The CFI moneyland express

By Ricardo Urbina

Research prospects at the University of Calgary have improved to the tune of $2 million.

The money was awarded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, an organization formed in 1997 by the federal government with a five-year plan to invest $800 million toward strengthening Canada’s capability for research.

"Its purpose is to invest in infrastructure programs at universities, colleges and hospitals and to help strengthen their capacity to do world class research," said Communications Advisor Pierre Normand.

The investments are meant to be made in partnership with the private sector and provincial government.

"CFI will cover up to 40 per cent of the eligible cost of a program and the partners would cover the rest," said Normand, explaining that the idea is to use the program as way of inducing more funds from other sources.

"From the initial investment of $800 million, it will trigger over $2 billion in investment into infrastructure if you apply this formula."

"The $2 million the U of C received is part of a $5 million grant for equipment and research," said Assistant to the Vice-president Research at the U of C Bob Martin.

The rest of the money came from private sector contributors such as Nova Chemicals as well as from the Alberta government. Every university had the opportunity to present a list of eligible projects to the CFI selection committee, which draws its members from a variety of backgrounds.

According to Normand, the criteria involved included determining the quality of the research; how the research contributes to strengthening the capacity for innovation and the potential benefits of the research to Canada. In addition, each project was required to show outside sources who were willing to provide additional funding.

All of the research groups chosen for the award are part of a program called New Opportunities which is, according to Martin, "targeted toward people who have just received their first academic appointment."

The general idea is to give promising young researchers a suitable environment in which to prosper.

"We submitted who we thought were the best, and they chose the best from the best," said Martin. "The Faculty of Engineering is doing particularly well. Five of the 10 groups chosen are from that faculty."

The U of C came in eighth in funding compared to other universities in Canada; a good accomplishment according to Martin.

"We’re just behind the big six universities in Canada," he said. "It’s about what we were hoping for."

One of the research groups chosen is using gene research as a means to develop a test to help determine which patients are susceptible to which types of cancer and predict how the cancer will behave in patients.

"The idea being that if we find certain genetic alterations in a patient that indicate higher risks, we will be better able to treat those patients," said Doug Demetrick, Medical Research Council clinician-scientist and Associate Professor who, along with Assistant Professor in Oncology Dr. Hughes, headed the New Opportunity group in the area of cancer-biology research.

"The equipment will be used for gene analysis, to identify these genetic alterations," said Demetrick. "It is unique in Canada. It’s a really important piece of equipment for cancer research; it lets you isolate and look at specific cells."

He also explained how the new addition will be beneficial to graduate students interested in cancer research.

"I have had very good luck getting infrastructure funds," added Demetrick. "CFI funded 40 per cent of the project while the Alberta Cancer Board, National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Government of Alberta contributed the rest."

This is the first of a series of investment programs planned by the CFI and researchers at the U of C may see more funds distributed in the near future.

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