Funding: CIHR funds translational collaborative research

Health researchers at Western were awarded more than $8 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in the latest project grant competition.

In total, nine research projects were funded at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry ranging from evaluating new ways of looking at spinal cord injury to understanding how neuroimaging can improve diagnostics for Parkinson’s disease.

“MRI is widely-available and our pilot data suggest that iron imaging and approaches that segment regions of the brain into functional areas can effectively identify patients with Parkinson’s Disease and worsening clinical function,” said Dr. Penny Macdonald from the department of Clinical Neurological Sciences who is working in collaboration with imaging scientist Ali Khan, PhD. “This funding will allow us to repeatedly image the large number of patients needed to clearly establish the measures with greatest promise to diagnose Parkinson’s and detect worsening disease.”

More than half of the projects included teams of researchers working together.

"The funded projects reflect an increasing trend toward collaborative initiatives that capitalize on complementary expertise of researchers in different disciplines,” said David Litchfield, PhD, vice dean of research and innovation at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. "To build on these successes, it is important that we continue to encourage inter-disciplinary collaboration.”   

The Project Grant program is designed to capture ideas with the greatest potential to advance health-related fundamental or applied knowledge, health research, health care, health systems, or health outcomes.

John McCormick, PhD, Dr. Tina Mele, and Stephen Tuffs, PhD, from the departments of Microbiology and Immunology, and Surgery are working with a cross-disciplinary team to understand how S. aureus toxins called “superantigens” contribute to both colonization and invasive disease. The work will utilize infectious disease models in mice but will also evaluate patients to determine if the same findings also occur during human infection.

“This funding is critical because S. aureus is a leading cause of both hospital- and community-acquired infections and antibiotic resistance is highly prevalent, making infections often very challenging to treat. We hope that the knowledge gained from this work will contribute to the development of a vaccine for S. aureus which despite decades of research still doesn’t exist,” said McCormick.

For Brad Urquhart, PhD, assistant professor in physiology and pharmacology, along with a team of co-collaborators from Western, the University of Toronto and University of British Colombia, this funding will support a multi-centre study across Canada to understand why some patients taking a chemotherapeutic drug experience kidney toxicity while others don’t.

“Funding like this is critical for science,” said Urquhart. “We feel strongly that this project will help us understand drug induced kidney injury better, and will hopefully result in patients not only beating their cancer, but also going on to have a good quality of life after their battle with cancer.”

Congratulations to all the funding recipients from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry:

Arthur Brown: “Evaluating inhibitors of CSPG synthesis in models of spinal cord injury”

Murray Junop: “Molecular Mechanisms of Non-homologous DNA End-joining Biochemistry”

Penny Macdonald and Ali Khan: “Advancing Clinically-Useful Diagnostic and Progression Markers of PD with Neuroimaging”

Jamie Mann: “Engineering HIV virus-like-particles (VLPs) for improved Env antigenicity and neutralizing antibody responses.”

John McCormick and Tina Mele: “Staphylococcus aureus at the commensalpathogen interface: the superantigen paradox.”

Patrick O'Donoghue, Christopher Brandl, Amanda Moehring, and Martin Duennwald: “Pathways to neurodegeneration from natural human tRNA variation.”

Christopher Pin: “Defining the role for ATF3 in recurrent pancreatic injury and PDAC.”

Gary Shaw and Martin Duennwald: “Mechanisms of Ubiquitination in Neurodegeneration.”

Bradley Urquhart, Michael Zappitelli, Tom Blydt-Hansen and co-applicants: “Metabolomics for prediction of cisplatin mediated acute kidney injury: a Canadian multi-centre adult and pediatric study."