News Release

REF NO.: 83

SUBJECT: Memorial University announces $50-million partnership to strengthen health research in Newfoundland and Labrador

DATE: November 27, 2014

Memorial University will receive $50 million over the next five years to support an unprecedented health-care initiative that will provide enhanced, personalized patient care through collaborative, multidisciplinary research.

Less than 20 per cent of applied medical research is translated into a possible device, medication or therapy; the launch of the new Translational and Personalized Medicine Initiative (TPMI) aims to change that by bringing bench research to the patient’s bedside.

Through the TPMI, patients will benefit from the latest and most innovative discoveries in health research, designed to improve health outcomes that have been specifically identified for them. 

Partners in the TPMI are the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, jurisdictional partners and private-sector partner IBM.

Approximately $50 million will be invested in this program over the next five years, in partnership with Memorial University:

  • A combined investment of $30 million from IBM, including $10 million in equipment and staffing and a further $20 million in-kind investment for big data and analytics software                                                                                                               
  • Nearly $13 million from the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research SPOR SUPPORT Units program ($10 million) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ($3 million)
  • $7.2 million from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

The initiative is made up of two major programs – the Newfoundland and Labrador Support Unit and the Centre of Health Informatics and Analytics

 Newfoundland and Labrador Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (NL SUPPORT)

The NL SUPPORT Program is part of a network of provincial and regional centres across Canada that brings together patients, policymakers, researchers, funders and health-care professionals. The program is focused on creating resources that facilitate patient-oriented research in consultation with local stakeholders to provide patients with the latest and most innovative practices, therapies and policies for improved health outcomes.

NL SUPPORT was created to provide the necessary infrastructure, training and tools required to allow patient-oriented research to thrive in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Centre for Health Informatics and Analytics (CHIA)

CHIA will facilitate research into patient outcomes and offer insight into how services may be improved through the use of high-performance computational infrastructure and de-identified patient datasets.

Memorial researchers will have access to one of Atlantic Canada’s fastest computing environments. Each project undertaken under CHIA will comply with the Personal Health Information Act legislated with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and will also require research ethics board approval. 

Projects under TPMI utilizing CHIA will address issues such as colorectal cancer, long-term care and laboratory utilization as well as others.

Projects related to the Translational Genomics program, include hearing loss, neurocognitive diseases, back pain, vision loss, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

The integration of data will be governed under provincial privacy and ethics legislation.


“This collaborative partnership between public and private sectors is a significant investment both in Memorial University and in the health and well-being of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University. “We are proud to be to be part of this ground-breaking initiative which would be impossible without the support and resources of our partners.”

 “The overall goal of the TPMI is a collaborative approach to enhance the use of health-care resources,” said Dr. James Rourke, dean, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. “Increasing our capacity to bring evidence into the health care system and clinical practice can only result in improved health outcomes for patients and their families.”

 “Our government recognizes that fostering innovation and commercialization, through programs like ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Program, is important to meeting our top priority of creating jobs and long-term economic growth,” said David Wells, senator, on behalf of Rob Moore, regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador and minister of State (ACOA). “Partnering with academia and the private sector to invest in projects like the Translational Personalized Medicine Initiative helps build Atlantic Canada’s reputation for innovation and makes significant contributions to the region’s R&D and economic performance.”

 “Memorial University will be working with our community to bring about true change in the planning and delivery of health-care services, and ensure that those changes respond to the needs of the public,” said Paul Davis, premier, Newfoundland and Labrador. “We are contributing over $7 million to this important partnership which will bring increased research knowledge into our health facilities to assist with getting the best treatment to patients.”

 “This collaboration is a terrific example of government, business and academia teaming to meet important economic and social needs through advanced research and innovation,” said Ralph Chapman, vice-president, public sector, for IBM in Canada. “This collaborative model will provide researchers with IBM big data and analytics technology and expertise to more quickly manage and analyze massive data sets around critical health-care challenges and ultimately, help improve patient outcomes.”

 “For every 100 discoveries achieved at the lab bench, only 15 ever make it to the real world in the form of new therapies or treatments, revised practice guidelines or

better health policies,” said Dr. Patrick Parfrey, chief scientific officer, TMPI. “There is a clear and defined need in Canada for research to focus on getting the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.”

 “The SPOR SUPPORT Units provide a vehicle for sharing best practices between jurisdictions,” said Dr. Jane E. Aubin, chief scientific officer and vice-president research, knowledge, translation and ethics, Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“With Newfoundland and Labrador now on board, we have taken another step toward a cohesive national partnership that will see evidenced-based research embedded in health-care delivery and patient care.”

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