New centre strengthens imaging reputation

Looking to facilitate the discovery and development of innovative imaging techniques, the creation of the Biomedical Imaging Research Centre (BIRC) at The University of Western Ontario brings together a multi-institutional group of more than 350 scientists, engineers, physicists, students and support staff from across the city.

Biomedical Imaging Research Centre members Dr. Terry Peters and Dr. Elvis Chen see what a surgeon would see on a 3-D screen when performing a procedure inside the beating heart.

Focused on improving the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of human diseases, BIRC aims to be the best integrated biomedical imaging research program in Canada and find themselves among the top five in the world.

“In London we have quite a unique research environment for medical imaging,” says Dr. Aaron Fenster, BIRC’s director and a Robarts Research Institute scientist. “This will be a highly collaborative process. We are a highly cohesive and collegial team of investigators working together to become the best in Canada and among the best in the world.”

BIRC has a core of 39 scientists, along with an additional 50 associated basic and clinical researchers and 150 graduate students. Recruiting and training the future leaders in medical imaging is a priority at BIRC.

The group has also enjoyed success in commercialization with more than 39 patents filed, 15 licensing agreements, seven spin-off companies and external funding worth more than $120 million during the past six years.

The BIRC partners include the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Lawson Health Research Institute, Robarts Research Institute and the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at Western.

Western President Amit Chakma says the formation of BIRC is an exciting chapter in the university’s history as a global leader in the field of biomedical imaging. With the centre, Western has become even stronger in attracting and training future leaders.

“Western, as you know, is widely recognized for having a critical mass of expertise that enables scientists to better understand the body – as to what makes us tick, and how we can improve optimal health,” Chakma says. “This is a collective enterprise that will enhance our understanding, diagnosis and treatment of disease. I am very pleased that our colleagues have seen the benefit of working with each other across disciplines to achieve some of wonderful things.”

Western graduate students are expected to play a major role in the success of the centre, says Fenster, noting BIRC will provide a diverse group of students with stimulating transdisciplinary environments to carry out their research – which may be experimental, theoretical or computational.

“Our graduate student program is critical to our research program and we value these students and their achievements,” Fenster says. “From across disciplines, they each bring their own expertise to the projects. Mentoring young investigators to ensure they are successful will add to our research program.”

The BIRC Team

  • Lawson Imaging at the Lawson Health Research Institute
  • Imaging Research Laboratories at the Robarts Research Institute
  • The Department of Medical Imaging at The University of Western Ontario (formerly Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine)
  • The Cancer Imaging Network of the London Regional Cancer Program
  • The CIHR Group for Action and Perception
  • Western department of Applied Mathematics; Medical Biophysics; Neuroscience; Physics and Astronomy (Medical Physics); Biomedical Engineering; Computer Science; Chemical Engineering; Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.