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April 5, 2000

Ontario invests $75 million in genomics research

Toronto - The Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund will invest up to $75 million over five years to boost the province's capability in genomics research, Energy, Science and Technology Minister Jim Wilson announced today.

Since 1990, genomics researchers throughout the world have been mapping and identifying the roughly 100,000 genes that make up the human genetic code. Their work is shedding light on the genetic factors in many diseases.

"Ontario researchers are making important discoveries about the genetic causes of disease," Wilson said. "We want to ensure they have the necessary resources to continue their ground-breaking work."

Today's announcement includes an $8 million commitment to expand the Ontario Centre for Genomic Computing at The Hospital for Sick Children (HSC). The centre, with its two supercomputers, provides Ontario researchers with the means to store and analyze huge amounts of information about the human genetic sequence.

"Innovative health research lays the foundation for the ways we will fight and treat disease in the future," said Elizabeth Witmer, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "Today's investment will help the Hospital for Sick Children continue its leadership in genomics research."

"The Hospital for Sick Children, the provincial government and SGI Canada (formerly Silicon Graphics Canada) have partnered to make this initiative possible. It is a perfect example of the public and private sectors working together to further health research," said Michael Strofolino, president and CEO of HSC. The investment from all three partners totals $25 million.

"More biological information about genes will be generated in the next year than has ever been generated before," said Dr. Jamie Cuticchia, head of the Ontario Centre for Genomic Computing. "The expanded centre will provide the tools to allow researchers to harness this data."

The centre's resources will make it easier for scientists in HSC's Centre for Applied Genomics, like Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, Dr. Stephen Scherer and Dr. Johanna Rommens, to explore the complex gene mutations that result in illnesses such as cystic fibrosis. Dr. Tsui, the hospital's geneticist-in-chief, and Dr. Scherer are leaders in the Human Genome Project, the international scientific effort to decode the human genome.

Last year, Minister Wilson announced more than $17.2 million in Challenge Fund investments to advance genomics research at the Ontario Cancer Institute and McMaster University. The institutions and their corporate partners have committed an additional $21 million to the projects, which include a protein production facility and biochip laboratories.

As part of the fund's Ontario Genomics Initiative, up to $48.9 million has been committed to research at the universities of Toronto, Western Ontario, Guelph and Ottawa, and at the Ontario Cancer Institute. To receive the funding, the institutions must obtain private sector support of at least one-third of the estimated costs of their research projects.

"Investment in this kind of research leads to major innovations that will help companies compete successfully in the global economy," Wilson said.

The Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund has committed up to $250 million in 63 research projects designed to enhance innovation, keep scientific talent in the province, and stimulate business and job growth. With the contributions of research institutions and the private sector, the investments in these projects will exceed $700 million.

For more information, contact:

Laura Greer
Public Affairs
Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-5046

Brian LeGrow
Communications Branch
Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology
416-327-5555

Mike Krizanc
Minister's Office
Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology
416-327-3550

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