January 9, 2009
By Mark Ferguson
Photo by Mark Ferguson
When the new $17 million biomedical beamline was built at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron (CLS), the capital funding came readily from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the province, but acquiring the operating funding was not as easy.
Peggy Schmeiser, director of government relations, says this particular project at the CLS is a good example of how funding makes its way to campus.
"We don't just talk to the government about funding," said Schmeiser in describing the lobbying efforts of the university. "A lot of the work we do involves both the federal and provincial governments and stakeholders."
Work on the BioMedical Imaging and Therapy facility (BMIT) at the CLS has received significant funding already, but with changing infrastructure and operating costs, additional funding is needed to operate the BMIT over the next few years. Schmeiser and CLS development officers are looking beyond the government to get the cash they need. Stakeholders, like other universities, provincial governments or the private sector, are necessary to continue this very important research.
While CFI and the province each contributed 40 per cent of the total cost for the BMIT, the additional 20 per cent needs to come from stakeholders. According to Gay Oldhaver, chief development officer for the CLS, the focus has been on disease-based organizations.
"The house has been built, now we need the furniture," she said.
"We've had good success lobbying within Saskatchewan," said Oldhaver. "Now we're moving outward. We're lobbying at all levels, not just for the present, but for the long-term. We're looking for investors this time and hoping they will invest down the line. We're cultivating relationships with our stakeholders."
Now the funding is bearing fruit, with the first images from the BMIT released before Christmas. Dean Chapman, Canada Research Chair in X-ray Imaging and BMIT team leader, describes just how important funding for these images is to health research, and how difficult acquiring funding has been.
"We guessed a bit on the cost," said Chapman. "Things are always changing. We over-estimated on some parts, and underestimated on others. But we're doing really good things with BMIT."
Chapman describes the technique of diffraction enhanced imaging as quite opposite to what you would expect from the CLS, since the images are not at the microscopic level but instead, are full photos of test subjects such as mice. He says when the project is finished, the BMIT will be able to X-ray subjects as big as a horse with amazing clarity – making it possible to visualize cancer, bone cartilage and even reproductive organs.
Chapman looks like a kid in a playground while he describes the complexities of the new facility he helped design. He speaks as if this is run-of-the-mill technology used in every hospital and research facility in the country. But in truth, Chapman is one of the few people who realizes the possibility of using beams of light from the CLS to X-ray soft tissue, muscle, organs and tumours.
As Peggy Schmeiser points out, conversations about the future of these projects is paramount to making long-term relationships and acquiring funding.