New $200M MUHC Foundation campaign aims to boost COVID-19 research in Montreal

With the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific research into health care is more important than ever.

The MUHC Foundation believes that more of that research could be done in Montreal – and has a new fundraising campaign aimed at making that happen.

The 'Dream Big' campaign hopes to raise $200 million over the next ten years to turn the city into an even larger international hub for medical research and innovation.

"Our priorities are the three greatest global threats to health: cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, and cancer," said MUHC Foundation president Julie Quenneville.

Of the money raised, $60 million will go to McGill's interdisciplinary infectious disease research initiative known as MI4. The program has already helped fund more than 50 COVID-19 studies.

"At the level of diagnostics, modelling, new therapies, vaccines, public health measures, you name it," said MI4 director Don Sheppard. "We've been very active with this community of over 250 researchers and clinicians."

Sheppard said the research isn't just advancing science but also benefitting Quebecers directly, like in testing. Early on in the pandemic, tests were hard to come by, so local scientists were given funding to develop their own.

"Last weekend, the tests that were run at the McGill University Health Centre for COVID-19 testing were made at McGill by scientists that we gave the seed funding to so they could make a made-in-Montreal solution," he said.

It takes constant investment to remain on the cutting edge, said the campaign's co-chair, former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

"What COVID has taught us is that we need to be as autonomous as we can in the area of medical services," said Charest.

The ability to recruit the best and brightest from around the world also helps.

"This campaign is timely, an opportunity for all of us to put our shoulder behind an effort of men and women who we don't get to see a lot but make a very big difference in our lives and in the health of our community," he said.

The $200 million, he said, is about finding a way out of this pandemic and building a foundation to help respond to future challenges.  

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