave drew the storyboard based on `What if?' What if the lights go out? Flip it over, and everyone's running around doing what they need to do, guided by Wallace Wireless on their BlackBerry."

Another new Xplane client, and MaRS tenant, is Digniche and its software product, Octopz, which is loaded with visual opportunities — not surprisingly, since Digniche co-founder Barry Fogarty was a professional photographer. With partner Paul Nykamp, he provided 3D images for online product demonstrations for clients such as Ford, Honda and Hewlett-Packard.

"One day, we had an epiphany about how it could be helpful for people, no matter where in the world they're based, to collaborate on designs and 3D images to improve products," Fogarty says.

Nykamp's team created code — two applications are pending at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — allowing people to view and mark up digital files together, in real time, linked to webcams, VoIP and text messaging. Five people can be visible on screen, with high security and full encryption, enabling global collaborators to work together on secret research.

Clients report improved productivity with fewer mistakes using Octopz.

It has been two years since the epiphany, from "garage project" to launching Octopz into the global market — a process that will be enhanced by an Xplane graphic map.

"Its visualizations help us explain how our technology fits into prospective clients' global operations," Fogarty says.

Dr. Peter Singer sees the global market through a different lens.

"Life expectancy is 80 years and rising in the developed world, and 40 years and dropping in developing nations," says the former director of U of T's Joint Centre for Bioethics, seated in his MaRS office.

Health care and advances in the life sciences are disproportionately distributed, he says — not where the need is greatest. Hence Singer's latest project: he's co-director, with Dr. Abdallah Daar, of the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health, which received a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

(Genomics is the study of genes and their functions, including the sequencing of DNA; and of molecular mechanisms and the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in disease.)

Singer and Daar's focus is on helping scientists deal with the ethical issues involved in 14 grand challenges in global health identified by the Gates Foundation in collaboration with a team of international scientists. The challenges include efforts to improve childhood vaccines for use in developing countries, to create new vaccines and control insects that transmit disease.

They call themselves "the foreign policy office of MaRS," and see their role as harnessing fundamental research — on genetics and stem cells, for instance — and figuring out how it can be used to improve life in the developing world. They define best practices to help scientists identify sites for research, approach communities and communicate their purpose. They figure out how to get medicine to where it's most needed.

Plugged into a global network, Singer and Daar haven't forgotten their home base. They developed curriculum material on stem-cell research that's studied by 4,000 Canadian high school students. They encourage students to connect with peers in Bangladesh, where 50 million people have been poisoned by arsenic in wells. From classrooms in Canada, students "fly" — on the Internet — into Bangladesh, brainstorm "healthy water projects," and compete for awards.

Singer and Daar also get students thinking about mosquitoes. There are more than 400 million cases of malaria in the world, caused by infected mosquitoes biting people. In Africa, malaria kills 2,000 children a day.

"Bed nets are not enough," says their colleague Jim Lavery, who has a PhD in bioethics and is participating in trials to genetically modify mosquitoes. He cites cases of insects being manipulated to reduce public health hazards. The Mediterranean fruit fly has been radiated into sterility for decades, with billions of sterile fruit flies released every year, undermining the general population, with no adverse impact identified on birds, reptiles or other creatures.

But bioethics is crucial — to ensure that existing populations aren't harmed by so-called advances. DDT and PCBs proved toxic to humans, animals and the environment. In the Tuskegee syphilis trials, conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service over 40 years, 399 poor black sharecroppers in Alabama were lied to by doctors intent on collecting data from men who died of syphilis.

When genetically modified mosquito trials, carried out in caged field trials, go ahead in southern Mexico, Lavery says "it's conceivable that we could put a huge dent in the mosquito population and in mosquito-borne diseases." It's also conceivable that GM mosquitoes won't work.

Hence the need for risk assessment. And for guidelines to protect poor people in developing nations, who are often the subjects of research trials.

For Singer and Daar, it's about the democratization of science and technology and encouraging Canadians whose ancestors came from Africa, Asia or other parts of the developing world to find a way to contribute "in the old country."

"The world is a very divided place," Singer says. Inequities in knowledge are compounded as research is targeted at the diseases of the West, ignoring the rest of the world.

But when connections are made, breakthroughs are achieved.

