When global foundation Merckfor Mothers said it wanted to fundCanadian health research, AlbertaInnovates jumped at the opportunity.
It connected Merck to the province’sMaternal Newborn Child and YouthStrategic Clinical Network (SCN). TheSCN consulted with researchers andcommunities that ultimately pitchedthree projects focused on Indigenouswomen, who are twice as likely as othermothers to die in childbirth or lose theirbabies.
The projects were turnkey. TheSCN had already identified the healthproblem and clearly mapped outsolutions. All they needed was funding.
Merck for Mothers accepted the SCN’s
pitch in 2017 for a $1.3-million research
project in three Alberta communities:
inner-city Edmonton, the Maskwacis
Cree First Nation in central Alberta
and the Little Red River Cree Nation in
“It’s really about supportingIndigenous communities as good allies,”says the SCN’s head Allison Bichel, PhD,who is also the leader of Alberta’s Merckfor Mothers project.
She says Alberta Innovates was centralto the project. It connected Albertaresearchers and Indigenous leadersto Merck Global—the pharmaceuticalcompany behind the Merck for Mothersfoundation—and it added another$300,000 of project funding.
Bichel says Alberta Innovates works
to understand industry goals and needs,
and identifies investment opportunities.
“They’re a key broker with industry
Originally mandated with funding
health research, Alberta Innovates
has now added the role of broker and
catalyst of both research and innovation,
“We’ve always funded excellent
science in the hopes it would translate
into health benefits for patients,
the healthcare system itself and the
economy,” he says. “But we came to
realize that these benefits don’t happen
without a lot of work behind the scenes.”
That realization is behind Alberta
Innovates’ shift from a research funder
to a healthcare partner with groups such
as industry and Alberta Health Services.
It works with its partners to translate
science into better patient care and is
a catalyst for change throughout the
“They helped support [our] project
As well as funding health
research, it is now a
broker and catalyst of
research and innovation
Alberta Innovates works
with partners to translate
science into better