AHFMR funding tops previous records

By Sarelle Azuelos

The Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research announced a record amount of funding to health researchers last week.

The University of Calgary received almost $32 million for 29 researchers in this latest round of funding. Grants also went to the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge, totaling $59 million across the province.

“It is to build and sustain a high-quality health research endeavour in the province to attract and retain the best researchers, and to help provide them with a very positive research environment,” stated AHFMR president and CEO Dr. Kevin Keough.

The foundation has given over $900 million to researchers since its establishment in 1980.

“We now provide the best awards in the country,” said Keough. “What you get for the students are the people who are really at the leading edge of the science that they’re teaching about.”

Keough also pointed out that the foundation does not decide who receives the grants.

“It’s a very tough competition because all the people we support have to go through a rigorous international peer review,” he said, noting this panel advises the AHFMR of whom to give grants to and the foundation then decides how many researchers it can afford.

One such researcher at the U of C is Dr. George Chaconas, who is currently working to understand the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease which, if left long enough, is difficult to treat.

“We’re screening a library of 30,000 small molecules, looking for one that attacks a particular process that we’ve been studying,” said Chaconas.

Chaconas will receive $160,000 each year for the next seven years. He attributes his success to his lab staff and the financial support he’s acquired from the foundation.

“I came here four and a half years ago now from Ontario,” said Chaconas. “The reason I was able to come was because I received a heritage finance award from AHFMR and also an establishment grant which helped me to set up the lab we have here.”

“I’m blessed with people in the lab because, I have to admit, they’re the ones that now do all the work. They’re the ones that generate all the data.”

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