The Mach-Gaensslen [pronounced Mack GEN-slen] Foundation of Canada honours the lives of Vaclav F. Mach and Dr. Hanni Gaensslen by supporting research in cardiology, oncology, and psychiatry. Over $9.5 million has been provided in grants since 2001.

The foundation’s objectives are

  • to carry out, support, and promote medical research in the fields of cardiology, oncology, and psychiatry in Canada
  • to disseminate the findings of such research to the interested public
  • to promote excellence in education in the fields of cardiology, oncology, and psychiatry

Vaclav F. Mach (1917– 2001) was a Canadian success story. After fleeing oppression in Czechoslovakia, he worked his way up to senior positions in the textile industry in his adopted countries of Canada and Switzerland. He and his wife, Dr. Hanni Gaensslen, a Swiss physician, endowed two foundations — the Mach- Gaensslen Foundation of Canada and the Mach-Gaensslen Stiftung Schweiz in Switzerland — to undertake charitable works.

The first grant by the Mach-Gaensslen Foundation of Canada was made just after its formation in 2001, for an electron microscope for the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. In 2004, the Foundation provided three years’ funding to the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute to conduct cardiac stem cell research.

In that year as well, it first funded medical student research at seven Canadian medical schools. The program has since expanded, so that 14 Canadian universities now receive medical student grants each year. The Foundation also supports students through two scholarships at Carleton University: the Mach-Gaensslen Foundation Scholarship in Health Sciences, awarded annually to an undergraduate in health sciences, and the Mach-Gaensslen Foundation Commemorative Graduate Prize in Neuroscience, awarded annually to a graduate student in neurosciences.

Mental health research has been a focus of the Foundation’s efforts in recent years. In 2012, the Foundation supported research on:

  • Child and adolescent eating disorders (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario)
  • Youth suicide (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario)
  • Mental health peer support (Peer Support Accreditation and Certification Canada)

In 2014, the Foundation partnered with the Do It for Daron (DIFD) campaign to help fund a $2 million chair in suicide prevention research at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR). The inaugural chair holder, Dr. Zachary Kaminsky, joined the IMHR in 2018.

In partnership with the Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, the Foundation also awards an annual prize of $100,000 to an outstanding emerging Canadian researcher or research team working in an area of mental health. First awarded in 2015, the Royal-Mach-Gaensslen Prize supports researchers with a demonstrated track record, scientific excellence, innovative thinking, imagination, and originality.

Several other mental health initiatives are receiving funding from the Foundation, including:

  • A pilot project at The Ottawa Hospital to improve physicians’ resilience to stress
  • Healthy End of Life Project (HELP) Ottawa, a community-based initiative to support people with advanced age, frailty, chronic and/or life-limiting illness to live at home or in the community as long as possible.