$30M donated to McMaster for stem cell therapies

A family's $30 million donation to McMaster University aims to speed up development of stem cell therapies.

Money will also go to a clinic for patients with complex health problems

A family donating $30 million to McMaster University wants to speed up the development of stem cell therapies.

Of the total going to the Hamilton, Ont., university, $24 million will be used to establish the Boris Family Centre in Human Stem Cell Therapies, which will speed the commercial development of discoveries made at the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

McMaster University has shown its ability to fast forward discoveries from the lab bench to the patients' bedside, says Les Boris, speaking after his Hamilton, Ont., family announced a donation of millions of dollars to research. (McMaster University)

The other  $6 million is for a unique clinic that will allow patients with complex health problems to see several specialists and have related tests during one visit.

"McMaster University has proven its ability to fast forward discoveries from the lab bench to the patients' bedside," Les Boris said in a news release on behalf of his parents' Marta and Owen Boris Foundation.

"It made perfect sense to make this investment in this world-class university."

Stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell, which could prove useful for a wide range of medical uses, from repairing tissue to treating diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The McMaster institute is world-renowned for its human stem cell discoveries, such as the ability to generate blood from stem cells grown from human skin, said Mick Bhatia, scientific director of the institute.

The funding could help answer questions such as which people with blood disorders are likely to benefit from the discovery and how effective the approach is, Bhatia said.

The funds will:

  • Establish two senior research chairs, one in blood stem cells that rejuvenate blood and the other in neuro stem cells that work in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Set up several fellowships and technician positions.
  • Build the facility and provide a fund for emerging opportunities.

Owen Boris was the founder of the Hamilton cable company Mountain Cablevision. It was sold to Shaw Communications in 2009.

After Boris died last April, the family donated $6 million to alcohol addiction research at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.  Owen and Marta Boris’s youngest son, Peter, struggled with alcohol addiction before his death.

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar