More than $3M in Early Researcher Awards, research infrastructure fundings

From McMaster Daily News

Eleven recently-appointed faculty will get up to $100,000 to help build their research programs thanks to the Early Researcher Awards announced Friday.

The ERA program recognizes promising researchers and their potential to become world-class innovators.

The work of McMaster’s ERAs will impact public health, the environment and the economy.

“We are proud to invest in ground-breaking, world-class research right here in Hamilton,” said Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s Minister of Community and Social Services and who made the announcement Friday. “Our researchers are pivotal to building a dynamic and innovative business climate in Ontario, one that will draw investment and opportunity and build Ontario’s economic strength and competitive edge.”

Dozens of undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants, associates and technicians will have the opportunity to join the research teams of the eleven Early Researcher Award winners.

The ERA awardees represent five of McMaster’s six Faculties and will each be funded to a maximum of $140,000 by the provincial government, with matching funding of $50,000 from the University over the next five years.

Minister McMeekin also announced the recipients of the Ontario Research Fund – Research Infrastructure (ORF-RI) program, which provides research institutions with funding to help support infrastructure needs such as modern facilities and equipment. McMaster received $1,653,501 in funding for eight research projects.

“These talented researchers are blazing new trails in their fields. Whether its health, environmental or rehabilitation sciences, green technologies, or more efficient delivery of our health care services, they are creating new ways of thinking and new innovations in their areas of research,” says Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, research & international affairs. “This funding will give them the opportunity to expand their research teams, upgrade and augment their labs, and provide an enriched research-training environment for the next wave of young researchers.”

McMaster’s latest round of Early Researcher Awards and their research proposals are:

  • Thomas Adams, assistant professor, chemical engineering, whose work on sustainable energy conversion may be pivotal to positioning Ontario as a lead global exporter of nuclear energy products.
  • Dawn Bowdish, assistant professor, pathology & molecular medicine, whose research investigates the causes of bacterial pneumonia in the elderly
  • Dr. Benicio Frey, associate professor, psychiatry & behavioural neurosciences, whose work is focused on developing more accurate treatment for the 10 – 15 per cent of Canadians who suffer from depression
  • Kristin Hope, assistant professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences, who is leading ground breaking research on improvements in blood stem cell transplants
  • Victor Kuperman, assistant professor, linguistics and languages, who is exploring the cognitive causes of inadequate reading comprehension and ways to incorporate this research into adult literacy programs
  • Nathan Magarvey, assistant professor, biochemistry & biomedical sciences, and Canada Research Chair in Natural Product Drug Discovery, who is leading the delivery of safer, more effective and targeted natural drug discoveries
  • Gillian Mulvale, assistant professor, health policy and management, whose work will help families and service providers deliver coordinated services for adolescents with mental illness.
  • Daria O’Reilly, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, who is exploring ways to spend resources more efficiently in the treatment of diabetes
  • Guillaume Paré, assistant professor, pathology and molecular medicine, and Canada Research Chair in Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology, whose work will help physicians identify diabetics who are at high risk of developing heart or kidney complications
  • Graham Scott, assistant professor, biology who is studying the respiratory systems of animals who are able to thrive in conditions of oxygen deprivation, and the environmental and clinical implications
  • Ada Tang, assistant professor, rehabilitation sciences, who is exploring ways in which to improve cardiovascular care and reduce healthcare costs in the province

The eight ORF-RI recipients, their research award and projects are:

• Biochemist Eric Brown, who has been awarded $290,000 in infrastructure to support his Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Microbial Chemical Biology. Multidrug resistant bacteria continue to be a health care burden in both hospital and community settings. Recognizing the need for new therapies, Brown’s proposed research program will uncover weaknesses in the survival strategies of bacteria for the design of truly novel antibacterial drugs.

• Biologist Marie Elliot, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Genomics,who has received $60,000 for the Control of Chromosome Dynamics and Genome Integrity. Cancer and infectious disease are two leading causes of premature death in Ontario. Elliot’s research team will explore how antibiotic production is influenced by regulatory factors, and examine how protein interactions and modifications stabilize our genetic material. The findings will allow them to identify new cancer therapeutic targets and develop new antibiotics.

