Annual Report 2008-2009

Research with Impact

[ Table of Contents ]

Message from the President

Almost one year has passed since I commenced my term as President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). During this time, I have had the privilege to meet some of the best health researchers in Canada. I have also met with federal and provincial ministers and deputy ministers to discuss some of the health-care challenges facing the citizens of this country. I have met with partners from the public and private sectors allied in our cause for improved health. These experiences have strengthened my conviction that Canada has the tools and the expertise to carry out high-impact research that will result in improved health and health care.

Improving health and health care for Canadians is the driving force behind CIHR's upcoming second five-year strategic plan and the raison d'être of our recent efforts to initiate bold new actions and strike major international research partnerships in areas of greatest public need and research strengths.

As Canada contends with a global recession, maintaining a healthy and productive workforce is key to our economic recovery. Poor mental health, which affects one in five Canadians, costs the economy billions annually in lost productivity. Chronic conditions, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and neurodegenerative disorders, also take a significant toll on Canadians' productivity and well-being. The damage these diseases can do is even more daunting for vulnerable populations such as Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities in Canada.

To respond to these challenges and tangibly contribute to improving health and health care, CIHR must invest across the whole spectrum of health research. Our efforts to meet the health needs of Canadians will only succeed if we continue to apply the excellence-based, comprehensive approach that has become our trademark. As the CIHR 2008–09 Annual Report demonstrates, these efforts are paying off.

This report demonstrates how CIHR-supported health research projects deliver impact. Such projects include an innovative new drug therapy for Alzheimer's disease led by a research team from the University of Toronto. On the strength of promising results from early clinical testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Agency fast-tracked the drug for Phase II clinical trial, with results expected in 2010. CIHR investments have also contributed to new and effective technology for tracking water contaminants to their source. Developed at the University of Victoria, this technology has been used by a number of municipalities in the province, including Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna, and will help ensure safer water supplies. And, new technology for knee-joint repair developed by researchers at École Polytechnique de Montréal holds the promise of dramatic health-care savings and increased quality of life for seniors.

Whether it's developing new therapies in neuroscience or new medical devices, research is an ongoing process. An active, sustainable research workforce is vital for providing fresh evidence, sparking new ideas and creating the innovations required for an effective response to health challenges. CIHR, on behalf of Canada and Canadians, invests in people and research projects of strategic importance to the country. The CIHR 2008–09 Annual Report demonstrates how these investments have the potential to improve health.

Alain Beaudet, MD, PhD
President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Introduction

The Government of Canada launched the Science & Technology (S&T) Strategy in May 2007. The S&T Strategy is designed to put Canada at the leading edge of innovation that generates health, environmental, economic and societal benefits for Canadians.

To bring more clarity and focus to the S&T Strategy, the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) was charged with further developing the Strategy's four basic priorities: environmental science and technologies; natural resources and energy; health and related life sciences and technologies; and information and communications technologies.

The result was the creation of a detailed set of sub-priorities, approved by the Minister of Industry in September 2008.

Each of these sub-priorities represents an area of research and development that will benefit Canadians. The sub-priorities reflect domains in which Canada has demonstrable S&T strength, has a strategic advantage, or where increased focus would move Canada's capability in that area to become globally competitive. Additionally, each of these areas has already demonstrated the capacity for industry partnerships and commercial opportunities.

In all, seven of the sub-priorities have direct implications for CIHR. In each of these cases, CIHR can point both to existing investments in research and to plans for additional support. Examples include major new funding for a comprehensive longitudinal study on aging, research into nanomedicine and regenerative medicine, and research and partnership building in the field of neurosciences. CIHR-supported researchers are already producing research with impact in many of the STIC sub-priorities.

"Canada must focus its attention on strategic areas of development in research and innovation, thus enhancing our global competitiveness. The sub-priorities, covering both basic and applied research and innovation, will serve as a springboard to leadership by Canada in areas of significance to the nation."

Dr. Howard Alper
Chair, Science, Technology and Innovation Council

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