MSM Research Grant Program launches second funding competition

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Ross FitzGerald

Researchers are invited to apply for funding under MSM Research Grant Program

A new round of funding through the MSM Research Grant Program has just become available. Researchers can register their intent to apply by April 15, 2018 with proposals due by June 30, 2018.


Poster of MSM Research Grant with red background and white text

The MSM Research Grant Program is funded by a contribution from Health Canada and managed by Canadian Blood Services in partnership with Héma-Québec. It was created to generate the evidence to inform alternative screening approaches for blood and plasma donors. The findings from research projects funded through the program could help to evolve the current eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men.

For the 2018 MSM Research Grant Program competition, the total funding available is $850,000. The Program will support small (up to $50,000) and large (up to $300,000) research projects that are aligned with the objective of the program and address one or more of the research priorities.  

The research priorities include: 

  • Research to evaluate the impact of alternative risk reduction technologies on donor screening. 
  • Research to evaluate operational feasibility of alternative donor deferral policies and their acceptability by Canadians. 
  • Risk modeling and surveillance to assess the risk associated with alternative donor selection policies. 
  • Research to inform the development of an individual risk assessment donor policy (behaviour based) or to strengthen the existing policy (population based). 


In January 2017, Canadian Blood Services hosted an international meeting that brought together national and international stakeholders to identify research priorities for closing knowledge gaps that impact donor eligibility for men who have sex with men. The research questions and knowledge gaps identified at this meeting have been published in a review article by Dr. Goldman and colleagues titled Donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men: past, present and future.

Further reading: The evolution of a donor deferral policy: where do we go from here? (blog post)

Last Spring saw the launch of the first competition. As a result, 11 research projects were funded and are now underway. 

Some of the topics and research areas include:

  • Surveys of MSM in urban, semi-urban and rural areas to determine how alternative screening approaches may impact their willingness to donate blood. 
  • An investigation into how to optimize the blood donor questionnaire to minimize any unintended negative biases. 
  • A study to determine suitable and unsuitable procedures for screening that maintain the safety of the blood supply. 
  • The development of mathematical models to estimate risk of an HIV infectious unit of blood being released for transfusion for different possible donor deferral policies.  
  • Surveys and studies to gather data about HIV-negative men who have sex with men to use in computer simulations to forecast any potential increase in risk to the blood supply.
  • A study of the Canadian population to identify safe subgroups of men who have sex with men.
  • A study to examine the acceptability and feasibility of a source plasma donation program for men who have sex with men. 

In December 2017, a meeting that brought together all the research leads associated with the first 11 funded MSM Research Grant Program projects was held. This was the first working meeting for the researchers to meet and discuss their projects and objectives. The meeting led to some new collaborations between the research teams especially as opportunities were identified to share donor questionnaires that have been developed for research purposes.

MSM Research Program team members are affiliated with a number of organizations across the country including Canadian Blood Services, Héma-Québec, McGill University, Ryerson University, Thorneloe University, Université de Sherbrooke, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, Western University, Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health, Health Initiative for Men, Public Health Agency of Canada, and RÉZO.  

Over the coming months stay tuned to this space as we’ll be profiling the research projects, our partners and the research teams here on RED, our Research Education and Discovery blog.  


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Ross FitzGerald

New publication: Donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men: past, present and future