Transplantation Teaching, Research and Care at the University of Toronto and the University Health Network

“With innovation and the highest clinical and academic quality for patient care in mind, the transplantation program performs approximately 250 transplants annually, provides follow-up care to over 2500 transplant recipients, and serves as a model for many other transplant centres around the world.”- Dr. Gary Levy, Medical Director, Multi-Organ Transplant Program

Multi-Organ Transplant Program

In the 20 years since its founding, the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at the University of Toronto has emerged as Canada’s leading hub of transplant excellence and ranks has achieved international renown for its contributions to transplant and regenerative medicine. More than 40 doctors, nurses, basic researchers and other allied health professionals from across the University of Toronto, the University Health Network (UHN), the Hospital for Sick Children, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital collaborate to deliver unparalleled clinical care, carry out breakthrough research and provide innovative training opportunities in transplant.

The Program, led since 1993 by Dr. Gary Levy, a dedicated hepatologist, educator, and visionary leader in transplant medicine, united for the first time transplant programs in kidney, heart, lung and liver at four Toronto teaching hospitals: Toronto General Hospital; Toronto Western Hospital; St. Michael’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children.

By encouraging collaboration, exploration and discovery among the world’s best researchers and clinicians in surgery, immunology, physiology, pharmacology, chemistry, bioengineering and beyond, the multidisciplinary Program has yielded life-changing advances in transplantation techniques, care and research, including:

  • North America’s first islet cell transplant into a patient with Type 1 diabetes
  • The first successful kidney transplant program in Canada
  • The first successful single and double lung transplants in the world
  • Highly successful living-related liver and kidney transplant programs
  • The largest program for lab-based and clinical research in solid organ transplantation in Canada
  • Peer reviewed research funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research in excess of $5.2 million per annum attracted by investigators affiliated with the MOT Program; and funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation of $20 million in 2003 to establish research programs in tolerance induction and genomics/proteomics.
Most recently, researchers and clinicians at the Multi-Organ Transplant Program developed an innovative “ex vivo” or outside-the-body technique of repairing an injured donor lung and rendering it receptive to transplant. On December 4, 2008, Andy Dykstra became the world’s first patient to receive reconditioned lungs using the Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion system that is expected to significantly expand the donor organ pool and improve patient outcomes.

The Program is also home to the only nationally-funded training program for transplant specialists. Close to 300 students in the University of Toronto’s basic science and medical programs are pursuing degrees as part of the National Canadian Institutes for Health Research Training Program in Regenerative Medicine and Transplantation — a Canadian first fuelled by a five-year, $2.3 million national training grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research — which has now become a platform for the National Centre of Excellence Program in Stem Cell Therapy.

University of Toronto Transplantation Institute
In 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program’s founding and in response to the growing need for innovative research and patient care (the Program’s clinical activity has doubled in the past five years, and more than 100,000 Canadians die every year from organ failure), the University of Toronto and University Health Network are poised to launch the University of Toronto Transplantation Institute. The Institute will transform the Multi-Organ Transplant Program into Canada’s first and the world’s foremost centre of transplantation excellence, providing a collaborative landscape for life-saving discoveries to take root.

Within the University of Toronto Transplantation Institute,
  • a growing number of international transplant experts will find a home
  • more innovative and interdisciplinary research will evolve
  • additional training opportunities for the next generation of immunology and regenerative medicine leaders will be created

The Institute will be led in its inaugural years by Dr. Gary Levy, former Director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program. Dr. Levy’s efforts will be guided by a 12-member Advisory Board of stakeholders from across the University of Toronto and its hospital partners, government, the business community and the public. The Board will be chaired by the Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions and will provide advice and recommendations to the Institute with respect to strategic planning, operations and growth.