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The long and winding road to $7 million

November 15th, 2016
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How seed money from St. Paul’s Foundation helped Dr. Don Sin secure a major grant from Genome Canada

With such intense competition for research dollars in the medical field, many funding bodies expect applicants to match the funds they seek.

When the funder is the provincial or federal government, matching gifts are often the norm.

“In addition to providing leverage,” says St. Paul’s respirologist Dr. Don Sin, recipient of a major grant from Genome Canada, “going out and raising matching dollars shows a funder that you have a vested stake in the research undertaken.”

A seasoned fundraiser, Dr. Sin knows of what he speaks. He also knows that the time invested can result in funding that can take your work to the next level.

“Larger grants have complex application processes that can take years, which means a lot of time and work on the part of the grant seeker, so you need to be committed to your project. That’s what a funder wants to see.”

In a competition for government funding in genomics that drew 150 of Canada’s top medical investigators, Dr. Sin and his team at St. Paul’s were one of just 17 groups to be funded. Dr. Sin was awarded $7.2 million from Genome Canada and Genome BC to support his work in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the most common cause of hospital admissions in Canada and the fourth leading cause of death.

The initial application for this grant was submitted by Dr. Sin five years ago.

In the case of this Genome Canada competition, applicants were required to raise twenty percent of the requested amount on their own, through gifts from individuals, grant-making foundations, or corporations invested in that area of research.

“This was a very intensive, peer-reviewed process, including face-to-face interviews with expert panels across the country,” says Dr. Sin. “I’ve been involved in many funding competitions and this one was the most rigorous as well as the most time consuming.”

Dr. Sin was able to raise $650,000 on his own, but time became a factor and he still had a shortfall of $750,000. This  is where St. Paul’s Foundation came in, providing  bridge funding for the remaining $750,000, a monetary infusion that kept Dr. Sin’s grant application alive.

“Without that amount at that time,” says Dr. Sin, “this funding envelope, this more than $7 million that is now supporting our work, would never have been released. That’s just the way some of these competitions work. It’s all or none. Even if you’re a dollar short at the deadline, the whole thing can fall apart.”

With his application to Genome Canada a success, Dr. Sin is excited at the prospect of the discovery ahead, and of the many new drugs and new technologies that will be brought to COPD patients in the coming years.

Sharing in Dr. Sin’s excitement is St. Paul’s Foundation CEO Dick Vollet.

“This is one of those times we can report back to our supporters,” says Dick Vollet, “that their donations, whether $200 or $20,000, have been  leveraged into more than $7 million to support groundbreaking work. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling—and an incredible return on investment.”

Would you like to help?

To make a difference in the lives of COPD patients at St. Paul’s, consider a donation to help fund St. Paul’s Lung Program.

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