Health researchers hit high note

February 19, 2004, vol.29, no.4
By Howard Fluxgold

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A new strategic plan recently developed by Canada's health research funding agency bodes well for researchers at SFU and its new faculty of health sciences.

In its plan, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) says it will focus on five key areas including a “balanced research agenda that includes research on disease mechanisms treatment, prevention and cure and health promotion.”

It also plans to “harness research to improve the health of vulnerable populations.”

Bruce Brandhorst, chair of the molecular biology and biochemistry department, explains that “SFU is going to be investing substantially in developing an initiative which is very parallel to what CIHR is trying to do.”

He adds that the new faculty of health sciences, slated to open its doors in September, is focused on disease prevention and health promotion as well as improving the health of vulnerable populations.

“The initial program of the new faculty of health sciences concerns public and population health, and that is certainly part of the expanded mandate of CIHR,” says Brandhorst. “What we at SFU are doing with the new faculty is a really good fit with the CIHR initiative.”

Brandhorst, SFU's delegate to the agency, views the strategic plan as part of its push to boost its budget to $1 billion a year from $621 million a year over the next three years. This too presents an opportunity for SFU researchers to be more successful in the grant application process.

“CIHR is trying to transform itself into a research agency that covers a broad range of research activities such as population health issues, policy issues and commercialization of the results of health research into applications that promote economic development as well as health,” Brandhorst notes.

“For SFU, there really are alot of researchers who now have the opportunity to apply to the CIHR who might only have been able to apply to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council before. Potentially, they could receive a much higher level of grant funding as a result.”

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