Health researchers digging into own pockets to bridge gap in funding

Later this month, Torontos University Health Network is planning to enroll a dozen patients with arthritis-wracked knees in a clinical trial of a stem-cell treatment that researchers hope could one day make artificial joint replacements obsolete.

The trial, a Canadian first, wont be cheap, despite the small number of recruits. To cover the estimated $500,000 cost, the researchers turned to an unconventional source of funding: 10 orthopedic surgeons at UHNs Toronto Western site who donated a total of $1.25-million of their own money beginning five years ago to kick-start the networks research into a cure for arthritis.

The orthopedic surgeons decision to raid their own bank accounts to help pay for research is a rare but not unheard-of move in Canada, one that was driven in part by how much harder it has become to score publicly funded medical research grants in this country.

We felt very strongly that in order to go to anybody and say, Would you please give me support for this idea? we had to have our own commitment beyond just the time and effort we would all have to put in, said Nizar Mahomed, director of the UNH arthritis program and one of the surgeons who donated $125,000 over five years. We needed to make a commitment of actual dollars and put skin in the game.

The doctors gift prompted a philanthropic avalanche from grateful patients toward a campaign that has now raised $38-million to combat osteoarthritis, a disease that affects 4.6 million Canadians but does not traditionally have the fundraising pull of cancer or heart disease. The upcoming stem-cell experiment is the first human trial to be funded by the campaign.

In 2011, the neurosurgery team of 14 doctors at UHN, a network of four downtown Toronto hospitals, followed the lead of the orthopedic surgeons and made a collective $1-million donation to brain research. Last year, a group of eight orthopedic surgeons in Thunder Bay announced a $2-million personal donation over 10 years to a research project aimed at reducing diabetic limb amputations in Ontarios remote northern communities. And it is not uncommon for doctors and other health-care workers to give to the charitable foundations that support their hospitals.

What all these physicians have in common is the challenging research-funding climate in which they are operating.

I think its pretty clear that the accessibility to funds has never been more competitive, said Jim Woodgett, director of research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Torontos Mount Sinai Hospital.

To give one telling example, the success rate for applications to the Canadian Institutes of Health Researchs open operating grant program the federal agencys largest pot of money, which accounts for a little over half of all the funding it doles out fell to 18 per cent for 2014-2015, down from 33 per cent less than a decade earlier.

Part of the explanation for the low success rate for the 2014-2015 granting year was an unusual spike in applications as investigators scrambled to submit proposals before an administrative revamp takes full effect at CIHR.

Visit link:
Health researchers digging into own pockets to bridge gap in funding

Related Post