Volume 93, Issue 80

Thursday, March 2, 2000


Western researchers get American money

Profs join students in strike

Chancellors praise liberal arts

Greenspan pays visit to campus

God debate finds no answers



Western researchers get American money

By Mike Murphy
Gazette Staff

Western medical research received a financial shot in the arm last week when the American-based National Institutes of Health announced they will inject $3 million into a genetic disease study.

The study, headed by Western professor of medicine Paul Adams, investigates a common genetic disease known as hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis, which does not often manifest itself until mid-adulthood, causes patients to develop elevated levels of iron in their blood, which can lead to major organ damage.

The grant represented a coup for Adams and his research team, as the funding would come from the American National Institutes of Health, which usually gives priority to research projects conducted on American soil.

"We were chosen for a couple of reasons," Adams said. "First, there was the fact that we'd been working in the field for so long, but we'd also already done the kind of genetic testing they wanted to do."

He explained he had already screened thousands of London blood donors for hemochromatosis and therefore had developed a testing model American researchers were interested in.

Peter Savage, acting director of the division of epidemiology and clinical applications at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the American NIH, confirmed the agency usually looked to its own backyard before awarding grants to foreign scientists.

"We're instructed that if it can be done in the U.S., it should be. The [foreign] investigator has to have submitted a particularly good application," Savage said, adding this was a fairly large grant. "It's not all the time we award grants up around $2 million."

Western's VP-research, Bill Bridger, said both the size of the grant and the fact it emanated from the United States made it a prestigious award. "We do get money from the NIH. I don't know exactly how this grant compares to others, but it certainly is a very substantial grant. It's unusual for Canadian medical scientists to receive NIH grants," Bridger said.

Adams said he was grateful to receive the NIH award, but explained the grant pointed to inadequacies on the part of Canada's federal government.

"I'm very proud of it, but anyone involved in Canadian medical research is frustrated with the lack of funding from our own government," he affirmed.

Andrew Chalmers, associate professor of rheumatology at the University of British Columbia, agreed there should be greater awareness of the disease. "It's actually quite a common condition. The community awareness of [hemochromatosis] is not as high as it should be," he said.

"It can damage the liver, causing cirrhosis," Adams said. "It can cause arthritis, diabetes, sexual dysfunction and fatigue." He added, if detected early, the disease can be easily treated.

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