Angels Den’s awards $500,000 to St. Michael’s researchers to support medical innovations

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Angels Den’s awards $500,000 to St. Michael’s researchers to support medical innovations

Toronto, November 22, 2019

By Ana Gajic

Dr. Tony Antoniou and Dr. Jiwon Oh accept the Odette Social Innovation Award
Dr. Tony Antoniou (second from right) and Dr. Jiwon Oh (right)

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital pride themselves on their collaborative nature – but earlier this month at the Angels Den competition, they put their collaborations on pause for a friendly face-off in one of Canada’s biggest medical research competitions.

In front of three celebrity judges, eight research teams battled it out for $500,000 in prizes for their innovations.

“We know that research at St. Michael’s has tremendous potential to help patients and transform lives,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, vice-president of Research and Innovation at Unity Health Toronto.

“When it comes to research, there are a lot of road blocks, such as scarce and risk-averse funding. The Angels Den format is unconventional – it invests in early-stage research, which then attracts more funds, more talent and more support.”

Hosted annually by the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, this home-grown battle for breakthroughs is an opportunity for scientists to share their innovations in a friendly competition for funds.

The reality-TV-style contest awarded two teams of researchers $150,000 each in innovation funding. It was hosted by CHFI’s Maureen Holloway and featured celebrity judges Joe Mimran, Michele Romanow and Vincenzo Guzzo.

Eight teams of researchers were selected to pitch their research projects to the judges and a panel of prominent jurors. Four presented social innovation projects or tools to ensure all patients have access to quality and innovative health care, in hopes of winning the Odette Social Innovation Award.

The other four presented projects aimed at transforming scientific discoveries into new therapies, diagnostics or devices that will improve patients’ lives, eyeing the Keenan Biomedical Innovation Award.

First prize in both categories was $150,000. The remaining six teams each received $25,000, and a People’s Choice winner took home an extra $50,000. Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, joined Dr. Tim Rutledge, President and CEO of Unity Health Toronto, to announce the winners.

Dr. Tony Antoniou and Dr. Jiwon Oh’s Tailor Made, an artificial intelligence tool to assist neurologists with designing personalized multiple sclerosis treatments, took the Odette Social Innovation Award.

Dr. Joao Rezende-Neto accepts the Keenan Biomedical Innovation Award
Dr. Joao Rezende-Neto (second from right)

Dr. Joao Rezende-Neto’s Liver Airbag, a device that helps surgeons save the fragile livers damaged in accidents, took the Keenan Biomedical Innovation Award.

While the jurors voted on the overall winners, every member of the audience and those who tuned in on the online livestream were able to vote for the People’s Choice award, presented by Canada Life. Dr. Mohammad Qadura’s Artery Alert, a limb-saving blood test to screen for people with peripheral artery disease, took this award home.

Made possible by St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation board members and event co-chairs, Melissa Martin and Gwen Harvey, and the generous support of sponsors, Angels Den brought St. Michael’s research and innovation to the big stage, with thousands of viewers in person and via the livestream of the event.

“Angels Den is a testament to the fierce donors who stop at nothing to champion St. Michael’s global standard-setting research,” said Lili Litwin, president of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation. “Year in, year out, they impact our hospital and the millions of people whose lives will be changed for the better thanks to the innovations that are being launched right here.”

What started as a small event in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute four years ago, with about 50 attendees, has now grown exponentially, with nearly 1,000 attendees at this year’s Angels Den in Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory of Music’s TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning.

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About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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