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$30M in funding supports 34 health research projects


London, ON – A total of 34 projects at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) have been awarded close to $30 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

More than half of that funding was awarded to five research teams through CIHR’s new foundation grants, designed to provide long-term support for the pursuit of innovative, high-impact research programs.

Dynamic Imaging of the Musculoskeletal System ($3.2 million)

$3.2 million in funding will support work led by David Holdsworth, PhD, and his research team at Robarts Research Institute and Western’s Bone & Joint Institute to allow them to develop new types of biomedical imaging systems to monitor the musculoskeletal system and all of its intricately connected parts, during activity.

The goal is to improve our understanding of the way that skeletal tissues respond to mechanical loading and the conditions that lead to joint failure and degradation. Using state-of-the-art technologies, the team is working to gather entirely new information about the skeletal system with the goal of improving the understanding of the initiation and progression of bone and joint conditions.

“We already have several techniques to look at bones and joints, but typically only when they are stationary.  This is a limitation, because many problems with joints only occur when they are in motion,” said Holdsworth, who is also director for the Dr. Sandy Kirkley Centre for Musculoskeletal Research at Lawson. “We hope that our research will lead to better understanding of the processes behind musculoskeletal disease progression, leading to more effective treatments.”

Living Kidney Donation: Improving safety, access and outcomes ($5.3 million)

A team led by Lawson researcher Dr. Amit Garg MD, PhD, director of Living Kidney Donation at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC),  director of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences’ satellite site at Western (ICES Western) and lead of the Provincial ICES Kidney, Dialysis and Transplantation Program has been awarded $5.3 million by the CIHR Foundation Scheme. The grant will be used over seven years to investigate identified barriers to living donor kidney transplantation in order to create real-world solutions that will improve the experiences and outcomes of donors and their recipients.

“Working with over 13 partnering organizations, this program’s impact has the potential to extend beyond Canada to improve the experiences of 260,000 living donor candidates and recipients who are evaluated worldwide each year,” said Garg, who is also a professor at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “By addressing key barriers to living kidney donation and informing new programs and policies, the outputs of this program are designed to help increase the rate of living kidney transplants in Canada by 25 per cent, which could save our healthcare system $75 million in averted dialysis costs in the subsequent decade.”

This work is being carried out in partnership with 13 partner organizations: Lawson and LHSC, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Kidney Foundation of Canada, Kidney Disease | Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO), Population Health Research Institute, Health Information Research Unit, Canadian National Transplant Research Program, ICES, Canadian Blood Services, The Ontario Renal Network, Western University – Division of Nephrology, Trillium Gift of Life Network and the Donor Nephrectomy Outcomes Research (DONOR) Network.

The three other foundation grants in London were awarded to teams led by:

Stefan Everling, PhD – Muscarinic cholinergic modulation of cognition in primates,

Ravi Menon, PhD – Ultra-high field Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Brain Structure and Function in Multiple Sclerosis, and

Andrew Pruszynski, PhD – Feature extraction in the tactile periphery: from basic neural mechanisms to better treatments for nerve injury.

A full listing of all the funded projects can be found here.