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Minister of Health Visits the GSC

Rock announces committment to national genomics health research

Rock announces committment to national genomics health research

The Minister of Health, Allan Rock

Vancouver, BC, Canada (Health Canada) Health Minister Allan Rock today announced that the Government of Canada will contribute close to $20 million to direct national genome health research. Health Canada will contribute $10 million over the next three years, and the Medical Research Council, $9.7 million over the next four years. Minister Rock made the announcement during a visit to the British Columbia Cancer Agency's Genome Sciences Centre Open House.

"The genomics health research field has the potential to unlock the mystery of cancer and other human diseases," said Mr. Rock.

The Minister of Health, Allan Rock, (left) and the Associate Director of the GSC, Dr. Marco Marra (right).

"By mapping the genetic make-up of the human body and understanding - at the molecular level - how and why it creates disease, scientists may find the cures to cancer which remains the leading cause of death in British Columbia and Canada."

Genomics is the science that decodes the genes of all living organisms and uses that knowledge to develop new techniques, therapies and technologies.

Health Canada's contribution, particularly in the areas of research, screening, and the development of vaccines, complements the Government's support for health research in the 1999 federal budget. Mr. Rock also announced he was inviting researchers at the BC Cancer Agency to formally assist and advise Health Canada in their efforts.

Director of the GSC, Dr. Michael Smith (right), the Health Minister, Allan Rock (centre) and the Associate Director, Dr. Marco Marra (left).

The BC Cancer Agency is home to the BC Cancer Research Centre. Their gene science research facility is directed by Nobel laureate Dr. Michael Smith, who has done foundational work in modern genetics and discovered the chemical 'flashlight' that enables researchers to target one gene. Dr. Smith is joined by research director Victor Ling and a number of other senior scientists at the BC Cancer Agency in the international Human Genome Project.

Duane Smailus (second left) demonstrates a DNA sequencing machine to the Minister (second right).

"In the 1999 federal budget, the Government of Canada made a significant commitment to health research," Mr. Rock said. "With today's announcement, and potential future investments in genomics health research, we have the potential to place Canada as an international leader in this new and exciting area of health research."

The Minister (right) with the Laboratory Administrator, Letticia Hsiao (left).

The Minister applauded the efforts of the scientific, academic, research and business community in working with the Government to establish Genome Canada to help further research in this dynamic and emerging area.

In addition to Health Canada and the Medical Research Council, there are other federal organizations with an interest in genome health research. They include:

Canada Foundation for Innovation

In the 1997 federal budget, the Government of Canada created the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), to support the efforts of post-secondary institutions and research hospitals in modernizing research infrastructure. The CFI awards funding to universities and colleges, research hospitals, and not-for-profit research institutions. Its activities focus on health, the environment, science and engineering. In the 1999 budget, the Government of Canada committed an additional $200 million to the CFI. This is expected to help the CFI meet the demand for critical research infrastructure in areas that are key to the health of Canadians and the continued growth of fast-growing, knowledge-based industries.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Following adoption of legislation currently before Parliament, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) would fund research that will bring together a broad range of disciplines working toward common goals. Virtual institutes, focussed on key health themes, would link biomedical scientists, clinical, health services, and population health experts to carry out research. These researchers could work in different parts of the country, linked through technology. This integrated approach is expected to transform the way health research is carried out in Canada.

Today's announcement complements other federal investment in health research and other genome research in the areas of environment, natural resources and agriculture.

Page last modified Aug 15, 2006