By BERNIE BELLAN
Researchers from St. Boniface Hospital and Ben-Gurion University will soon be engaged in new types of collaboration in various areas of research as the result of an agreement reached recently between the two prestigious institutions.
At an event held Monday, September 12 in the IH Asper Clinical Research Institute at St. Boniface Hospital, Dr. Rivka Carmi, President of Ben-Gurion University, and Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital, announced to invited guests the unveiling of a new program of collaboration which will go by the title “Research without Borders – Partners in Science”.
While we generally don’t like to print press releases ver batim, the one sent to us Monday morning, September 12, was well written enough that it bears being reprinted almost in its entirety. Here is the press release issued jointly by the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation and Canadian Associates of Ben Gurion University, which also gives some pertinent information about the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation and Ben-Gurion University: “As leading research institutions, St. Boniface Hospital and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have determined that knowledge is better served when transferred and enhanced by collaboration.”
“ ‘Our researchers are working towards the same end goal – to change the face of health care as we know it, and to overcome today’s most debilitating diseases and conditions,’ said Dr. Grant Pierce.
“Professor Rivka Carmi added ‘How thrilling to be part of this unique scientific partnership. As our sages have said, ‘”his can be a light unto the nations’”, meaning that this should be a shining example of cooperation between two institutions - one whose roots are based in Catholicism and the other in Judaism’.
“ ‘With a thriving and active Jewish community in Winnipeg, and a distinct link to our heritage at St. Boniface Hospital, we would like to bring our communities together to support collaborative research initiatives, and have identified several areas of commonality,’ said Chuck LaFlèche, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation. Mark Mendelson, CEO, Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev added ‘I am pleased to be able to work with my new partner on this project, and move forward in our fundraising endeavours.’
“The Research Without Borders fundraising campaign will officially commence October 16th, 2016, with a fundraising goal of $10 million – the funds will be divided between each institution and will focus on collaborative research efforts that span across oceans.”
At the actual event Monday evening September 12, we learned more about how this project came about. Dr. Carmi explained that no small debt of gratitude is owed to Tova and Larry Vickar for bringing Dr. Grant Pierce and Chuck Lafleche of St. Boniface Hospital on a visit to Ben-Gurion University this past spring. Dr. Carmi said, “I have to thank Larry and Tova Vickar for orchestrating this whole thing and for bringing Grant and Chuck to Ben-Gurion University.”
Dr. Carmi went on to note that many representatives of institutions of higher learning pass through Ben-Gurion University, often with the intent of creating collaborations between their institutions and BGU.
“If I could show you how many M.O.U.’s (Memorandum of Understanding) I have filed away in drawers…” that never led to anything substantive being implemented, Dr. Carmi said ruefully.
She went on to note: “We know that we are good but we know that we don’t know everything…We (BGU and St. Boniface Hospital) are very synergistic and complementary in many respects.”
Dr. Grant Pierce (who remarked that he had lived on a kibbutz for several months when he was younger) discussed three particular areas in which the two institutions are especially likely to benefit from joint collaborations : Cardiovsacular sciences (in which Winnipeg’s own Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum is engaged in some leading edge research involving understanding the genetic basis for heart cells); food sciences – were BGU’s “expertise in nutrition is world class”, Dr. Pierce observed, and where researchers from St. B. will be able to assist researchers from BGU to better understand “why their nutritional interventions work”; and “neurodegenerative research” – studying dementia and Alzheimer’s, where Dr. Pierce predicted, “we are in for some exciting research discoveries.”
Dr. Pierce concluded his remarks by suggesting that the name of the joint program between BGU and St. B. might very well be changed from “Research without Borders” to “Research without Limits”.
In an upcoming issue we will have more about the joint venture between BGU and St. B. and the fundraising that will commence in October with the aim of funding the project.