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Record grant gives big money for U of C medical research

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The University of Calgary stands to benefit from the most generous research gifts in Canadian history.

The Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research announced last week that they will provide approximately $20 million in research funding to bring some of the best minds to Alberta and the university, noting students will receive residual advantages from the awards.

"The benefit for students is that they get exposure to some of the best, most accomplished scholars in the world," said U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten. "They get better facilities in which to work and to train, and many students will be going through [the researcher's] labs. These people are teaching, they're not just researchers."

Researchers should not be mistaken for faculty members, noted AHFMR president and CEO Dr. Kevin Keough. They are primarily here for research.

"These people all do some teaching, in fact we encourage them to interact with students," said Keough. "They have to spend a considerable amount of time dealing with research, but there has to be a combination. You can't have one without the other."

The awards themselves will be seven years in length, which are the longest offered in Canadian history. There are three varying levels of support ranging from $110,000 to $160,000 for each researcher per year. In addition, researchers are eligible for prizes of $10,000 or $20,000 each year.

The money is given directly to the university which then supports the individual researcher, although the money provided can only be used for the scholars.

"We won't be using this money for general infrastructure," said Weingarten.

Some of the $20 million will even find its way into students' pockets.

"At the more advanced level, there are graduate students who work directly with these people all the time and the foundation also supports the stipends for the graduate students," explained Keough.

The grant recipients are not yet confirmed, but the AHFMR is aiming high.

"The foundation has a series of international peers who review all research proposals," said Keough. "Then we ask a group of international reviewers to come and say, 'Is this the best by your standards?' If not, we don't fund them."

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