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Infrastructure funding will put Dal on the map for rare disease research

Posted by Alana Milner on June 1, 2015 in News
Dr. Chris McMaster. (Provided photo)
Dr. Chris McMaster. (Provided photo)

Technology is constantly changing and impacts our lives every day. In the case of technology for equipment used in rare disease research, the changes can be life saving.

“With today’s equipment we can diagnose genes that cause a rare disease within a week and with less cost,” explains Dr. Chris McMaster, the Carnegie and Rockefeller Professor and head of the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie Medical School. “Before, it used to take 5-7 years to make a diagnosis.”

Last Friday, the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) announced recipients of funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Innovation Fund. Dr. McMaster is a co-principal investigator of the Research Program for Rare Pediatric Diseases (RaPiD) who received funding as part of the announcement.

The power of a research network

“RaPiD brings together researchers from Dal, the University of Ottawa, Université of Montréal and the University of British Columbia,” says Dr. McMaster. “Together we will use the CFI funding to put in place infrastructure at our respective institutions to develop novel diagnostic tools, and enhanced intervention and prevention strategies to change the way we care for the health of infants, children and youths affected by Rare Diseases (RDs).”

There are over 7,000 RDs and approximately one in 50 children are affected by at least one of them. Many causes and treatment options for RDs are not known, making many of them life limiting.

“Together with the other institutions, we are putting Canada on the map as a world leader in this area of research and treatment,” says Dr. McMaster. “By coming together we can share our knowledge and gain from each others areas of expertise, helping discover ways to identify and cure RDs.”

Boosting research and economic development

“Researchers at Dal have always been strong at discovering new genes, identifying drug targets and developing the drugs to treat them,” explains Dr. McMaster. “The new infrastructure will move our research forward at a light speed pace, where as before we were limited.”  

Those limitations did not slow Dal down in its discovers and developments in the areas of genomics and RDs research. There have been a number of spinout companies from Dalhousie who are moving drugs to market, helping generate jobs. The new infrastructure will help others do the same and keep companies here in Nova Scotia.

“In addition to the research and economic benefits of this research, there are also the societal benefits of this infrastructure,” says Dr. McMaster. “We can now find the causes and cures for RDs with great accuracy, helping lengthen life expectancy.”

The new infrastructure will be located in the Life Sciences Centre and will be available to all Dal researchers through the CORES program.

In total, the RaPiD project received $2.6 million from CFI in Friday's funding announcement. More information can be found on CFIs website.