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Mar 21, 2002 , vol. 23, no. 6

By Carol Thorbes

A new $100,000 program is giving Simon Fraser University faculty a leg up in securing major health research grants.

Created by the Institute of Health Research and Education (IHRE) and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the program offers seed grants to SFU researchers making first-time applications for CIHR grants.

The CIHR is a federal granting council that funds academic health-related research across Canada.

“The goal of the IHRE program is to encourage more SFU faculty from all health-related fields to apply for CIHR funding,” says Bruce Brandhorst, IHRE's associate director of basic biomedical and clinical health research.

Brandhorst, the CIHR delegate at SFU, says the university's success rate is in line with the national average for CIHR grants, 25 to 33 per cent.
However, the majority of recipients are in biomedical and clinical health research.

“We hope that the IHRE seed grants will encourage more researchers in the social sciences and the humanities to go after CIHR funding,” adds Brandhorst.

“Part of the problem is that many researchers in those fields believe that they don't stand as good a chance of getting a CIHR grant as biomedical researchers.”

Based on the results of the competition for IHRE seed grants, that misconception is still alive.

“Nearly everyone who applied for seed grants was funded but only three of the applicants were from non-biomedical fields,” says Michael Hayes, IHRE's associate director of social, cultural and population health research.

IHRE seed grants will help SFU researchers develop preliminary results. As SFU biologist Margo Moore can attest, it's the lack of such results that often costs first-time CIHR applicants funding.

After having a CIHR grant proposal rejected for that reason, Moore is one of 11 recipients of the IHRE's inaugural seed grants.

She will use her $9,860 to develop preliminary results that support her hypothesis that sialic acids, sugar molecules on the surface of many cell types, help a potentially deadly mold bind to human lung tissue.

“I think the IHRE seed grants provide some leverage to obtain preliminary results in novel areas,” says Moore.