November 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 45  

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Grant cash won't help spell 'thymidylate'

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

A recent funding announcement has positioned Western scientists at the forefront of research in fields whose names most students would have a hard time spelling, let alone sounding out very slowly.

Operating grants totalling over $20 million and supporting 45 research projects in the London community were announced by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, paving the way for breakthroughs in fields such as oogenesis and thymidylate synthase.

“The good news is that all of the [grant recipients] are associated with the university,” said Jack Bend, associate dean of research at the faculty of medicine and dentistry and a professor of physiology and pharmacology.

“The grant pays for supplies to do the work and the technical staff for the job,” Bend said, adding hired staff would include graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. The announcement represents two grant application periods, one in Sept 2002 and the other in June 2003, he noted, adding Western was No. 1 in the country for funded applications for the September date.

However, Bend questioned the presentation of the grants, saying he could not recall the CIHR announcing more than one grant period at a time. “I think it was political,” he said of the announcement. “CIHR can only make their announcement with the approval of the federal government.”

Gerald Kidder, a grant recipient and also a professor of physiology and pharmacology, echoed Bend’s comments about the presentation and timing of the announcement.

“I think it’s a [public relations] thing,” Kidder said. “I don’t remember that it’s ever taken so long to roll out.”

CIHR spokesperson Janet Weichel-Mackenzie said she disagreed, saying the announcement was delayed for other reasons.

Weichel-Mackenzie said funding announcements are usually made four months after the application deadline, however the federal Ministry of Health was occupied with SARS and the West Nile virus disease over the summer. “I suspect the [Health] Ministry had more important things to do than make announcements about funding at the time,” she stated.

Kidder said he was very pleased to be a grant recipient. “It was a mark of confidence in the progress we’ve made so far.”



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