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Proceeds of Gala Dinner honouring Joe Bova go towards this collaborative research project - Manitoba and Hebrew U each commit $750,000 over five years.

by Rhonda Spivak, May 10, 2011

This year’s Scopus Award Gala Dinner put on by the Winnipeg Chapter of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University on May 16, 2011 in honour of Joe Bova, businessman and community leader, promises to be a great success.

The proceeds raised by the event will go towards a collaborative research project between Hebrew University and the University of Manitoba to explore the possibility of preventing or reducing the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder [FASD] pregnancies. FASD encompasses Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (PFAS), Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder (ARND), and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD).

The Manitoba government will provide up to $750,000 over the next five years from the Manitoba Research and Innovation Fund to support this collaboration. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Canadian Friends of Hebrew University have committed to match the Province of Manitoba’s funding, for a total commitment of $1.5 million. Next Monday’s Scopus Award Gala dinner will be the first major fundraiser for CFHU toward that goal.

Laboratory research into FASD at Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) has been ongoing for 12 years, led by Dr. Abraham Fainsod in Jerusalem.

As Fainsod explained to the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “Over the last few years we developed an experimental system based on frog embryos to study multiple aspects of FASD. We showed that very early during embryogenesis, the equivalent of the third week of human development, alcohol prevents the conversion of vitamin A (retinol) to retinoic acid (RA), its biologically active form. RA is a crucial signalling molecule required for normal embryonic development whose amount is tightly regulated.”

Dave Chomiak, Manitoba’s Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines said in a statement that the research has the potential to create “long-term social, economic and health benefits for Manitobans. Our partners are putting together a multi-disciplinary team with valuable expertise in this area.  Their research will also have the potential to further improve the way our government works with front-line organizations to support families dealing with FASD.”

As Faith Kaplan, Winnipeg chapter president of Canadian Friends of Hebrew University said, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a serious concern in communities around the world and we are confident our research consortium will improve the understanding of what leads to children being born with FASD.  Such collaboration is completely consistent with Hebrew University’s mission to improve the world.”

“This new collaboration and partnership is absolutely essential if we want to find solutions to the complicated health challenges facing our world in the 21st century,” said Dr. Digvir S. Jayas, Vice-President of Research and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba.  “Our researchers, working alongside colleagues at Hebrew University in Israel, will help unlock the key to preventing FASD and translate those findings into better treatments for people around the world.”

Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors Minister Jim Rondeau noted that a total investment of $11.5 million this year by the Manitoba government will support ongoing FASD prevention, education, diagnostics, support services and research.  Innovative programming includes new initiatives such as Project CHOICES, which is aimed at women who are considered at higher risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy, and Stepping Out on Saturdays, a respite day camp that assists FASD-affected children in developing their social skills while providing their caregivers a break.

According to the Manitoba FASD Centre website, “FASD is a life-long physical condition that occurs in all cultures and levels of society. In Canada, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is estimated to occur at a rate of one to two per 1,000 live births (0.1 to 0.2 percent), while FASD rates are less clear but undoubtedly higher. In Health Canada’s Framework for Action on FASD (2003), the incidence is estimated to be nine in 1,000 live births (0.9 percent).”

Sharon Zalik, Executive Director of CFHU Manitoba Region, confirms that ticket sales have now closed, but donations toward the project will be gratefully accepted. “We are delighted with the response shown toward our Scopus Award  honoree Joe Bova, and are grateful for the support we have seen from Winnipeggers. The Gala co-chairs Gisele MacDonald and Abe Anhang have worked tirelessly with our volunteers, and the result will be spectacular for our 1000 guests!”
Joe Bova founded the Man-Shield Group of Companies 39 years ago with partner Terry Ferraro. The Man-Shield Group of Companies have their head office in Winnipeg, with other permanent offices in Thunder Bay, Calgary, and Edmonton, and are involved in development and construction projects from Ontario to B.C.

Joe credits his parents for his efforts to give back to the community, and his tireless efforts to make the world a better place make him a most fitting candidate for the Scopus Award.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.