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Program ID: Innovation Anthology #453
Program Date: 02/02/2012
Program Category: Funding, Health and Medicine

AIHS Announces New Funding Programs

PROGRAM #453 INTERVIEW WITH DR. JACQUES MAGNAN

MP3: 6.6 MB
Time: 7:20 Minutes

Dr. Jacques Magnan is the CEO of Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. In this interview, he addresses both the new Alberta Pfizer Collaboration Fund and the new funding programs from AIHS.

Dr. Jacques Magnan

 

CC:  THIS ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY, WHAT EXACTLY IS IT?

 

JM:  This announcement is a partnership between a pharma company, Pfizer, the government of the Province of Alberta through Advanced Education and Technology, and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions and the government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification. 

 

It’s the creation of a collaborative funding opportunity for translational research.

 

So it’s about basically providing funds for research to be done in Alberta, in the universities in Alberta or in the health system in Alberta, to bring good ideas closer to the commercialization site of the landscape if you will. 

 

So it is about actually investing in early stage research development, but research development with a bit of an asterisk or an attitude which is that basically we think there is a good idea there that can lead to a transformation into innovation. 

 

And in particular in this case in areas that Pfizer is interested in. 

 

CC:  THIS IS 2.5 MILLION DOLLARS.  WHAT ROLE WILL ALBERTA INNOVATES HEALTH SOLUTIONS PLAY IN THIS? 

 

JM:  So we’re playing a dual role.  On the hand, we are one of the investing partners.  And on the other hand, we are the administrative home for the fund.  So the collaboration between Pfizer and Alberta and Canada is basically going to be administered by Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. 

 

We’re going to run a competitive granting process and essentially we will monitor and manage the awards as we move forward.  So we are both an investor and a managing partner, if you will.

 

CC:  WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER SORT OF COMMERCIALIZATION PROGRAMS THAT YOU HAVE IN PLACE ALREADY?

 

JM:  Because AIHS is a new organization and we’re starting to position ourselves in terms of this knowledge to action kind of landscape, we don’t have another commercialization program right now. 

 

The big advantage of this one is actually that the private partner is at the table from the front end, both from the perspective of investing but from the perspective of being part of the discussion that says, wait a minute here, this is a good opportunity. This is a good idea.  But, not only is it a good idea, but we see the potential for this.  And so we’ll let it go, we’ll fund it as part of the partnership.  And once it’s done, we’ll have a discussion with these researchers to see how best they can move that opportunity forward.

 

So we have an end user involvement at the front end from a private partner to be not only there as a funder but actually as a committed, sort of interested end user who will see how the research develops and then would be interested in moving those outputs to the commercial side of things. 

 

CC:  HOW LONG IS THIS COLLABORATION FOR?  IS IT JUST A FEW YEARS OR IS IT ONGOING?

 

JM:  Right.  So that’s a good question.  I mean, at the front end of this, what we have established is a fund. It’s a collaborative fund that four partners in this case have provided resources for that fund. 

 

Initially what we’re going to do is offer this as two back to back competitions for research programs to move forward.  We’ll monitor this as it goes forward.  Anticipate that these are going to be grants of $150,000 to $200,000 for a period of about a year to a year and a half. 

 

So this is actually interested in moving research fairly rapidly and in a fairly timely way towards commercialization.  So the output of that will be known within about a year and a half to two years. 

 

The discussion then will become if we can see some value from that and if this is a good vehicle to actually move that research into a closer to commercialization landscape, then my guess is, actually we have other partners that are coming to the table offering the same opportunity now. 

 

They’re interested.  They’re saying hey that’s a good model.  We can leverage our dollars.  We can be part of the discussions at the front end in terms of telling the province what we are interested in, we’re sharing some of these interests with the province, can we jointly invest and if that is the case, then we can get some value added on the backside as well. 

 

CC:  WHEN MIGHT YOU BE HANDING OUT SOME OF THIS MONEY?

 

JM:  Very rapidly actually because now that we’ve made the announcement to have the call for proposals within a week or two out there and to have the proposals come in to us by late March at the latest and to adjudicate these things by probably June.  So we’re thinking by July 1st the money’s going to be out there.

 

CC:  WELL THIS IS ONE OF MANY NEW INITIATIVES THAT ALBERTA INNOVATES HEALTH SOLUTIONS HAS ON THE GO.  WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE?

 

JM:  So we’ve just announced actually five additional funding opportunities.  We’re calling them opportunities as opposed to programs, not just to change the name, but because we’re thinking about opportunities being much more of a flexible way in which the researchers and the end users can tell us what they need and what they’re trying to accomplish, and we can tailor make the opportunities to suit their needs.

 

So we have collaborative research opportunities that will offer programs of research, projects, programs or teams between $150,000 up to a million dollars a year for up to five years for doing collaborative research that is aimed at a relevant health research issue in the province that end users are interested in, whether it’s the health system or whether it’s the private partner.  So that’s one of them.  

 

We have a catalyst opportunity that aims to add value to great ideas, again, pilot projects, high risk projects that will basically again say, I’ve got a great idea, if I get a pot of money that I can make that idea sing better, it can move with more value within a year or something, give us a little bit of money and we can move that forward. 

 

We have a sustainability fund to help maintain competitiveness of the research activity in the province on the national scene. 

 

We have training programs that have been redesigned to provide for career development for graduate and post graduate students. 

 

And we have a new translational chair program that is going to be put in place in collaboration with the four Alberta Innovates corporations and the four comprehensive Alberta research institutions and the government. 

 

So there’s quite a lot of activity going on actually.

 

CC:  WELL TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS CHAIR PROGRAM?

 

JM:  So the Chairs program again is clearly aimed at helping recruit to the province high level capacity to do research in areas of priority for the province. 

 

They are translational chairs in the sense that we’re interested in researchers that are going to be brought into the province that are not only interested in creating fantastic knowledge and exciting science, but interested in moving that knowledge into application. 

 

So we’re talking for example about people who are interested in doing basic research that could have a commercial output in a timely fashion.  Or for health services researchers that can change a policy or a practice in the health system, for example.

 

So it is about defining areas of priorities and areas of needs for the province, bringing people in, establishing them well into the landscape of the universities. Or the environments in which they work could be a health environment, and basically providing them with resources to really get their activity in the province going in a very positive way. 

 

CC:  AND WHEN WILL THESE BE UNDERWAY?

 

JM:  They are set.  The Board has approved an allocation of $6 million dollars per year for the next seven years to fund these chairs.  We are having a meeting with the universities and the other corporations at the end of the month, on the 31st of January and literally the process is already underway. 

 

It’s going to be a different process than what we’ve seen in the past in terms of capacity building.  So, it’s going to be mostly empowering the institutions to go out and do these recruits with AIHS providing some external validation of the quality of these recruits.  And so the process is literally in place now and it is moving forward as of the end of January.  

           

CC:  THANK YOU VERY MUCH JACQUES.

 

JM:  You’re welcome.

 

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