About

Canada’s Health Research Foundation (HRF) is a non-profit organization.

The Health Research Foundation (HRF) is a non-profit organization that invests in Canadian applied health research and that contributes to the sustainability of the Canadian healthcare system for improved patient outcomes. The HRF contributions help prevent illness, treat disease, and improve Canada’s health-care systems. Innovative Medicines Canada members generously fund the HRF to ensure health research can continue to benefit Canadians for years to come. The organization is committed to addressing health challenges through supporting research-driven health innovation, stakeholder partnerships, and the advancement of public policy.

Making a difference for 60 years and counting

Founded in 1964 by Innovative Medicines Canada, the HRF makes significant annual investments in research and innovation. In doing so, the researchers we support help solve pressing challenges in our nation’s health systems which, in turn, helps promote a better quality of life for Canadians.

This proud history continues today. HRF investments to date—in collaboration with partners such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and provincial health research foundations — have resulted in over $30 million in funding to more than 1,700 researchers across Canada.

Why? Because what we do is about more than providing steady funding for world-class health research – it’s about an investment in Canada’s future and equitable access to health care for all Canadians.

30m

in research funding

1,700

researchers, with new investments annually

Our commitment to excellence

At the HRF, we’re committed to supporting world-class research Canadians can be proud of. That’s why every research program we invest in first goes through a comprehensive review process to ensure it:

  • supports research that applies the highest standards of scientific excellence,
  • aligns with improving patient outcomes and sustainable healthcare,
  • leverages expertise through strategic partnerships,
  • and promotes the value of health research in Canada.

Approaching 60 years of impact: a timeline

As the HRF approaches its 60th anniversary in 2024, we celebrate the organization’s long-standing commitment to advancing health research in Canada. For nearly six decades, the HRF has played a crucial role in investing and achieving progress in this important field. Canadians can witness firsthand how the consistent support of the HRF has positively impacted generations, continuously enhancing the quality of life for all citizens throughout this great country.

From the beginning back in June 1964, when it was created to support clinical research and increase the capacity for research in Canada—the HRF has been dedicated to investing in quality research. Moving forward deeper into the 1960s and then the early 1970s, this foundation also began issuing grants for research, fellowships, and research-unit support. As clinical pharmacology units became a priority in Canadian research, so too did the focus of HRF research—always with an unwavering attention to quality. Investments in this area became regarded as centres of excellence where good clinical studies could be done and individuals could be trained in clinical research methodology.

From 1975 to 1985 a substantial investment was made in equal partnership with leading Canadian universities to develop pharmacology units. The outcome: six new clinical pharmacology units across Canada established at Hotel Dieu at Université de Montréal, the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, London’s University Hospital, the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. Five of these resulted in new pharmacology units. The existing unit at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children was enlarged. In addition, the Montreal General Hospital and the Clinical Research unit at Toronto’s Addiction Research Foundation received essential funding from the foundation.

New investments in the 1980s meant jobs for the newly-trained researchers in Canada. In 1986, the Career Award Program was developed, designed for these new researchers who were coming out of the units that the Foundation had helped establish. Successful universities were provided five-year awards to employ young investigators to support trained researchers to remain in Canada. The Career Awards Program quickly led to the establishment of the Pharmacy Fellowship Program, established to support pharmacists to conduct post-doctoral research in the areas of therapeutics or drug evaluation.

New co-founding in 1990s began as the HRF launched a comprehensive awards program jointly with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This important program promoted scientific research and experimental development in the health sciences. It placed emphasis on medicines, including clinical pharmacology, toxicology and other disciplines in the science of therapeutics.

In all, there were eight awards programs: Research Career Awards in Health Sciences; Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Pharmacy; Graduate Research Scholarships in Pharmacy; Graduate Research Scholarships in Pharmacology; Summer Research Studentships in Medicine; Summer Research Studentships in Pharmacy; MD/PhD Research Scholarship; and Bourse Robert Dugal Graduate Scholarship in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

A new era began in 2006 as the HRF changed the focus of its research support program to provide three-year thematic research grants of one million dollars to well-developed research teams. These were based on the priorities identified by Innovative Medicines Canada members, the HRF Scientific Advisory Committee, and our health research partners.

To date, four thematic grants have been provided to research groups across Canada:

  • 2007-2010: Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Control;
  • 2008-2011: Childhood Obesity Prevention and Treatment;
  • 2009-2012: Mental Health—Co-morbidity of Brain Disorders and Other Health Problems; and
  • 2010-2013: Aboriginal Health Research.

Our nearly sixty-year tradition continues today with the HRF’s investments in research and programs.

HRF Board of Directors

Nearly 60 years of investing in health research excellence begins by having exceptional leaders guiding the foundation’s decisions. That is why the HRF is extremely proud of its Board members. Each member brings unique perspective and expertise in a wide range of areas, including executive management skills, health research and clinical knowledge, and corporate leadership.

Mel Cappe

Mel Cappe

Chair

Mel Cappe
Mel Cappe

Chair

Mel Cappe is a Distinguished Fellow in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. From 2006-2011 he was President of the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Prior to that for four years he was High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom. Mel has also served as Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service in Ottawa. Earlier in his career he held senior economic and policy positions in the Departments of Finance and Industry. He was Deputy Secretary to the Treasury Board, Deputy Minister of the Environment, Deputy Minister of Human Resources Development, Deputy Minister of Labour and Chairman of the Employment Insurance Commission. He did graduate studies in Economics at the Universities of Western Ontario and Toronto and has honourary doctorates from both. He is currently an Officer of the Order of  Canada and has served on several not-for-profit Boards in the Health space.

