Kelly Johnston, Cumming School of Medicine
Sept. 27, 2023
Calgary family’s generosity powers high-risk, high-reward chronic disease research at UCalgary
A $1-million gift from the McKay Family Foundation is providing critical seed funding for researchers at the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the Cumming School of Medicine. The philanthropy will help launch bold, innovative and unfunded research investigations which could lead to future new medical treatments.
“We want to help people who are doing something important but need adequate funding to make it happen — someone working really hard with really great ideas but minimal support or interest from government funders, because it's so new,” the foundation said in a statement.
The new Snyder Institute Catalyst Grant program bridges the gap for ambitious research projects which have the potential to attract substantial government support once promising initial data can be gathered. The grants support innovative, high-risk, high-reward research that aligns with the Snyder Institute’s mandate and priorities and makes significant use of its Live Cell Imaging Lab and other core research platforms and affiliated platforms.
Propelling scientific discovery
"High-risk, high-reward programs like this one help propel scientific discovery that might not otherwise make it through the traditional peer-review process, considering such research carries some risk,” says Dr. Derek McKay, PhD, Snyder Institute director, who is not related to the donor.
“Since the grants are not limited to any specific target area or disease, this program will be attractive to creative, visionary researchers in the Snyder Institute who need funding to move the potential new medicines they’re discovering from the laboratory to clinic, where they can ultimately benefit patients living with chronic inflammatory and infectious diseases,” McKay says.
The Calgary-based McKay Family Foundation decided to support the awards following a tour at the Snyder Institute. Learning about the institute’s extensive work to grow and test potential new treatments on human organoids (miniature organs grown from stem cells in a dish) inspired the foundation to invest in the catalyst awards. Organoids are a relatively new area of research with tremendous potential.
“Our hope is that through these awards, someone at the Snyder Institute comes up with something really great and the discovery leads to better health for a lot of people,” the foundation said.
Up to $250,000 is available to institute members in each funding cycle and can be awarded as a single grant or multiple smaller awards.
“The Snyder Catalyst Grant Program offers an exciting opportunity for our members to develop novel areas of biomedical research — potentially moving the frontiers of medical discovery forward in very impactful ways,” says McKay.
The Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases is a team of more than 400 clinician-scientists and basic scientists at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine dedicated to uncovering new knowledge leading to disease prevention, tailored medical applications and ultimately cures for those with chronic and infectious disease. Visit the Snyder Institute website and follow @SnyderInstitute to learn more.