Pfizer Canada donation will help new researchers change the future

Early Career Investigator Awards will provide early career scientists with the opportunity to undertake high-impact research to curb the threat of infectious diseases and change the course of medicine

Pfizer Canada has made a $600,000 gift to the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) via McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation. The gift, which was announced on December 4, during the 2nd annual MI4 Scientific Symposium, will support innovation and life-changing research through the creation of the Pfizer Early Career Investigator Awards.

The Early Career Investigator Awards will provide early career scientists and researchers across the McGill and MUHC community with the opportunity to undertake high-impact research to curb the threat of infectious diseases and change the course of medicine. Over a three-year period, $100,000 will be awarded to each of two recipients per year, one PhD scientist and one clinician-scientist. The funding will include support for early-stage concepts with the potential to benefit coronavirus patients, in particular those suffering from pre-existing conditions such as chronic pain or cancer.

“Pfizer Canada is very proud to support the state-of-the-art science being generated by the MI4 initiative,” says Dr. Vratislav Hadrava, Vice-President and Medical Director, Pfizer Canada. “We are committed to doing all we can to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and putting patient safety and public health as top priorities. That’s why we’re pleased to see that the work of the MI4 is so aligned with these objectives.”

Providing early career researchers with the tools to succeed

Recipients will have access to state-of-the-art equipment and research platforms at McGill University and the Centre for Translational Biology at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), including the MI4 clinical research platform and two Containment Level 3 laboratories where users can safely manipulate dangerous microorganisms such as SARS-CoV-2.

“As the pandemic has made stark, infectious and immune-mediated diseases continue to pose one of the greatest threats to human health,” says Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill. “Thank you to Pfizer for giving early career researchers and clinicians at McGill University and our affiliated hospital research institutes the means to build on existing infrastructure and expertise to take bold, decisive and creative action on one of society’s most pressing issues.”

Formally established in April 2018 thanks to a $15 million gift from Montreal’s Doggone Foundation, MI4 is one of the largest grouping of experts focused on infectious and immune-mediated diseased in the world. It brings together more than 250 researchers from McGill, the MUHC, the Jewish General Hospital and other affiliated research centres and hospitals.

“MI4 has an important role to play in the fight against COVID-19,” says Dr. Don Sheppard, founder and director of the initiative. “Donor generosity has already enabled us to provide seed funding for more than 75 high-risk, high-reward projects, many of which have since been further scaled with competitive funding. This new gift will help new investigators rapidly launch their programs and foster innovation.”

“Support for the next generation of researchers is key to accelerating discoveries – from conception to practical applications in the real world,” adds Julie Quenneville, President of the MUHC Foundation. “The last year has highlighted the importance of research and preparedness in infection and immunity. Pfizer’s gift provides the backing researchers need to work on truly out-of-the-box concepts that can translate into new treatments and cures with the potential to save lives.”