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$1.6M awarded for prion research


Vancouver, BC – In an effort to address the health-related risks posed by mad cow and other prion diseases, $1.6 million in funding is being provided by PrioNet Canada in partnership with the Alberta Prion Research Institute, to enable further research into the disorders. The funding supports three large-scale projects that will accelerate discoveries about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk.

The projects are based in Alberta and Manitoba.

“Our research results will help provincial and federal governments create strategies to minimize the destructive impact of prion diseases on Canadians,” said Dr Neil Cashman, Scientific Director of PrioNet Canada. “We are proactively working towards eliminating the risk of future prion disease threats, and avoid a crisis situation similar to the one Canada experienced with BSE in 2003.”

The new research projects are:

1. Implications of CWD for people: Dr Stéphane McLachlan , associate professor, Environmental Conservation Lab at the University of Manitoba and his team are conducting a first-of-its-kind study of people who are most vulnerable to adverse impacts CWD. The multidisciplinary project involves social scientists, wildlife biologists, and veterinarians and will work in close partnership with Aboriginal communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan to study the biological, socioeconomic, and cultural implications of CWD.

2. Controlling the spread of CWD to minimize impact on human and animal health: Dr Norman Neumann, associate professor, School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, is leading a team investigating CWD. With current management strategies proving ineffective at preventing the spread of CWD, the team is working to fill knowledge gaps about transmission of the disease, including when and how animals become contagious.

3. Getting to the root of prion diseases: Dr Valerie Sim, assistant professor, department of medicine at the University of Alberta, is leading a team to help determine how the prion protein becomes infectious and causes disease. This project involves multiple disciplines – from wet lab research to computer simulations – that will help determine exactly how and why the misshaping occurs.