Ontario government pulls funding for stem cell research
Ontario's booming medical science industry is the latest to feel the wrath of Premier Doug Ford's "death by a thousand cuts," perhaps even literally in some respects.
The PC government is officially cutting all provincial funding to the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM) — a world-class, non-profit stem cell institute that has been working since 2014 to "transform the treatment of incurable diseases."
Funded almost entirely by the Government of Ontario, the OIRM has been receiving approximately $5 million every year from the province since its inception.
This funding will cease next March, potentially jeopardizing some of the ground-breaking research currently being supported by the Toronto-based institute.
Remember when George W. Bush banned stem cell research under pressure from the anti-choice movement in the US? Canada & Ontario took advantage of that moment to build world-class capacity. Now, this. https://t.co/ujEG3ZaooM— Gerald Butts 🇨🇦 (@gmbutts) May 16, 2019
Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Todd Smith, defended the move at Queen's Park on Wednesday, implying that researchers could easily secure funding from private corporations.
"The previous government was throwing millions of dollars around like crazy and they were not holding anyone accountable as to how they were spending that money," he said to reporters.
"What we've heard from the life-sciences sector is that a lot of these organizations don't actually need government money, that the private sector will step up."
Scientists disagree, noting that investors aren't willing pony up cash for early-phase research.
Stem-cell research is moving us very close to a cure for MS! This is so sad if we go backwards. https://t.co/eXfAnmXe5p— Colleen F. Armstrong ☘️🍀 (@Colleen_B2B) May 16, 2019
"We pick the really outstanding projects that have true potential, and we fund them to the point where they can attract additional funding and then begin to move forward," said OIRM president Duncan Stewart to CBC Toronto on Thursday.
"Without a catalyst to kick-start the process, then it's not going to happen."
Stewart called the cuts "very deflating," highlighting the concerns that "many great ideas, great technologies that could have blossomed into successful new opportunities commercially and new therapies for our patients just aren't going to move forward."
Currently, the institute is supporting cell therapy clinical trials aimed at treating Multiple Sclerosis, brain tumours, Osteoarthritis, heart failure, Scleroderma and, soon, cerebral palsy in children.
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