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Medical Research at UBC to Grind to a Virtual Halt During Olympic Games

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The University of British Columbia is now indirectly admitting that all medical research will come to a halt for about two months to enable the Olympic party to proceed.  Maybe you think you read that wrong? Nope, no research at UBC.

By broadcast email, UBC informed the various research laboratories that deliveries will be severely constrained, in fact largely not happening at all from January 26th until after the Paralympics at the end of March. 

According to the email, “Requests for ‘business critical’ deliveries of Dangerous Goods within restricted times, or deliveries of a quantity or concentration which require an Emergency Response Assistance Plan, will be considered on an individual basis by the Vancouver 2010 ISU and Transport Canada.”  Since most things used in experimental work, chemicals, gases, etc. easily fall into such categories, it means no deliveries to laboratories. 

Next, no animals for experimental medical research according to our Animal Care Facility at Vancouver General Hospital, so animals not currently present are not getting in.  The head facility at the main campus has no clue how this is going to play out at any of UBC’s locations.  To top that off, neither facility is even sure their staff will be able to get to work during this period due to road closures.  Of course, if you oppose animals used in medical research, you might see this as a good thing, but those of us who think otherwise are simply out of business for two months.

For my lab there is the additional aspect that most of my staff, myself included, come to work from outside Vancouver.  With Olympic-related road closures, simple and relatively short communes have now become complicated and time consuming.  My “normal” 40 minute drive from Deep Cove will take an estimated three hours.  It likely won’t be shorter if I take the bus.

Functionally, what this all means is that little or no medical research on Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig’s (all increasing in incidence, by the way), on cardiovascular disorders, on diabetes ,or cancer, the very diseases that will likely kill most of us eventually, have taken second fiddle to a 17 day party.  Add to that the fact that most researchers are on tight timelines to complete their studies before the next grant cycle, that getting research grants are totally dependent on gathering data, and we’ve now given our medical researchers a major handicap for the future viability of their projects.

What do I think about the Olympics? Pathological.