CIHR Annual Report 2011–12: The Measure of Success

Address Health and Health System Research Priorities
Engaging in strategic initiatives to catalyze change

The IRP encouraged CIHR to prioritize targeted research areas and develop “key and defining strategic initiatives that can propel Canada to leadership in selected and focused areas.” In the past fiscal year, CIHR has implemented a number of measures that responded to this direction. As part of these efforts, the organization has also pushed forward with initiatives specifically designed to encourage interdisciplinary research of strategic value that falls outside of CIHR’s normal sphere of activity.

Greater planning efforts to define and prioritize targeted research areas

CIHR’s Scientific Directors, Governing Council and leading researchers have developed a set of “Roadmap Signature Initiatives” to catalyze change that can improve health and health care. These initiatives build on strengths that already exist within the Canadian research enterprise and address those areas where more attention is needed. In 2011–12, a number of these initiatives reached critical milestones.

For example, CIHR launched the Community-Based Primary Health Care signature initiative to prioritize community-based primary care research and speed the translation of knowledge gained from that research into smarter practices and policies. In January 2012, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced funding to support teams of researchers and decision makers to conduct research in two areas: chronic disease prevention and management, and access to care for vulnerable populations such as children, seniors, the poor and Aboriginal communities.

Another CIHR Roadmap Signature Initiative, the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium is connecting existing resources and expertise to accelerate the translation of epigenetic discoveries into new diagnostic procedures and therapies. In 2011–12, the Consortium launched a number of competitions worth a total of $25.4 million.

Expanded support of clinical and translational research

In the past fiscal year, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq officially launched the national Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). SPOR is a transformative initiative that will greatly enhance the support of clinical and translational research in Canada. Better integration of research evidence and clinical practice will mean improved health outcomes and a better health care system in Canada.

Catalyze new areas of research beyond CIHR’s current knowledge domains

In 2011–12, CIHR leveraged a number of partnerships to provide discipline-bending opportunities. One example involved new funding and opportunities available through Canada’s participation in the Human Frontier Science program. The program supports cutting-edge projects at the intersection of a number of different domains, blending health research with physical and computational sciences. Since 1990, the program has funded 18 talented scientists who have gone on to win Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry and Physics. Also in 2011–12, CIHR’s Roadmap Signature Initiative on Personalized Medicine established a major collaboration with Genome Canada. The venture, worth $135 million with matching regional partnerships, will support multidisciplinary research in personalized medicine. The field has the potential to transform the delivery of health care from a reactive, “one-size-fits-all” system to a system of predictive, preventive and precision care.

Medicine – Don’t Just
Make it Better,
Make it Personal

To launch its Personalized Medicine Signature Initiative, CIHR announced its participation in the launch of a funding competition for large-scale genomics projects. The competition, conducted in partnership with Genome Canada, will fund major projects to help improve the ability to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and realize significant social and economic benefits. Successful projects must secure matching funding from other sources and engage end-users to ensure results have clinical utility or application. Eight of CIHR’s Institutes are participating in this competition. This funding will help support the work of researchers such as Dr. François Rousseau at Laval University, who is using computer models to identify the most cost-effective and compassionate strategies for prenatal screening for genetic disorders.

Press “P” for Patient –
Delivering Patient-Oriented Research

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq (pictured above) officially launched the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), in August 2011. SPOR is a pan-Canadian partnership involving health researchers and professionals, policy makers and patients. Later in the fiscal year, SPOR reached a milestone with the first meeting of its National Steering Committee, co-chaired by CIHR President Alain Beaudet and Dr. Robert S. Bell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University Health Network. The Steering Committee includes representatives from all levels of government, private sector organizations, health charities, health science networks, universities and patient advocacy groups. Two key elements of SPOR, Research and Knowledge Translation Networks and Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) units are set for launch later in 2012.

New Results in the Fight Against
Childhood Cancers
and Rare Diseases

Researchers led by McGill University’s Dr. Nada Jabado, project co-leader for the Canadian Pediatric Cancer Genome Consortium (CPCGC), identified two genetic mutations responsible for up to 40% of glioblastomas in children. Glioblastomas (pictured above) are a fatal cancer of the brain that is unresponsive to chemo and radiotherapy treatment. The Finding of Rare Disease Genes in Canada (FORGE Canada) consortium, focused on rare health conditions in children, has identified 21 genes, 13 of which are novel genes not previously linked to human disease. Both groups were created to identify genes behind the most challenging cancers and rare health conditions in children. They are already making discoveries that could change how pediatric diseases are treated. CIHR, Genome Canada, Genome BC and Génome Québec have provided funding for the consortia.

Redrawing the
Frontiers of Science

CIHR strengthened its bond with the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP). Between 2011–12 and 2013–14, CIHR will contribute approximately $3.8 million to the prestigious program. The Human Frontier Science Program supports international collaboration between life sciences and the physical, chemical and mathematical sciences to provide new approaches and insights into biological problems. The HFSP has been highly beneficial to Canada: more than 175 Canadians have been trained abroad through long-term Frontier fellowships, and more than 120 Canadian faculty members have won grants for international collaborations. The image above, from the lab of HFSP Young Investigator Dr. Laurent Kreplak at Dalhousie University, shows a nano-indentation test of actin gels (red) grown on polystyrene beads (white). Actin molecules drive the movement of cells during processes such as embryonic development and tumour metastasis. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Laurent Kreplak)

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