Canadian Space Agency supporting R&D for regenerative and nanomedicine

Guest Contributor
June 22, 2011

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has made its first contribution to date to a pioneering initiative spearheaded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The CSA is contributing $1 million to two projects in regenerative medicine and nanomedicine as part of the latest competition for $16 million in team grant funding under CIHR's Regenerative Medicine and nanomedicine Initiative (RMNI).

The CSA is co-funding two research projects. Microchip-based devices for the analysis of circulating prostate cancer markers is led by the Univ of Toronto's Dr Shana Kelly, while a team lead by Dr Gang Zheng will focus on nanotechnology-enabled image-guided interventions for lung cancer and vascular diseases such as artherosclerosis.

"This is a big deal for us. It's the first time we've funded projects … I'm trying to get the CSA to reach out to departments and agencies in the life sciences and physical health areas," says Dr Nicole Buckley, CSA's chief scientist, life science and the international space station. "The CSA really likes building shiny things and the health field is something new … There will definitely be further collaboration in the future. I'd like to expand the collaboration to work with Health Canada. This could be a niche for Canada because at the moment the US and Russia are not further ahead."

For CIHR, the CSA's financial engagement in RMNI is a validation of the program's intent of stimulating a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to cutting-edge S&T that breaks down barriers various players in the innovation system.

"We've created a number of these cross-cutting initiatives but regenerative and nanomedicine is the poster child. Since we launched in 2003, RMNI has received a total commitment of $83 million for 76 projects," says Eric Marcotte, associate director of RMNI. "We also have a personalized medicine initiative in the early stages of development that the CSA may be interested in."

For the CSA, the RMNI projects could lead to instruments that can be tested in space as well as on Earth, leading to improved health outcomes for astronauts. The CSA and CIHR previously collaborated on a series of smaller research projects that ran from 2004 to 2006 in the area microgravity and bone cells.

"We hope these latest projects are the tip of the iceberg. The results could help people at the CSA get excited as well. The CSA is not all robotics," says Buckley.

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