McMaster’s Health Science Faculty Loses Mass Funding

Jaslyn English

McMaster University has lost more than 15 per cent of its research dollars in the past year, totaling up to a $100 million loss of funding within the city of Hamilton.

The research in the Faculty of Health Sciences relies on pharmaceutical companies for the majority of its funding and in recent years, the companies’ interest in the University’s research has plummeted.

Since the pharmaceutical industry provides approximately 90 per cent of research funding for this sector of the University, this is a huge setback for McMaster’s research capabilities.

Joel Lexchin, a professor of Health Policy and Management at York University, was quoted in the Hamilton Spectator saying that pharmaceutical companies have halved the dollars going to research and development in Canada.

The Spectator quoted Dr. Salim Yusuf, a professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster as saying, “We’ve had one of our worst years financially,”

The main reason for the drop in funds, besides a steadily decreasing investment from pharmaceutical companies in general, is that three multi-million dollar Hamilton-led drug studies have been shut down for safety concerns.

It would appear that McMaster and the Health Sciences Faculty have been adversely affected by the funding cuts, considering it was the only university in the top six national research earners to lose funding.

Though McMaster still maintains its rank as sixth nationally on Re$earch Infosource Inc, a reporting site that tracks research and development dollars in universities across Canada, it was also the only university in the top six to lose any funding.

Similarly, four of the five top hospitals lost money, but Hamilton Health Sciences was hit the hardest.

In Jan. 2012, the provincial Liberal government scrapped $42 million in university research grants, which halted research progress across Ontario even before the lack of pharmaceutical companies’ interest was realized this year.

Although the cuts to research grants may be significant, it takes constant long-term depreciation before a loss in funding is felt by research institutions such as those housed in Health Sciences.

“If this were to be a longer term trend over two to four years, then yes, it would have an impact,” said Marvin Ryder, an assistant professor of marketing at McMaster.

A potential loss of student research jobs and a diminished interest in the research done by the Health Sciences faculty can mean lack of funding which has further repercussions for students and faculty.

Dr. Yusuf  stated with confidence that it is “a temporary blip” and that the university will “bounce back.”

Despite the optimistic climate, it is clear that next year’s research, coupled with results of the impending provincial election, will have a significant impact on Health Sciences research capabilities and the overall research intensity of the institution.

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