The History of Banting and Best at U of T

Frederick Banting and Charles Best

Banting and Best were the first to discover and commercialize insulin despite competition from multiple groups around the world in part because of the University of Toronto’s facilities and support from its hospital and industrial partners.

The commercialization of research discoveries is not new to the University.

Ninety years ago, Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin not far from the site of the buildings now named after them. In 1922, University of Toronto’s Connaught Laboratories began the production with Eli Lilly and Company coming in subsequently as a partner to mass produce the treatment. Fifty years later, the Connaught Laboratories were sold for $29 million and an eponymous fund was established. Since then, the Connaught Fund has invested $120 million in research and scholars, and is currently valued at $81 million.

The medical discovery made at a U of T academic lab that was turned into an innovation continues to save millions of lives around the world by coming full-circle to contribute directly to academic researchers on campus.

Historic Buildings

The Banting building was built on its current site in 1930 to recognize Frederick Banting’s part in the discovery of insulin nine years prior.

The symmetrical red brick-clad building is six storeys tall and features a handsome entrance and lobby. Many rooms have been renovated since Time magazine covered the opening of this “splendidly-equipped” building. Some pieces of the elegant original furniture remain in a number of rooms.

The Banting building is appropriately connected to the adjacent Best building, named for Banting’s student and insulin co-discoverer Charles Best, by an above ground walkway on the fifth floor as well as an underground passage.

The five-story Best Institute building was constructed in 1954 with an exterior similar to its neighbour to the east. The building’s south façade is adorned with a glass solarium, giving building occupants a sunlit place with a fantastic view of the streetscape for lunch, coffee, reading, or personal reflection.

The two buildings were home to the University of Toronto’s Banting and Best Department of Medical Research until 2005.