Alberta Innovates – HealthSolutions’ interdisciplinary teamgrant competition in 2007 caught theattention of pharmaceutical companyPfizer Canada. The company donated$500,000 to the Alberta OsteoarthritisTeam, one of the winning teams,and then partnered with AlbertaInnovates – Health Solutions andother provincial and national agenciesto create the $3.5-million Alberta/Pfizer Translational Research FundOpportunity. That fund is used totransform discoveries made by Albertahealth researchers into medicaltechnologies and services.
Trends in donor support
As donor options have multiplied,donors are becoming morediscriminating about what theysupport, says Edmontonian DennisKlein. For many years, Klein and hiswife Donna have contributed to theAlberta Cancer Foundation. In 2013, forthe first time, they made a significantdonation to the foundation specificallyfor cancer research and they plan tocontinue supporting research.
“Donors today are looking more
objectively at their investment
choices,” Klein says. “We want to put
money in the right place so our dollars
make a difference. We want to support
research that translates into positive
outcomes for patients.”
Charitable organizations such as
the Alberta Cancer Foundation are
responding to this new reality of
more targeted giving. Every year,
Institute, has a much higher clinical
trial enrolment rate than the national
average. In the next year, the institute
hopes to double the number of Alberta
patients in these studies.
“The higher enrolment rate tells us
that more people are getting access
to the most innovative treatments,”
says Alberta Cancer Foundation CEO
Myka Osinchuk. “This is a tremendous
commentary on how you can make
a huge impact with an investment in
Philanthropists are also much more
tuned into research funding. While
traditional research grants from
provincial, national and international
organizations are still the bread
and butter of university researchers,
philanthropic investment is a growing
piece of the research funding pie.
Dr. Jong Rho was recruited to the
Alberta Children’s Hospital and the
University of Calgary from the United
States in 2010. The internationally
recognized neurologist and epilepsy
researcher is the Dr. Robert Haslam
Chair in Child Neurology. The chair
is funded by donations to the Alberta
Children’s Hospital Foundation.
“When you’re establishing a newlab, start-up funds are vital and thisis where the philanthropic donationshave been critical for me,” Rho says.“Not only is the funding generous,it’s also flexible. You can put it to usewhere you really need it. . . . We’vebeen able to grow the entire pediatricneuroscience research program inan accelerated way. In three yearswe’ve created a critical mass in allstrategic areas: epilepsy, brain injuryand neurodevelopmental disorders.Normally this would have taken up to10 years.”
Rho hopes funding for basic researchwill also continue. “It’s important toremember that today’s MRI scannerswould not exist unless the basic scienceof MR spectroscopy was supportedin the mid-20th century,” he says.“We must invest appropriately andstrategically in enough basic science tolay the path for future developmentsthat may not emerge until much later.”
Focus on the future
While more and more charitableorganizations support research withdirect links to today’s patients, manydonors are willing to look beyondimmediate needs. It’s a naturalevolution, says the UniversityHospital Foundation’s presidentJoyce Mallman Law.
“Donors’ first gifts tend to supportan area of care that has impactedthem personally. But as they develop arelationship with our foundation, thefocus often changes. They want to gobeyond funding something immediatelike equipment. They want to make adifference by helping find solutions.Supporting research is a natural forthem because they’re looking forlong-term impact—not just for the nextperson, but for the next generation.”