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Research gets $190-million boost from Province of Ontario

Professor Paul Young, Dr. Bonnie Patterson (Council of Ontario Universities), Minister Reza Moridi (Ministry of Research and Innovation), Professor Shana Kelley, Professor Jim Woodgett (Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital & U of

Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi came to the University of Toronto on January 20 with news that brightened up a cold day: the province is investing $190 million over the next six years to help attract and retain top researchers, develop innovative technologies, increase investment and create jobs.

The new funding will see $65 million going to the Ontario Research Fund’s Research Excellence program (ORF-RE) and $125 million to the Research Infrastructure (ORF-RI) program.

ORF-RE provides research institutions with funding to help support the operational costs of large-scale transformative research of strategic value to Ontario.

ORF-RI provides funding to help support infrastructure needs such as modern facilities and equipment.

“Research is the foundation of a knowledge economy – new findings lead to new technologies, companies and jobs,” Moridi told a large audience gathered in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building. “Across the province, researchers and companies are improving competitiveness, launching new ground-breaking products and services and changing lives.”

One of those researchers is Professor Shana Kelley of Pharmacy and the Department of Biochemistry. She said that funding from the ORF-RI was instrumental in helping her and her team progress “from a great science project to a breakthrough product.”

Kelley’s research – focused on the detection of infectious diseases – enabled her to develop an automated diagnostic instrument that can test samples on demand and on the spot and that can be used easily by a variety of health care practitioners. In 2010 she was one of the founders of a start-up company, Xagenic, which now has 25 employees.

“The investment from the ORF-RI enabled us to achieve things that wouldn’t have been otherwise possible.”

Professor Paul Young, U of T’s vice-president (research and innovation) believes the new funding will be critical to enhance globally competitive research and innovation.

“Truly transformative research demands two essential qualities – talent and ingenuity. Both the ORF-RI and ORF-RE have already enabled hundreds of researchers – many of them at U of T – to make great progress on addressing challenges that face society. This new investment will open a vibrant new chapter in what we can do as researchers. We are deeply thankful to the Province of Ontario in making this funding available.”

Paul Fraumeni is a writer with the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto.