July – September 2017 Kudos

Publications and Quality

Lynn Megeney and Duncan Stewart led a research team that recently published in Cell Research. The team discovered that a protein called cardiotrophin 1 (CT1) can trick the heart into growing in a healthy way by pumping more blood, just as it does in response to exercise and pregnancy. They show that this good kind of heart growth is very different from the harmful enlargement of the heart that occurs during heart failure. They also show that CT1 can repair heart damage and improve blood flow in animal models of left and right heart failure. The researchers hope to develop partnerships to test this protein in patients. Authors: Patrick G. Burgon, Duncan J. Stewart, and Lynn A. Megeney…

Jonathan Angel co-authored a recent publication in The Lancet. Over the last two decades, HIV has been transformed from a death sentence into a chronic, treatable disease, requiring just a single pill a day to keep the virus at bay in most people. This study has now paved the way for another treatment option: a single injection every eight weeks. It showed that injection of long-lasting forms of cabotegravir and rilpivirine every four or eight weeks could suppress viral replication just as well as a daily pill. The trial involved nearly 300 patients across 50 sites in five countries. Many patients at The Ottawa Hospital contributed to and benefited from this research, and many more could benefit if the drug is approved.

Xiaohui Zha is leading a new research study which was published in PNAS. The study reveals how two proteins, mTORC1 and SREBP-2 control cholesterol and fat. This study could lead to new treatments for people with obesity and diabetes by targeting an overactive mTORC1 to prevent excess production of fat and cholesterol.  Authors: Robin J. Parks, Alexander Sorisky, and Xiaohui Zha…

Erin Keely published a study in the LANCET which found that continuous glucose monitoring for pregnant women with type 1 diabetes improves the health of mother and newborn. In this randomized trial women, who were receiving intensive insulin therapy, with type 1 diabetes were recruited for a minimum of 12 months. The aim was to examine the effectiveness of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) on maternal glucose control and obstetric and neonatal health outcomes. This appears to be the first study to show an effect of continuous glucose monitoring on health outcomes other than glycaemic outcomes, and with substantial reductions in neonatal complications attributed to maternal hyperglycaemia. The results were consistent across 31 international study sites and comparable for women using insulin pumps or multiple daily injections, regardless of baseline glucose control. The data indicated a role for offering CGM to all pregnant women with type 1 diabetes using intensive insulin therapy in the first trimester.

Dean Fergusson co-authored a publication in Annals of Surgery which will provide health-care providers with a new tool to help decide whether a liver surgery patient needs a blood transfusion. One in four liver surgery patients will receive a transfusion. To develop the tool, a multidisciplinary panel of experts performed a systematic review and looked at 468 scenarios before, during and after liver surgery. 47% of the situations were appropriate for transfusion, 28% were inappropriate and 24% were uncertain. The resulting tool uses a number of patient factors to calculate whether a transfusion is appropriate, inappropriate or uncertain. This tool is unique because it can be applied to transfusions given both during and after liver surgery. The next step is to validate the criteria in the clinic. Authors: Alan Tinmouth, Shane English, Paul Hébert, Dean Fergusson…

Marc Clemons and Dean Fergusson are leading The Rethinking Clinical Trials (REaCT) Program in Oncology, The program recently enrolled its 1000th patient across nine trials. The program aims to efficiently compare different treatments to answer questions that are important for patients and the health-care system.

Shawn Aaron was awarded a prestigious Foundation Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, worth $4.2 million over seven years. While Dr. Aaron has recently received world-wide attention for his research on asthma over-diagnosis, this project will look at the opposite problem of under-diagnosis of both asthma and COPD. Some research suggests that up to 10 percent of Canadians have asthma or COPD, but don’t know it and are not receiving treatment. Dr. Aaron is currently leading the first randomized controlled trial that will systematically seek out and treat people with undiagnosed asthma and COPD. He will evaluate whether or not this strategy can improve health and reduce the burden on our health-care system.

