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Canadians among international winners of $4.6M medical research grants


Lawrenceville, NJ – January 27, 2004 – Two Canadian universities are amongst the recipients of US$4.6 million in philanthropic grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb Research to combat AIDS, drug addiction, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. This year’s no-strings-attached grants are being awarded to 10 leading research institutions in the United States, Canada and Germany.

The grants are provided through the Freedom to Discover program, which has awarded more than $100 million to advance human health through support of basic and clinical scientific research for over a quarter century. Funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the grants are the largest source of support from any corporation for unrestricted biomedical research.

“Our grants are a scientific war chest to give medical researchers the freedom to discover in any ways they see fit,” says Peter R Dolan, chairman and CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb. “These Freedom to Discover awards offer significant monies to leading scientists and research institutions to be pioneers in combating disease, in some cases leading to breakthrough treatments and cures to extend and enhance human life.”

Grants are awarded in six research fields: cancer, neuroscience, cardiovascular, infectious and metabolic diseases and nutrition. Grants of $500,000 over five years $300,000 over three years in the nutrition program are made to academic and medical teaching and research institutions, with lead investigators identified to supervise the monies.

A metabolic disease grant is going to one of the Canadian institutions, University of Toronto, with Dr Daniel J Drucker, MD, as the lead investigator. The grant is to enable further study the control of glucagon and insulin secretion in the pancreas to aid diabetic patients. Dr Drucker is currently director of the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre at the Toronto General Hospital and professor in the department of medicine. His work seeks to advance basic scientific and applied therapeutics for diabetic patients, focusing primarily on a growing understanding of how gut hormones control insulin secretion in the pancreas. His seminal efforts nearly two decades ago to identify GLP-1 as a novel peptide that regulates insulin gene expression have contributed greatly to our understanding of the endocrine pancreas. His laboratory continues to contribute to our understanding of the role of peptides in the regulation of insulin secretion and beta cell function.

The University of British Columbia is the second Canadian institution to receive a grant, with Dr Sheila M Innis, PhD, the lead researcher. This grant will fund development of ideas and preliminary observations in nutrition to enable the institution to compete for larger grants. Dr Innis is professor of pediatrics and director of the nutrition research program at the university. Her work has focused on infant nutrition in growth and development, nutrition and brain function, including the role of diet in influencing brain growth and function, lipid metabolism and behaviour. She has also focused on learning and development in children with cystic fibrosis, mechanisms of actions of certain diets in controlling seizures in children with epilepsy, iron deficiency anemia in infants and children, the nutrient needs of premature infants and other nutritional basic science and clinical science projects. The provision of unrestricted funds will enhance their abilities to bring basic nutrition discoveries to clinical and general applications in the area of pediatric nutrition.

Over the years, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover program has recognized researchers who have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, Lasker Awards and other distinguished honors. The company says some 16 Nobel laureates are among those who have received the Freedom to Discover grants or awards even before they were recognized by the Nobel committee.