Kudos August 2014



Mark Tyndall was featured in the Ottawa Citizen in an article entitled: Refugee health care and the power of advocacy. The article explains that most Canadians didn’t know very much about this program until the government started talking about “gold-plated health care” and “benefits offered to refugees that were better than Canadians received.” This was entirely false and even more damaging was a shift in our view of refugees from people who were fleeing persecution, war and famine to freeloaders who were out to abuse our generosity. For anyone involved in refugee health care this was ridiculous. Refugees have endured horrendous life experiences and free health care is well down the list of reasons to live in Canada.

Alexandre Stewart was interviewed in an Ottawa Citizen article entitled: Ottawa researchers discover how the heart disease gene works. Dr. Stewart is the senior author in a five-year study that discovered how a heart disease gene worked. The report was published in early May in Cell Reports. Dr. Stewart shows how a variant of gene SPG7 leads to a greater risk of heart disease.

James Chan was interviewed in an Ottawa Citizen article entitled: Hacking health project brings doctors and techies together. The article describes a few tech-based health solutions that could make life a lot easier for Dr. James Chan and his patients. “I have a lot of barriers preventing me from taking care of my patients well,” he says. It takes more than just doctors, who might lack programming expertise or hospital IT departments that “keep the computers running,” he says. Professionals from different fields need to work together, he says, to come up with new ways of approaching health using the technology that’s already available.

Shail Verma was interviewed by CTV and says the leading illnesses of the century, like heart disease and breast cancer, are women’s illnesses. That is why the hospital held a conference to discuss women’s health issues like breast cancer, ovarian cancer and heart disease. Jennifer Van Noort, at the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, says women of all levels of health and ages participated in the event.

Kumanan Wilson was interviewed for a Canadian Press news story concerning risks associated with the vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox (MMRV). Dr. Wilson advocates that, while the risk is very low, parents should nevertheless be informed of the increased risk of fever-induced seizures associated with the combined vaccine.

Michael Schlossmacher and David Park were featured in an Ottawa Sun article. Drs. Schlossmacher and Park have been awarded a five-year team grant in the amount of $2.5 million from CIHR to study the role of a specific gene (LRRK2) in three debilitating chronic diseases: Parkinson’s, Crohn’s and leprosy. Each involves the immune system in one capacity or another and LRRK2, which has been associated with an increased susceptibility for these diseases, is thought to play a role in regulating people’s immune system. The team will develop a detailed understanding of the role that the LRRK2 gene plays in regulating our immune system and how it can lead to the development of Parkinson’s, Crohn’s and leprosy.

Gonzalo Alvarez was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen, CBC and The Globe and Mail among others. Tuberculosis continues to be a significant public health concern in the North. Working with community partners, Dr.Alvarez and his team have found a way to improve detection of the deadly respiratory disease. They designed an awareness campaign with Inuit, from Iqaluit, that built on their traditions for sharing information. They focused visits on areas of Iqaluit where cases were most likely to occur and multiply. This targeted community-based approach resulted in twice as many people seeking testing and 33% more completing treatment for latent TB.

John Bell has published an article in Nature Reviews concerning the promise of using immunotherapy in combination with cancer-fighting viruses. Dr. Bell and the co-authors outline how oncolytic viruses can be used to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight against cancerous tumors. The article outlines how oncolytic viruses have been clinically shown to initiate antitumor responses in the human immune system, and that harnessing oncolytic virus therapy with various forms of immunotherapy (vaccines, inhibitors, cell therapy) could significantly improve future outcomes for many cancer patients.

Marc Rodger was interviewed by the Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun and Scientific American as well as national TV and many radio stations. Dr. Rodger provides conclusive evidence that the commonly prescribed LMWH anticoagulant has no positive benefits for the mother or child. In fact, Dr. Rodger’s study shows that LMWH treatments could actually cause pregnant women some minor harm by increasing bleeding, increasing their rates of induced labour and reducing their access to anesthesia during childbirth. Dr. Rodger’s clinical trial took 12 years to complete. “These findings allow us to move on, to pursue other, potentially effective, methods for treating pregnant women with thrombophilia and/or complications from placenta blood clots,” says Dr. Rodger. Dr. Rodger’s study’s results will also appear in a future print issue of The Lancet.

