New funding fuels health research


New funding fuels health research

Queen’s researchers secure over $15M in support from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to pioneer innovations and address critical health challenges.

By Justine Pineau

July 28, 2023


Corneal Fingerprint by Cassandra Brand, shows the structural βIII-tubulin component of mouse corneal nerves at their unique convergence point. This image was submitted to Queen's 2023 Art of Research Photo Contest.
Corneal Fingerprint by Cassandra Brand, Translational Medicine. Image submitted to Queen's 2023 Art of Research Photo Contest.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) recently announced the recipients of their Project Grant program, with Queen's University securing 12 of the competitive grants, with a total value of $15,456,824.

The program provides vital support to research projects across all domains of health and works to foster new, innovative, and high-risk lines of inquiry, as well as knowledge translation approaches. Projects selected for funding must show promise to advance fundamental or applied knowledge in health research, healthcare, health systems, or health outcomes.

The Queen’s-funded projects address critical health challenges. Moreover, they encourage diverse and collaborative research environments, where researchers across disciplines, professions, and sectors can join forces to create and apply health-related knowledge for the betterment of society.

“Queen’s researchers did incredibly well in this round of Project Grants, with a success rate almost 10 per cent above the national average,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “From investigating pathologies to developing new drugs and treatment strategies, these projects have the exciting potential to positively affect the health and well-being of many Canadians.”

Stephen L. Archer and Patricia Lima, Medicine, Translational Institute of Medicine (TIME), $979,200 
The role of mitochondria and the NLRP3 inflammasome in right ventricular failure in pulmonary arterial hypertension

Right ventricular failure (RVF) is the leading cause of death in people with pulmonary arterial hypertension and current therapies do not target the right ventricle (RV). This project will explore mechanisms of mitochondrial damage and define how mitochondrial DNA released from RV muscular and inflammatory cells contributes to inflammatory pathways that can cause RVF. It will also identify novel targets for therapeutics to treat inflammatory RV failure, such as inhibitors of the NLRP3 inflammasome, which regulates the immune system.

Kerstin de Wit, Emergency Medicine, $1,396,125
Canadian emergency department-oriented pulmonary embolism testing (CED-OPET study)

Pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs) is a life-threatening condition, but many patients are unnecessarily tested with costly and radiation-heavy chest scans, causing delays and increased expenses. This study will examine the effectiveness of a new bedside and blood test for pulmonary embolism in patients, as opposed to relying on CT scans.

Kimberly Dunham-Snary, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Medicine, $879,750
Targeting the mito-'ome: identifying circulating biomarkers of skeletal muscle mitochondrial health in cardiometabolic disease

Cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs) significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), affecting over 20 per cent of Canadians. This project will explore mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) signatures in various ancestry groups to understand genetic and molecular factors in CMDs and T2DM, enhancing early intervention and personalized care while addressing healthcare inequalities.

Nader Ghasemlou, Anesthesiology, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, $956,250
Circadian rhythm control of chronic pain and neuroinflammation: a bedside-to-bench study

Circadian rhythms play a crucial role in regulating various aspects of life, including immune and nervous system functions. This study will investigate mechanisms through which cell-intrinsic circadian rhythms affect chronic pain and immune cell function. Taking advantage of both human and preclinical studies, this work can potentially lead to new treatment strategies for chronic pain conditions and reduce reliance on opioids.

Annette Hay, Medicine, Canadian Cancer Trials Group, $3,056,172 
A phase III non-inferiority randomized controlled trial of fixed-duration daratumumab versus continuous daratumumab among transplant ineligible older adults with newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer. Current treatment options are associated with serious side effects, poor quality of life, and high costs. This clinical trial will compare the current standard treatment of continuous daratumumab, to a fixed shorter duration of treatment, seeking a safer and more cost-effective option for older adults with newly diagnosed myeloma.

