More MS news articles for February 2001

Funding bolsters wages, MS study

Friday 9 February 2001
Robert Walker and Tom Olsen, Calgary Herald

University of Calgary professors and medical researchers are the biggest winners in a pair of new funding announcements from the federal and provincial governments, landing a total of $8.8 million for faculty pay raises and a study targeted at improving treatments for multiple sclerosis.

The funding on the federal side, announced Thursday by Health Minister Allan Rock, awards $5.1 million to a U of C medical school research team, the largest research grant ever awarded at the facility.

Meanwhile, Alberta Learning Minister Lyle Oberg will announce today that Calgary post-secondary institutions will get nearly $4.5 million to provide raises to faculty members -- $3.7 million of which will go to U of C.

The medical research grant from Ottawa will allow U of C associate professor of oncology Dr. Wee Yong and his colleagues to study new ways to treat multiple sclerosis.

It is part of $28.7 million of funding announced by Rock for 59 research projects at the medical schools at the U of C and the University of Alberta.

The funding, through the Canadian Institute of Health Research, covers a wide range of research topics from basic molecular science to health services, heart disease and respiratory issues.

Yong and his colleagues will study how a group of enzymes called MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases) contribute to MS.

His team will receive $1 million a year for five years and involves 13 partners from four other universities -- McGill, Montreal, Alberta and Manitoba.

"This is the largest grant that has ever been received by one of our research teams," said Dr. Gil Schultz, assistant dean for research at the U of C medical school.

"We are really proud of this group. This particular project affects many diseases and many aspects of our health," he said.

"Our aim is to help boost the efficacy of currently available drugs and, in so doing, to discover new therapeutics," says Yong.

Yong is optimistic he and his colleagues will soon be able to add another treatment to the MS medicine chest.

He has been working with MMPs, a family of proteins associated with inflammation in the central nervous system, and with the class of drugs known as matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors, which curb the effects of the proteins.

"MMPs," he says, "are the bad guys in MS."

"What we're trying to do is see if we can make the effect of current treatments better by combination therapy," said his colleague Dr. Luanne Metz.

"However, even if that doesn't prove to be the case, showing that this drug is effective on its own -- as this one was in the animal model -- will also be important.

The other grants bring together researchers from all disciplines of health to find answers to questions in a wide array of issues such as health promotion, childhood injuries, community genetics, chronic illness in rural communities, diabetes among aboriginals, addiction, autism and colorectal cancer.

Including the funding announced Thursday, the federal government has contributed more than $171 million to health researchers across Alberta over the last five years.

Meanwhile, in Edmonton, Oberg said Thursday the new cash he will announce today to provide raises to faculty members at U of C and elsewhere in the province will help keep quality staff at Alberta's post-secondary institutions and take strides to attract new blood.

"I am very pleased that we will be able to achieve greater funding equity in the system through these grants and provide institutions with much needed help in attracting and retaining top-notch faculty," he said.

The U of C, SAIT, Alberta College of Art and Design and Mount Royal College will also get cash infusions to level out unfunded enrolment -- the situation that arises when student numbers are not adequately reflected in per-capita grants.

Another $8 million will be doled out to post-secondary facilities across Alberta from the province's performance awards fund, which rewards facilities that meet goals set by the government.

The U of C is again the big winner, netting $1.25 million.

Today's announcement is a specific breakdown of which institution will get what portion of $25 million unveiled last month.
Copyright © 2001 Calgary Herald Group Inc