Dr. Gary Lewis Offers an Update on the BBDC’s Continued Funding During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 8, 2020

Dr. Gary Lewis

Dear colleagues,

We are only now starting to slowly emerge from one of the most catastrophic situations people across the globe have ever experienced. Through this challenging time, the research and healthcare communities have shown incredible resilience; adapting quickly to change.

For those of us involved in diabetes research, an immediate concern is the dire shortfall in research funding. With the cancellation of some funding programs and Canadian charities facing major shortfalls, our options have become much more limited.

In this environment the BBDC will play an even more important role than usual in providing stopgaps in funding.

The BBDC has built up a reserve fund we hope will bridge any potential shortfall in the support we receive from the University over the next year. The BBDC will continue to provide funding for fellowships and studentships in 2020/2021 and continue to hold pilot and feasibility grants and new investigator award competitions this fall. Funding extensions will be provided for current BBDC grant recipients who need them. 

Unlike some of the extra-departmental units of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, the BBDC endowment ensures the existence of the Centre in perpetuity. Apart from the proceeds of our endowed funds, the BBDC does not receive funding from U of T. Although annual interest on our endowment is insufficient to support all of the Centre’s activities, we have been very successful in securing additional funds, which expands our annual budget two to threefold. 

The University of Toronto Advancement office initiative, headed by Dean Young, is currently managing fundraising for the 100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Insulin. We hope their hard work will be successful. Fundraising has also been achieved by strategically aligning the BBDC with the University Health Network (UHN), who provide the Centre with an annual operating grant.

In addition, we actively fundraise for the BBDC with the assistance of UHN’s Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation, one of the most successful foundations in Canada. Funds raised through UHN are made available to BBDC scientists and their trainees across the city, including at non-UHN hospital research institutes. We are redoubling our fundraising efforts at this critical time.

Now, more than ever, breaking down barriers between campus- and hospital-based research institutes, academia, industry, and not-for-profits will be important as we move forward. We can no longer afford to go it alone.

The BBDC is also looking at the model of Diabetes Action Canada, whose success with national networking, collaboration and joint fundraising is helping inform our future planning. This includes the BBDC’s initial steps to catalyze research across universities in areas such as islet cell biology, autoimmunity of T1D, and human mechanistic metabolic research. I personally feel as much pride in the outstanding research accomplishments of colleagues at other Canadian universities as I do in the achievements of BBDC researchers. I hope you feel the same.

We will be exploring all opportunities as we forge ahead to, “tangibly impact diabetes prevention and outcomes in Canada and globally.”

Never has our work been more relevant. This is not a time to give up. This is a time for perseverance, mental fortitude and resilience. 

Gary Lewis, MD
Banting & Best Diabetes Centre