• Elkafi Hassini, associate professor of operations management and co-investigator Sourav Ray, associate professor, marketing, who have been awarded $173,561 for Infrastructure for Advanced Business Analytics: Creating and Analysing Big Data for Canadian Distribution Channel. A framework for using pan-supply chain big data analyses will be created to reduce distribution channel conflict among small and medium enterprises, thereby enhancing competitiveness through innovation in marketing and operations processes.

• Engineering physicist Rafael Kleiman, who has received $399,940 for his research program Time and Frequency Domain Hyperspectral Imaging for Photovoltaic Applications. Solar cell technology, deployed on a large scale, has the potential to substantially contribute to Ontario’s energy mix. This project will develop new techniques to directly image the defects and imperfections in solar cells that limit their efficiency, providing new tools to improve solar cell manufacturing processes.

• Civil engineering assistant professor Dimitrios Konstantinidis, who will generate critically needed knowledge on the earthquake behaviour of nonstructural components. This knowledge will facilitate the development of innovative technologies to protect nonstructural components from earthquake damage. Konstaninidis’ research program garnered $100,000 in funding for a Multi-Axis Dynamic Simulator for Testing Operational and Functional Components and Advanced Seismic Isolation Devices.

• Biologist Grant McClelland will be investigating the effects of multiple environmental and pollution-based stressors, such as temperature, salinity, pH, and chemical contaminants, upon aquatic animal development, behaviour and physiology. McClelland’s $270,000 award will provide infrastructure for A Facility for Multi-stressor Biology on Aquatic Organisms.

• Gregory Steinberg, Canada Research Chair in Metabolism, Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes and associate professor, endocrinology has been awarded $60,000 for Infrastructure to Support Obesity and Metabolism Research. His project will test the effects of exercise, nutrition and genetics on adiposity in mice. Steinberg will also investigate the mechanisms mediating these effects by examining modifications that occur on proteins.

• Ray Truant will be using his $300,000 funding for a High Content Analysis Nanoscope to Study Neurodegeneration and Discover New Compounds for Neurodegenerative Disease. Truant – an associate professor in the department of biochemistry – leads a research program whose goal is to discover new chemical family leads as potential new therapies for Huntington’s disease. By working at the single cell level at nanometer resolution, Truant can focus his efforts on determining the molecular trigger of this devastating disease.

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Canada Research Chair program names three McMaster Recipients

Three McMaster researchers, Jonathan Bramson, Eric Brown and Megumi Harada, were named Canada Research Chairs during a Friday announcement.

Bramson and Brown were both selected as Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs, and will receive $1.4 million over seven years to help further their research efforts. Harada, a Tier 2 recipient, will receive $500,000 over five years.

Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, Research & International Affairs, says the Canada Research Chair program allows McMaster to retain researchers of the highest calibre who contribute significantly to the University’s research enterprise.

“Professors Bramson, Brown and Harada are among the best in their fields, and we’re fortunate that they’re pursuing their pioneering research programs here, in areas that are of critical and strategic importance to the University,” said Elbestawi.

Bramson, a professor in the Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine, was named a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Translational Cancer Immunology. His ongoing research efforts with the Bramson Group focus largely on developing methods to direct cancer patients’ immune systems to attack their tumours.

“Our research seeks to augment the immunity of cancer patients by enabling their white blood cells to attack their cancer. Due to repeated courses of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the patients’ white blood cells lose the ability to kill the cancer cells,” explained Bramson.

“The Bramson lab has created methods to rehabilitate white blood cells in a petri dish and train the cells to destroy tumours. Our goal is to infuse the rehabilitated immune cells into cancer patients where, if successful, the white blood cells will kill their cancer cells. Unlike traditional therapies, the rehabilitated white blood cells will also seek out and destroy small deposits of cancer, preventing recurrence.”

