The History of Banting and Best at U of T
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.
Close to one hundred 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.
The Banting Institute was built on its current site in 1930 to recognize Frederick Banting’s part in the discovery of insulin in a nearby building 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 Institute is appropriately connected to the adjacent Best Institute, 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 Banting and Best Institutes were home to the University of Toronto’s Banting and Best Department of Medical Research until 2005. Now the buildings are home to more than fifty startups alongside other commercialization partner tenants. ONRamp, a 15,000 sq ft co-working, event and meeting space for the U of T Entrepreneurship community was opened in September 2017.
The Best Institute will be demolished in 2019 to make way for the new site of the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre, which will accelerate innovation in Toronto and Canada by creating the country’s largest university-based innovation node. The $100-million investment from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman is the largest donation in U of T’s history and the largest gift ever to the Canadian innovation sector.