RegenMed's long-term future rests with Queen's Park, says executive director

The head of a unique not-for-profit bone and tissue bank in Thunder Bay says a federal government grant is a "huge gust of wind" in its sails as it attempts to become self-sufficient, but its long-term future ultimately rests with Queen's Park.

Federal money to allow Thunder Bay bone, tissue bank to offer 'latest and greatest' bone products

RegenMed has received nearly $500,000 from FedNor, but its future ultimately rests with Queen's Park, says its executive director. (Google Street View)

The head of a unique not-for-profit bone and tissue bank in Thunder Bay says a federal government grant is a "huge gust of wind" in its sails as it attempts to become self-sufficient, but its long-term future ultimately rests with Queen's Park.

Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu announced on Monday a grant of $494,968 for the Lake Superior Centre for Regenerative Medicine, or RegenMed.

Executive Director David Stezenko told CBC News the money will be used to research and develop newer musculoskeletal products or allografts that are being used more frequently by Canadian surgeons.

"It's the latest and greatest in cell technology that's helping patients recover more fully and quicker," he said.

RegenMed is a stand-alone bone and tissue bank established in Thunder Bay in 2004. The city and the Community Economic Development Commission loaned it money to help it through its early years, but now the organization receives operational funding from the province, Stezenko said.

"Every other tissue bank is part of a larger centre of excellence — a major hospital," he said. "So there was no surprise that it was going to take many years for a small not-for-profit to really get its wings in the air."

Hajdu told CBC News after Monday's announcement that initiatives like RegenMed can bring skilled, high-paying jobs to the northwest.

Stezenko added that there are plans in place to pay the city and the CEDC back, but no payments have yet been made.

Long-term future still uncertain

While the province is providing funding for RegenMed currently, Stezenko said the medical firm is lobbying Queen's Park to cement its role in Ontario's tissue donation system.

"We have expansion plans in place and we've had the opportunity to show those to the Ontario government and to show them just how efficiently we could run an operation for them here in Thunder Bay."

A 2014 report prepared for Ontario's Trillium Gift of Life Network recommends a number of changes to streamline the province's donation network, including the consolidation of musculoskeletal, skin and cardiac tissue. Currently, a number of hospitals and other organizations form an ad hoc system.

"They've got decisions going forward as to whether they want all of that done in Thunder Bay, or whether they'll want to consolidate all of that in Toronto," Stezenko said.

RegenMed officials hope to know "sometime in 2017" about what's planned he added, but said he's not aware of a firm timeline.