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The Impact of Philanthropy at the Terry Fox Laboratory

February 20, 2013

How do BC Cancer Foundation donors support my research? The answer to be complete would take pages, literally. But let me hit the highlights:

It is now eight years ago that we were able to move our lab from the old research centre (the old bakery, as we called it) to the state-of-the-art BC Cancer Agency Research Centre. Without generous donations to the BC Cancer Foundation this would never have happened. Indeed this was a transformational event, finally giving us space to grow and to have room for specialized core facilities that have allowed all of us working in the Centre to remain internationally competitive.

Another major highlight: a few years ago, the BC Cancer Foundation listened to our strong appeal for funds to purchase a range of new and replacement research equipment on an ongoing basis. They rose to the challenge and established an Innovation Support Fund that allows researchers to compete on an annual basis for funds that help us to purchase equipment vital for our success. Importantly, the Foundation has made sure that these funds are available across the spectrum of basic and clinical research and from all Agency centres in the province. I have been privileged to chair the committee that reviews these applications and I can guarantee that it is a highly competitive and rigorous process that ensures that the precious donor dollars are best used.

On a more personal level, I am grateful to the Foundation for stepping in with matching funds that have allowed us to purchase an amazing new cell analyzer that allows us to interrogate normal and leukemic cells at the single cell level and identify the range of molecules expressed on their surface and internally. We had obtained about 50% of the necessary funds from a major Program Project (from the Terry Fox Foundation) that I lead, but without the additional support from the Foundation and of course their donors, the equipment would still be languishing in a company warehouse!

As a final example of the importance of donor support, I would highlight the Foundation’s sponsorship of summer studentships. These are highly competitive and bring in some of the brightest young people, providing them with the opportunity to gain experience in a cancer research setting. I have been privileged to have several BC Cancer Foundation-supported summer students over the years and many have gone on to become leading cancer researchers and cancer physicians. Indeed if I could single out one area in which increased donor support could make a huge difference, it is in supporting people through studentships, fellowships and start-up salary awards. Investing in people, in my experience, pays the biggest dividends.