Canadian Genomics Gets Windfall

The year 2000 Canadian Federal Budget contains a surprising windfall for genomics research in Canada: a cool $160 million. Although the lump-sum check, announced on February 28, is for $35 million more than genomics researchers had requested for the next 3 years, the government did not specify how long the money is supposed to last, leaving administrators in a bit of a quandary.

The big winner, Genome Canada, was established in June 1998 with a $25 million grant from the Canadian Medical Research Council. The National Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council "joined" it soon afterward, creating a credible cross-disciplinary Canadian initiative. Their increased budget will fund five genome science centers located throughout the country. Some of the cash will also be used to train and fund young scientists. "There is an intent that there would be funding available to fund training of technical personnel, and for academic advancement for scientists in the early part of their career," explained Michael Gray, professor in the department of biochemistry at Dalhousie University and a member of the Genome Canada Advisory Panel. He elaborated that "Some of the money might also be used to support a limited number of positions in affiliated universities ... [including] 3 to 5 years of salaries for scientists."

But exactly how much money is available for students and research will depend on the duration of the grant, which has not yet been determined. Though the current allocation is more than what was budgeted for the first 3 years, Genome Canada was anticipating $250 million in federal funding for their first 5 years of operation. "From our perspective, this amount looks very good, but we're just not sure of all of the financial details yet. It's a lump-sum payment ... we're not sure what length of time it's for," explained Gray.

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