Robarts Research Institute A Gem in Canada

Mar 12, 2019 | Canada, Investigator, Investigator Site, Leading Sites, Research Site, Robarts Research Institute, Site Success

Robarts Research Institute represents a gem of an institution—founded in 1986 by Henry Barnett, the same man who discovered aspirin was a preventative therapy for heart attack and stroke.  Located in the University of Western Ontario, the institute focuses on an array of therapeutic areas including cardiovascular, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Dr. Barnett died in 2016 but the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s Henry JM Barnett Research Scholarship Award is named in his honor.

Robarts is not as well known in the United States but is certainly well-respected by industry insiders.  By developing core strengths and competency in advanced medical imaging, cellular and molecular biology, genomics, immunology and stem cell biology, teams are organized in a dynamic, collaborative and interdisciplinary approach unique in Canada—physicians and physicists, biologists and biomedical engineers all work under one roof with collaborative initiative extending across 20 countries around the world. They have produced considerable commercial success; researchers have secured more than 80 patent filings; their business operation has structured more than 15 licensing agreements in addition to eight spinoff ventures raising nearly $50 million.

Contributing to translational research, they have contributed from bench to bedside—research changing lives.  Examples of the institution’s impact:

Dr. Ting-Yim Lee

Perfusion CT technology, which has been licensed worldwide, helps doctors immediately track blood flow to the brain following stroke.  Stroke patients worldwide benefit today from this Robarts contribution.

  1. Robert Hegele

The first scientists/physician to identify the genetic basis for more than a dozen different human diseases and is committed to bringing the research he does in his lab directly to his patients.

Dr. Murray Huff

Led to a breakthrough discovery that a substance in tangerines called Nobiletin prevents obesity and high blood fats as well as offers protection against type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis—the cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Arthur Brown

He and his research team are boosting nerve growth in the injured spinal cord by enhancing the nervous system’s ability to rewire damaged circuits.

Dr. Aaron Fenster

An imaging researcher, he has produced more than 25 patents on 3D imaging systems utilized around the world to improve diagnosis of the rectal and prostate cancers and carotid artery disease.

Robarts research teams use novel MRI lung imaging methods to reveal that ventilation defects can predict respiratory disease, aiding the advancement of diagnosis and treatment.  With over 50 top researchers and scientists, the institute includes the following facilities:

The Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping

The Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping, housed in the A.M. Cuddy Wing at the Robarts Research Institute, utilizes state-of-the-art 3T whole-body, 7T head and 31 cm 9.4T horizontal MR imaging systems to investigate in-vivo studies of brain structure and function.  This includes the assessment of brain metabolism and physiology, cognitive function and vascular dynamics, not only in normal and research patient populations, but also in in-vitro and animal models using a variety of advanced nuclear magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy techniques. Http

London Regional Flow Cytometry Facility

Flow cytometry is a technique for the high-throughput examination of microscopic particles in a fluid stream. Flow cytometers allow the simultaneous measurement of multiple physical and/or chemical properties of cells at the single-cell level through the use of fluorescent probes. Flow cytometric cell sorters physically isolate purified populations of such cells with distinct measured characteristics for further experimental analyses.
The London Regional Flow Cytometry Facility (LRFCF) is the only research-based flow cytometry analysis and cell sorting facility in the London and area research community. Located at Robarts Research Institute at Western University, the LRFCF is a full-service multi-user core facility that provides access to specialized flow cytometry equipment, cell sorting services, computers with dedicated flow cytometry analysis software, a comprehensive flow cytometry reference library, and full-time technical expertise for experimental design and troubleshooting. The LRFCF equipment and services are available on a fee-for-use basis to any academic or corporate investigators within the London and area research community whose research programs depend on flow cytometry technologies.
Users are able to access the LRFCF for a wide variety of flow cytometry techniques, including cell sorting, immunophenotyping, cell cycle analysis, cell proliferation, gene transfer (efficacy and tracking), cell death (i.e. apoptosis), cell kinetics, activation states, redox states, chromosome analysis, and cytokine detection by intracellular staining or cytometric bead array (CBA).

