Canadian Institutes of Health Research


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The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 11,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada. CIHR holds an annual research budget of $812.5 million (2006-2007), with $28.6 million dedicated to stem cell related research.

The Stem Cell Oversight Committee

The Stem Cell Oversight Committee (SCOC) has met five times since the February 2008 meeting of the International Stem Cell Forum. SCOC members include experts in biology, ethics and law, and the social sciences, as well as an IVF clinician, an IVF patient representative, a member from a health charity and two members of the public. One of the twelve members’ terms ended on January 1, 2009; a replacement is being recruited.

Thirty-six applications were considered during two teleconferences and three face-to-face meetings. Thirteen of these applications were for research funded by CIHR and twenty-three were from outside organizations, including other public funding agencies.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act received Royal Assent on March 29th 2004. The Act prohibits activities including cloning (both therapeutic and reproductive), germ line genetic alteration of human embryos, and creation of chimeras with human embryos. In addition, certain activities (including manipulation of human embryos) require a licence issued by the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency. Health Canada will continue the development of regulations over the course of the next few years.

On June 19, 2008, the Quebec Court of Appeal rendered its opinion that provisions of the Act are unconstitutional because they are outside federal powers. The Government of Canada has brought an appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada to address questions regarding the constitutionality of the Act. In the meantime, the Act remains in effect. Health Canada will not pre-publish additional regulations until the question before the Court has been resolved. Given the overlapping mandates of the Agency and SCOC in the area of research to derive stem cells from human embryos, CIHR will work with Health Canada and the Agency to determine the future role of SCOC in this area.

Major Achievements in Canadian Research

Dr. Andras Nagy, Senior Investigator at Toronto’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, discovered a new method to create pluripotent stem cells without disrupting healthy genes. The method uses a novel wrapping procedure to deliver specific genes to reprogram cells into stem cells.

Dr. Mick Bhatia, scientific director at Hamilton’s McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, and his team have demonstrated - for the first time - the difference between normal stem cells and cancer stem cells in humans.

A study, led by Prof. Timothy Caulfield of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, examined the claims and published evidence of 19 online clinics, and found that the websites generally portrayed their therapies as routine, safe and effective, but could not substantiate their claims through published evidence. The authors conclude that advertising by online stem cell clinics is overoptimistic and that patients should be wary of claims made by these clinics.

A team from the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer at Université de Montréal has succeeded in producing a large quantity of laboratory stem cells from a small number of blood stem cells obtained from bone marrow.

Canada’s first human embryonic stem cell library is being created at McMaster University ( The breakthrough at new McMaster institute will dramatically change focus for human stem cell science (


For more general information visit the CIHR website.

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