U of G Receives $2.2 Million for Health Research

May 07, 2008 - News Release

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is investing more than $2.2 million in University of Guelph research projects aimed at preventing and treating health conditions such as cancer, viral infections, aging and obesity.

The U of G grants are part of a $298-million investment for 764 health projects at universities and health research institutions across Canada that were announced today.

"This is wonderful news," said Steven Liss, interim vice-president (research). "This investment is essential to the health and well-being of Canadians. The advances that our researchers are making are at the forefront of discovery and innovation. We are extremely pleased with the support and recognition that comes with CHIR funding and the leadership that our researchers play in life science research."

Three of the projects are headed by faculty in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Ontario Veterinary College: Dean Betts, Jim Petrik, Roger Moorehead and Gordon Kirby.

Betts received $446,544 for a four-year study on p66Shc, the gene that determines when cells stop dividing. Understanding how it works could reveal ways to slow down and even reverse the aging process and lead to therapies for treating cancer and improve infertility treatments.

"We’re quite excited to receive this CIHR grant," said Betts. "It acknowledges the importance of using the unique cellular models we have developed here at the University of Guelph and will enable us to tease out a novel pathway involved in cell aging."

Petrik and Moorehead will use their $277,608 grant for a three-year study on ovarian cancer. "We will now be able to aggressively pursue a greater understanding of ovarian cancer and will be able to identify markers of early-stage disease," Petrik said. "We can also begin work on developing novel therapeutic approaches to cause tumour regression in women with ovarian cancer. We sincerely hope the work made possible by this grant will improve our detection and treatment of this disease."

Kirby is also conducting cancer-related research, receiving a three-year, $266,274 grant to look at enzymes that protect against carcinogens and anti-cancer drugs and control cellular responses to stresses, and whether they can be effective targets for drug intervention.

In the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, Prof. Marica Bakovic received $553,140 to conduct a five-year study on the behaviour of lipid genes in order to find ways of overcoming malfunctions. Improper lipid balance is the main risk factor for developing chronic diseases such as insulin resistance, obesity and atherosclerosis (clogging, narrowing and hardening of the arteries).

Prof. Ray Lu of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology is also examining biological functions. He will use his $565,975, five-year grant to continue his research on the interactions of two novel human proteins — Luman and Zhangfei. His work will help solve the mystery of the latency of the herpes simplex virus, as well as lead to better understanding of gene regulation in cancer, diabetes and viral infections.

"My lab team and I are all very excited and encouraged by the good news of my grant renewal," Lu said. "The continued support from CIHR is essential for us to carry on our research in this important and rapidly developing field."

U of G scientists will be collaborating with Chinese researchers as part of a joint initiative on stem cell research headed by Prof. Julang Li of the Department of Animal and Poultry Science. Li received $89,550 to examine whether in vitro culture influences genome stability of somatic stem cells. The work will provide insight into whether it's safe to use such cells for tissue therapy purposes.

In addition, two faculty members in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition received grants to further their research efforts. Janis Randall-Simpson will use her nearly $20,000 grant to bring the preschooler nutrition screening tool NutriSTEP she developed with colleague Prof. Heather Keller to the World Wide Web. Keller also received the Betty Havens Award for Knowledge Translation in Aging and will use the $20,000 to continue her work on nutrition screening for the elderly.

CIHR is Canada’s premier health research funding agency, supporting more than 8,500 researchers in universities, teaching hospitals and research institutes nationwide.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or l.hunt@exec.uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1