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(L-R) Dan Vandal, Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Noralou Roos and Digvir Jayas at the Aug. 30, 2016 announcement.

(L-R) Dan Vandal, Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Noralou Roos and Digvir Jayas at the Aug. 30, 2016 announcement.

CIHR Foundation Grants awarded to U of M researchers

August 30, 2016 — 

Four University of Manitoba research projects are receiving more than $8 million in federal funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), with topics ranging from preventing cell death following a heart attack to improving the ways in which patient data are accessed and analyzed.

“These Foundation Grants will provide researchers stable long-term funding, allowing them to continue their groundbreaking work being done at the University of Manitoba and here, at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre,” said Dan Vandal, Member of Parliament for Saint Boniface – Saint Vital.

“I congratulate these researchers on the excellence of their research programs,” said Digvir Jayas, Vice-President (Research and International) at the University of Manitoba. “They are leaders in their fields and their research improves the quality of health and health care for the benefit of Manitobans and Canadians.”

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum (Director of Research Development, Professor, Physiology & Pathophysiology, Max Rady College of Medicine, U of M and Principal Investigator at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, joint institute of the University of Manitoba and the St. Boniface Research Centre) is receiving $3,286,318 over seven years for his study on regulation of programmed cell death in the heart following a heart attack.

Kirshenbaum is Canada Research Chair in Molecular Cardiology and his lab is located at St Boniface Research Centre. Presently, there are no clinical treatments that will prevent the heart cells from dying after heart attack.

The goal of this foundation grant is to understand the processes that cause heart cells to die during heart attack and use this information to devise new treatments that will prevent heart cells from dying and allow the heart to pump blood and prevent heart failure. This will have a positive impact on the Canadian healthcare system and improve quality of life of individuals with heart disease.

Dr. Salaheddin Mahmud (Community Health Sciences) is Canada Research Chair in Pharmacoepidemiology and Vaccine Evaluation in the Max Rady College of Medicine. He is receiving $956,485 over five years to develop a rapid analytics platform for influenza vaccine evaluation. Seasonal flu vaccines remain the mainstay of flu control, but their effectiveness, especially among the sick and elderly who need them the most, is questionable. Newer expensive vaccines with limited data have mushroomed raising the cost and complexity of vaccine programs.

Flu vaccine effectiveness is influenced by: vaccine potency and uptake; viral strain, infectivity and virulence and by host characteristics; factors that often vary by season, product and population. Mahmud is designing effective and sustainable ways of evaluating flu vaccines and understanding their complex interactions with viral, host and environmental factors.

Dr. Grant Pierce (Physiology & Pathophysiology, Max Rady College of Medicine and Executive Director of Research at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre), is receiving $2,806,392 over seven years for his work on Dietary Flaxseed as a Nutritional Intervention for Cardiovascular Disease. Current drugs used to control hypertension are costly, can induce unwanted side-effects and they are not always effective in controlling blood pressure (BP) in all hypertensive patients. Having a food that will control BP represents a less expensive intervention than drugs.

In the Foundation grant, Pierce and his team will continue our research with an on-going CIHR clinical trial to determine if flaxseed will lower BP in patients with high BP but without secondary disease, and also study if flaxseed can delay or reduce the need for anti-hypertensive drugs.

Drs. Noralou Roos and Alan Katz (Community Health Sciences/Manitoba Centre for Health Policy) will receive $1,048,310 over seven years for a study to develop new innovative methods to analyze clinical medical records using computer techniques. Analyzing these records allows the examination of factors that influence the health of Canadians and how we use public services.

With the development of new analysis techniques, there is great potential to conduct more in-depth research using unstructured data.  This proposal will employ these new techniques to analyze free text in the health and social data at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. Big data analytics will allow researchers to answer broader research questions that will help to improve clinical practice.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Foundation Grants provide long-term support for Canada’s research leaders to undertake innovative and high impact programs of research. The grant program is designed to contribute to a sustainable foundation of new, mid-career, and established health research leaders, by providing long-term support for the pursuit of innovative, high-impact research programs.

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

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