Director Brenda Andrews to Help Lead Canada’s Largest Health Research Funding Body

Dec 8, 2017
Jovana Drinjakovic

Brenda Andrews, University Professor and director of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, has been appointed to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the main federal funding body for health research and innovation, the government has announced.

Composed of 18 women and men from diverse backgrounds in public and private sectors, the role of the council is to develop CIHR’s strategic directions, approve its budget and evaluate the organization’s overall performance.

“This appointment is great news. Brenda is an exceptional scientist and leader and I have no doubt she will do her utmost to support innovative research for the benefit of all Canadians,” said Trevor Young, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Andrews, who is also Charles H. Best Chair of Medical Research and a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, said she is honoured by the new position and welcomes the government’s decision to include more researchers in its decision-making. In addition to Andrews, five other newly appointed members also come from research backgrounds.

The new appointments come in the wake of the Naylor Report, released earlier this year and prepared by U of T’s past President Dr. David Naylor, which called on the government to boost its spending on basic research—the kind of research that takes a long time to bring return on investment but is the only source of true progress in science and medicine—or risk losing its innovation edge to other countries.

“Discovery scientists in Canada should be particularly delighted at Brenda’s appointment to CIHR Governing Council. I know she’ll be a strong voice for strengthening the agency and ensuring Canada’s health research future is vibrant,” said Jim Woodgett, director of research and senior investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. 

Andrews is a pioneer in the field of systems biology that aims to understand how living organisms operate on a systems level as opposed to studying their constituent parts in isolation as was done before. Her work revealed how thousands of genes work together to orchestrate cellular life and are beginning to shed light on the molecular roots of complex diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, which are caused by faults in many different genes.

Last year, Andrews was awarded the Companion to the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour in the country, for her globally significant research in systems biology and for developing and nurturing prominent scientific communities in molecular genetics.

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