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$23.1M in CIHR funding for University of Ottawa medical, health researchers

April 20, 2006

Researchers at the University of Ottawa and its affiliate research institutions have received 23, 172, 241 $ in operating grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The funding will be distributed among 49 projects at the University and several of its partner institutions: the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, CHEO, and the University of Ottawa Institute for Mental Health Research.

Today’s announcement about this latest round of federal funding for Ontario’s top health research scientists was made by Harold Albrecht, Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga, on behalf of Minister of Health, Tony Clement and of John Baird and Jim Flaherty, regional ministers for Ontario. The investment represents more than $112 million to fund health research in Ontario.

The projects funded at the University of Ottawa and its partner institutions include:

Brain cancer continues to be one of the most difficult cancers to treat, but two researchers from the University of Ottawa are trying to change that. Dr. David Stojdl of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario will test the ability of viruses to selectively attack brain cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. The viruses have already been found effective in animal models of ovarian, lung and skin cancer.

Dr. Ian Lorimer of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute will focus on glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive form of adult brain tumour, killing about 1500 people in Canada each year. His focus is a molecule called Hsp27 that he believes promotes the aggressive growth of glioblastoma, and limits the efficacy of cancer drugs. Finding a way to block the molecule could result in more effective ways of treating glioblastoma.

Edward Lemaire (The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre and the University of Ottawa) and Jonathan Kofman (University of Waterloo) will be working on new types of knee-ankle-foot orthoses (KAFOs). While these mobility aids allow people with mobility disorders, including spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy to walk, they tend to force them to walk with locked knee joints. Lemaire’s grant will create a KAFO that safely supports body weight, but unlocks when the person’s leg leaves the ground to allow him or her to walk with a more normal gait.

Although the genetic cause of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy was discovered 20 years ago (by Dr. Ron Worton of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute), there’s still no cure or effective treatment. Bernard Jasmin and colleague Martin Holcik’s latest CIHR grant will allow them to explore the possibility that a protein known as utrophin could be used as a substitute for the protein dystrophin and become a treatment for this disease. In 2004, Dr. Jasmin and colleague Dr. Lynn Megeney made a major breakthrough in understanding how glucocorticoid drugs counteract some of the devastating effects of Duchenne MD.

Nancy Edwards’ research at the Institute of Population Health and School of Nursing will reveal important insights into how evidence is used to inform the content of provincial prenatal records. Dr. Edwards’ focus is tobacco and alcohol use, two critical risk factors for neonatal health. She hopes her work will reveal the complexities of the decision-making environment in this area and will contribute to improved screening and care of pregnant women.

Ronald Labonte’s interdisciplinary research at the Institute of Population Health will delve into what, if any, international political and economic obligations exist to provide access to health care and social determinants of health to citizens of the world. He hopes his work will add important fodder to the debate around rights-based health and issues of global health care inequity.

Dr. Richard L. Hébert of the Faculty of Medicine is trying to understand why the production of metabolites from arachidonic acid—an essential fatty acid—is higher in the kidneys of diabetic mice. His work may lead to new therapeutic models — important, given that nearly 30 per cent of Canadian diabetics will suffer kidney damage during their lives.