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Lucky number seven

Toronto, July 30, 2015

By Geoff Koehler

Rona Ambrose and Dr. Arthur Slutsky
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, and Dr. Arthur Slutsky, vice-president of Research, at St. Michael’s at an event in 2014.

Seven St. Michael’s Hospital scientists were among the top Canadian health researchers selected to receive Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundation Grants and another seven researchers were awarded CIHR Open Operating Grants. In total, St. Michael’s received nearly $14.2 million in research funding during these competitions.

The Foundation Grants — chosen from health research projects and programs from across Canada — are awarded to researchers on merit for their potential to understand the basic mechanisms of disease, improve disease prevention and treatment, and strengthen health care for Canadians.

This is the first year the CIHR — Canada’s federal funding agency for health research — has awarded Foundation Grants.

“It’s wonderful, but not surprising, that so many research teams from St. Michael’s were recognized for their impact,” said Dr. Arthur Slutsky, vice-president of Research for St. Michael’s and one of the hospital’s seven winners. “The multi-year Foundation Grants provide long-term support for research leaders to undertake innovative and high-impact research programs in Canada.”

Seven St. Michael’s investigators were selected for six Foundation Grants:

RESEARCHER PROJECT AMOUNT YEARS
Dr. Yvonne Bombard, who is a scientist in St. Michael’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute Integrating genomic technologies in health care: evidence, values and health policy. $976,589 5
Dr. Gillian Booth, who is a St. Michael’s endocrinologist and a scientist in the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute Building Healthier Cities: A Canadian initiative to identify environmental solutions to curb obesity. $1,250,340 7
Dr. Jonathon Maguire, who is a St. Michael’s pediatrician and a scientist in the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute TARGet Kids!: Optimizing human potential. $1,564,448 7
Dr. Sharmistha Mishra, who is a St. Michael’s infectious disease specialist and a scientist in the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute Mathematical modeling and epidemiology to inform HIV programs $1,327,031 5
Dr. Arthur Slutsky and Dr. Haibo Zhang, who are both scientists in St. Michael’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science Mechanisms and therapies of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). $2,588,884 7
Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, who is St. Michael’s Psychiatrist-in-chief and a scientist in the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute Improving mental health care for high-risk and disadvantaged populations. $1,427,647 7

“I’m thrilled for the opportunity to continue improving the evaluation and delivery of new genomic technologies and working with a stellar group of colleagues, mentors and collaborators,” said Dr. Yvonne Bombard, who has a PhD in Medical Genetics and is a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital. “Our research will provide high quality evidence on the values, health benefits and economic costs of adopting genome sequencing technologies in clinical practice."

More than $600 million was awarded through 650 grants to researchers working at universities and hospitals across Canada. One hundred and fifty of the grants awarded were new Foundation Grants, but the CIHR also awarded 500 Open Operating Grants. Together, these two programs support the best ideas proposed by Canada's health researchers.

St. Michael’s also had seven researchers awarded CIHR Open Operating Grants:

RESEARCHER PROJECT AMOUNT YEARS
Dr. Sunit Das, who is a St. Michael’s neurosurgeon with the Neuroscience Research Program and a scientist in the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science Targeting bevacizumb resistance via LIVE-mediated vascular mimicry in glioblastoma. $545,268 4
Dr. Navindra Persaud, who is a St. Michael’s family physician and a scientist with the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute Does regular xylitol use reduce the number of acute otitis media episodes in young children? A pragmatic RCT. $677,429 4
Dr. Emil Schemitsch, who is a St. Michael’s orthopedic surgeon and a scientist in the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute Operative versus Non-operative Treatment of Acute Unstable Chest Wall Injuries: A Multi-Centred Randomized Controlled Trial. $682,546 5
Dr. Katalin Szaszi, who is a scientist in St. Michael’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science Regulation and functions of Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factors in tubular epithelial cells. $645,653 5
Dr. Subodh Verma, who is a St. Michael’s cardiovascular surgeon and a scientist with the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and its Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute In vivo and translational role of endothelial autophagy in the regulation of vascular diseases. $612,036 5
Dr. Ron Wald, who is a St. Michael’s nephrologist and a scientist in the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute STandard versus Accelerated initiation of Renal Replacement Therapy in Acute Kidney Injury. $1,177,472 4
Dr. Darren Yuen, who is a St. Michael’s nephrologist and a scientist in the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science Targeting TAZ and YAP: a new approach to anti-fibrotic therapy in the kidney. $724,329 5

"Canada is home to exceptional health researchers,” said Dr. Alain Beaudet, president of the CIHR. “Our new Foundation Grants will provide stable, long-term support to some of these top minds so that they have the time and resources needed to find new ways of preventing disease, managing chronic conditions and enhancing health care delivery.”

Recipients of these grants were selected through a rigorous peer-review process – the internationally accepted benchmark for ensuring quality and excellence in scientific research.

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, joined Dr. Beaudet and the CIHR for this funding announcement in Calgary on July 28, 2015. She said the investment in research means better prevention, better treatment and better health care now and for future generations.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media contacts

For more information, or to speak with one of the winners, please contact:

Geoff Koehler
Senior Public Affairs Advisor
416-864-5960
koehlerg@smh.ca