Erin Keely was featured in an article that appeared in The Spec. Dr. Keely believed that changing the ways in which family doctors and specialists interacted could improve wait times and patient experiences. An exceptional example of innovation improving health care delivery in Canada is the e-consultation project from Ontario’s Champlain region. Within its first year alone, the project enabled faster and better communication between 116 primary care providers and specialists in 20 fields including cardiology, neurology, and psychiatry. In 42 per cent of cases, referrals and duplication of tests were avoided through better information sharing.


Rashmi Kothary and Jodi Warman, are two of four co-principal investigators in the newly launched Canadian Neuromuscular Disease Network. Funded by CIHR and Muscular Dystrophy Canada, the Canadian Neuromuscular Disease Network aims to improve clinical care and advance research in neuromuscular disease with expertise from around the country. The Network is a result of a $575,613 investment from a CIHR Network Catalyst grant from the CIHR Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis and $155,820 from Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Four of the 11 investigators listed on the grant are based in Ottawa.

David Picketts was featured in an article from Health Canal entitled: Researchers find gene critical for development of brain motor centre. Led by Dr. David Picketts, the team describes the Snf2h gene, which is found in our brain’s neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator. When they removed this gene early on in a mouse’s development, its cerebellum only grew to one-third the normal size. It also had difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating its movements, something called cerebellar ataxia that is a component of many neurodegenerative diseases.

Marc Rodger, and the thrombosis program research team, have published a paper in the The Lancet concerning a clinical trial that proved a commonly used anticoagulant to prevent pregnancy complications is ineffective. A randomized controlled trial led by Dr. Rodger provides conclusive evidence that the commonly prescribed LMWH anticoagulant has no positive benefits for the mother or child. In fact it could cause pregnant women some minor harm by increasing bleeding and their rates of induced labour, as well as reducing their access to anesthesia during childbirth. Dr. Rodger’s study attracted considerable interest in both the mainstream media and specialty research publications both in Canada and abroad


Antoine Hakim has published a perspective piece in the journal Nature concerning “covert” or “silent” strokes that occur in people without producing the usual signs and symptoms of an overt stroke. Dr. Hakim’s article argues that covert strokes are more widespread than commonly thought and is a major cause of dementia. Dr. Hakim states that anywhere from 8 per cent to 28 per cent of the population have had a covert stroke and their incidence rises with age and vascular risk factors. Dr. Hakim makes the case that people should adopt healthier eating habits and a more active lifestyle.

David Moher has published a study in The British Medical Journal that calls into question the widespread endorsements given to various research reporting guidelines. Dr. Moher and his team conducted a systematic review of more than 100 guidelines used by researchers when reporting their findings. The goal was to see how many had been evaluated to prove their effectiveness. Of the more than 100 reporting guidelines examined, less than 20 per cent had been evaluated. While endorsement and implementation of reporting guidelines is important, more caution in which guidelines are endorsed and implemented is needed until more widespread evaluations have been completed.

Tiago Mestre has published a study in the journal Neurology that looks at the impact placebos have on the measured effect of treatments given during a clinical trial to people who have Parkinson`s disease. The study analyzed a number of Parkinson’s disease studies and found that the use of a placebo during randomized controlled trials resulted in a significant reduction in the measured effect of actual treatments being tested, compared with randomized controlled trials that did not use a placebo.

Mark Walker and Shi-Wu Wen have launched a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of folic acid in preventing preeclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia is responsible for one-third of all pregnancy-related deaths worldwide. Drs. Walker and Wen will test whether high doses of folic acid administered throughout a pregnancy in women at high risk for preeclampsia can prevent this disease from developing in an international, multi-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 3,656 women, funded by the CIHR. The doctors believe that their trial will provide solid scientific rationale for the use of high doses of folic acid during pregnancy. They are also eager to explore whether taking folic acid during pregnancy has long-term impacts on the health of women and their babies.


David Moher was named top researcher in new international report on science. David Moher has made an international list of the world’s top researchers compiled by media company Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters said the list aims to capture the current state of science worldwide, and identify both established and up-and-coming researchers. Dr. Moher was cited for his ongoing research that aims to improve systematic reviews, clinical trials, as well as scientific writing and publishing. Coverage and details in The Globe and Mail.

Michael Rudnicki, Jeff Dilworth, Lynn Megeney and Theodore Perkins have been awarded $1.2 million by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for a five-year study into the triggers that cause Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (aRMS), an aggressive cancer that develops in children and teenagers. With a view to developing new treatments for aRMS, the research team plans to study the underlying genomic factors that cause the cancer to develop.

