Government of Canada Supports Research and Innovation

Minister Rickford Announces Canada Excellence Research Chair for McGill University

(MONTREAL, September 25, 2013) — McGill University is poised to become a world leader in the personalized pain research field over the next seven years. The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology), today announced the appointment of Dr. Luda Diatchenko as Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Human Pain Genetics at McGill University.

“Our government recognizes the importance of supporting leading-edge research and world-class researchers to strengthen our country’s long-term prosperity,” said Rickford. “Canada Excellence Research Chairs are some of the world’s leading minds and their work in our universities will reinforce Canada’s research capacity while also creating jobs and keeping Canada at the cutting edge of innovation.”

Russian-born Diatchenko comes to Canada from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the first of 11 new chairholders being recruited by eight Canadian universities for the prestigious CERC program.

This is McGill University’s first CERC. The university will receive up to $10 million in funding over seven years to support Diatchenko and her team’s ambitious research program. An additional $785,000 will be provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for research infrastructure.The funding for this CERC is also being bolstered by an additional $20 million from public and private sources, including $8.5 million from McGill University.

“Chronic pain can make everyday living a challenge for millions of Canadians,” says Gilles G. Patry, president and CEO of the CFI. “With state-of-the-art equipment, Dr. Diatchenko’s research will help us understand how genetics can influence pain treatment. When we care for the members of our community who are debilitated by pain, we all benefit.”

“We are proud to welcome such a prominent and distinguished scholar in pain research as Dr. Diatchenko,” said Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University. “We applaud the exemplary vision illustrated by the creation of the CERC program, and would like to thank the Government of Canada for recognizing McGill’s outstanding achievements in pain research with such a substantial level of support. Such funding is essential to help Canada’s best researchers continue to find ways to improve human health and well-being.”

Chronic pain is a global public health problem with significant economic implications. For more than half a century, McGill has been recognized as an international leader in pain research, education and patient care. Diatchenko’s research will dramatically augment and complement McGill’s existing strengths in this area and will have a direct impact on Canada’s capacity to lead in this field. Diatchenko’s discoveries will be important to science, industry and society, as well as to the well-being of countless Canadians.

“Studying basic molecular and genetic mechanisms of human pain has been my passion. Pain is not only the main reason why people visit a doctor, pain is also a mysterious, understudied and underappreciated phenomenon,” said Diatchenko. “The primary goal of my research is to identify the critical elements of human genetic variability that contribute to pain sensitivity and chronic pain states and that can eventually lead to individualized treatments and therapies. I am very grateful for the opportunities provided by the prestigious CERC program and am honoured to have been selected by McGill University to continue my research at the renowned Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain.”

Since its launch in 2008, the CERC program has positioned Canada as an international leader and destination of choice for research and development, and continues to attract and retain world-leading researchers.

CERC program nominations are peer-reviewed by individual international experts, and also by a prestigious review panel of renowned Canadian and international researchers, to ensure they meet the highest standards of research excellence. An independent blue-ribbon selection board, chaired by Brian Levitt, counsel at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, and co-chaired by Shirley M. Tilghman, past president of Princeton University, reviews university nominations to ensure they meet program objectives and the strategic priorities set out by the federal government. Final recommendations of the board are presented for approval to the tri-agency Steering Committee.

“The Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program continues to support and attract many of the world’s top researchers to Canadian postsecondary institutions,” said Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and member of the CERC Steering Committee. “The rigorous review process used in selecting Dr. Diatchenko was of the highest calibre. I would like to congratulate McGill University, and particularly Past Principal Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum for her commitment and dedication to the goal of the CERC program.”

Since 2006, the Government of Canada has invested nearly $9 billion in initiatives supporting science, technology and the growth of innovative firms in Canada, including $5 billion for advanced research, education and training; $2 billion for postsecondary infrastructure; and $1 billion for applied research and financing. This funding has helped make Canada a world leader in postsecondary research and research training, and is helping create the knowledge and highly skilled workforce required for a prosperous economy. 

Currently, 18 CERCs are working at Canadian institutions as a result of the inaugural 2008 CERC competition.  In June 2011, the Government of Canada announced funding to support the creation of 10 new CERCs, of which Diatchenko is the first. These 10, and an 11th due to a vacancy from the inaugural competition, will be announced over the next year, following the rigorous recruitment and selection processes currently under way.

The CERC program is a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and CIHR. It is administered by the Chairs Secretariat, which is housed within SSHRC.

For more information, please contact:

Mary Ann Dewey-Plante
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Greg Rickford
Minister of State (Science and Technology)

Francine Charbonneau  
Communications Advisor
Canada Excellence Research Chairs

Yves Melanson
Coordinator, Media Relations    
Canada Foundation for Innovation

Cynthia Lee
Media Relations Office
McGill University