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BC Cancer Agency opens $95 million R&D centre

The BC Cancer Agency and Foundation announced the opening of one of Canada’s largest cancer research centres. The BC Cancer Research building will provide a new home for eight of the BC Cancer Agency’s research departments, including the Agency’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, renowned for being the first in the world to sequence the SARS virus.

The BC Cancer Agency will now be home to a state-of-the-art translational research centre, drawing leading clinicians and scientists from around the globe.

“The BC Cancer Agency and Foundation have placed British Columbia at the forefront of cancer research and treatment, and this exceptional facility will only build on that remarkable legacy,” said Premier Gordon Campbell.

The new building provides a unique opportunity to increase the number of clinical and basic research teams brought together to address key issues in cancer control. Capacity will increase from the 318 researchers in the former research centre, housed for the past 26 years in an outdated bakery across from the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Centre on West Tenth Avenue, to up to 600 scientific and medical personnel.

The building, designed to encourage collaboration between scientists and clinicians, was funded by donations to the BC Cancer Foundation and contributions from the federal and provincial governments. The federal contribution came in the form of $27.8 million through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The provincial Knowledge Development Fund of B.C. also contributed $27.8 million.

Mary McNeil, president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation said, “We simply could not have created this amazing facility that serves as a beacon of hope for cancer patients everywhere, without the many donors to the BC Cancer Foundation, the project team who brought the building in well under budget, and the support of government. To quote the late Dr. Michael Smith whose dream this was, ‘two simple words – thank you.’”

Already a dramatic landmark against the Vancouver skyline, the 15 story building features a DNA double helix stairway, and large round windows reminiscent of Petri dishes. Eight foot high interstitial floors allow efficient movement of technical equipment as research needs change, saving future time and costs.

A connecting bridge planned between the research centre and the Agency’s Vancouver treatment centre across West Tenth Avenue, will ease collaboration between the clinicians and scientists, an important component of the BC Cancer Agency’s focus on translating research quickly from the researcher’s bench to the patient’s bedside.

Dr. Simon Sutcliffe, president of the BC Cancer Agency said, “This new building represents the BC Cancer Agency’s strong commitment to improving patient care and treatment through translational research. My hope is that both buildings will be seen as one common space where multidisciplinary teams of clinicians and scientists can collaborate to address important cancer control questions.”

“The new BC Cancer Research Centre is a concrete example that if we all work together-scientists, physicians, community, universities and governments – we can achieve far beyond what we could imagine,” said Dr. Victor Ling, vice president of research at the BC Cancer Agency, who will head up the new centre. “The challenge before us is to sustain this momentum for the benefit of all cancer patients and their families.”

For Rosey Brenan, a cancer survivor from Salt Spring Island, the benefits of research are very real. “Cancer research gave me my life back,” she said. “All I have to do is swallow a few pills each day, and I’m ok. This new building truly is a symbol of hope for people like me, and our families and friends.”

The BC Cancer Foundation is an independent charitable organization that raises funds to support research and care at the BC Cancer Agency and is the largest funder of cancer research in British Columbia. The BC Cancer Agency, a part of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care.