Brown, a professor in the Department Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, was named a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Microbial Chemical Biology. Recognizing the need for new therapies to treat the emergence of so-called “superbugs,” the Brown Lab at McMaster is striving to develop the next generation of cutting-edge antibacterial drugs.

“Multidrug resistant bacteria continue to be a health-care burden in both hospital and community settings. Remarkably, in the past fifty years, only a few new chemical classes of antibiotics have reached the clinic,” said Brown.

“Existing antibiotics are directed at a small number of targets, principally cell wall, DNA and protein biosynthesis. Indeed, multidrug resistance among bacterial pathogens is thought to be due in large part to a limited repertoire of antibacterial chemical matter.”

Megumi Harada, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, was named a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Equivariant Symplectic and Algebraic Geometry. Her primary research interest involves symplectic geometry, also known as the mathematical framework for classical physics.

At McMaster, Harada explores the complex relationships of equivariant symplectic geometry with other areas of mathematics, including equivariant algebraic geometry, hyperkahler geometry and geometric representation theory.

She is currently on sabbatical leave in Japan.

Each year, the federal CRC program invests roughly $265 million to attract and retain some of the world’s most promising academic minds.

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City asked for $4 million toward bio-centre for joint Mac-German partnership

McMaster University is asking the city to put $4 million in tax payer cash into a 50,000 square-foot international bio engineering facility in Hamilton.

A letter to the city from Mo Elbestawi, mcMaster’s vice-president of research said a German research institute wants to partner with the university on a centre at McMaster Innovation Park that would employ up to 100 scientists and industry researchers.

..’”This would be the ultimate liftoff for our life sciences cluster,” he said, referring to a recent report from the chamber of commerce touting the importance of life science to the city’s future economic growth. -Ward Councillor Brian McHattie

Read the full story at The Spec

Government of Canada funds research at McMaster University to strengthen healthcare

February 19, 2014 

 Parliamentary Secretary Eve Adams on behalf of the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, announced $6.5 million in funding to McMaster University for a project to study the use of team-based care as a way to achieve better health outcomes for patients and make the system more cost effective.

The project: “Teams Advancing Patient Experience: Strengthening Quality,” (TAPESTRY), will examine how changing the way a primary healthcare team operates and interacts with its patients can improve the quality and efficiency of primary healthcare services.  By integrating resources such as community volunteers, eHealth technologies and system navigation, the project will support patient-centred care and stronger connections to community services.

The TAPESTRY project is expected to provide valuable information regarding ways to increase access to primary healthcare services.  The initiative aims to generate evidence and develop tools to assist provincial and territorial governments in addressing ongoing primary healthcare challenges.

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Canada is one of the largest investors in healthcare research with more than $1 billion invested annually.
  • The Government of Canada has increased health transfers to the provinces and territories to unprecedented levels. This funding will continue to grow, reaching $40 billion by the end of the decade.
  • The need for innovation, both in terms of medical technologies and healthcare delivery systems, is a significant public policy challenge that the Government of Canada is committed to addressing.


“Innovation is critical to improving the efficiency of the healthcare system but also to helping Canadians maintain good health. This project is looking at innovative ways that health professionals can work together to provide care to Canadians.”
Eve Adams 
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

“We’re finding ways to combine the personal touch of community volunteerism and the latest technologies to improve primary health care. The TAPESTRY project will connect citizens with their health care team to encourage early identification of potential health problems. This is important for Canadians and for the efficiency of our health care system.”
Dr. David Price
Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University

“The TAPESTRY project promises us great insight on new and effective ways to provide proactive health care for Canadians in their own homes. This is an important advance towards improving health, starting with older adults.”
John Kelton
Dean and Vice President, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University

“The TAPESTRY project is an ideal platform for advancing patient health through collaboration.  Combined with access to evidence-based information, such as through the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, Canadian citizens, clinicians, public health professionals and policymakers will be able to make informed decisions and support older adults to remain healthy and engaged as long as possible.”
Dr. Susan Denburg
Director of the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative and Associate Vice-President, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University

“As a community volunteer for TAPESTRY, I enjoy making connections with older adults in our community that enable them to become more engaged in their own health and encourage discussion with their health care team about services they may require from the community.  I think the inclusion of university students in the volunteer program is a very positive and enjoyable experience for the older adults.”
Linda Gill
Community volunteer for the TAPESTRY project.

