MSFHR receives $50M to boost BC health research

11 December 2015

Health Minister Terry Lake today announced $50 million in funding that will support the ongoing work of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR).

“It’s crucial to our health system that we maintain the global competitiveness of BC’s health research and life sciences sector,” said Minister Lake at a special event hosted by the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). “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, the BC government has provided approximately $450 million to support MSFHR. In this time, the foundation has funded nearly 1,600 individual research projects and more than 70 research teams.

MSFHR Scholars have helped to grow the BC economy, attracting more than $1.1 billion in additional investments to BC’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, BC researchers are at the forefront of many fields,” said Dr. Diane Finegood, MSFHR president & CEO. “This investment will bolster BC’s capacity for world-class innovation that addresses our greatest health challenges.”

A bright future

The funding signals a bright future for MSFHR and BC’s health research community. In addition to supporting existing research programs, this investment will enable MSFHR to move forward with several new initiatives, including:

  • a dedicated salary award program for health professionals;
  • a health policy fellowship program; and
  • targeted award programs that will enhance the dissemination of research evidence and support research and its application on health-system priorities.

MSFHR award programs directly increase BC’s health research capacity by supporting researchers’ productivity, additional funding success and training. MSFHR-funded research has helped BC achieve international recognition for excellence in areas such as cancer, genomics, HIV/AIDS, and health services research. In addition to advancing knowledge across a broad range of health issues, MSFHR awardees are helping to save lives and money by developing new products and informing improvements to practice and policy.

A few examples include:

  • The phone oximeter, developed by Dr. Mark Ansermino (2007 Scholar), 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.
  • A diagnostic test developed by Dr. Torsten Nielsen (2003 Scholar, 2008 Senior Scholar) identifies breast cancer tumours that are of a low-risk subtype, allowing certain women to avoid the grueling side-effects of chemotherapy.
  • Dr. Sohrab Shah (2006 and 2008 Trainee, 2011 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.
  • MSFHR-funded researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS have proven the effectiveness of proactive treatment protocols to reduce HIV transmission that are now being adopted worldwide.