Success in research

Over the last six months I have had the opportunity to meet with some incredibly talented and invested researchers in our College of Medicine.  What is truly unique about the research enterprise is the unbelievably rich environment to undertake collaborative research both within the CoM and between the colleges and institutes on the U of S campus.

The infrastructure and environment within the Health Sciences Centre aims to build on the “TEAM” approach to science and discovery.  I have not had the opportunity to personally meet all of the cluster leaders, but the effort is well underway.  We are making steady progress.  The Council of Health Sciences Deans is committed to the process and, as a co-chair with Dean Lorna Butler, we will continue to support the TEAM approach to research.

At this stage, our biomedical sciences are continuing to have success at both the provincial and national levels and I have highlighted a few of their projects below.  More importantly, I am working to further support our research agenda and exploring ways of involving the dean’s office to the research enterprise.

In this regard, Dr. Gordon McKay, the CoM’s Vice Dean of Research, and his team need to be fully supportive of the researchers in the College.  We are exploring a number of ways to ensure this happens, including the embedding of the Vice Dean’s office more clearly within the research structure of the College.

As I mentioned I wanted to highlight a few of the many active projects currently underway and also a few of our successes in research funding, and awards at the College of Medicine.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Think of it more like scratching the surface of the research success achieved by our colleagues.  In these few highlights, I hope you will have a sense of the breadth of work being done.  These folks all deserve some recognition:

Dr. Darryl Adamko was awarded both a $120,000 SHRF Establishment Grant for his research into better diagnosing asthma and COPD, as well as a $20,000 grant from Cystic Fibrosis Canada for ‘Improved diagnosis and management of CF: A pilot study to develop a metabolomics approach to cystic fibrosis.’

A $110,000 SHRF Establishment grant was awarded to Dr. Camelia Adams for her biopshychosocial exploration of the relationship between childhood trauma, adult attachment and the severity of depression and social anxiety.

Dr. Lane Bekar received the top award in the 2014 SHRF Establishments Grant program this year. His research focuses on understanding how the immune system changes under conditions of chronic stress and its role in the increases of chronic neurodegenerative conditions seen in society today.

A Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Center for Nuclear Innovation grant awarded to Dr. Paul Babyn and colleagues will be used to create the Saskatchewan Molecular Imaging Centre (SMIC) – a state-of-the-art research facility – to drive molecular imaging innovation. Molecular imaging is a powerful technique that is revolutionizing our understanding of the biology of living organisms by enabling real-time, non-invasive studies at the tissue, cellular, and sub-cellular level using custom synthesized short-lived isotopomers. This imaging initiative will be unique in Canada, applicable to molecular imaging in humans, animals, and plants.

Dr. Yalena Amador Canizares was awarded a SHRF Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Dr. Joyce Wilson on her Hepatitis C research.  Her research aims to discover how Hepatitis C Virus infections are promoted at a cellular level and then use the information to develop new ways to inhibit the virus and treat HCV infected patients.

Dr. Linda Chelico was awarded a 5 year renewal of her CIHR operating grant to continue her studies of the role of the APOBEC enzymes in HIV infections.  She was also asked to continue as a member of the CIHR Virology and Viral Pathogenesis research grants evaluation committee, and was also invited to join the group of reviewers evaluating applications in Stage 1 of the CIHR Foundation Scheme: 2014 1st Live Pilot competition

Dr. John Gordon and his research colleagues have been studying how to treat asthma, multiple sclerosis and peanut allergen-induced anaphylaxis shock using a humanized model in mice. Based on the results they have developed a strategy of treatment translatable to a clinical trial in humans.  This trial, in compliance with requirements from Health Canada, will hopefully begin within the next two years.  Dr. Gordon was awarded the 2014 SHRF Achievement Award for his scientific contributions at the local, national, and international level that have led to widespread recognition of his expertise and innovation.

Dr. John Howland won the U of S New Researcher of the Year award for 2014, and was part of a successful team grant funded by Brain Canada wherein he will receive $100,000 per year for three years.

The recent discovery of what may be a key component to understanding lung function in people with cystic fibrosis by Dr. Juan Ianowski and colleagues may lead to further discovery that will help the approximately 4,000 Canadians and countless others who suffer with CF.   Using a pig model, Dr. Ianowski et al are testing the minute layer of liquid in the lungs that normally protects the cells from attack by bacteria but reacts differently CF diseased lungs. Juan Ianowski was awarded a research grant from Cystic Fibrosis Canada of $74,000 per year for three years and was invited to be the keynote speaker at the North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference.Dr. Ivar Mendez’s work in stem cell therapy led not only to his work being featured in Scientific American Mind, but to Canadian and American patents for his Neural Transplantation Delivery.

Dr. Darrell Mousseau received widespread acclaim for his research into Alzheimer’s Disease, and the links between gender, depression, and Alzheimer’s.

A $165,000 innovation grant was awarded to Dr. Troy Harkness and his team by the Canadian Cancer Society to help continue his lymphoma research in dogs to help improve the effectiveness of similar treatments in humans with cancer.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation awarded Dr. Erique Lukong and Dr. Keith Bonham a three-year foundation grant for their project on ‘Epigenetic regulation of the FRK tumor suppressor gene in triple negative breast cancers.’

Dr. Stephan Milosavljevic won an $119,000 Establishment Grant from SHRF for his ‘Walking away from low pain: One step at a time’ study.  Dr. Milosavljevic’s research focuses on investigating the use of walking as a health strategy for chronic low back pain, especially among farmers.

How do you know for sure if you have a concussion?  Up until recently you didn’t – without a very high-tech brain imaging scan. Dr. Changiz Taghibiglou and his colleagues have found that head trauma can cause a specific brain cell molecule to loosen and circulate in the blood. These researchers are working towards the development of a blood test which could result in almost instant diagnosis on the football field, hockey rink and at the scene of accidents, resulting in better and quicker decision making for paramedics, sports trainers and other first responders.  Their discovery is also applicable for screening military service personnel exposed to battlefield blasts.  A patent for the test has been filled through the U of S Industry Liaison Office.

A new five year CIHR operating grant was awarded to Dr. Joyce Wilson for studies of the replications of Hepatitis C Virus.  She was also asked to continue as a member of the CIHR Virology and

Viral Pathogenesis research grants evaluation committee, and was invited to join the group of reviewers evaluating applications in Stage 1 of the CIHR Foundation Scheme: 2014 1st Live Pilot competition.

When the last RUH Foundation campaign reached $67,000 to buy a telemetry bed, Dr. José Tellez-Zenteno commissioned the artist, Eduardo Urbano Merino, to commemorate the occasion.  The painting called “Epilepsy – Leaving the Nightmare Behind.” A second campaign intended to benefit patients with epilepsy is soon to be underway and a second painting has been commissioned.  Watch for it next year.

Please remember, this is only a small sampling, but I hope it will give you all an appreciation for the expertise of your colleagues and teachers.  As you can see, it’s been a productive year for research in our college, and there are many more deserving projects, awards, and publications that haven’t been mentioned. The work being done across the college, in all the labs, is work that has the potential to make a difference in the lives of people across the globe, and it’s research that we’re all incredibly proud of.

In the New Year and beyond, I intend to highlight more of this good work and share it broadly through my blog.  I want to hear your stories and learn about your success, so as always, please do share them with me.

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