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Investing in Research

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History

Dr Frederick Banting

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In 2012, The Banting Research Foundation marked 87 years of financial support to Canadian investigators at the beginning of their independent careers in medical research.

Experiments in 1921 by two young investigators at the University of Toronto, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, led to the discovery of insulin, one of the most important medical achievements of the twentieth century. Few realized that the team succeeded in their research despite the lack of a track record and inadequate funding. At that time, there was no granting organization that supported medical research in Canada and research to produce insulin was considered unlikely to succeed.

This discovery brought worldwide acclaim to Banting and his colleagues, Best and James Collip, and to their adviser John J R Macleod. Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923. Prior to the discovery of insulin there was no way to treat diabetics. Today, the lives of millions worldwide are saved through the use of this hormone.

Recognizing the need for an organization that would support the ongoing research of Dr Banting and his associates, a group of prominent citizens led by Sir William Mulock, then Chancellor of the University of Toronto, set up Canada's first foundation for medical research. In 1925, the Province of Ontario granted Letters Patent to The Banting Research Foundation, named in honor of Dr Banting.

Sir Robert Falconer, then President of the University of Toronto, was the first Chairman of the Foundation, and Lieutenant Colonel R W Leonard was the first Honorary Secretary-Treasurer. The first fundraising campaign for the Foundation initiated by this group raised nearly $500,000 from individual and corporate donations in 1925. These funds supported Dr Banting's ongoing research, as well as that of other new investigators who had good ideas but little money. In continuing this tradition, the Foundation awards yearly grants to the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research, and to Canadian investigators at the beginning of their careers in medical research.

In 1948, the Foundation received a bequest from the estate of Miss Kate E Taylor of Toronto. Income from the endowment fund continues to support the research of new Canadian investigators.

Once established in their field, virtually all of our grantees subsequently succeed in securing grants from larger agencies such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the National Cancer Institute of Canada to continue the research they began with the initial support from The Banting Research Foundation.

The Banting Research Foundation has been instrumental in helping to launch the careers of past and present grantees, whose scientific discoveries fulfill the legacy of Banting's discovery of insulin.