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Andrew Halayko, a doctor with salt and pepper hair and black rimmed glasses, smiling

Andrew Halayko, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Airway Cell and Molecular Biology, is looking forward to the potential outcomes that will emerge from newly funded network. // Photo: Dan Gwozdz

Canadian respiratory research network launched

February 24, 2014 — 

A new network of national researchers has received over $7 million in federal and private funding to help discover why 20 per cent of smokers are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) while 80 per cent are not.

“That’s not to say 80 per cent don’t get sick with other smoking related illnesses, it just means they’re not diagnosed with this specific disease,” explains Dr. Andrew Halayko, professor in departments of physiology & internal medicine in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, who was joined by Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), announced the funding in Ottawa today for three pan-Canadian research networks: the Canadian Respiratory Research Network (CCRN), the Canadian Stroke Prevention Intervention Network, and the Canadian Vascular Network. The networks will bring together Canada’s best minds in respiratory health, stroke, and vascular health research.

Halayko was appointed the director of training and mentoring for the CCRN. The Emerging Network will receive $4.2 million from CIHR over the next five years with matching funds of $2.5 million from industry and not-for-profit organizations such as the Canadian Lung Association.

Manitoba has a unique repository that’s decades old. “We have developed a bio bank of human lung cells and tissue donated by consenting adult patients. Physicians from across Canada will send samples so Manitoba will become the hub for that,” says Halayko, also a research scientist at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health.

Halayko will lead the discovery platform, a basic research platform that’s embedded within the network; it includes researchers from the Universities of Calgary, McGill and McMaster.

“Dr. Halayko has been a leader in developing the concept for the network and ensuring it comes to fruition through efforts to align it with the national respiratory research strategy,” said Dr. Brian Postl, Dean of Medicine and Dean, Vice-Provost (Health Sciences). “The collaborative research conducted through the network will have direct patient impact and make a difference on a global level.”

Director of the CCRN Dr. Shawn Aaron, Head of Respirology at The Ottawa Hospital, Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, will lead the network’s main objective of identifying and/or diagnosing disease sooner and to better understand why people get sick with so that health care providers can intervene.

Halayko further explains that there is a large population of individuals out there who are sick but don’t know it; by the time they see a physician it’s essentially a palliative condition. COPD is becoming the fourth leading killer worldwide.

The Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Airway Cell and Molecular Biology is looking forward to the potential outcomes that will emerge for those suffering from COPD and asthma as a result of the network’s findings.

“It’s very exciting for me because it plugs in to the leading scientists in Canada, who are also the leading lung health scientists in the world,” he says. “Clinical studies make your basic research really relevant so that when you make a discovery it doesn’t take four to eight years to make a difference.”

Click here to learn more about the network and view the list of theme leaders.

For more information contact Ilana Simon, Director of Communications & Marketing, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, 204-789-3427, (cell) 204-295-6777 or ilana [dot] simon [at] med [dot] umanitoba [dot] ca



Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.


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