Merck Canada said today it allocated a total C$16 million ($15.5 million) in grants to four Quebec-based university hospital centers: University of Montreal, University of Sherbrooke, Laval University, and McGill University.

Grants received by each institution will support health research with a translational component conducted in areas of unmet medical need, the company said.

In a company announcement, only Université Laval elaborated on its funding plans, saying that the grant will allow its faculty of medicine to create a fund dedicated to research in biomedical sciences and the transfer of knowledge.

“This donation constitutes a vital contribution to the development of health research in Quebec’s National Capital. The Faculty of Medicine intends to use some of the funds to support the work of young researchers,” Rénald Bergeron, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval, said in a statement.

The C$16 million marked Merck’s second announcement of a Quebec grant this week, and its latest action toward fulfilling its promise of investing C$100 million ($96.8 million) through 2015 in biopharma R&D collaborations with startups, universities, hospitals, and other partners in Quebec. The company has invested C$84 million ($81.3 million) to date.

On Sept. 30, Merck Canada announced a C$4 million ($3.87 million) gift to Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), toward supporting patient-oriented research conducted by the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research initiative. 

The company made its commitment in 2010, when it shut down what was the largest research facility in Canada, the Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research in the Montreal suburb of Kirkland, laying off most of its staff of 180.

The Frosst Centre was closed as part of a global restructuring during which about 12,500 positions were eliminated, coming about a year after Merck’s $49.6 billion merger with Schering-Plough.

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