London Regional Cell and In Vitro Molecular Imaging

Confocal Microscopy at Robarts is a key component of the London Regional Cell and In Vitro Molecular Imaging Facility. The technique of Confocal Microscopy uses fluorescent tags and laser technology to allow scientists to visualize and quantify the localization of specific molecules within the living cell. The molecular imaging facility at Robarts includes three Zeiss laser scanning microscope systems: LSM 510 META, LSM 510 META/ConfoCor2, and LSM 510 META – NLO.
The facility operates as a multi-user resource and is available to all researchers at the University as well as the entire research community within the region.
The facility was established in 1999 by Dr. Stephen Ferguson and has gone through significant expansion over the years under his direction. It has grown from a single confocal microscope within a 100 sq. ft room to a multi-site facility with 6 fluorescence imaging systems, a digital imaging laboratory and an on-site cell culture facility.

London Regional Genomics Center

The London Regional Genomics Centre is a Robarts-led initiative by Dr. Robert Hegele and has been established through generous support from the Robarts Research Institute, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, London Health Sciences Centre, Child Health Research Institute and The London Regional Cancer Program. The facility provides state-of-the-art services on a fee-for-service/cost recovery basis and offers Affymetrix microarrays, Next-Generation Sequencing on the Illumina MiSeq and Ion Torrent PGM platforms, and data analysis software.
Services provided by the facility include qualitative assessment of RNA via Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer and Consultation on experimental design.
Next Generation Sequencing:
– Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine
– Illumina MiSeq
Affymetrix GeneChip system:
– Gene expression, exon, ChIP and tiling arrays
– SNP genotyping and copy number
– GeneChip scanner 3000 7G with autoloader
Data Analysis:
– Partek, CLCbio Genomics Workbench and Agilent GT
– Pathway analysis using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis and Partek Pathway
For a downloadable PDF, click here.
Facility Manager: David Carter, email, 519-931-5246
Location:              Robarts Research Institute, Room 4294
Active Users:       260+ PIs in Canada
Fee Structure:      For full fee structure, click Here

DNA Sequencing

Under the scientific direction of Dr. Robert Hegele, the DNA Sequencing Facility at Robarts provides high quality sample analysis – generally within 48 hours of submission – using state-of-the-art equipment, including an ABI GeneAmp 9600 Thermocycler, three ABI GeneAmp 9700 Thermocyclers and one Applied Biosystems 3730 Analyzer.
Scientific Director:   Dr. Robert Hegele
Location:                 Robarts Research Institute, Room 4212
Active Users:          250+ PIs in Canada
Fee Structure:        Standard Sequencing reaction – $6
Sequencing reaction with dGTP added – $7
Fragment analysis and SNapShot – $6
Large DNA (Genomic, BAC’s, Cosmids, Fosmid) – $20
Commercial Sequencing – $12
Real-Time PCR – $40 per run
Discounts are available for large volume projects; please contact the facility to discuss

Translational Imaging Research Facility

Research at the 3T MRI Core Facility is focused on in-vivo studies of physiology and function using a variety of advanced magnetic resonance imaging methods. Major interests include cancer, cardiovascular, maternal health, neuro-degenerative, orthopedics and respiratory disease, which are studied in both humans and animal models.
The 3T MRI Core Facility is a unique regional resource for biomedical research possessing a state-of-the-art clinical 3.0 Tesla MRI scanner, insertable high-performance gradient hardware for micro-imaging of pre-clinical models, polarization technology for gases and liquids and relaxometry infrastructure for characterization of MR contrast agents.
The facility resources are available to peer-reviewed grant funded scientific collaborators with appropriate Research Ethics Board (REB) protocols in place.
Some of the current studies include Alzheimer’s studies, carotid artery imaging, cellular and molecular imaging with novel contrast media, knee cartilage imaging, advanced prostate cancer imaging and pulmonary imaging of lung diseases with hyperpolarized gases.
See: Robarts Research Institute 3T MRI Core Facility

Major Facility Infrastructure


Central to this facility is a General Electric Healthcare Discovery MR750 3.0T™ clinical magnetic resonance imaging scanner with a full complement of anatomy-specific RF coils for human imaging. This imaging platform has been upgraded to include broadband RF hardware capable of imaging hyperpolarized gases (3He & 129He) and liquids (13C) as contrast agents as well as iron or 19F-labeled labeled cells. The scanner has also been equipped with an insertable high-performance gradient system and compatible RF hardware for micro-imaging of small animals using a variety of clinically relevant imaging protocols.

