U of T news
  • Follow U of T News

Knowledge exchange: Toronto hosts researchers from Shanghai

Jian Zhao (SIBCB), Weiguo Zou (SIBCB), C.C. Hui (U of T), Naihe Jing (SIBCB), Howard Lipshitz (U of T), Jinsong Li (SIBCB). Not pictured Yi Zeng (SIBCB) and Gang Wang (SIBCB). (Photo by Yi Zeng)

Researchers from the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology celebrated international collaboration at their fifth joint symposium recently.

Scientists presented their latest findings to hundreds of faculty members, staff and students, and talked about ways to work together. The Hospital for Sick Children hosted the event at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning.

“This symposium was a great opportunity for researchers from both institutions to learn about advances in biomedicine and to discuss research projects that would benefit from the free flow of knowledge between our nations,” said Catharine Whiteside, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

U of T’s department of molecular genetics, Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and SickKids Research Institute have worked with the Shanghai Institute since 2007 when they signed a formal agreement on collaboration. Students from Shanghai have done postdoctoral fellowships in labs at U of T and SickKids. Faculty members from U of T serve on the Shanghai Institute’s scientific advisory board and mentor junior faculty members from Shanghai. Members from both institutions have co-authored several papers in scientific journals.

“Toronto has been a leading centre for stem cell science and gene knockout methods since the 1990s, and we appreciate the cooperative approach of Canadian scientists. We’re very comfortable here,” said Naihe Jing, the former executive director of the Shanghai Institute, where he is still a professor. He helped draft the agreement to work with U of T and chaired a session at this year’s symposium. Two of his postdoctoral students spent months learning stem cell techniques for research on early mouse development with U of T researchers.  

Jing and his colleagues met with members of U of T’s research community throughout the week. They also attended a dinner with the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Toronto, where they discussed ways to strengthen scientific and economic ties between China and Canada. 

“China has invested heavily in research over the last decade and it’s paying off in the quality of their science,” said Peter Roy, a professor of molecular genetics and the Donnelly Centre who attended the symposium for the first time.

Roy presented his work at the symposium and later talked with Shanghai Institute Professor Gang Wang about the idea of co-supervising a student who could combine his lab’s chemical genetics work on worms and Wang’s research on small molecules and cancer in mammals. 

“The work by Shanghai researchers is really cutting-edge, and that makes interaction with them exciting and fruitful,” Roy said.

Jim Oldfield is a writer with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.