OHRI awarded $7.8M from Canadian Institutes of Health Research

February 8, 2010

Fifteen scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa) have been awarded grants worth a total of $7.8M from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“CIHR only funds the very best health research, so I am delighted that our scientists have been so successful in this competition,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO and Scientific Director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. “These research projects will help us develop better therapies, answer important health questions and make our health care system more effective and efficient.”

The funding will support the following research projects:

  • Surgery and transfusions: Dr. Alan Tinmouth will study how and why plasma transfusions are given after heart surgery. These transfusions can help prevent further bleeding, but under certain circumstances they may be unnecessary and even harmful.
  • Fat and chronic disease: Dr. Alexander Sorisky will study how fat cells become dysfunctional and contribute to heart disease and diabetes in some people.
  • Stem cells for severe influenza: Dr. Duncan Stewart will investigate a stem cell and gene therapy approach to prevent inflammation and flooding in the lungs, which is the main cause of death in people with infections such as H1N1 influenza.
  • Alzheimer’s: Dr. Richard Bergeron will investigate how short term memories are formed and lost in experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease, with hopes of developing an approach to prevent this.
  • Blood clots: Dr. Marc Rodger will investigate genetic factors that make some people more likely to develop recurring blood clots in their veins. This may help clinicians determine how long someone who has had a blood clot must stay on blood thinners.
  • Breast cancer: Dr. Luc Sabourin will investigate the role of a gene called SLK on the ability of breast cancer cells to invade surrounding tissue and enter the bloodstream. He will determine if blocking SLK may help prevent the spread of cancer in experimental models.
  • Cholesterol: Dr. Michel Chrétien will study how different forms of a protein called PCSK9 make some people more susceptible to heart disease while protecting others. This research may help to develop new drugs to complement current lipid lowering therapies.
  • Health of caregivers: Dr. Jamie Brehaut will investigate how caring for a sick child affects the health of the parents.
  • Traumatic neck injuries: Dr. Christian Vaillancourt will investigate emergency care for people with potential neck injuries. He will lead a clinical trial to determine if people with a very low risk of neck fracture can be safely transported to hospital without being immobilized by paramedics.
  • HIV: Dr. Paul MacPherson will investigate how a protein called IL-7 helps the immune system defend against infections, and how HIV can disrupt this process.
  • Aneurysm: Dr. Carl van Walraven will investigate dilated blood vessels in the abdomen (called aortic aneurysms), which can be deadly if they rupture. He will study almost 1,000 patients whose aneurysm was found incidentally on abdominal imaging to see if they are monitored appropriately.
  • Blood cancer: Dr. Marjorie Brand is investigating the interaction between certain genes and proteins in the development of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This could lead to a new approach for treating this aggressive cancer.
  • Headache or stroke?: Dr. Jeff Perry will test a clinical decision rule for distinguishing between a simple headache and a deadly type of stroke called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He will also examine a streamlined diagnostic approach that could help patients avoid painful and invasive testing for this condition.
  • Immune system and diabetes: Dr. Robin Parks will study a gene called IRF3 that helps defend the body against viruses and bacteria. He will examine whether dysregulation of this gene contributes to the disease state in type 2 diabetes.
  • One other grant was awarded conditionally and will be announced at a later date.
These projects were funded through CIHR’s 2009-2010 Operating Grant Competition, which includes a rigorous peer review process. The awards will support the salaries of staff and students involved in the projects, as well as laboratory and clinical research supplies.

More detailed project summaries are available upon request or by searching through the full list at

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the University’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The OHRI includes more than 1,500 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s agency for health research. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to nearly 12,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

Media Contacts
Jennifer Paterson
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
613-798-5555 ext. 73325

David Coulombe
Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research