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Mark Torchia and Richard Tyc

Mark Torchia (left) and Richard Tyc will receive their award at the inaugural ceremony at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on May 19

Made-in-Manitoba brain laser wins a Governor General’s Innovation Award

April 28, 2016 — 

University of Manitoba Alumni Mark Torchia [PhD/01] and Richard Tyc [MSc/94] are one of six teams receiving the inaugural Governor General’s Innovation Awards for their development of the NeuroBlate® System.

“It’s an overwhelming honour to have our work recognized through this new award,” Torchia says. “Richard and I set out decades ago to develop a medical device that could help patients who otherwise had no other options. We recognize and greatly appreciate all the support we received from St-Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, the University of Manitoba, our talented colleagues, investors, and not the least, our dear families. We also give our thanks to the patients and their families that have acted so selflessly to help so many others. It is truly humbling and gratifying.”

NeuroBlate, which allows brain surgeons to destroy previously inoperable tumours deep inside the brain, also won the Ernest C. Manning Principal Award in October 2015. This revolutionary technology and its creators will be featured in the next edition of UM Today The Magazine.

The NeuroBlate System, developed at the St-Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, is a unique technology that encapsulates the criteria for the Governor General Innovation Awards: exceptional technology that transforms a field and positively impacts the quality of life in Canada.

“We are extremely proud of Dr. Torchia and Mr. Tyc for winning one of the inaugural Governor General’s Innovation Awards,” says David T. Barnard, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba. “Dr. Torchia is a professor and alumnus of this University, and Mr. Tyc is an alumnus—together they previously won the Manning Principal Award. Their life-saving technology is transforming neurosurgery around the globe and all Manitobans should be proud of the groundbreaking research and development being done at the St-Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, a long-time research partner of the University’s.”

Torchia and Tyc will receive their award at the inaugural ceremony at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on May 19.

How NeuroBlate works: Surgeons begin by drilling a hole in the skull about the size of a pencil. They insert the Monteris NeuroBlate® System MRI-guided laser probe and use real-time data to guide the probe through the brain to the tumour. There, the surgeons can put the probe into the cancerous mass and destroy it from the inside out with a laser. Essentially, this new tool allows surgeons to cook the tumour with lethal heat that they can control with unprecedented ability. The tumour is destroyed and the healthy surrounding tissue is preserved. It is the only system in the world that allows surgeons to see the tumour in 3-D, providing them with critical information they need to make treatment decisions in the operating room.

“I remember Dr. Torchia working so diligently on his projects in those early days after the construction of the Albrechtsen Research Centre in the 1990’s,” says Grant Pierce, executive director of research at St Boniface Hospital. “It is fitting that he has received the recognition he so richly deserves for his work at St Boniface Hospital.”

Torchia is currently an associate professor of surgery in the U of M’s College of Medicine and the director of the University’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (read an article he wrote about teaching here). Tyc is vice-president, technology and advanced technology, at Monteris Medical, a spinoff company established in 1999 to create groundbreaking neurosurgical technologies.

About the Governor General’s Innovation Awards

The Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA) were created by Governor General David Johnston to foster a culture of innovation by recognizing the outstanding and groundbreaking work taking place in our country. The GGIA are sustained through the efforts of founding and nominating partners. Winners are selected through a two-stage, merit-based selection process. The selection process is managed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation while the execution of all aspects of the program is overseen by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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