New MUHC: Strengthening ties between research and clinical practice
Vassilios Papadopoulos, McGill professor and director of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) sees closer ties between research and clinical care as crucial for the future of health care research. The success of modern biology, the growing convergence of genomics, chemistry and medicine, and the rising expectations of society for rapid translation of research results into health care benefits — all of these demands require novel approaches.
“The Research Institute is a hospital-based organization,” explains Papadopoulos. “Our main goal is to understand basic biology as it relates to the biology of disease, and to develop new treatments and therapies.”
Leading researchers and clinicians working in tandem to understand and treat disease in a state-of-the-art institution that provides the best clinical care alongside cutting-edge research facilities: this has been the vision driving the development and integration of the RI MUHC into the new Glen campus as well as the future Mountain site of the MUHC (being developed at the current location of the Montreal General Hospital). The new facilities, combined with the strategic reorganization, will position the RI MUHC to become an international leader in hospital-based research and patient-centred medicine.
Currently, the RI MUHC is grouped into 11 major research axes, including Medical Genetics and Genomics, Infection and Immunity, Respiratory Health and Neurosciences. Under a new strategic plan, the RI MUHC will migrate to an integrated program structure, with each program including evaluative and clinical components.
“We have a large number of physicians who have labs, or who are doing clinical or outcomes research,” says Papadopoulos. “It’s one of our strengths. And, at some point, we want to have it so that any patient who walks into the hospital has the option to become a research subject and participate in improving health care.” The programs will be focused in areas of existing clinical and research excellence, allowing researchers and clinicians to build on each other’s strengths.
In parallel with the new functional organization, the RI at both the Glen and the Mountain Campuses will be organized into “neighbourhoods,” physical groupings of research teams that will promote interdisciplinary work and the sharing of facilities between clinicians and researchers. Key to the success of the new model will be the new Centre for Innovative Medicine, which will facilitate the use of novel diagnostic, evaluative and therapeutic approaches, alongside the Centre for Translational Biology, which will focus on expediting the understanding of the biology of disease and translation of research from “bench to bedside.” All of these efforts work in conjunction with the mandate of the RI MUHC’s companion institution on the McGill campus, the Life Sciences Complex, which is similarly focusing on accelerating the pace of research.
From vision to reality
Thanks to a landmark $100-million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the vision for the RI MUHC is on its way to becoming reality. François Schubert, general manager and chief operations officer of the Research Institute, is one of the people working hard to make it all happen. Schubert is currently working on consolidating and harmonizing existing administrative and technological structures from the different MUHC hospitals and research centres to ensure that a new shared structure will already be in place when the physical move happens.
“In four years time, the technology will already have changed,” explains Schubert. This means that the team has to err on the side of generosity when estimating how much floor space and technical infrastructure is needed to support the necessary equipment, in order to allow for changes.
Schubert, Jean-Marie Chavannes, director of redevelopment for the Glen and Mountain Campus projects, and his development team are working closely with the architects and engineers to make sure that what is being built meets the requirements of the researchers. Currently in the design and development process, they are improving and adjusting plans as the discussion goes back and forth between the two groups.
All this is happening at the same time as construction goes ahead on the Glen Campus, as everyone works towards a 2014 completion date. “So far it’s going very well,” says Chavannes. “Really, our biggest issue is time.” While the redevelopment is underway, investigators and doctors must continue their daily work of furthering the understanding and treatment of disease for today’s patients.
“We do all this to live better, live longer,” concludes Papadopoulos. “And the only way we can do it is by working together.”