The vaccine for hepatitis B, a serious illness that can cause liver cancer and death, wasn't widely available in the developing world because it was too expensive — until vaccine maker Shantha Biotechnics Ltd. in Hyderabad, India, was encouraged to focus on producing an indigenous vaccine. With investment support from Oman and a partnership forged at a World Health Organization office, the Shantha vaccine is sold for 50 cents a dose, compared to more than $2 for a vaccine produced by a major western pharmaceutical company.

Then, with assistance from Singer and Daar, who organized a series of executive courses in the developing world on genomics, Pakistani officials connected with Shantha, to get the cheaper hepatitis B vaccine into Pakistan.

This is the model of technology transfer that MaRS is promoting: homegrown solutions that result in economic development and better health care.

(MaRS is a not-for-profit research and commercialization organization. Its incubator unit is home to start-ups in areas including IT, life sciences, biotechnology and medical devices.)


mark simpson

Re: Expanding Beyond MaRS

"Hopefully MaRS will create a demand for more office space beyond its complex into the surrounding area"

I'd say its already happening with Mount Sinai's applying for 8 additional storeys to its centre for phenogenics building

unfortunately, I can't imagine it being financial viable to bring victorian era lowrises up to standard without a major expansion


Re: Expanding Beyond MaRS

...or else assign a specific set of purposes to said "Victorian low-rises" that needn't involve such a drastic overhaul. It isn't like everything ought to be ultra-high-tech lab facilities, y'know...

mark simpson

Re: Expanding Beyond MaRS

"or else assign a specific set of purposes to said "Victorian low-rises" that needn't involve such a drastic overhaul. It isn't like everything ought to be ultra-high-tech lab facilities, y'know... "

even so ... I doubt our commercial developers (which undoubtably will build the majority of the needed space in the near future) will take the time, effort & money (of our subsidized, not-for-profit institutions) for a not-so-drastic overhaul of 1500 feet of 100 year old 'charm' (where something as benign as caskers can kill) ... or 1.5% of the space provided by the proposed Ph2


MaRS to host Ontario public health agency?

From Toronto Star this past Wednesday:

One of the hallmarks of the new bill is the creation of the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion - a body that will provide academic, scientific and technical advice to the province during public health threats like a flu pandemic.
Smitherman hinted the new agency could be centered at MaRS (Medical and Related Sciences) at College St. and University Ave., and house the Ontario public health laboratories, the province's lab used to test infectious agents.
An anchor for Phase 2?



^Let's hope so. It's about time that Ontario establishes such an agency.


I'm all for the centre but wouldn't placing it at MARS displace space for the kind of collaborative applied science start-ups that the space is trying to foster?


Apr 22, 2007
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From Toronto East York Committee of Adjustment, May 23 meeting agenda:

File Number: A0368/07TEY Zoning Q T3.0 & Site Specific Bylaw
503-2001 (PPR)
Ward: Toronto Centre-Rosedale (27)
Property Address: 661 UNIVERSITY AVE Community:
Legal Description: CON 1 PT PARK LOT 10 RP 64R17121 PARTS 1 TO 7 29 32 33 PT PARTS 8 28

To construct a 23-storey non-residential building as part of the MaRS Discovery District.

1. Section 1(8) as shown on Plan 4, By-law 503-2001
The By-law permits a maximum building height of 76.0 m.
The proposed building will have a height of 102.1 m to the top of the main roof of the building plus an
additional 10.6 m for a mechanical penthouse, parapet walls and chimney stacks.

2. Section 1(8) as shown on Plan 4, By-law 503-2001
The By-law permits a maximum height of 12.0 m for a podium along University Avenue.
The proposed podium along University Avenue will have a height of 17.7 m.

3. Section 1(8) as shown on Plan 4, By-law 5003-2001
The By-law permits a maximum height for the portion of the building at the rear of the existing heritage
building of 17.7 m.
The proposed building will have a height of 20.8 m.

4. Section 1(8) as shown on Plan 4, By-law 5003-2001
The By-law requires the building to be setback an additional 2.0 m above a height of 12.0 m along
University Avenue.
The proposed building will be setback 0.5 above a height of 17.7 m.
(p. 25-26)


Mike in TO

Senior Member
Apr 23, 2007
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Downtown Toronto
What is the height of the currently built east tower of MaRS?

The proposed 102.1m sounds to be a significant increase over what was built in the first phase.