The Arbeiter family raises funds to support stem cell research in honour of the late Annie Azoulay Arbeiter. Photo courtesy: McGill University Health Centre Foundation

By Kate Shingler, special to the Montreal Jewish Magazine

What is it like to work at the forefront of scientific research? More than one hundred McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) supporters recently had the chance to find out. 

On October 10, the MUHC Foundation hosted a symposium and tour of the hospital’s Cellular Therapy Laboratory, located in the Research Institute at the MUHC (RI-MUHC). A panel of experts from the hospital’s stem cell network shared some of the exciting projects they are currently working on. In addition to helping people better understand the research being conducted at the hospital’s Glen site, the second annual event was a chance for the RI-MUHC community to say thank you to two prominent Montreal families who have been major supporters of the project, raising more than $1 million.

Charles Benjamin is a long-time donor to the MUHC Foundation, and one of the leading forces behind the development of the highly specialized laboratory. As a contributor to The Best Care for Life Campaign, which helped to build the state-of-the-art Glen site healthcare facility, supporting the RI-MUHC’s Cellular Therapy Laboratory was another way in which he could help Montrealers benefit from the very best in patient care, research, and teaching. 

Ruby Arbeiter and his family have a personal connection to furthering stem cell research. Ruby’s wife Annie Azoulay was a stem cell recipient and was treated at the MUHC. Together, before her passing, they created the Annie & Ruby Arbeiter Stem Cell Research Fund. The family’s fundraising initiative includes an annual in-store drive at their toy store, JRC Toys, as well as outreach to the broader public. In doing so, Annie’s legacy continues to live on with the help of her family and friends.

“The power of a community working towards this common goal, the opening and expansion of the Cellular Therapy Laboratory at the RI-MUHC, is exemplified in the generosity of Charles Benjamin and the Arbeiter family,” says MUHC Foundation Chair Norman Steinberg. “This kind of commitment from our donors has made us the top research hospital in Quebec.”

Stem cells are considered the ‘building blocks’ of the body. These shape shifters are the primary materials from which other cells with specialized functions are generated. 

“Stem cells have the potential to redefine the way in which we treat patients because they have the ability to help reset a compromised immune system,” says Dr. Bruce Mazer, Interim Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the RI-MUHC. “I believe they may hold the key to curing some of the most prevalent illnesses facing our population today.”

The MUHC Foundation continues to raise funds to support the expansion of the RI-MUHC’s Cellular Therapy Laboratory. To learn more about the lab or to donate, visit muhcfoundation.com, or contact Kim Cavener, Director of Strategic Giving at the MUHC Foundation at 514-843-1543, extension 71852 or by email kim.cavener@muhc.mcgill.ca