Paul MacPherson, Girish Dwivedi, Jonathan Angel and George Wells are co-investigators of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. They have been awarded a three year, $375,000 grant from The Ontario HIV Treatment Network, to study potential new ways to reduce the risks of heart attacks in people who are HIV positive. With new antiretroviral medications, people with HIV are living longer but are also facing new health challenges. Dr. MacPherson and his team want to know if these medications will also benefit HIV positive individuals. This study will help us understand whether statins benefit HIV positive individuals and keep their hearts healthy.

Mark Clemons has published a study in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment that is the first to demonstrate how changing an anti-cancer therapy can result in significant changes to bone turnover biomarkers. Dr. Clemons stumbled upon this discovery while exploring whether the anti-cancer drug Vandetanib would work well in combination with Fulvestrant when given to postmenopausal breast cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the bone. While the pan-Canadian study found that Vandetinib did not improve the effectiveness of Fulvestrant, it did show that changing an anti-cancer therapy can result in significant changes in bone turnover biomarkers. Dr. Clemons` finding calls into question the widespread use of these biomarkers in breast cancer trials.

Edward Lemaire has received a grant from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to work with Toronto-based Bionik Laboratories Inc. on the development of a Canadian-made exoskeleton called Exolegs, which provides a cost effective and highly functional device for people with spinal cord injuries and lower extremity weakness. The study will use the Rehab Centre’s CAREN virtual reality system so that Exolegs can be used in future clinical trials and as a rehabilitation tool.

Duncan Stewart became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, elected by his peers in the Society’s Life Sciences Division for “advancing knowledge and scholarship in Canada”. The primary objective of the Society is to promote learning and research in the arts, humanities and the natural and social sciences.

Christina Addison and Jim Dimitroulakos have received $280,000 to identify new biomarkers and to test the efficacy of novel treatments in patient-derived prostate tumor tissues. The grant from the Prostate Cancer Fight Foundation in partnership with the Telus Ride for Dad will support research activities of a multidisciplinary team of investigators. The team will tackle many of the critical issues facing patients with prostate cancer. The end goal is to better predict the risk of a patient having aggressive or resistant prostate cancer and personalize treatment for those patients.

Hsiao-Huei Chen has won a salary award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Ontario Provincial Office. Dr. Chen was singled out for her ongoing research into stroke risk factors and recovery methods. The award, valued at $320,000 over four years, will enable Dr. Chen to further her research into the metabolic and health disorders that impair stroke recovery, including obesity-associated diabetes, anxiety and inflammation. Dr. Chen’s research seeks to develop novel interventions that improve the ability of physicians to identify the risks of someone having a stroke, as well as the recovery of people who have already suffered a stroke.

Thomas Lagace was successful in obtaining a grant from the Open Operating Grant Competition. He has been funded for 5 years and awarded $548,813 for Mechanism of LDL Receptor Degradation by PCSK9

Frans Leenen was successful in obtaining a grant from the Open Operating Grant Competition. He has been funded for 5 years and awarded $846,061for Activation of cardioprotective brain mechanisms post MI

Ruth McPherson was successful in obtaining a grant from the Open Operating Grant Competition. She has funded for 5 years and awarded $853,441for “Molecular Basis of Weight Loss Variability in Response to Energy Restriction”. Dr. McPherson application was ranked first in the DOL Diabetes, Obesity, Lipid & Lipoprotein Disorders Committee.

Girish Dwivedi was successful in obtaining the CIHR Bridge Funding Awarded. Dr. Dwivedi has been funded for 1 year in the amount of $100,000 for The Effects of Psoriatic Arthritis on Coronary Flow Reserve and Markers of Inflammation and Evaluation of the Response to Biological Therapy.

Douglas McKim has been honoured by Muscular Dystrophy Canada for the “Dr. George Karpati Award for Researcher of the Year” in recognition of his ongoing work to advance treatments for Muscular Dystrophy.

Dr. McKim’s research focuses on non-invasive ventilation and improving lung function in people who suffer from Duchene Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases. He will receive this prestigious honour at a recognition dinner to be held in Richmond, British Columbia, on August 23.

Bryan Lo is leading the Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory and will open Ottawa’s first lab devoted to treating and studying the genetics of cancer. The new facility will function as a clinical diagnostic lab and a research lab. It will help to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and treatment by allowing health-care providers to analyze the genetic flaws inside tumour cells and tailor therapies to a patient’s individual type of cancer.

