(Thunder Bay -- November 22, 2004) A commitment to work
|(l to r) Dr. Roger Strasser (NOSM), Mr. Ron Saddington (Regional Health), and Dr. Fred Gilbert (Lakehead U).|
together to "enhance tomorrow's cancer care" was made this morning by the leadership teams at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (Regional Health), Lakehead University (Lakehead U), and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). The three senior executives announced today the creation of a new institute of cancer research in Thunder Bay. The new research partnership, ICR Discoveries, will bring together the best cancer research talent of the three institutions. Ultimately, the partnership will grow the critical mass of cancer researchers in the city and attract new dollars to Thunder Bay for cancer care clinical trials, medical physics and imaging research, wet lab or biosciences research, health outcomes research, and supportive care or psychosocial research.
The three organizations are currently the major players in health services research in Thunder Bay. To date, millions of dollars have been raised by Lakehead U and Regional Health's Integrated Cancer Program researchers, collaborating under the auspices of an informal agreement.
The implementation of a jointly managed cancer research institute will open doors to new sources of research funding, opportunities, and recruitment, that otherwise might be unavailable. "Cancer is now the number one health problem facing the residents of our region," stated Michael Power, Vice President of Regional Cancer Services at Regional Health. "One in three residents of Northwestern Ontario will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. To effectively reduce this growing burden, we must be active in the cancer research arena. Our commitment to this portfolio will enable us to offer tomorrow's care today as well as to recruit and retain the brightest lights in the business, individuals who will ensure we are offering cutting edge and state-of-the-art therapies to our patients."
The Regional Cancer Care Program currently has two world-class career scientists working at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Ron Saddington, President and CEO at Regional Health announced the appointment of the third career scientist to the cancer care team today. Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe from Mainz, Germany, has selected Thunder Bay as her next research stop, due in large part to the establishment of ICR Discoveries. She is expected on site in May 2005. Dr. Zehbe is the first scientist hired after the partnership agreement formally signing ICR Discoveries; she brings a number of years of focused expertise to the new research collaboration, and anticipates growth and expansion of research over the next few years. "When I was looking for my next challenge and I came across the Cancer Centre in Thunder Bay, I was impressed with the credentials and scope of work already in place," she said. "With a focused program on cancer research, and academic and medical applications, there is no limit to the evolution of this new institute, so this was really an easy decision for me."
Along with Dr. Zehbe's appointment, the search for a new Chair of Research is underway. The Chair will adopt a leadership role in the strategic direction of the institute, as well as lead a program in his/her own field of cancer research.
"The memorandum of understanding (MOU) that we have signed sets the stage for a formal and enhanced collaboration on cancer research," said Dr. Fred Gilbert, President of Lakehead U. "ICR Discoveries will stimulate academic research, have an impact on the research profile of Northern Ontario, influence the socio-economic well-being, and aid the retention and recruitment of research professionals. The establishment of ICR Discoveries as an umbrella organisation is expected to enhance synergies for research funding and innovation. Lakehead University is very positive about this partnership. Enhancing cancer research capability in Northwestern Ontario through a dedicated strategic plan, and a focus on innovation and collaboration, will foster the regional growth of research. Within the next five to ten years, Lakehead U is poised to become one of the top 25 research universities in Canada."
The research program at the cancer centre is already perceived by many as "world class," with lead researchers collaborating with investigators around the world, using cutting-edge equipment, and providing a training ground for students. "The results and achievements from the existing research program are widely recognized", said Ron Saddington, President and CEO of Regional Health. "We have to remain at the fulcrum of cancer research to ensure that the community in Northwestern Ontario continues to benefit from our prevention and treatment initiatives, and we will achieve this through initiatives such as ICR Discoveries. We are embarking on a new era of research that will support and enhance patient care, complement provincial and national research activity, and address local and regional needs. We are looking to position ourselves as unique, competitive, and concentrated on developing an international reputation."
ICR Discoveries will foster enhanced collaboration between the three institutions in an effort to attract new research funding, provide a platform for the recruitment and retention of cancer care professionals and investigators in cancer research, enhance the profile and prestige of Northwestern Ontario in the national and global research community, and strengthen the technical capability and the programs and services that are offered by the partner institutions.
As well, ICR Discoveries will provide education and training for students, researchers and physicians who would like to engage in cancer research, assist in the establishment of educational programs that will produce researchers in Northwestern Ontario, and generate economic growth through new investors and community partners.
The partners have signed a formal agreement committing their institutions to work together to develop ICR Discoveries. A number of phases have been completed to date, including a needs assessment (financed through a grant from the Northern Ontario Cancer Research Foundation), a business plan, and a functional plan.
As a result of the affiliation with Lakehead U, Regional Health has an added benefit; it qualifies as an eligible research institute under the Ontario Business Research Institute Tax Credit Program. Under the direction of the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Health Sciences Centres that are affiliated with Ontario universities and can demonstrate collaboration on mutual interests in academic, research and educational programs, can offer private companies and donors an enhanced tax credit program.
Additionally, there have been discussions between the partners and the Northern Cancer Research Foundation (NCRF), to determine the logistics of raising funds for the new institute. The NCRF has committed new research equipment for the venture through its commitment to the research program at the cancer centre, and it is anticipated that the relationship will also formalize over the short term.
"This new agreement will benefit both the research leaders and the students," said Dr. Roger Strasser, Founding Dean of NOSM. "Our students will have the unique opportunity of carrying out research projects in different laboratory environments and will benefit from the research expertise available both at the University and Regional Health."
With Lakehead positioning itself to become one of the top research universities in Canada over the next number of years, ICR Discoveries is a timely venture, to generate activity around research as a whole and create a potential bank of talent through training and recruitment. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine is a strong advocate for the partnership. "We feel that it's important to fully support this initiative; we believe that the potential for a venture such as this can only lead to opportunities and expansion into other areas of expertise, which will provide new energy and interest in Northwestern Ontario as a whole," Dr. Strasser reinforced.
A new brand and logo was launched in support of the Institute and the public can source additional information by going to the new website at icrdiscoveries.ca.
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Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
Don Edwards, 684-6010
Northern Ontario School of Medicine
Tracie Smith, 766-7314
Marla Tomlinson, 343-8177