Edward Lemaire has co-developed a more accurate way for health-care providers to predict falls in older people. The study was published in Sensors and shows that falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians, but are often preventable through changes in health, fitness and in the home environment. In the study, older individuals wore accelerometer sensors on their legs and pelvis during a 6-minute walking test. The researchers’ found that when a person made multiple turns, artificial intelligence analysis of the sensor data gave a more accurate prediction of their fall risk than if they had done typical straight walking. This is because people at risk of falling are often less stable when navigating turns, which is picked up by the sensors. Dr. Lemaire’s team plans to add this method into their TOHRC Walk Test smartphone app to allow clinicians to have immediate fall risk prediction for their patients.

David Allan was awarded $100,000 from Canadian Blood Services (CBS) to develop policies around the use of cord blood that will protect Canadians from the possible dangers of unproven therapies. His team will create a continuously updating bank of clinical studies that supports the use of umbilical cord blood cell therapies, so Canadians can know which treatments are proven and which are still experimental. They will also identify the gaps between what the clinical evidence shows and what the public expects from these therapies. Finally, the team will develop processes that will ensure fair access to banked cord blood for regenerative therapies, and design search algorithms that are compatible with national and international registries.



Nancy Dudek was promoted to Full Professor in the Department of Medicine, effective May 1, 2017.

Ben Chow has been awarded the prestigious Raine Visiting Professorship from the University of Western Australia, supported by Raine Medical Research Foundation and Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Fiona Stanley Hospital and School of Computer Science and Software Engineering at The University of Western Australia.

Harold Atkins will receive the prestigious Till & McCulloch Award for exceptional contributions to global stem cell research. The award will be presented at the Till & McCulloch Meeting, organized by the Stem Cell Network, in November, 2017. Dr. Freedman and Atkins publication in The Lancet showed that the risky procedure completely halted the damage to the brain caused by the immune system, stopping relapses. The disabilities in the majority of patients stabilized, and some even recovered lost abilities.

David Grimes received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Grimes is an outstanding clinician-scientist, focused on improving the understanding and treatment of a wide variety of movement disorders with an emphasis on Parkinson’s disease. The award was presented during the Faculty of Medicine’s Homecoming Weekend.


Research grants and awards

Dr. Rashmi Kothary’s group – Recipient: Samantha Kornfeld

  • Title: Uncovering and reversing causes of remyelination failure in progressive multiple sclerosis – miR-145-5p regulates MYRF in oligodendrocytes
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada $22,000, (studentship)

Dean Fergusson’s group – Recipient: Jenna MacNeil (Co-supervisor: Dr. Manoj Lalu)

  • Title: Translational Cancer Immunotherapeutics: Improving the Design, Analysis, and Reporting of Preclinical Studies
  • BioCanRx $6,000, (studentship)

Dr. John Bell’s group Recipient: Lauren St-Germain

  • Title: Improving Oncolytic Virotherapy with CRISPR knockdowns
  • $6,000, BioCanRx (studentship)


John Bell led the The Canadian Oncolytic Virus Consortium, and was awarded $7.4 million from the Terry Fox Research Institute. Oncolytic viruses have shown promise in laboratory and clinical studies, but have not been approved for general use in Canada. With this new funding, Dr. Bell and his colleagues at seven institutions will be able to advance our understanding of these viruses and develop strategies to enhance their activity. Their research will involve genetically modifying various oncolytic viruses and combining them with different drugs and cell-based therapies. This funding is part of the Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grants. Co-investigators: Rebecca Auer, Harold Atkins, Guy Ungerechts…

Michael Rudnicki was awarded the “Dr. George Karpati Researcher of the Year Award” by Muscular Dystrophy Canada at The Ottawa International Conference on Neuromuscular Disease & Biology. Dr. Rudnicki received this award in recognition of his many years of outstanding research on muscle. The conference was co-chaired by Drs. Robin Parks, Jodi Warman Chardon, Bernard Jasmin and Rashmi Kothary.