Bettina Hamelin

Treasurer

Bettina Hamelin

Treasurer

Dr. Bettina Hamelin, PharmD, EMBA, is a globally renowned researcher and esteemed life sciences executive, who brings over 30 years of experience in academia, industry, and not-for-profit organizations to her current role as President of Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC).

In this role, Dr. Hamelin is dedicated to enhancing access to innovative medicines for Canadians, while advancing Canada’s position as an attractive destination for life sciences investments, high-value jobs, and new clinical trials. Driven by her unwavering commitment to improving the health and well-being of all Canadians, Dr. Hamelin firmly believes collaboration and partnership are essential to the future of healthcare innovation in Canada. Having acquired an Executive MBA in Healthcare from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, she is uniquely positioned to work alongside health system stakeholders to find novel solutions to complex challenges.

Prior to joining IMC, Dr. Hamelin was the President and CEO of Ontario Genomics for over six transformative years. Here, she not only established the organization as Canada’s preeminent force in engineering biology on the world stage, but also cultivated an ecosystem that was conducive to the development and commercialization of cutting-edge Canadian innovations.

Dr. Hamelin’s illustrious career includes serving as the Vice-President of Research Partnerships at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), where she led a 130-member team to spearhead a robust research and innovation investment strategy. She also held pivotal leadership roles at BioChem Pharma and Pfizer Inc., pioneering novel public-private partnership models that propelled research and innovation forward, and was a tenured professor at Université Laval.

Dr. Hamelin is fluently trilingual and holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Kentucky, US.

With her wealth of expertise, purpose-driven leadership, and passion for driving positive change in the pharmaceutical, health, and life sciences sectors, Dr. Hamelin stands as a trusted leader, poised to make enduring contributions to the health of Canadians and the vibrancy of Canada’s research and innovation ecosystems

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell

Member of the Board

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell
Dr. Lorne Tyrrell

Member of the Board

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell holds the GSK Chair in Virology in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Alberta. He is also the Founding Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. He has focused his research since 1986 on viral hepatitis. Dr. Tyrrell was the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry from 1994-2004. He was the Chair of the Gairdner Foundation Board (2006-2016) and served on the Research Advisory Committee to the President of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) (2008-2018). From 2020-2023, he served on the Vaccine Task Force for Canada. In 2021, he was selected for the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research and in 2022, he was awarded the Baruch S. Blumberg Prize from the Hepatitis B Foundation of America.

Christine Elliott

Member of the Board

Christine Elliott

Member of the Board

Christine Elliott, former Ontario Minister of Health and Deputy Premier, is Counsel with the Fasken Health Law group in our Toronto office. With over 15 years of experience in public service, she is ideally positioned to assist clients with navigating existing and emerging complexities in the healthcare space.

During her tenure as Ontario’s Minister of Health from 2018 to 2022, Christine played an integral part in overseeing the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this role, she also sponsored The People’s Health Care Act and enacted the Connecting Care Act. The Connecting Care Act gave rise to Ontario Health, a Crown agency that merged the 14 Local Health Integration Network and other agencies including Cancer Care Ontario, Gift of Life Network, eHealth Ontario and HealthForce Ontario in order to facilitate integrated care delivery systems also known as local Ontario Health teams. Christine also served as Ontario’s Deputy Premier (2018 to 2022) and as Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman (2016 to 2018).

Christine, along with her husband James Flaherty (Jim) was a founding partner of Flaherty, Dow, Elliott & McCarthy. Later, Christine and Jim co-founded Abilities Centre in Whitby, Ontario, which supports and celebrates the abilities of all people and is a place where everyone belongs, regardless of their challenges. In addition, she has held positions on a range of boards in the health care sector since becoming involved as a volunteer with several charities including the Lakeridge Health Whitby Foundation, Durham Mental Health Services, and Grandview Children’s Centre.

Christine graduated from the University of Western Ontario law school and was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1980.

Dr. Paul Armstrong

Member of the Board

Dr. Paul Armstrong

Member of the Board

Paul Armstrong is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Alberta and founding Director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre. He serves in a variety of consultative and editorial roles, plays an active leadership role in the conduct of a number of ongoing cardiovascular clinical trials, publishes extensively and frequently lectures in national and international academic forums. In recognition of his academic leadership, Dr. Armstrong has received numerous awards for scholarly and societal contributions. Dr. Armstrong’s commitment to the education, training, and mentoring of healthcare professionals, research trainees, and faculty spans over 40 years and is a key signature of his career. He is internationally recognized for his contributions to the diagnosis and therapy of acute coronary disease and heart failure and has a particular interest in novel approaches to the design of clinical trials and their interpretation. Dr. Armstrong was the founding President of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, was the recipient of the 2023 ACC Lifetime Achievement Award and is an Officer of the Order of Canada

Wilma Deen

Wilma Deen

Executive Director

Wilma Deen
Wilma Deen

Executive Director

Wilma is currently the Executive Director, Membership Value and Strategy Implementation at Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC). Prior to joining IMC in 2019, Wilma was the Chief Operating Officer of the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research. Wilma has more than 20 years of combined experience in healthcare, health research, and the pharmaceutical industry. She holds a B.Sc. in Nursing from Western University and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, as well as an ESG Global Competent Boards Designation (GCB.D). Wilma is a Member of the Board of BioTalent Canada.

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