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Innovative health talent development program receives $19M in funding

Professor Darius Rackus co-directs a new training hub to help Canada prepare for emerging health threats
May 06, 2024
Headshot of Professor Darius Rackus

TMU Faculty of Science professor Darius Rackus is one of the co-directors of the Biomanufacturing Hub Network (BioHubNet), which will provide training for highly skilled workers to bolster Canada’s biomanufacturing sector.

An immersive talent development program co-led by Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) has received $19 million in federal funding to prepare Canada's health workforce to prevent and respond to future health challenges.

TMU Faculty of Science professor Darius Rackus is leading the Biomanufacturing Hub Network (BioHubNet) program with director Molly Shoichet and co-director Gilbert Walker, both professors at the University of Toronto. The program is funded by the Canada Biomedical Research Fund (CBRF), which aims to increase Canada’s ability to produce life-saving vaccines and therapeutics.

The program builds upon TMU’s excellence in talent accelerator programs that help students complement their academic knowledge and skills with industry-required skills, preparing Canada’s health workforce for the future. “I’m passionate about bringing what we’ve already developed here at TMU to the program,” said professor Rackus. “BioHubNet is a very comprehensive program targeting different industry-identified problems related to training that will help grow and expand Canada's biomanufacturing sector.”

BioHubNet will provide critical, cutting-edge, hands-on training to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and others who are ready to transition to industry. According to a  (PDF file) 2021 national report (external link, opens in new window)  from BioTalent Canada, the country’s biomanufacturing sector is predicted to face severe workforce shortages in the coming years. 

Over four years, the program will produce close to 1,000 highly skilled workers through microcredential courses and experiential learning opportunities, including industry internships and academic lab exchange placements, through its 26 academic, industry, hospital and not-for-profit partnerships. The program will equip entrepreneurs with skills and resources to accelerate the commercialization of research and intellectual property to ensure the sector’s growth. 

“BioHubNet is a unique and much-needed training program that reflects TMU’s leadership and excellence in providing hands-on, real-world and industry-relevant training. Thank you to the Government of Canada for their investment, which will bolster the biomanufacturing sector and ensure the future health and well-being of all Canadians,” said Steven N. Liss, TMU’s vice-president, research and innovation.”

BioHubNet seeks to create more equitable, inclusive participation in the biomanufacturing and life sciences sectors through intentional recruitment and active support for trainees from underrepresented groups. The program is designed for scalability, with many of the microcredential courses available online and travel funding built into the program to support in-person activities. Reciprocal exchanges and numerous partnerships will also give the next generation of health workers access to knowledge and skills across Canada.

“We're really excited about partnering with the different infrastructure that has been funded by the CBRF grants to help train more people to use that infrastructure,” said professor Rackus.

BioHubNet is one of four research programs endorsed by the University of Toronto-led Canadian Hub for Health Intelligence and Innovation in Infectious Diseases (HI³). HI³ was funded by the Canada Biomedical Research Fund (CBRF) in 2023 with a mandate to bolster Canada’s biomanufacturing capacity and readiness to respond to emerging health threats. 

HI³’s mission is to provide critical health intelligence data to guide the co-development of health threat surveillance platforms, next-generation precision interventions, and bioprocess technologies by the Hub’s more than 80 academic and industry partners while building a highly skilled workforce to support Canada’s growing biomanufacturing and life sciences sectors. 

Learn more about the Canada Biomedical Research Fund announcement. (external link, opens in new window) 

Learn more about the Canadian Hub for Health Intelligence and Innovation in Infectious Diseases (HI³ ). (external link, opens in new window) 

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TMU among partners at new national health research and innovation hub led by University of Toronto