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Holder of first university chair in suicide research in North America bringing together international experts in biomarkers, social risk factors for suicide

Toronto, March 15, 2016

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Sid Kennedy
Dr. Sid Kennedy

The holder of the first university chair in suicide research in North America is organizing an international conference this week bringing together people who research biomarkers for people at risk of committing suicide with those who look at the social risk factors such as childhood abuse or an unstable family life.

Dr. Sid Kennedy is a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and a researcher in its Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. He was recently appointed to the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide Studies, established in memory of a Toronto physician who took his own life at age 36 after a long struggle with manic depression. Dr. Kennedy is only the second person to hold the chair, which was created as a joint chair with the University of Toronto in 1997.

Dr. Kennedy’s work focuses on mood disorders, including the evaluation of treatment-resistant depression through deep brain stimulation. He also leads a multicenter study looking for biomarkers of depression, which could allow clinicians to identify high risk groups and generate new targets for drug treatment and other therapies. The Canadian Biomarker Integration Network for Depression, or CAN-BIND study, funded by the Ontario Brain Institute, collects data on patient treatments, symptoms of depression, stress and lifestyle factors, and compares it to brain images, EEGs and blood samples.

“Research in suicide is severely underfunded and also difficult to conduct,” Dr. Kennedy said. “As a result, biological research in this area has not proliferated as it has in other fields despite suicide being a major health concern. Our aim is to establish the International Neurobiological Suicide Network (INSuN), which will bring together experts from North America and Europe to set common goals for collaborative research and the potential for larger team projects.”

Collaboration among different research institutes, but also involving multiple countries, is a growing trend in medical research. A clinical trial that requires 3,000 patients to provide enough data to answer a complicated question could take more than a decade to complete in one institution. But if multiple institutions took part, each having to enroll only 300 patients, a typical trial could wrap up in two or three years.

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 arrange an interview, please contact:

Leslie Shepherd
Manager, Media Strategy, St. Michael's Hospital
416-864-6094
shepherdl@smh.ca