WHO WE ARE
Techna is an institute of University Health Network, in collaboration
with the University of Toronto, focused on the accelerated development
and exploitation of technology for improved health.
The Techna Institute is designed to shorten the time interval from technology discovery and development to application for the benefit of patients and the health care system. It will also stimulate and facilitate the innovation cycle through a continuum of clinically driven innovation, technology & process development, and translational research.
While technology has existed as an essential platform for UHN research, Techna represents a paradigm shift towards demand-driven activities, and the organizational alignment of the needs of the research hospital and the research enterprise.
TECHNA IS COMPOSED OF FIVE CORE CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE:
The Informatics and Communication Technologies (ICT) Core focuses on integrating hardware and software solutions for the storage, retrieval, sharing and manipulation management, analysis, visualization, interpretation and use of information for health service delivery and translational research. Solutions developed in this core utilize internet and mobile technologies to provide health care providers and patients with systems to visualize, analyze, communicate and transfer information. Through Techna ICT advances in quality, safety, personalized medicine and research are realized at the point of care..
This core is dedicated to the development and testing new technologies in imaging merged with developing and applying new physical therapies such as laser, photodynamic therapy, and high intensity focused ultrasound. Another key area of guided therapeutics is on the operating room. The integration of imaging technologies can provide a “GPS” for surgeons – where surgical tools, the surgical target and the surrounding anatomy are visualized precisely in real time three-dimensional images. Image-guided technology allows the surgeon to accurately pinpoint diseased tissue and remove them without harming the surrounding structures. Patients benefit from faster recovery times and enhanced quality of life during and after treatment. It also reduces the likelihood that a patient would have to return for further surgery. This core will be instrumental in the care of cancer, cardiac, and neurology patients..
Co-led by Drs. Gang Zheng and Ur Metser, this core is focused on the development and implementation of novel nanoparticles and radiopharmaceuticals for both therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Nanotechnology is the technology executed on the scale of less than 100 nanometers. Therapeutic applications of nanotechnology include activatable photodynamic therapy for cancer treatments, where the agent is silenced in normal cells but are toxic to cancer cells expressing specific signatures. Nanoparticles not only have demonstrated the ability to improve drug efficacy by mimicking nature’s own nanoparticles but can be created to be a powerful and versatile biophotonic tool. Closing the gap between the fabrication of nanoparticles for preclinical research and the agents suitable for human trials will be the completion of the Nanomedicine Fabrication Center. The Cyclotron/Radiochemistry lab will be the breeding ground for new nuclear medicine tracers that can fully exploit the functional imaging capabilities of positron emission tomography (PET). This core will be on the forefront of personalized medicine.
The focus of the Photonics core is the development and application of new therapeutic and diagnostic techniques based on the use of lasers and other optical technologies. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is such a therapeutic application, where the use of light-activated drugs (photosensitizers) are used to destroy diseased tissue such as tumours. Tissue fluorescence, the re-emission of longer wavelength light by a molecule after absorption of a shorter wavelength photon, can be a method of differentiating between healthy and diseased tissue resulting in a powerful diagnostic tool that has applications in cancer of the esophagus, stomach, and colon. Co-led by Dr. Brian Wilson, this core will develop new light sources/optical-fibre light delivery devices and optical dosimeters, produce prototype clinical instruments, and participate in co-operative clinical trials. Photonics will play a role in accurate patient prognosis and better patient outcomes.
Often new medical technology is used incorrectly or its sophisticated features never employed due to the poor design of the device. Dr. Joseph Cafazzo and his team at the Human Factors Innovation labs test medical devices and work the device designers to ensure a medical device is optimally designed for the end user without sacrificing functionality. This state of the art facility not only provides realistic settings and scenarios but also utilized actual users when testing devices. Issues related to human error due to weak design are addressed before the product is released. There is faster integration of the device into routine practice since the device intuitively makes sense and shorter training sessions are required. Ultimately such rigorous testing will assure utmost patient safety.
Each core of the institute will:
- Be championed under dual leadership, representative of the needs of the research hospital (typically this will include clinical representation and a physical sciences/engineering faculty representation), to assure the translational mandate is achieved;
- Assemble existing expertise and assets to move technology concepts forward – from a need identified by programs/clinicians, through phases of development, to implementation and practice change; and
- Identify and assemble new resources and talent dedicated solely to bridging the gap from clinically-driven technology needs to solutions.
Techna has also appointed leadership positions in the areas of Communications & Knowledge Transfer, and Process Design to support the translation of new technologies into the research hospital.