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U of T's Brenda Andrews to help lead Canada’s main health research funding body

University Professor Brenda Andrews says she welcomes the federal government’s decision to include more researchers in its funding decisions (photo by Jovana Drinjakovic

University Professor Brenda Andrews, director of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, has been appointed to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the main federal funding body for health research and innovation.

Composed of 18 people from diverse backgrounds in the public and private sectors, the council's role is to develop CIHR’s strategic directions, approve its budget and evaluate the organization’s overall performance. 

“This appointment is great news. Brenda is an exceptional scientist and leader, and I have no doubt she will do her utmost to support innovative research for the benefit of all Canadians,” said Trevor Young, dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Andrews, who is also Charles H. Best Chair of Medical Research and a professor in the department of molecular genetics, said she is honoured by the new position and welcomes the government’s decision to include more researchers in its decision-making. In addition to Andrews, five other newly appointed members come from research backgrounds.

The new appointments come in the wake of the Fundamental Science Review, released earlier this year by a panel headed by U of T’s President Emeritus David Naylor. The report calls on the federal government to boost its spending on basic research or risk losing Canada's innovation edge to other countries.

Interested in publicly funded research in Canada? Learn more at UofT’s #supportthereport advocacy campaign

“Discovery scientists in Canada should be particularly delighted at Brenda’s appointment to CIHR governing council. I know she’ll be a strong voice for strengthening the agency and ensuring Canada’s health research future is vibrant,” said Jim Woodgett, director of research and senior investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. 

Andrews is a pioneer in the field of systems biology that aims to understand how living organisms operate on a systems level, as opposed to studying their constituent parts in isolation. Her work revealed how thousands of genes work together to orchestrate cellular life and are beginning to shed light on the causes of complex genetic diseases.

Last year, Andrews was awarded the Companion to the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour in the country, for her globally significant research in systems biology and for developing and nurturing prominent scientific communities in molecular genetics.