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UM and UBC lead groundbreaking research to improve gut health

Funding to support innovative approaches to managing gastrointestinal diseases

June 4, 2024 — 

Researchers from the University of Manitoba and the University of British Columbia have secured a $250,000 grant from the Government of Canada through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (Exploration) to lead a groundbreaking project aimed at developing new treatments for gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. The University of Alberta is also involved as a partner.

This collaborative project focuses on using type III interferons (IFN-Lambda, IFN-L), which uniquely combat inflammation without damaging the gut. These proteins differ from other interferons that often exacerbate GI conditions. The researchers aim to engineer longer-acting versions of IFN-L and use nanoparticle technology to deliver these proteins precisely to the gut.

This project brings together an interdisciplinary team with expertise in immunology, gut physiology, biomedical engineering and glycochemistry to develop this cutting-edge technology to harness the dual function of IFN-L to promote gut health, and to selectively regulate immune cells contributing to GI inflammation and damage.

Dr. Deanna Santer, assistant professor in immunology at the Max Rady College of Medicine, is the nominated principal investigator on the project.

“If successful, our newly developed class of therapies could improve the lives of millions of patients suffering from inflammatory GI diseases around the world,” said Santer.

The targeted approach is novel to think beyond current treatments that can suppress the immune system, and instead promote beneficial immune-related healing pathways. The team will conduct initial tests using animal models to refine the delivery mechanisms and dosages, setting the stage for potential human trials.

Dr. Mario Pinto, Vice President (Research and International), expressed optimism about the project’s impact: “This significant investment from the New Frontiers in Research Fund empowers our researchers to pursue cutting-edge solutions to manage and treat gastrointestinal diseases. Congratulations to the research team for this exciting opportunity to advance health research and make lasting impacts in their fields.”

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

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