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How donors are accelerating scientific discovery

May 19, 2016

The other day I spent time with some BC Cancer Foundation donors, talking about lymphoma research and taking them on a tour of the lab. Later, I reflected on the role that philanthropy plays in supporting cancer research in general and my research specifically.

During our discussion, I was asked a number of great questions, and all had the same theme—recent innovations in technology or treatments. Increasingly, these are the things we focus on also—using cutting-edge technology to work out why lymphomas develop, why some lymphomas respond to treatment while others don’t and how best to use the new treatments that are becoming available. The support of the BC Cancer Foundation has been critical in performing this “nimble” sort of research.

The traditional model of funding scientific research is through granting agencies—a process where researchers compete for a limited pool of resource. The grants often take weeks to months to write and typically outline a plan that would be executed over several years. In many ways I find applying for a grant very helpful, as it focuses my thinking and requires very careful planning. This sort of research lays the foundations for major breakthroughs and our large programs of research are funded in this way.

On a number of recent occasions, the BC Cancer Foundation has helped us secure these major grants by providing additional funding that strengthens our proposal to these agencies. Donations also drive the more nimble research, allowing us to rapidly pursue new, exciting ideas, which largely falls outside of this traditional funding model.

Finally, on the tour of the lab, all of the key pieces of major equipment I showed the donors were partly or wholly funded through donations. The BC Cancer Foundation has played a huge role in the advances the lymphoma research team has made—donations of any size allow us to continue our mission.