The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced $1.1 million in funding for advanced research infrastructure at UHN. These investments, provided through CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund, will support the following four projects:
• Enabling biomarker identification and treatment optimization for prevalent neurological disorders, led by Drs. Robert Chen, Mary Pat McAndrews and Jonathan Downar (Krembil), will enhance our understanding of how different components of the affected brain networks interact in Parkinson disease, major depression and epilepsy
• Novel mechanisms of heart failure: discovery to translation, led by Drs. Jason Fish and Phyllis Billia (Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, TGHRI), will identify new blood biomarkers for heart failure that will enable early detection of the disease and develop innovative therapeutic approaches to repair damaged heart muscle cells
• Improving outcomes for organ transplantation: a live imaging platform to target immunologic and fibrotic events, led by Drs. Sonya MacParland and Ana Konvalinka (TGHRI), will reveal new drug targets, therapeutic strategies and decision- making tools to improve outcomes for organ transplant recipients
• Cellular and molecular mechanisms underpinning the initiation, progression and metastasis of pancreatic cancer, led by Dr. Faiyaz Notta (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), will elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of pancreatic cancer
These funds are part of over $42M awarded to 37 universities that will support 186 infrastructure projects across Canada. The announcement was made on April 11 by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
By providing key support for advanced research infrastructure, the John R. Evans Leaders Fund helps to attract and retain top talent, and enables the acquisition of equipment for new and/or existing research laboratories.
Huge challenges are faced by children born with ‘half a heart’—a condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
The syndrome is a rare inherited disorder in which the left half of the heart is undersized and can’t perform its function of pumping blood to the body. Without surgery, it is fatal.
The good news is that surgical procedures have been developed over the past 40 years, and recent improvements are seeing more and more people with the syndrome live into adulthood.
As numbers of adult survivors increase, there is a need for medical information to help patients, doctors and parents of children with the syndrome to make informed decisions.
To address this problem, Dr. Rachel Wald, a Clinical Researcher at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, led a study that compiled existing data from seven health centres from around the world to shed light on the health of adults with hypoplastic left heart syndrome for the first time.
Her team looked specifically at one of the most common surgical treatments for the syndrome, known as the Fontan procedure. The procedure works by redirecting blood flow so that the heart is able to pump blood to the body.
Dr. Wald explains, “Our international study focuses on the outcomes of patients older than 18 years who received the Fontan procedure in childhood but are now in adult care for a mean duration of 3 years. We were concerned to see that around a quarter of those who received the procedure faced major health complications at various points during the study period.”
The study also revealed that common risk factors associated with heart disease, such as lower oxygen levels in the blood and exercise intolerance, were also associated with complications after the Fontan procedure.
By providing the first description of health outcomes of adults who have received the Fontan procedure, this study represents an important first step to providing individuals and families affected by hypoplastic left heart syndrome with the tools they need to make informed treatment decisions.
This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the University of Toronto Dean’s Fund and the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation.
Wilson WM, Valente AM, Hickey EJ, Clift P, Burchill L, Emmanuel Y, Gibson P, Greutmann M, Grewal J, Grigg LE, Gurvitz M, Hickey K, Khairy P, Mayer JE Jr, Teo E, Vonder Muhll I, Roche SL, Silversides CK, Wald RM. Outcomes of Patients With Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Reaching Adulthood After Fontan Palliation: Multicenter Study. Circulation. 2018 Feb 27. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.031282.
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Scientist Dr. Trevor Pugh has received one of five 2018 Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards from Stand Up To Cancer. The US $250,000 grant, awarded to Dr. Pugh and his collaborator Dr. David Barrett from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, aims to promote collaboration among cancer researchers.
Drs. Pugh and Barrett will use the funds to develop personalized medicine tests for children with cancer. Specifically, they will examine the genetic makeup of patients’ immune cells involved in mounting anti-cancer responses. The researchers will develop ways to use this genetic information to match patients with clinical trials of drugs that are designed to boost the immune system’s anti-cancer response. This treatment strategy, called immunotherapy, is one of today’s most promising approaches to treat cancer.
One unique aspect of this award is how quickly projects are selected, approved and funded: the entire process takes just a few weeks. This is done so that the research can begin right away. This year, the selection committee placed particular emphasis on teams of researchers who had not worked together in the past—with the aim of bringing the researchers closer together so that they can better leverage and share resources and expertise.
The Sharp Awards are sponsored by Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable organization that raises funds “to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now.” They are named after Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, winner of the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1993 and chair of Stand Up To Cancer’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Dr. Pugh and Dr. Barrett’s specific Sharp Award was co-sponsored by the Emily Whitehead Foundation, whose mission is “to raise awareness and funding for innovative childhood cancer treatments, such as immunotherapy, that will improve survival rates and quality of life.”
The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) is hosting an event at MaRS on Tuesday April 17 starting at 4:00pm. The event is open to the public and will bring together science policy stakeholders to participate in an interactive and engaging panel session on the 2018 federal budget and its implications for science, innovation and society.
Decoding the Federal Budget 2018 for Science and Innovation
Location: MaRS Discovery District, 101 College Street, Room CR-3
Date: April 17, 2018
Time: 4:00 – 6:00pm
The session will be led by David Watters, who has worked for 30 years in the Public Service of Canada. His past roles include a dozen years as an Assistant Deputy Minister in Industry Canada, Treasury Board Canada and Finance Canada, where he was responsible for overseeing federal economic development, budgets and corporate finance policies.
CSPC is committed to keeping the community up to date and informed regarding science, technology, and innovation policy issues. Regarding the Federal Budget 2018, CSPC has published featured editorials on sciencepolicy.ca, including an exclusive interview with the Federal Minister of Science, Hon. Kirsty Duncan.
Welcome to the April issue of Research Spotlight.
This newsletter highlights top research advancements from the five research institutes and over 450 appointed researchers at UHN. As Canada’s largest research hospital, UHN is a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care.
Stories in this month’s issue:
● FEELING GOOD AFTER CANCER: New eight-week program enhances body image and well-being of breast cancer survivors.
● A RISK UNCOVERED: Researchers have uncovered why only a subset of diabetic patients develop kidney disease.
● CAN THE FLU TRIGGER A HEART ATTACK? Study reveals new strategy to help prevent heart attacks: stop the spread of the flu.
● BUT WHY DOES IT WORK? While deep brain stimulation is effective for controlling tremor in Parkinson Disease, a new study helps us understand why.
Also included is information about UHN’s participation in the upcoming March for Science Toronto, which is happening on Saturday April 14.