Annette Hay, Medicine, Canadian Cancer Trials Group, $3,056,176 
The TACtful Trial: A first-in-human multi-centre trial of BCMA specific T-cell antigen coupler infusion, generated from cryopreserved G-CSF-mobilized peripheral blood, in patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma requires continuous treatment and frequent hospital visits. This first-in-human clinical trial will test a novel cellular therapy, designed to reduce side effects. The personalized treatment will be manufactured in Canada for each patient, using their own pre-stored blood cells. The outcomes of this study include a recommended treatment dose for further testing, and laboratory studies to understand how these treatments work biologically. 

Alyson Mahar, School of Nursing, Queen’s Cancer Research Institute, $256,274
Beyond the binary: Gender diversity in cancer health services research

Gender diverse people, including transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals, face potential disparities in cancer care and outcomes compared to other groups. Co-created by gender diverse people and using a community-based approach, this project will establish a foundation to strengthen Canadian cancer health services research capacity to consider, integrate, and apply a gender diversity lens within cancer research. The research team and advisory council will determine barriers and facilitators to including gender diversity in cancer research, identify gender diverse people’s priorities for inclusion and representation, and develop best practices for how to conduct better research that is equitable and inclusive.

Parvin Mousavi, School of Computing, $692,326
Real-time molecular-imaging guidance of breast conserving surgery

Breast cancer affects one in eight women and is a leading cause of female cancer-related deaths, with incomplete tumor resection often leading to additional surgeries and complications. In this project, Mousavi, co-investigators Jay Engel (Surgery) and Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and collaborators will propose the next-generation of breast conserving surgical intervention technology, NaviKnife, to allow for marked improvements in surgical outcomes. NaviKnife, a turnkey technology using real-time metabolomic tissue typing, artificial intelligence, and image-guided tracking, will aid surgeons in achieving complete tumor resection with minimal tissue loss in breast conserving surgery.

Douglas P. Munoz, Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, $1,002,150 
The diagnostic and prognostic utility of eye tracking in Parkinson's disease and related disorders

Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease (PD) strain the healthcare system, but diagnosing PD accurately is challenging due to similar conditions and subtypes. This project will develop an automated eye tracking tool for accurate differentiation and identification of neurodegenerative diseases like PD, progressive supranuclear palsy, and multiple system atrophy, enabling early diagnosis and personalized treatment planning to improve patient outcomes.

Wendy R. Parulekar, Canadian Cancer Trials Group, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, $1,602,675
Optimizing head and neck tumour and symptom control in patients unable to tolerate curative (radio) therapy: a phase III trial comparing stereotactic body radiation therapy to standard palliative radiation treatment

Patients with advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (AHNC) who are ineligible for standard curative radiotherapy, have limited palliative radiotherapy treatment options and poor outcomes. This project consists of a randomized phase III trial which will assess the effectiveness of dose escalated conformal radiotherapy, also known as stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). This novel treatment strategy may provide better survival rates and symptom control, offering a new treatment option for this patient population.

Chandrakant Tayade and Madhuri Koti, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, $914,176
Role of IL-33-innate lymphoid cells 2 (ILC2) pathway in endometriosis pathophysiology and therapeutic targeting

Endometriosis (EM) affects millions of women worldwide, causing infertility and recurring symptoms with no cure. This study will help establish foundational knowledge about the role of interleukin 33 derived Innate Lymphoid Cells 2 in the pathophysiology, potentially leading to new immune-based treatments targeting lesion growth and pain while preserving fertility in endometriosis patients.

Stephen Vanner, Department of Medicine, $665,500 
Developing a potent non-addictive analgesic as an alternative to conventional opioids

Opioids are needed to treat severe pain caused by inflammation or tumours, yet they are limited by their debilitating side effects and potential to cause addiction, which continues to devastate countless lives. This team, led by Dr. Vanner, has developed a new pain medication that is non-addictive and effective, which requires continued testing to help bring it to human trials.

For more information about the Project Grant program, visit the CIHR website.

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