Ground-breaking health research projects conducted through the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) received a big boost today with $50 million in funding from the provincial government.
“It’s crucial to our health system that we maintain the global competitiveness of B.C.’s health research and life sciences sector,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “With our recently released venture capital fund, the basis for a comprehensive technology strategy, it’s clear that British Columbians continue to benefit from projects undertaken by the best and brightest researchers. Our priorities remain in spearheading significant research projects that cure illness, improve treatments, and save lives.”
Since 2001, government has provided approximately $450 million to support the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. In this time, the foundation has funded nearly 1,600 individual research projects and more than 70 research teams.
According to the foundation, scholars have helped to grow the B.C. economy, attracting more than $1.1 billion in additional investments to B.C.’s research community and training more than 4,700 apprentices. These positions range from students to well-established researchers whose work addresses critical health issues.
“With the support of MSFHR and the provincial government, B.C. researchers are at the forefront of many fields,” said Dr. Diane Finegood, MSFHR president & CEO. “This investment will bolster B.C.’s capacity for world-class innovation that addresses our greatest health challenges.”
“Through the Men’s Health Research program, with Movember’s support, my colleagues and I are addressing men’s depression and suicide with six community-based interventions. We are de-stigmatizing mental illness and providing accessible and safe spaces for men to strategize their self-management and connect with mental health care services,” said Dr. John Oliffe, founder of the program and a 2006 MSFHR scholar. “This burgeoning research program and the benefits that are flowing to men and their families would never have been possible without the foresight and investment of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.”
Foundation-funded projects, such as scholars, trainees, infrastructure funding, health services and policy research have had a significant impact on a provincial, national and international scale. A few examples include:
- The phone oximeter, developed by Dr. Mark Ansermino, puts the ability to measure blood oxygen levels in the hands of anyone with a smart phone. Oxygen saturation data will make anaesthesia and surgery safer. At a cost of $50, it also means savings of several thousand dollars when compared to equivalent hospital technology. The phone oximeter was cleared for sale to consumers in March 2015 by Health Canada.
- Dr. Sohrab Shah, a 2011 foundation-funded scholar, co-led BC Cancer Agency research that identified the genetic composition of the deadliest form of breast cancer, opening the door to targeted treatments.
- Foundation trainees working at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS have proven the effectiveness of proactive treatment protocols to reduce transmission of HIV, now being adopted worldwide.
- Targeted foundation funding resulted in 100 research projects like the one to determine who was most susceptible to H1N1, which helped health-care leaders decide which populations to target with immunization campaigns.
The foundation works closely with government and other key stakeholders to make sure British Columbia remains internationally competitive in the area of health research. British Columbia is a leading centre for world-class research on genomics, brain health, cardiovascular disease and infectious disease.
Today’s announcement supports government’s priority to strengthen the province’s life sciences sector, grow and diversify the economy and improve medical treatments to save lives. According to a recent report from LifeSciences BC, the sector contributes $14.4 billion to British Columbia's gross domestic product and employs around 180,000 individuals.
A backgrounder follows.