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Thunder Bay attracts a world leading MRI Research Scientist


THUNDER BAY, ON ----   September 30, 2011  – Today the medical research community in the Northwest welcomes Dr. Mitchell Alberttwo new recruits to the region: Dr. Mitchell Albert is the first-ever Lakehead University/Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute Research Chair; and Mr. Scott Gillis holds a dual role as Director of Business Development and Commercialization for TBRRI and MaRS Innovation.

 “This is certainly an exciting moment for Thunder Bay. Not only are we recruiting doctors and nurses to our region, we are also seeing leaders in medical research, science, and healthcare commercialization coming to our community,” says Keith Hobbs, Mayor of Thunder Bay.

Dr. Albert holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry and was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. He moved to Thunder Bay from Boston earlier this summer. He is an expert and specialist in hyperpolarized (HP) noble gas MRI: an advanced MRI technique used to image the brain and lungs. Hyperpolarized gas MRI is safe, and has proven extremely effective for diagnosing diseases of lungs, including asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). As a joint Lakehead University/TBRRI Research Chair, Dr. Albert is continuing to develop and optimize hyperpolarized gas MRI technologies, including hyperpolarized xenon MRI which can be used to image stroke and cancer in addition to the lungs. Dr. Albert is a full-time faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Lakehead University and will be making both research and teaching contributions to the new PhD program in Chemistry and Materials Science.

Scott Gillis has over 21 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and health industry, having spent most of his career in management working at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Mr. Gillis moved to Thunder Bay last month from Halifax, Nova Scotia. In his new role, Mr. Gillis will work to commercialize leading research projects evolving out of TBRRI and from other  Innovation member institutions, including the commercialization of Dr. John Rowlands’ X-ray Light Valve (XLV) technology that produces higher quality, less expensive digital x-ray images than present-day digital medical devices. He’ll also be working on the medical isotopes program coming from the new cyclotron.

“Today is another example of how key partnerships between Lakehead University, the Health Sciences Centre, and Thunder Bay’s medical industry are attracting scientists and business leaders to the North,” says Michael Power, CEO, TBRRI. “Both Dr. Albert and Mr. Gillis recognize the new opportunities that exist in our growing scientific and medical research economy, and we are honoured to have them in Thunder Bay.”

Dr. Umed Panu, Associate Vice-President (Research, Economic Development and Innovation) at Lakehead University, says this joint announcement is one of many future ones to come: “Dr. Albert is one of the first of a group of new Research Chairs and academics who are being jointly recruited to Thunder Bay. Geography is not a barrier when research and academic organizations pool resources to attract leading minds to our community for the benefit of advanced student training, patient care, and the knowledge economy.”

“TBRRI recently joined MaRS Innovation to accelerate the commercialization of technologies flowing out of the institute,” says Dr. Andrew Sinclair, Senior Director, Medical Devices and Physical Science of MaRS Innovation. “Our first commercialization target is Dr. Rowlands and his X-ray Light Valve, a platform x-ray imaging technology, which has been spun-out as a company called XLV Diagnostics. We have hired a Chief Technology Officer, Mr. Vlad Sukhovatkin, who has moved from Toronto to Thunder Bay and Mr. Scott Gillis will be a key resource on the Business Development side for XLV and will help us raise capital and look for larger and resource rich partners.”
Mr. Scott Gillis will be instrumental in the commercialization process as an integrated employee of TBRRI and MaRS Innovation. MaRS is a non-profit organization based in Toronto helping to commercialize new medical-related technology. Mr. Gillis will bring forward the most promising research projects developed by TBRRI Scientists and assist them with the business expertise required. 

“Recruiting a Director of Business Development and Commercialization brings us closer to advancing TBRRI’s missions to deliver world-class care to patients in the Northwest and contribute to innovative health technology in Canada,” says Dr. Michael Julius, Member of the TBRRI Board; Vice-President, Research, at Sunnybrook Research Institute and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; and leader of the international search committee.

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