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Genome Canada Seeking Applicants for C$40M in Grants for Personalized Health Genomics Projects

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Genome Canada is calling on Canadian research teams to submit proposals for projects in genomics and personalized health as part of a large-scale applied research competition.

The organization has pledged between C$40 million and C$65 million (US$39 million to US$64 million) for groups that show that their project will contribute to more personalized, evidence-based and cost-effective healthcare approaches through genomics. The Genome Canada grants can make up only 50 percent of a winning proposal's funding, up to C$5 million per project, Genome Alberta, one of Genome Canada's regional centers, announced in December.

A full announcement of the competition was expected last year, according to a Genome Canada spokesperson, but the funding organization has had to delay its official kick-off the grant program and is now planning to reveal details of the contest in the coming weeks.

Limited information that has so far been released on the program has stressed the importance of practicality and real-world results in proposed projects.

According to Genome Alberta, projects must have "concrete deliverables" of clinical utility or practical applicability. End users, like local provincial health authorities, must be involved in the development of projects to ensure their real-world relevance and impact on personalized healthcare, the provincial genome center reported last month in an early announcement of the funding.

Applicants will have to demonstrate "economic value" in their proposed projects, and the early announcement suggests academic researchers will be encouraged to work with social organizations and local health authorities to collaborate on research proposals for the Genome Canada grants.

"With research results, there is not often a seamless transfer of [new] knowledge into provincial health services," Gijs van Rooijen, the chief scientific officer at Genome Alberta, one of Genome Canada's regional centers, told PGx Reporter.

Van Rooijen declined to comment on the still undisclosed genomics and personalized health grant program, but said that with Genome Canada receiving funding in the last federal budget for human health genomics it is expected that any future work in this area will encourage research projects that can show concretely how they might improve that transfer from academic research to real-world applications.

With the new grant program's emphasis on clear health-economic applicability, funded research groups, whether focusing on biomarker discovery, developing molecular diagnostic screening tools, or using genomic markers to monitor treatment, will have to show somehow that their projects are intended to actually benefit patients or social health practice.

Individual grants from Genome Canada will be limited to C$5 million as a 50 percent share of the project's total funding, which suggests there will likely be at least 10 funded projects, if all C$40 million is awarded.

Genome Canada has not set a date for when complete information on the competition will be disseminated, but in an academic newsletter, the University of Toronto announced a few tentative deadlines, with pre-proposals to the competition due around April 2012, full proposals in the fall of 2012, and funding decisions by the end of the year with the winning research projects starting in early 2013.

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