Dynamic Nuclear Polarization Laboratory

The Dynamic Nuclear Polarization Laboratory contains an Oxford Instruments HyperSense™ polarizer for in vitro magnetization of 13C-enriched liquids. These simple endogenous molecules are subsequently injected as real-time probes of regional in vivo metabolism in animal models of disease. Researchers are using this technology to probe glycolysis, pH and necrosis in tumor models, assess radiation-induced lung inflammation and fetal health.

Hyperpolarized Gas Imaging

The 3T MRI Core Facility includes state-of-the-art apparatus for polarization of noble gases. This includes 3He HeliSpin™ and Polarean 129Xe polarizers as well as associated RF coils for hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging of the lungs. These resources are being used to provide a detailed understanding of altered pulmonary function in human disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis.

Relaxometry Laboratory

This laboratory contains fast field-cycling relaxometry hardware for measuring the nuclear magnetic relaxation dispersion of novel paramagnetic contrast agents. A stand-alone, Stelar Spinmaster™ FFC2000 1T C/DC relaxometer is capable of acquiring automated temperature-controlled measurements of spin-lattice relaxation from the earth’s field up to 1 Tesla. A second insertable Stelar relaxometer prototype is capable of making these measurements ± 0.25T from the clinical field strength in which the system is inserted. Collaborations with contrast agent chemistry groups to characterize new MRI agents are encouraged.

Molecular Pathology

The Molecular Pathology core facility  at Robarts includes a full spectrum of state-of-the-art histopathology equipment and expertise. The facility enables investigators to study fresh, frozen or paraffin-processed tissues and analyze sections using various histological stains and molecular probes. In addition, micro-isolation of discrete cells within tissue sections can be accomplished using laser capture microscopy.

Neurobehavioral Core Facility

The Robarts Research Institute Neurobehavioral Core Facility (NCF) was established to provide Western University and the external research community with access to equipment, software and services for the performance of behavioral experiments in mouse models.
The NCF is equipped to house experimental subjects for long term studies. Mice may be imported directly into the NCF pending approval of their health status. Husbandry services are provided by ACVS technical staff in strict adherence to UCAC policies and in a manner consistent with maintaining the integrity of the behavioral data collected. Our five behavioral suites are directly accessible from our housing rooms. An on-line booking system is available to registered users.
Laboratories interested in performing their own experiments are provided with basic protocols and general instruction by appointment. Dr. Marco Prado is available for consultation with investigators new to the design and implementation of behavioral assays. Alternatively, NCF technical staff is available to perform experiments on an hourly fee-for-service basis.

Preclinical Imaging Research Centre

Robarts Preclinical Imaging Research Centre, located on the third floor, is furnished with state-of-the-art non-invasive small animal imaging equipment complete with a dedicated animal surgery and preparation room. This facility was designed specifically to give investigators the ability to exploit the best in specialized small animal imaging technology to further basic and applied research.

We encourage participation in collaborative research studies for the development and validation of pre-clinical imaging biomarkers and new animal models of disease.  Our core facility will include both basic scanning services, and a variety of additional services to help identify new imaging applications including:

  • Research plan design
    • Protocol development (animal model, drug treatment, histopathology)
    • Imaging protocol design (surrogate endpoints, functional analysis, validation)
    • Data collection and analysis

Robarts Clinical Trials runs a clinical trials operation—much like a contract research organization (CRO).

Seeking to transform human health, they lead the industry in the delivery of high-value research and multi-centre randomized controlled trials that assess critical human health issues.  A niche CRO, they are providing a complete range of clinical research services to a broad base of academic and industry clients since 1986.  They recently transitioned ownership from the Western University to the Health Academic Research Trust.  A social enterprise, it prioritizes employees, R&D investment and strong fiscal management in support of its mission. With a global base, the maintain facilities in London Canada, La Jolla, California, and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Robarts Clinical Trials are involved with many innovative new therapeutic solutions to improve clinical trial outcomes and accelerate drug development timelines. As pioneers in central imaging endoscopy and histopathology innovation, they recently developed a translational science network optimized worldwide to accelerate and enhance early drug development.  They are market leaders in investigational research associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other chronic gastrointestinal diseases and clinical trial design.



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