Establishing a Community

By prioritizing multidisciplinary research partnerships among stem cell researchers across Canada, the Stem Cell Network integrated the country’s previously fractured landscape into a comprehensive and globally respected research community.

story_establishCommunity-1Although stem cells were first discovered in Canada in 1961, the research community veered off in different directions over the decades that followed. The Stem Cell Network became the world’s first national network of its type when it launched in 2001, and immediately set to work bringing diverse researchers from varied disciplines together to unify Canada’s research community.

Over its existence, the Stem Cell Network actively worked to bring researchers together in order to build on the larger community’s collective knowledge. SCN took a two-pronged approach to this task, which began with large-scale project funding to encourage collaboration and continued with bringing the community together for face-to-face meetings, events and workshops.

The Network’s Annual General Meeting was where a lot of this collaboration began, and over the years it was built into a globally respected scientific conference. The first AGM in 2001 was a closed session of 50 researchers, but the four-day 2003 AGM in Vancouver featured nearly four times as many attendees. That growth continued over the years, and in 2012 SCN partnered with the Centre for Commercialization for Regenerative Medicine to re-brand the AGM as the Till & McCulloch Meetings. SCN invested in travel awards for principal investigators and trainees to ensure they could meet and interact each year, sharing science and building collaborative research networks.

The Canadian community continued to grow as well. SCN’s investments in career development for trainees regularly brought new researchers into the fold, and in the span of 2008-2011, 30 per cent of SCN-funded researchers were new to SCN.


  • Established the Till & McCulloch Meetings in 2012 to build off the success of the SCN Annual General Meeting
  • Established the annual Till & McCulloch Award in 2005 to recognize one Canadian researcher’s exceptional contributions to the field
  • Collaborated to bring the International Society for Stem Cell Researchers (ISSCR) Annual Meeting to Canada in 2006, 2011 and 2014

  • SCN coalesced the Canadian stem cell research community into a virtual research enterprise, engaging over 120 biologists, clinicians, bioengineers, lawyers, ethicists and social scientists from 27 Canadian universities and hospitals and international collaborators from 55 institutions in eight countries

Related Content

  • 2001-02 Annual Report, p. 15
  • 2009-10 Annual Report, p. 5
  • 2010-11 Annual Report, p. 5
  • 2011-12 Annual Report, p. 15
  • 2003-04 Annual Report