Health research programs secure federal funding

Research funding

Health research programs secure federal funding

Ten successful Queen’s research applicants will receive a total of $6.48 million.

By Catarina Chagas

March 6, 2023


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have released the results of their latest Project Grant competition. Seven Queen’s researchers were awarded funds for projects spanning from cancer to autism and social determinants of health. Another three researchers were listed as Priority Announcements, that provide additional sources of potential funding to projects that are relevant to CIHR and partners. In total, Queen’s secured $6.48 million in federal funding for health research.

“Queen’s researchers are at the forefront of novel advances in health research,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “The impact of their work is felt around the world and in our local communities as they work to improve quality of life for all. This funding from CIHR will help researchers at Queen’s build on this momentum and translate research into action.”

Learn more about the funded researchers and their programs:

Project Grant awardees

Bruce Banfield (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) is an expert on viruses, with a focus on the study of the herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2). Both viruses cause lifelong infections for which there is no cure, and which can be severe in people with compromised immune systems. Dr. Banfield’s research program aims to deepen our understanding of HSV replication with an aim to identifying new antiviral drug targets. Funding amount: $856,800.

Elizabeth Kelley (Psychology, Psychiatry, and Centre for Neuroscience Studies) focuses on autistic children and adolescents, investigating everything from patterns of early development in autism to depression in autistic adolescents. She will test an online program to teach parents across Ontario how to encourage social-communication behaviours and discourage behaviours that interfere with their children’s learning. One of her main goals is that the virtual platform can help reduce the wait for treatment and make it more accessible for families in rural and remote communities. Funding amount: $439,875.

Christopher Mueller (Queen’s Cancer Research Institute) has been investigating new strategies to extend the lives of women with metastatic breast cancer. He led the development of a blood test that will be used to determine if a given patient is responding well to the treatment of choice within the first few weeks of therapy. This grant will allow the team to start a clinical trial in Kingston and Ottawa that will show if the new blood test can be used to guide clinical decisions and help physicians provide the most effective treatment for each patient. Funding amount: $891,226.

Maria Ospina (Public Health Sciences) is an epidemiologist and population health researcher focusing on maternal and perinatal health. In this project in collaboration with the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, McMaster University, and Cork University (Ireland) she will recruit 600 pregnant persons and assess them and their babies up to three years after birth. The proposed research will evaluate whether mothers’ social living conditions influence the gut bacteria of the mother and child, and whether gut bacteria is a biological link that explains how maternal social circumstances influence their mental health and child’s neurodevelopment. Funding amount: $1,350,225.

Patrick Stroman (Centre for Neuroscience Studies) develops methods to apply functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to the study of the central nervous system. This research program will explore fMRI to investigate pain in patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that, while it affects roughly a million people in Canada, is poorly understood. The team will look at why people with fibromyalgia experience heightened pain, exploring the neurobiological basis of pain. Funding amount: $646,425

Xiaolong Yang (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) researches how cancer initiates, progresses, and resists to drugs. This program will investigate the role of a group of genes called “Hippo” in breast cancer spreading and metastasis. The results will inform the development of new treatment strategies that target metastasis, which accounts for over 90 per cent of breast cancer fatalities. Funding amount: $956,250

Shetuan Zhang (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) focuses on the molecular mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. In collaboration with Drs. Adrian Baranchuk and Mohammad El Diasty (Medicine), his current research is unravelling the role of inflammation enzymes in the most common complication following heart surgery: irregular heartbeat initiated in the atria (the two upper chambers of the heart). The goal is to explore novel ways to prevent and treat post-operative irregular heartbeat, which can cause adverse effects and even death. Funding amount: $1,048,050

Priority Announcements

Elijah Bisung (Kinesiology and Health Studies) is a health geographer whose current research activities focus the connections between health and the social and physical environments with an emphasis on bridging science and practice. This project focuses on the challenges brought on by COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Ghana, Guinea, and Liberia. Dr. Bisung is working with partners at University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, University of Allied Health Sciences, Ghana and Centre d’Excellence Africain pour la Prévention et le Contrôle des Maladies Transmissibles (CEA-PCMT) to explore strategies to build and sustain trust in public health institutions. Funding amount: $100,000.

Josee-Lyne Ethier (Oncology) conducts population-based research to evaluate the effectiveness of cancer therapies. In this program, she will examine data from patients that received ovarian cancer treatment in Ontario to identify if maintenance therapy after surgery and chemotherapy led to better long-term outcomes, delaying recurrence and prolonging survival. Funding amount: $100,000.

Chandrakant Tayade (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) is an expert on endometriosis, a disease in which the lining of the uterus – or endometrium – grows on other organs in the pelvic cavity, such as bowel, bladder, and ovaries. Endometriosis can lead to infertility, but there’s still no cure for it, and the diagnostic requires an invasive surgical procedure. This research program will study the use of interleukin 33 (IL-33), a protein associated with lesion growth, blood supply and pain in endometriosis, to develop new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies. Funding amount: $100,000.

Learn more about the grants on the CIHR website.

Transitions in Care

CIHR also announced the results of its team grant Transitions in Care, in partnership with The Rossy Foundation. A multi-institutional team led by Queen's Professor Anne Duffy (Psychiatry) received $480,000 from CIHR, plus $480,000 from the funding partner, to further develop a novel translational research program. The team works in partnership with students to engage them, from entry to university and over the course of undergraduate studies, in a conversation about their mental health using a digital survey. Findings are translated into sustainable and scalable resources organized in a stepped care framework. The initiatives include a digital accredited mental health literacy course offered as an interdisciplinary elective and a digital wellbeing platform where students can access tailored wellbeing plans, wellbeing self-monitoring tools, and based on their entries, are signposted to wellness resources. This work is also being adapted and evaluated across six universities in the UK with the support of a large MRC grant, which allows the team to compare findings between universities and countries. Learn more.

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