Faculty members awarded $8.6 million in funding from CIHR
Eleven research projects in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) have been awarded a total of $8.6 million in funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Spring 2021 Project Grant Competition. The CIHR is Canada’s federal agency for funding health research. Their Project Grants are designed to support researchers at any career stage build and conduct health-related research and knowledge translation projects. Of the eleven successful grants, one project received Priority Announcement funding, and another received Bridge funding.
The successful FHS researchers are Drs. Amer Johri, Janet Jull, Lois Mulligan, Mark Ormiston, Louise Winn, Andrew Craig, Fernanda De Felice, Qingling Duan, Kerstin de Wit, and Jeannie Callum. The full list of this year’s recipients can be viewed here on the CIHR’s website. For more information on each FHS recipient and their funded projects please see below.
Dr. Amer Johri
Dr. Johri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine. His funded research project, which received a Priority Announcement Grant, is titled: Accelerated Remote Consultation Tele-POCUS In Cardiopulmonary Assessment (ARCTICA).
Point-of-Care ultrasound (POCUS) is a powerful tool in the management of patients with common symptoms, as it is able to provide a quick and accurate picture of the heart and lungs. While POCUS devices are widely available, not all providers have the training and expertise to conduct POCUS. Dr. Johri’s research is focused on the creation of a virtual teaching program and consultation service (Tele-POCUS) for providers who currently do not use POCUS in their regular practice. The program will begin at 7 geographically remote sites across Canada. In this way, the expert knowledge of heart and lung ultrasound specialists will be put into the hands of providers in smaller and underserved hospitals. ARCTICA is partnered with the Canadian Cardiovascular Society which also awarded seed funding following the program's top rank in the national competition: Covid-19 Challenge for Canada Initiative.
Dr. Janet Jull
Dr. Jull is an Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. She is the principal investigator for two projects funded by the CIHR Spring 2021 Project Grant Competition. Her first research project is titled: Aajiiqatigiinniq: A field-test of shared decision making education for healthcare providers who work with Inuit.
The use of healthcare by Inuit (and other Indigenous groups) are complicated by negative experiences with the healthcare system. The goal of Dr. Jull’s research is to develop and test shared decision making (SDM) education, a strategy that promotes client participation in health decisions, for healthcare providers who work with Inuit. Using a collaborative research approach, Dr. Jull and an Inuit-led and service provider team will be guided by Inuit societal values in their work. Their plan is to use mixed research methods to do a research study. They will understand what healthcare providers need to learn to support Inuit clients in their health decisions and will then develop SDM education for health care providers. They will assess whether the SDM education is helpful for health care providers to make health decisions with Inuit.
Her second funded project, which received a Bridge Funding grant, is titled: Indigenous community research partnerships: A community-centred research approach to develop and conduct Indigenous evaluation of an open access training resource
Inuit, Métis and First Nations ("Indigenous") populations have the highest rates of health burdens in relation to the general populations living in Canada. This is the direct result of Canadian government policies that have undermined opportunities for Indigenous populations to address community-level needs and improve outcomes. With a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, Dr. Jull will evaluate a training resource designed to provide guidance for researchers on how to conduct research that reflects expectations for ethical, collaborative, and culturally supportive engagement with Indigenous individuals and communities. Their evaluation will be carried out in a way that meets Indigenous community priorities and needs and utilizes local Indigenous knowledge through a community-centred approach.
Dr. Lois Mulligan
Dr. Mulligan is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and a Principal Investigator at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute. Her funded research project is titled: Investigating the Regulation of RET Receptor-Mediated Perineural Invasion and Metastasis.
The RET protein is a cell surface molecule that helps convey messages from outside the cell as part of its normal roles in human development. However, in some cancers, such as tumours of the pancreas, RET can help tumour cells to spread by following a trail of signals that leads them to move toward and along nerves that lie close to the tumour. Dr. Mulligan’s research aims to better understand the mechanisms that contribute to RET's roles in cancer invasion and spread. She will identify the key protein interactions and signals RET requires to promote invasion and also determine whether blocking or reducing these signals can prevent cancer invasion and reduce the pain it causes.
Dr. Mark Ormiston
Dr. Ormiston is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. His funded research project is titled: Targeting bone morphogenetic protein-9 as an angioproliferative switch in pulmonary arterial hypertension.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a fatal disease which involves the disordered and uncontrolled growth of blood vessels in the lung. This overgrowth leads to obstruction of these vessels, and eventual heart failure. Dr. Ormiston’s research will study the effect that a circulating protein called BMP9 has on PAH, which he hypothesizes can serve as a "switch" that either promotes or prevents vascular growth. This information will be used to develop and test candidate drugs that restore the normal growth-limiting response to BMP9 among PAH patients, with the goal of developing new treatments that are grounded in the genetics of the disease.
