The University of Toronto and Karolinska Institute in Sweden are two of the world’s most highly acclaimed teaching and research institutions in the field of biomedical research.

2017 marks the 21st anniversary of the annual International Exchange in Developmental and Perinatal Biology between U of T and KI. This exchange program leverages the very best research themes from both institutions to train and develop students into future scientific and medical leaders. Exchanges have particularly grown in the areas of maternal and infant health (including genetics and epigenetics), neurodevelopment and regenerative medicine (stem cell biology.)

Beginning with a generous gift from Mats Sundin, the U of T and Karolinska Institute established a new fellowship program designed to provide a scientific exchange and training program that will develop future health leaders in both countries. The Mats Sundin Fellowship identifies two postdoctoral fellows in Stockholm and Toronto respectively to participate in this scientific exchange. Each Sundin Fellow is paired with scientists, scholars and clinicians from both institutions to pursue the most mystifying questions of medical science – particularly as these questions apply to the health of children. Each Sundin Fellow receives a 2 year biomedical research exchange placement at the U of T or KI, providing international experience at the world’s leading research institutions.

First recipients of the Mats Sundin Fellowship in Developmental Health, 2013

The Fellowships, which were established in November 2012 with a donation of SEK 2.2 million (around $350,000) from former hockey player and Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, aim to develop future health leaders in Canada and Sweden. Recipients will have the opportunity to spend a period of research at their partner institution under the direction of leading scientists in the field of developmental health, which focuses on understanding how diseases of childhood and adulthood can be traced to conditions within the first 2000 days of life.

Sophie Petropoulos from the University of Toronto will focus her research at Karolinska Institutet on determining the genetic blueprint of the critical first seven days of human development, looking at the effect of adverse environmental factors such as stress on the embryo as it divides from a single cell into a group of cells which eventually become the fetus and placenta.

Jessica Weidner from Karolinska Institutet will conduct research at the University of Toronto on the effects of Toxoplasma gondii (also known as the cat litter parasite) on fetal development, looking its behaviour in the body and how it reaches the brain.

The Fellowship recipients were announced in the presence of Mats Sundin, Ambassador Kenneth Macartney, Professor Stephen Matthews from the University of Toronto and Professor Ola Hermanson from Karolinska Institutet. Ambassador Macartney said “the Embassy is honoured to support the Fellowship program, which will provide unique opportunities for collaboration in an important research field. We are pleased to partner with Mats Sundin in promoting cooperation between these two world-renowned academic institutions in Canada and Sweden”.