Funding: CIHR Project Grant recipients announced

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced more than $11.9 million in research funding through their project grants competition for 17 projects across Western University.

At the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, 15 projects received funding, including four projects at Robarts Research Institute.

“It is great to see the success of the School in this year’s CIHR Project Grants competition,” said David Litchfield, PhD, Vice Dean of Research and Innovation at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “These diverse, collaborative research projects will lay the foundation for future success.”

Litchfield also says the School’s success rate for the competition has doubled since last year and highlighted that a variety of investigators at various stages in their careers receiving funding.

Projects that received funding include a mix of both clinical and basic science research, ranging from a study on sensory processing impairments in autism, to examining impaired healing in osteoarthritis, to finding a potential therapeutic target for disc degeneration and back pain.

“The funding that been awarded is a reflection of the research excellence at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry,” said Litchfield.

Lina Dagnino, PhD, will use the funds to examine how epidermal stem cells can promote wound healing.

“In Canada, chronic, non-healing skin wounds are an enormous health care challenge,” said Dagnino, adding these wounds amount to about three per cent of all health care expenditures and affect up to 30 per cent of home and community care patients. “The efficacy of current therapies for chronic wounds remains limited, emphasizing the need for better approaches to address this increasingly persistent health problem.”

Her work aims to identify potential interventions to help stimulate epidermal stem cells that would improve wound healing.

Dr. Tom Appleton is also working to enhance patient care. His research project aims to improve healing in osteoarthritis patients.

“Because there is no medical treatment to prevent osteoarthritis from destroying peoples’ joints, treatment for osteoarthritis is the greatest unmet need in the arthritis field. We are trying to fill that need,” Dr. Appleton said.

One main problem caused by osteoarthritis is the failure of joints to heal properly, often resulting in chronic knee inflammation in patients. Dr. Appleton’s research seeks to understand why the immune cells that line joints become dysfunctional in osteoarthritis, with the long-term goal of developing treatments that would restore their function.

“Discovering a new approach to treat osteoarthritis would lead to clinical trials that improve people’s lives and our health care system,” Dr. Appleton said.

More than five million Canadians have osteoarthritis, with more than 70,000 people needing joint replacement surgery as treatment.

Dr. Appleton says the CIHR funding comes during a critical time.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity that will provide us outstanding support for the next five years, as we work toward an exciting future and new opportunities to improve outcomes for our patients,” he said.


Congratulations to the successful CIHR Project Grant applicants:

Thomas Appleton – Failing to Heal: Impaired Efferocytosis in Osteoarthritis

Samuel Asfaha – Role of DNA methylation in stemness of tuft cells

Timothy Bussey – Interactions between PV interneurons and neuromodulators in cognition relevant to schizophrenia

Lina Dagnino – Epidermal progenitor cell self-renewal and wound healing

Rodney DeKoter – Mechanisms of driver mutation cooperativity in precursor B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Neil Duggal – The Role of Neural Plasticity in Rehabilitation for Reversible Spinal Cord Compression in Elderly Patients

Jason Gilliland (Faculty of Social Sciences and cross appointed to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry) – Examining the influence of a school travel planning intervention on children’s travel behaviour, physical activity, and exposure to pollution around their schools

David Heinrichs – A role for the regulator of purine biosynthesis at the host-pathogen interface

David Hess – Formation of an islet regenerative niche using human mesenchymal stem cell secreted signals

Patrick Lajoie – Cellular responses to protein misfolding in a yeast model of aging

Caroline Schild-Poulter – Tumour-suppressive regulation of the Wnt/ß-catenin signaling pathway by the CTLH complex

Susanne Schmid – Sensory processing impairments in autism

Cheryle Seguin – Disc degeneration, back pain and obesity: PPARdelta as a potential therapeutic target

David Spence – Metabolic and Metagenomic effects of repopulation of the intestinal microbiome in patients with severe unexplained atherosclerosis

Zhu-Xu Zhang – TLR3 is an endogenous sensor of cell death and a potential target for induction of long-term heart transplant survival


Congratulations to the CIHR Priority Announcement recipients:

Subrata Chakrabarti – Novel mechanisms in diabetic cardiomyopathy

Elizabeth Gillies (Faculty of Science), and Co-Applicant Frank Beier – Intra-articular Delivery of PPAR-delta Inhibitors for the Treatment of Post-traumatic Osteoarthritis


Congratulations to Faculty funded through Lawson Health Research Institute:

Ting-Yim Lee – Selective Brain Hypothermia via Intranasal Cooling to Limit Brain Injury Post Cardiac Arrest

Aaron So – Multi-centre diagnostic performance of dynamic CT perfusion for functional assessment of multi-vessel coronary artery disease with dense coronary calcification

Matthew Weir – Filling Knowledge Gaps for the Success of Ontario Renal Plan 3