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Driving progress

April 25, 2014

By Alisa Kim

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awarded 12 Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) scientists operating grants totaling $3.2 million in its fall 2013 competitions.

“I congratulate each of our scientists on their awards. That their research was funded in what continues to be an extremely competitive environment speaks to the excellence of their work,” said Dr. Michael Julius, vice-president of research at SRI and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Dr. Graham Wright, director of the Schulich Heart Research Program at SRI, was awarded $820,920 over five years for his proposal, which was ranked first by a peer review committee in medical physics and imaging.

Wright will explore the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to improve care of patients with arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), which is associated with damage caused by reduced blood supply. He will use MRI to make spatial maps of injured heart tissue and correlate these with the heart’s electrical properties to characterize electrical signals in the heart. The aim of the research is to enhance the planning and evaluation of treatments that modify the heart’s electrical circuitry.

Other SRI faculty awarded grants include the following:

Dr. Isabelle Aubert, a senior scientist in Biological Sciences, was awarded a one-year bridge grant worth $100,000. She is studying the use of MRI-guided ultrasound to deliver therapeutics to the brain for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Dr. Peter Austin, a senior scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences, was awarded $214,103 over five years. He will use the funds to develop better statistical methods for health services research.

Dr. Sandra Black, director of the Brain Sciences Research Program, and Dr. Mario Masellis, a researcher in the program, were also awarded a bridge grant. They will use MRI analysis tools, genetic testing and cognitive assessments to measure long-term change in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, including AD, and cerebrovascular disease (brain disorders related to diseased blood vessels in the brain). Their aim is to improve diagnosis, customize treatment and improve monitoring of treatment response.

Dr. Charles Cunningham, a senior scientist in Physical Sciences, will receive $344,523 over three years to develop a noninvasive imaging method to measure metabolic changes associated with heart failure.

Dr. Paul Karanicolas, a clinician-scientist in the Odette Cancer Research Program, was awarded $248,319 over two years. He is conducting a clinical trial to evaluate whether a drug called tranexamic acid reduces blood loss and the need for blood transfusion after surgery to remove a tumour in the liver.

Dr. Dennis Ko, a clinician-scientist in the Schulich Heart Research Program, was awarded $443,022 over three years to assess the quality of care of patients who have had a cardiac arrest out of hospital.

Dr. Bradley MacIntosh, an imaging physicist in the Brain Sciences Research Program, was awarded $360,376 over four years. He will test whether aerobic exercise yields brain benefits among people with neurological deficits caused by damage to small blood vessels in the brain.

Drs. Neil Rector and Peggy Richter, researchers in the Brain Sciences Research Program, will receive $362,414 over three years to test whether aerobic exercise is beneficial in treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Dr. Baiju Shah, a scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences, was awarded $229,490 over three years. He will study whether the short period of high blood sugars in women with gestational diabetes is enough to cause early signs of diabetes complications in the eye and kidney.

A catalyst for innovative research

Black was also awarded a catalyst grant worth $100,000 over two years. She will use the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database to identify adults treated with drugs to control high blood pressure and compare variations in brain damage and cognitive abilities between individuals in different medication groups.

MacIntosh was also awarded a catalyst grant. He will use imaging data from the same database to look for biomarkers of cerebrovascular disease, which plays a role in the progression of AD.

The federal funding agency received 2,527 grant applications and approved 479 of them, for a funding rate of 19%. Over the next six years, CIHR will invest $240 million in support of approved projects from this funding round.

Dr. Graham Wright