John Hilton is co-investigator on a trial that will help understand that a cancer’s genetics is key to selecting targeted therapies that are likely to be of the most benefit to a patient. The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) recently announced a new study, called Ontario-wide Cancer Targeted Nucleic Acid Evaluation (OCTANE). OCTANE will use next-generation genome sequencing technology to bring a unified molecular profiling approach to TOH Cancer Centre and four other cancer centres in Ontario. This new study will allow for the creation of a province-wide database of the participating patients’ genomic and clinical data that can help them find approved treatments, or to enrol in experimental targeted therapies that are being evaluated through clinical trials.

Peter Liu’s direction of the Biomarker Identification and Validation Facility, at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, is offering a number of high quality immunoassays, state-of-the-art proteomic services to basic translational and clinical investigators. It includes a Roche Diagnostics cobas e411 analyzer, an automated, random access, multichannel analyzer for immunological analysis. It also has a SomaLogic SOMAscan, a high-multiplex, high-sensitivity aptamer-based immune-like protein and biomarker discovery platform that simultaneously quantifies 1,310 human proteins in all types of protein extracts. Many other core facilities are hosted by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa.

Tiago Mestre was presented with honorary “wood cookies” during a recent Ottawa REDBLACKS game in recognition for his outstanding Parkinson’s disease research.



Curtis Cooper was interviewed on CTV News Network about a girl from South Africa who was able to control her HIV without drugs for more than eight years.

John Bell was interviewed by CBC’s Second Opinion about CAR-T therapy, which recently moved closer to being available to patients in the United States outside of clinical trials.

Doug Manuel was interviewed by The Globe and Mail about why Canadian women who live to 100 outnumber men 5 to 1.

Natasha Kekre was featured in the Kitchissippi Times regarding her involvement in efforts to bring CAR-T cell immunotherapy to Canada.

Michael Rudnicki was quoted in the Ottawa Business Journal about Canada’s leadership in stem cell research.

Rebecca Auer, John Bell, and Natasha Kekre spoke to 100 high school students about their cancer research during “Let’s Talk Cancer,” a day of cancer-related talks and activities organized by Let’s Talk Science and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Curtis Cooper was interviewed by The Ottawa Hospital’s The Journal about new Ontario drug coverage that reduces barriers to expensive hepatitis C medication.

Antoine Hakim “seven golden rules for brain health and reducing dementia risk.” Were the focus of a Globe and Mail article on dementia.

Paul MacPherson and Maxime Charest were interviewed by CBC Ottawa, CBC Ottawa Morning, Radio-Canada Ottawa-Gatineau, and Radio-Canada Montreal, about the creation of a research chair in gay men’s health by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

John Bell was interviewed by the Canadian Press about the first CAR-T therapy approved by the FDA, which has been hailed as a breakthrough for certain kinds of cancer. He also spoke efforts to create a Canadian version of CAR-T therapy that would not be commercialized.

Kumanan Wilson’s comic strip explains the science of immunization to kids, it was featured in a Maclean’s article on solutions to declining vaccination rates.

Virginia Roth was interviewed by The Globe and Mail about recapturing the personal side of medicine in an article about an empathy device that mimics the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Michael Rudnicki was interviewed by The Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine about his efforts to develop new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dr. Rudnicki discusses a new project that aims to use lipid-bound bubbles called exosomes to deliver a protein throughout the body that could stimulate muscle repair.

David Picketts was quoted in an Ottawa Citizen story on “the hope that epigenetics could launch a health-care revolution.”

Gonzalo Alvarez was interviewed by the Nunatsiaq News about his experience accompanying high-profile health advocate Stephen Lewis on a visit to Nunavut to learn more about tuberculosis.

Kathryn Suh was interviewed by CBC about West Nile virus.

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