UTM has launched a Centre for Medicinal Chemistry with a research team led by Professor Patrick Gunning of UTM’s Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences.

The new centre will aim at developing drugs for cancer treatment by creating compounds that can interrupt specific biochemical processes without harming the normal cellular functions.

“Patrick Gunning is the key in all of this. It’s his inspiration, in terms of how to build the molecules and actually create that therapeutic compound, which is scientifically very interesting. Potentially, that could change the world,” said Ulrich Krull, UTM’s interim principal.

According to Krull, in an interview with The Medium, Gunning won $5.9 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which is considered a “very hard competition.”

The centre also received a $7 million donation from Mississauga-board Orlando Corporation. Krull stated that UTM is also contributing with funds, and not just relying on donations.

The total investment in the centre would be worth $20 million.

Krull explained that the infrastructure would require renovation, which would involve expansion of the labs in the Davis Building, as well as the construction of other buildings, so that they can be used by Gunning’s research team.

“Patrick has been, in a sense, a representative of the kind of work done at the University of Toronto. He’s showcased, not just by UTM, but by the entire university. He travels internationally for the university to talk about what he does, which reflects the value of [the] university in terms of what he does,” said Krull.

By launching the medicinal chemistry centre, UTM hopes to find a cure for cancer and flourish academically as well.

Krull stated that if Gunning and his team do find a way to control a certain type of cancer or other illnesses, then UTM would know that the entire effort was worth it.

“But from an academic perspective, it’s something much different,” Krull said. “To be involved in a team and learn the process of how the biology works and how the chemistry interacts with the biology, you’re learning the latest and greatest in terms of what we understand about science and molecular-level science. It’s a tremendous training platform.”

Krull also explained that if everything goes as planned, that would mean proposing a new academic stream, out of the chemical and physical department, about medicinal chemistry for undergraduate students. He added that students might develop interest in the new stream, and in a few years, get it replicated at the graduate level.

“My personal hope is that this will have a substantial academic impact,” Krull said.