Michael Bolkenius
Office of the Honourable Rona Ambrose
Federal Minister of Health
(613) 957-0200

Susan Emigh
McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences,
Public Relations
905-525-9140 ext. 22555

Health Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Public Inquiries:
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1-866 225-0709

Private Sector’s Role in Water Issues Within Developing Countries – UNU INWEH

The global water sector is worth almost $500 billion per year, growing at a rate of 5-10 % annually. Of the many issues INWEH deals with, Agriculture is a large area where the private sector can play a huge role in mitigating the global water crisis.

Excerpt: The poor are mainly rural, where agriculture is the mainstay of their livelihoods. Over 2 billion live in drylands where by definition water is scarce. Small holder farmers number between 400-500 million versus 5 million large scale farmers. 80% of all food is produced by small holder farmers and their production needs to double by 2050 if we are to feed the world…As water scarcity increases water for agriculture must be used more efficiently and the private sector can supply appropriate technologies such as irrigation, water storage.

Check out the full video here

Read more on the UNU website on the safe and productive use of Waste Water in Agriculture 

New cardiovascular findings “a total surprise” says Yusuf

Daily McMaster News

Despite living with the highest risk factors for heart disease, people in high-income countries suffer less from serious cardiovascular disease, according to an international study by the PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) collaboration and led by McMaster researchers.

The study also found that people in low-income countries — although living with fewer risk factors for heart disease — have a higher incidence of serious cardiovascular disease, including death.

“These findings were a total surprise,” said Dr. Salim Yusuf, lead author of the study being presented Tuesday to the European Society of Cardiology. Yusuf is a professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and director of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI).

The study followed 155,000 people from 628 urban and rural communities in 17 countries over four continents for nearly four years.

The international research team found risk factors for cardiovascular disease were lowest in low-income countries, intermediate in middle-income countries and highest in high-income countries. However, the incidence of serious cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and deaths followed the opposite pattern.

Hospitalizations for less severe cardiovascular diseases were also highest in the high income countries.

“These results in the high-income countries are likely due to earlier detection of disease, better hospital management of the disease and better prevention after an event,” said Yusuf. “While efforts to reduce the risk factors need to be pursued, there should be a major additional focus on strengthening health care systems.”

Co-author Dr. Koon Teo, a professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and the Population Health Research Institute, agreed. ”PURE emphasizes how important access to good health care is likely to be, as the differences in mortality rates between the richest and poorest countries are three-fold,” he said.

This study was funded by more than 25 organizations, including the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and by unrestricted grants from several pharmaceutical companies.

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Health Sciences Researcher to benefit from Movember Grant

A McMaster researcher testing a promising new biological marker for diagnosing prostate cancer has received a Movember Discovery Grant.

Khalid Al-Nedawia, a researcher in the Department of Medicine, is among 40 new grant recipients across the country funded by Prostate Cancer Canada. Each recipient of a Discovery Grant will receive up to $200,000 over a two-year term. The funds will be used to further innovation in prostate cancer research, and focus on a broad range of topics — from basic biological science to population health.

For his part, Al-Nedawi is assessing the potential of the so-called “biomarker” to tell prostate cancer patients from normal subjects, including its ability to predict the metastasis of prostate cancer and its ability to differentiate between prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions.

For decades, the standard biomarker for prostate cancer diagnosis was prostate specific antigen (PSA), although many studies have confirmed it can’t differentiate between benign and life-threatening tumors. This leads to a large number of unnecessary biopsies and the overtreatment of low-risk patients, Al-Nedawi explains.

Al-Nedawia will receive $194,000 for his research project, “The role of microvesicular-PTEN in prostate cancer: a diagnostic potential.”

Source:  Daily News McMaster