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$1.6 million for health-related research

By Meaghan Whelan

The Research & Development Corporation (RDC) is investing more than $1.6 million to enhance research capacity at Memorial University's Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Science.

The funding comes from the RDC's academic programs which strengthen Newfoundland and Labrador's research and development (R&D) capacity and leverage funding from other sources. It was announced on Dec. 19 by Keith Hutchings, minister responsible for the Research and Development Corporation.

"This announcement is significant on many levels as it is providing leading researchers with funding to study key health-related issues," said Minister Hutchings. "The Research & Development Corporation is providing support for researchers to seek solutions to important health care problems, expected to lead to new treatments and technologies that may have significant improvements in life expectancy, disease treatment and prevention and the quality of patient health in this province and elsewhere."

In total, RDC's contribution of $1,679,557 will support 14 health-related R&D projects, enabling researchers to leverage more than $3.5 million from other funding sources, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Arthritis Society and Memorial University including its Genesis Group.

"Our academic funding programs attract, develop and retain highly-qualified researchers at the academic level and foster a collaborative research environment," said Glenn Janes, chief executive officer of RDC. "Health sector R&D investments generate significant economic outcomes, including commercial products, increased productivity, research-related employment opportunities, decreased public health-care costs and substantial health benefits."

"Memorial University is home to exceptional health researchers," said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research), Memorial University. "Their innovative work, enabled by investments from RDC, is advancing our understanding of important health problems and helping to identify new ways to improve the lives of the people of this province and beyond. Financial support from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, awarded through programs of the Research & Development Corporation, is also essential to creating a competitive and successful environment for research and innovation."

In support of health research, RDC partners with CIHR through the Regional Partnership Program to provide additional research funding in Newfoundland and Labrador. CIHR provides up to $1 million in incremental funding as a result of this partnership. The Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Partnership Program advisory committee evaluates projects according to CIHR grant type and score, budget requirements and alignment with agreed upon priority areas.

One of the researchers receiving funding is Dr. Kenneth Kao, a professor in the Division of Biomedical Sciences in Memorial's Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Kao is receiving $90,247 from RDC for research that will aid in discovering novel biomarkers for detection and treatment of prostate cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Kao said the incidence of prostate cancer has become a growing concern for men in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"New diagnostic technologies would be useful to accurately discern patients who will benefit from one or another type of therapy," he said. "Our research is intended to identify new molecular markers that may be used to better characterize prostate tumours to help guide treatment options."

Dr. Kao's funding from RDC is leveraging an additional $147,637 from CIHR, the Genesis Group, Ride for Dad and Memorial University.

A complete list of funding recipients, including project descriptions, can be found online at today.mun.ca.

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