Dr. Louise Winn
Dr. Winn is a Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and the School of Environmental Studies. Her funded research project is titled: Mechanisms of in utero-initiated benzene toxicity.
When a pregnant woman is exposed to therapeutic drugs or environmental chemicals her unborn child may be at increased risk for the development of cancer after birth. Benzene has been associated with an increase in childhood leukemias, as it can cause DNA damage which may lead to problems in the mechanism of how cells communicate. Through her research Dr. Winn will study the ways in which benzene disrupts the development of early blood cell formation. This will help create more effective monitoring strategies and improve human health assessments, which will ultimately increase the prevention of childhood cancers.
Dr. Andrew Craig
Dr. Craig is Associate Head Research in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and a Principal Investigator at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute. His funded research project, a collaboration with Adjunct Assistant Professor Tomas Babak, is titled: Translating synthetic lethality with common driver events into targeted therapies for high fatality cancers
Cancer continues to be a leading cause of death for Canadians and several types of cancer lack effective therapies. Dr. Craig’s research uses functional genomic screening methods to define new genetic susceptibilities in several high-risk cancers, including breast, pancreatic and brain cancers. His team will leverage these results to test new forms of targeted therapy in these cancer models using clinically approved drugs when possible. The impacts of this study will include a better understanding of cancer biology, and the identification of viable new therapies for genes that are frequently mutated in high-risk cancers.
Dr. Fernanda De Felice
Dr. De Felice is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and Psychiatry. Her funded research project is titled: Investigating the role of exercise-linked irisin in Alzheimer's disease.
Despite the fact that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in Canada is increasing rapidly, how exactly the brain becomes dysfunctional in AD is still uncertain. Dr. De Felice’s research will investigate the role of irisin, a novel hormone boosted by physical exercise, in memory processes. Dr. De Felice’s research will determine if a gene therapy approach that increases irisin can reproduce or boost the beneficial actions of exercise in memory. Counteracting decreases in brain irisin, has the potential to keep brain cells healthy and connected, and effectively combat loss of brain function, including memory, in AD.
Dr. Qingling Duan
Dr. Duan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and the School of Computing. Her funded research project is titled: Early Determinants of Lung Function and Asthma.
Asthma affects 14% of Canadian children, is a leading cause of hospitalizations and costs the Canadian healthcare system over $2 billion per year. It is difficult to diagnose in young children due to variable and fluctuating symptoms and the lack of standardized tests. These challenges delayed diagnosis and hinder the study of risk factors for early-onset lung disease. Dr. Duan’s research aims to identify novel risk factors of asthma during this critical window of early childhood. The knowledge gained from this proposed study will inform on mitigation strategies to reduce the burden of asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases through public policy and educating the public as well as health care providers.
Dr. Kerstin de Wit
Dr. de Wit is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Her funded research project is titled: Selective neuroimaging for head-injured emergency patients who take anticoagulant medication.
People who take blood thinners are told to go to the emergency department if they have a head injury, and due to the assumed high risk of developing a brain bleed, guidelines advise having a head CT scan even if the head injury is minor. Although CT scans are safe, unnecessary scans cause longer wait times and delay scans for people who really need them. Dr. de Wit’s research will develop a new test which will tell doctors if a CT scan is actually required. This will not only reduce unnecessary CT scans but also allow physicians to immediately reassure many patients that they do not have a brain bleed.
Dr. Jeannie Callum
Dr. Callum is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine. Her funded research project is titled: Prospective, multicentre, randomized, parallel-control, superiority study comparing administration of clotting factor concentrates with a standard massive hemorrhage protocol in severely bleeding trauma patients.
When a patient is severely injured the most common cause of death is uncontrollable bleeding, which in part, results from loss of clotting factors in the blood. For the last 70 years, plasma (liquid part of blood) has been the most common treatment used. In the last 10 years, plasma has been replaced with manufactured and virtually inactivated safer clotting factor concentrates at some hospitals and is standard of care in many European hospitals. Dr. Callum’s research will compare these two treatments in 450 severely injured patients at 11 hospitals in Canada. If the clotting factor concentrates are shown to improve patient outcomes, the new strategy would be a major safety advance in trauma care.