Update on MSFHR – BC AHSN Consolidation

1 June 2021

In February this year, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) and the BC Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN) boards announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding to join forces to create a dynamic and integrated health research organization that will support the growth and evolution of BC’s research and life sciences sectors.

Below are further updates on consolidation and the activities of MSFHR and BC AHSN during this transition period:

The process is on track with a public announcement of the consolidated organization proposed for Fall 2021.

A Transition Task Force (a subset of the boards of the two organizations) is working with leadership and staff of both organizations to ensure the consolidation is proceeding smoothly. The intent is to sign a consolidation agreement at the end of September, which will see the organizations become one, operating under a single board of directors and a new name. Engagement with stakeholders has informed the work to date; post-October, when MSFHR and BC AHSN are consolidated, in-depth consultation will inform a new strategic plan, building on the existing work of both organizations.

Lessons learned from the pandemic are informing the direction of the consolidated organization.

We are living in exceptional times. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role of health research in generating the evidence we need to effectively respond to public health crises, continue to support talent, and build research infrastructure for a resilient and vibrant health research system. The pandemic has revealed the strengths and gaps of our current health research system, which are invaluable lessons that will guide us in developing the direction of the consolidated organization.

Outreach is underway to identify potential board members for the consolidated organization.

The first board of the consolidated organization will include a minimum of nine members with a range of complementary skills, backgrounds, and experiences who are committed to improving the social, health, and economic wellbeing of British Columbians through research.

In addition to supporting the existing work of both organizations, the immediate focus of the first board is overseeing the transition, optimizing the benefit of the consolidation, and ensuring the consolidated organization is set up to fulfill its promises. The first board will also start to pave the way for the identification of new governance talent for the future, ensuring a focus on diversity that is reflective of our province.

Members will come from both the MSFHR and BC AHSN boards, and a minimum of two new members will be recruited. Outreach is underway to identify candidates who will help strengthen the organization’s relevance to our diverse province. The intent is to form a small board that benefits from the wisdom and organizational memory of the organizations’ existing boards, supplemented by the energy, ideas, and experience of new directors. If you have any suggestions for us, please reply in confidence to the consultant supporting this work, Dr. Jane Cooke-Lauder: jane@bataleur.ca.

In the meantime, MSFHR and BC AHSN continue with their work and partner on specific initiatives.

MSFHR funding competitions are proceeding as announced earlier in 2021. Current opportunities can be found on our website.

The operational work of BC AHSN continues apace, in support of learning health systems, patient-oriented research, research ethics and clinical trials across the province. Of particular note, the BC SUPPORT Unit is entering phase II of its work as part of the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR).

In addition, as we move ahead on various consolidation-related activities, MSFHR and BC AHSN continue to collaborate and partner on projects. Recently, thanks to a partnership between MSFHR, Genome BC and the BC Centre for Disease Control Foundation, nine BC research teams are receiving funding to rapidly address critical questions around COVID-19 vaccine research. BC AHSN, through the BC SUPPORT Unit, is a strategic partner on this initiative providing consultation, training and supports to those who are interested in engaging patients and families, public and/or community members as partners on their research teams.

We will continue to keep our community informed on the consolidation of MSFHR and BC AHSN. In the meantime, feel free to connect with us with comments and feedback.