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$10M funding supports heart disease research


Ottawa, ON – Two national cardiac research centres at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) have been awarded a total of more than $10 million by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to identify and treat the causes of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Matching funding from the Ontario government, expected in a few months, coupled with other financial support, will push the research investment to some $20 million.

UOHI’s Ruddy Canadian Cardiovascular Genetics Centre received CFI funding of $4.7 million to support a significant program that employs advanced gene sequencing, DNA analysis and microchip technology to identify and map the genetic makeup of CAD. Another $3.3 million went to the Heart Institute’s National Cardiac PET Centre to develop a molecular imaging program applying positron emission tomography as a research tool for evaluating the function of cell and molecular processes in heart disease.

Both research centres are the only such facilities in Canada dedicated to cardiovascular disease. An associated infrastructure operating award of some $2.4 million brings the overall amount of CFI funding to more than $10 million.

“The overall objective of our genetic work is to identify genes responsible for CAD,” says Dr Robert Roberts, president and CEO, UOHI. “This funding provides the ability to add new, more advanced research equipment. It also allows us to recruit people with expertise in genetics and genomics research. We estimate we will be recruiting at least 10 to 15 new investigators. Over the next five years, we plan to train at least 20 or 30 technicians and our goal is to recruit more world-class researchers.”

Genetics research at the Heart Institute moved into high gear with the opening in June 2005 of the Canadian Cardiovascular Genetics Centre, the only one of its kind in Canada. Major studies are underway to explore the genetic clues in heart arrhythmia and the so-called thin-gene, which may play a role in regulating body weight.

One major part of the project now is investigating the genetic differences between patients who suffer CAD and people who do not.

The genetics laboratory is equipped with a biorobot for processing DNA from blood samples. DNA microarray technology now permits identification of 500,000 genetic markers with the goal of determining patterns of activity in genes.

“This research requires dedicated advanced technology and a new approach in how we will go about detecting heart disease,” says Dr Roberts. “To continue this project over the long-term will require the analysis of billions of markers, something that would be impossible to do without the support of CFI and our other partners.”