Awards: Four researchers recipients of Ontario's Early Researcher Awards

Four early career researchers across four different departments at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry were awarded Early Researcher Awards from the Government of Ontario. Congratulations to Kelly Anderson, PhD, Jimmy Dikeakos, PhD, Stephen Renaud, PhD, and John Ronald, PhD.

These awards give funding to new researchers to build their research teams investigating important health care questions related to cancer, HIV, mental illness and pregnancy complications.

“The Early Researcher Awards are a reflection of both the demonstrated excellence and future potential of each of these very promising researchers,” said David Litchfield, PhD, Vice Dean of Research and Innovation at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “We are proud of their achievements and look forward to their ongoing contributions to the academic missions of our School.”

For Renaud, this funding will enable his lab to continue unlocking the mysteries of placental development.

“Accumulating evidence suggests that the mom’s immune cells have a major role in controlling how the placenta develops, and if the placenta does not develop properly, severe pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction can arise,” he said.  

He and his team are working to determine the feasibility of targeting mom’s immune cells to enhance placental development and prevent the onset of long-term health problems in affected babies.

Anderson and her team are using novel integration of health administrative data, electronic medical records, and machine learning analyses to study how young people with first-episode psychosis interact with primary care when seeking help for early symptoms of psychosis.

“Timely and adequate management of first-episode psychosis is critical to the wellbeing of young people. However, many people with first-episode psychosis have difficulties accessing specialized services,” she said. “This study will allow us to better support Ontario family physicians in their role in early psychosis intervention, develop and target interventions aimed at increasing detection and referral rates, and ultimately improve access to care for young people with first-episode psychosis.”

John Ronald and his team are focused on developing powerful and safe DNA-based tools that will provide blood and imaging tests for more specific and sensitive tracking of the metastatic process in cancer. Jimmy Dikeakos will use the funding to further build on his lab’s novel approach that will enhance the probability of curing patients with HIV/AIDS.

For all four researchers at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, this award will allow them to continue to ramp up their research teams, providing funding for trainees and research assistants. “Graduate trainees bring energy, enthusiasm, and new ideas to the team and are integral to much of the work that happens in a research program,” said Anderson.

Follow the researchers on Twitter: Kelly Anderson - @anderskk3 John Ronald - @John_A_Ronald Jimmy Dikeakos - @DikeakosLab Stephen Renaud - @SJRenaud79