CFI awards $7.6 million to London projects

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It makes sense doctors are better able to diagnose and treat patients when they can actually see the problem.

As a result, advanced imaging technologies and techniques are both improving health care and reducing its cost.

Already home to some of the world's most sophisticated biomedical imaging equipment, London's research institutions received a significant financial boost this afternoon for imaging tools that improve bone, joint, heart and brain health, and allow for the development of MRI-friendly medical devices.

Four imaging initiatives, valued at more than $5.5 million, highlight seven projects at Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute awarded $7,641,772 this afternoon by the Canada Foundation for Innovation's Leading Edge Fund and New Initiatives Fund.

One of the projects addresses bone and joint disorders, which are the leading cause of disability in Canada - affecting more than 1.6 million Ontarians and costing the Canadian economy more than $20 billion annually, The multi-disciplinary team led by David Holdsworth, Trevor Birmingham and Tom Jenkyn received $1,342,675 to better understand how joints move under normal conditions and after therapy.

"Our team's lab will have the capacity to image bones and joints in more realistic conditions to better diagnose joint and mobility disorders, develop new therapies and personalize intervention strategies," says Holdsworth, who holds the Dr. Sandy Kirkley Chair in Musculoskeletal Research at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Birmingham holds the Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation in Western's Faculty of Health Sciences, and Jenkyn is cross-appointed to the Faculties of Engineering and Health Sciences.

Lawson and Robarts Scientist, and Schulich professor, Ting-Yim Lee, received $961,524 to develop low x-ray dose CT scanning methods for studying the vascular system. This technology could lead to better treatments for cardiovascular disease and cancer, which affect two of every three Canadians and cost the national economy more than $40 billion a year.

"We hope early detection will help us reduce healthcare costs and eliminate expensive, but unnecessary, interventions by more accurate prediction of whether a patient will respond before or earlier on in the treatment," he says. Lee is also a medical physicist at St. Joseph's Health Care London.

Many standard medical devices - including pacemakers, hip replacements and vascular stents - either will not work in an MRI, or present dangers to patients. To address these issues, Blaine Chronik's team in the Faculty of Science received $705,911 to establish a comprehensive testing and development facility that supports industry and academic efforts to develop compatible medical devices and technologies.

Led by Ravi Menon, the Centre for Functional Metabolic Mapping at Robarts Research Institute received $2,494,098 for additional tools that will help address challenges related to imaging vulnerable populations. The Centre, which already houses Canada's only collection of high-field and ultra-high-field MRI systems, will now develop tools to conduct sophisticated fMRI studies of neonatal and paediatric subjects, and patients with neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

Since 2010, city-wide imaging research expertise has operated under the banner of the Biomedical Imaging Research Centre, which has attracted more than $100 million in infrastructure and is composed of more than 350 personnel at London's research institutions. Included in this infrastructure is one of only three 7T fMRI for neurological use in the world.

The CFI also funded two additional projects at Western:

  • Chris Guglielmo (Faculty of Science): $1,371,999 - New technologies to study global-, regional- and local-scale movement ecology of free-living birds.
  • Prudence Allen (Faculty of Health Sciences): $765,565 - Improved technology for the National Centre for Audiology.