MSFHR announces 2015 Trainee award recipients

Forty-eight* exceptional young investigators will receive Trainee awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research to support post-doctoral study at BC institutions.

The award recipients, selected from a highly competitive pool of 231 applications, represent a bright future for health research in British Columbia. Their innovative projects span a broad range of disciplines and will help to address important health challenges for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Thirteen of this year’s awards will be jointly funded in partnership with BC-based health charities, health authorities, and not-for-profit organizations. MSFHR is pleased to partner with the following organizations to support research directly relevant to their respective mandates:

  • AllerGen
  • BC Cancer Foundation
  • Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation
  • Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation
  • Rick Hansen Institute/International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute

With a maximum term of three years, MSFHR Trainee Awards support highly qualified researchers at the post-PhD and post-health professional degree stages to prepare for careers as independent investigators. By supporting the training of these researchers, BC is well positioned to retain them as future health research leaders.

Since 2001, MSFHR has invested more than $38 million in funding more than 1,200 Trainee awards that build on Dr. Michael Smith’s legacy of support for up-and-coming scientists.

*Number updated August 31, 2015

Partnership fosters “synergistic” research collaboration

AllerGen NCE Inc. (AllerGen) was established in response to the fact that one in three Canadians is living with allergic disease. MSFHR and AllerGen have been working as partners since 2011 to co-fund positions in BC for research in asthma, anaphylaxis, and allergies.

One such project was for Dr. Jeremy Hirota to work at St. Paul’s Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital in Dr. Christopher Carlsten’s lab, a world leader in clinical and epidemiological research on the impact of environmental and occupational exposures on lung health and disease. Hirota’s research investigated the involvement of a danger sensor called the “inflammasome” in asthma, a disease which afflicts two million Canadians.

Partnering on these awards allows MSFHR to fund more of the many dedicated researchers seeking to establish themselves in their careers in BC. Our partners are supported to increase capacity in research areas that align with their strategic priorities while benefiting from a robust peer review process and established grant-administration system.

The post-doctoral researchers funded by these awards fund are already experts in their respective fields with advanced skill sets that allow them to make significant contributions their labs. Carlsten notes that Hirota brought new techniques of cell culture to the lab and expanded their previous techniques to new applications.

“I … value very much the critique of basic science manuscripts and experimental designs that Dr. Hirota provides,” says Carlsten. “Dr. Hirota has helped edit and improve manuscripts that were generated in our lab before his arrival.”

“The support provided by MSFHR and AllerGen for Dr. Hirota has enabled our group to expand into areas of occupational and lung health research that we were previously unable to study.”

– Dr. Christopher Carlsten

Beyond the financial benefit of the award, Hirota credits AllerGen’s involvement with helping him develop a productive collaborative network. He has leveraged this network by participating in annual research meetings, sitting on career mentorship panels for trainees, and serving as part of AllerGen’s trainee executive. Such opportunities can be vital to career development for researchers; moreover, they can be crucial to building capacity and interest in a research field.

“Performing research in a lab can sometimes be isolating,” says Hirota. “By connecting to a broader research community, that itself is connected to individuals that impact public health policy, my relationship with AllerGen enabled me to see a greater value in my work in the context of a whole society.”

Dr. Hirota notes that his professional development under the MSFHR/AllerGen partnered funding opened the door to receiving a Banting Fellowship that is allowing him to continue his work in asthma research at UBC.

“To be competitive for a Banting Fellowship, a candidate requires a demonstration of international recognition, productivity, and a work environment that combines research programs of the candidate and the supervisor to create something more than additive,” he says.

Hirota and Carlsten’s work clearly is more than additive; it is synergistic. The two have consolidated their research programs, jointly applied for funding opportunities, co-supervised trainees, and are now working together as faculty members in the Division of Respiratory Medicine at UBC and as co-directors of the Chan-Yeung Centre for Occupational and Environmental Respiratory Disease.

Partner with us

MSFHR is looking for partners to participate in more success stories like this one. Opportunities to partner on MSFHR Trainee Awards are open through late May 2015. For more information, see or contact us at:

About AllerGen:

AllerGen NCE Inc. (AllerGen), the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network, was established in 2004 by Industry Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program to address the growing burdens faced by Canadians through asthma and allergies.