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Four St. Michael’s scientists awarded Canada Research Chairs

Toronto, May 19, 2017

By Geoff Koehler

Drs. Juni, Lee, Gilbert and Straus
(clockwise, from top left) Drs. Peter Juni, Warren Lee, Sharon Straus and Richard Gilbert

Four St. Michael’s Hospital scientists were welcomed into the May 2017 group of The Canada Research Chairs Program. Two of the researchers had their Canada Research Chairs renewed and the other two were named chairs for the first time.

The Canada Research Chairs Program enables Canada to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds. Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Name Chairholder title Tier Type
Jüni, Peter Canada Research Chair in Clinical Epidemiology of Chronic Diseases 1 New
Lee, Warren L. Canada Research Chair in Mechanisms of Endothelial Permeability 2 New
Gilbert, Richard E. Canada Research Chair in Diabetes Complications 1 Renewal
Straus, Sharon Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Translation and Quality of Care 1 Renewal

Dr. Peter Jüni, director of the Applied Health Research Centre of St. Michael’s, was awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Clinical Epidemiology of Chronic Diseases. His clinical research program aims to transform care for patients with osteoarthritis. Dr. Jüni and his team will identify promising treatments and use randomized control trials to close the gaps in science’s present body of knowledge.

“We’ll focus on managing pain and improving physical function for patients with osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Jüni. “As patients with osteoarthritis and walking difficulties have an increased risk of heart conditions, our research will identify the most promising therapies and eventually develop a clinical trial to determine whether a combination of these therapies could not only improve physical function, but also save lives and reduce hospital admissions for heart conditions in these patients.”

Dr. Warren Lee, a researcher with St. Michael’s Hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and a physician in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit, was awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Mechanisms of Endothelial Permeability. His lab is studying how cholesterol or other molecules find their way through the endothelium — the blood vessel wall’s innermost lining.

“Until now, it’s been hard for researchers to see how things move through endothelial cells,” said Dr. Lee, who is also a researcher with the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (iBEST) — a partnership between Ryerson University and St. Michael’s. “Better understanding of how molecules get behind blood vessel cells could one day help researchers reduce cholesterol buildup that causes blocked arteries, improve insulin levels and blood sugar control for those with diabetes, or prevent tissue edema such as occurs during severe lung injury in critically ill patients.”

Dr. Richard Gilbert, scientist in the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and head of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for St. Michael’s, had his Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Diabetes Complications renewed.

“Patients with diabetes account for one-third of hospitalizations for heart failure and almost 50 per cent of kidney failure cases in Canada,” said Dr. Gilbert, who is also a researcher with iBEST partnership. “Despite the enormity of these problems, there has been a dearth of therapeutic advances in their treatment over the past 20 years. We’ll focus on finding therapies to prevent, stop and even reverse heart and kidney disease in diabetes.”

Dr. Sharon Straus, director of the Knowledge Translation Program at the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, was renewed for her Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Translation and Quality of Care. Her team seeks to address gaps between what research evidence shows and whether that evidence informs clinical practice or health system delivery.

“Health systems fail to optimally use evidence in decision making, which makes them less effective and reduces quality of life for the people the systems are meant to help,” said Dr. Straus. “In particular, my team will engage older adults and other stakeholders so that we can speed up knowledge translation that is patient-centred.”

Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs are for outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields. These last for seven years and are renewable. Tier 2 Chairs are for exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field. These last for five years and are renewable once. Click here for more information about Canada Research Chairs Program.

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 more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, 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.