Kevin Burns has been awarded $100,000 from the Kidney Foundation of Canada to study the therapeutic effect of exosomes – vesicles that carry microRNA – derived from endothelial progenitor cells in acute kidney injury (AKI), a condition that affects about one out of every 20 people in hospital. Currently, there are no established treatments to repair an injured kidney after AKI. Dr. Burns and his team have isolated different “progenitor” cell populations from human umbilical cord blood and infused them into mice with AKI. They found that one cell population (endothelial colony forming cells) protected the mice from kidney injury, and they will now test the hypothesis that surface membrane particles are shed from these progenitor cells and are responsible for their beneficial effects.

Jing Wang has been awarded $65,000 by the J.P. Bickell Foundation, to further her studies into neural regeneration and brain repair. Specifically, Dr. Wang will use the grant money to study how neural generation in an embryonic state can lead to the promotion of adult neural repair that enhances memory. Dr. Wang’s research aims to identify new strategies to promote neural repair and restore memory in adults.

Adolfo de Bold has been awarded the Prix scientifique 2014 the 2014 Grand Prix scientifique. This award is considered the world’s most prestigious prize for cardiovascular medicine. Thirty years ago, Dr. De Bold discovered that the heart has an endocrine function; one of the major cardiovascular discoveries of the past 50 years. His work on atrial natriuretic factor (ANF), the cardiac polypeptide hormone previously unknown to the scientific community, has been recognized through numerous national and international distinctions and awards. The discovery has made Dr. de Bold one of the most cited Canadian authors. Please join us in congratulating him on this momentous achievement.

Shawn Aaron and Duncan Stewart have been awarded more than $14M to lead two new national research networks. The Canadian Respiratory Research Network, led by Dr. Aaron, aims to improve care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. The Canadian Vascular Network, led by Dr. Stewart, aims to improve care for diseases caused by damage to both large and small blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke, dementia, kidney failure and macular degeneration. The networks are funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), as well as numerous academic, non-profit and industry partners.

Dar Dowlatshahi and David Grimes are part of $28.5 million initiative funded by the Ontario Brain Institute to investigate neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s and ALS. The five-year study brings together 54 investigators, 12 clinical sites, 17 universities and hospitals, six industrial partners and 600 patients in an effort to better understand a number of different neurodegenerative brain disorders. Dr. Grimes is the Ottawa-based Principal Investigator for Parkinson’s disease while Dr. Dowlatshahi is the Ottawa Principal Investigator for Vascular Cognitive Impairment.

Alan Tinmouth and the University of Ottawa Centre for Transfusion Research (UOCTR) have been awarded $718,286 by Canadian Blood Services. Dr. Tinmouth heads up the centre, which is a multidisciplinary group of researchers in hematology, nephrology, surgery and intensive care who work together on common research topics such as transfusion, resuscitation and transplantation.

Ian Lorimer has been awarded a four year grant valued at $567,572 by the CIHR, to study an aggressive and incurable form of brain tumour known as glioblastoma. Dr. Lorimer will determine whether a protein known as PKCiota is a valid target for glioblastoma therapy. This will be tested in clinically relevant models of glioblastoma that were created using cells isolated from patients undergoing surgery for glioblastoma at The Ottawa Hospital. To validate PKCiota as a target for glioblastoma therapy, Dr, Lorimer and his team will genetically modify these patient cells in ways that impair PKCiota function. The cells will then be introduced into the brains of mice and the effects on the aggressiveness of the cancer cells will be determined. This will help to assess the overall feasibility of this therapeutic strategy in the brain tumour patient population.

OHRI scientists were awarded 11 operating grants worth $8.4 million in the most recent CIHR competition. The following were the successful Principal Investigators and Co-Principal Investigators from the Department of Medicine:

  • Gonzalo Alvarez (preventing Tuberculosis in Inuit communities)
  • Curtis Cooper (Canadian HIV Observational Cohort Collaborative Research Centre)
  • Jeffrey Dilworth (muscle regeneration),
  • Ian Lorimer (brain cancer [glioblastoma] therapy),
  • Robin Parks and Rashmi Kothary (novel therapeutics for Spinal Muscular Atrophy),
  • Alan Tinmouth and Dean Ferguson (trial of plasma transfusion before invasive procedures)