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20-year collaboration

National funding agency enables research success at Memorial


By Jeff Green

$54 million. 146 researchers. 20 years.

In the past two decades, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has played an integral role in transforming Memorial-led research projects by providing critical funding for infrastructure, which has helped build a strong dynamic research community in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The national funding body celebrates its 20th anniversary in February 2017. This fall, it published a new commemorative book, Innovation, which features a Memorial research study.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation has published the new book <i>Innovation.</i>
The Canada Foundation for Innovation has published the new book Innovation.
Photo: Submitted

‘Essential partner’

“Since 1997, the Canada Foundation for Innovation has recognized and supported the high-quality and impactful work of our researchers in areas including medicine and health sciences, biology, chemistry, music, engineering and humanities and social sciences,” said Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore.

“The tremendous financial support of the CFI has significantly strengthened and enhanced Memorial’s research activities. In turn, this has allowed our researchers to lead important studies in a range of areas, including improving the health outcomes of hundreds of Canadians and protecting critical marine resources.

“The CFI continues to be an essential partner in the growth of Memorial’s research activities and our research infrastructure. I thank the CFI for its ongoing collaboration and look forward to Memorial’s partnership with the organization in the years to come.”

Millions to support diverse research

The range of projects the CFI has supported underscores the depth and breadth of Memorial’s research expertise.

Over the years, it provided more than $11 million for interdisciplinary research in human genetics in the Faculty of Medicine; more than $6.5 million for cold-water and deep-sea research infrastructure at the Ocean Sciences Centre; and more than $1.5 million for modelling, simulation and visualization for petroleum geoscience and engineering research.

“The tremendous financial support of the CFI has significantly strengthened and enhanced Memorial’s research activities.” — Dr. Ray Gosine

The CFI has provided funding for international coastal studies; sociolinguistics and Aboriginal studies research; and infrastructure for the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place (MMaP). Additionally, there has been millions of dollars for new infrastructure for laboratories, specialized equipment and cutting-edge tools.

The funding is secured through highly competitive competitions.

Medical research featured

The research of Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, Faculty of Medicine, an award-winning molecular geneticist, is featured in CFI’s new publication.

“The dream of modern genomics — DNA tests to predict who will get potentially fatal conditions, and procedures to save them — is being realized as a result of research into the genetics of 27 families in Newfoundland,” reads the profile.

“Memorial University researchers have discovered a genetic mutation that causes arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, infamous as a cause of sudden cardiac death in previously healthy athletes. The good news is that implanting a type of device known as a cardioverter defibrillator gets the heart beating again.”

Saving lives

Dr. Young and her team made international headlines when it discovered the gene that causes sudden death in many Newfoundland families due to a form of cardiomyopathy known as ARVD5. She currently leads a national team to identify molecular markers of lethal arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

ARVD5 is a degenerative genetic condition that causes healthy heart cells to be replaced by fatty, fibrous tissue. That buildup can cause an irregular heartbeat — sometimes beating more than 300 times a minute before the heart stops.

Thanks to Memorial-led research, internal cardiac defibrillators (ICD) have been implanted in adults with ARVD5. Newfoundlander Rick Ralph, who has had an ICD implanted for more than a decade, is pictured in the new publication.

Research anniversary

Feb. 18, 2017, marks the official 20th anniversary of the CFI.

Over the next several months, it will highlight various projects it has funded, sharing them on its website and social media channels with the special hashtag #CFI20yrs.

Learn more about the CFI, and its funding opportunities online.

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