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Respiratory researcher wins $50K prize

Hamilton, ON – Dawn Bowdish, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and researcher with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University, has been awarded the Ontario Lung Association-Pfizer Canada Infectious Diseases Award.

She was presented the $50,000 award at a recent annual fundraiser called Breathe! Gala, hosted by the Ontario Lung Association.

“This award is very important to me,” says Bowdish. “I’m a young investigator and at this stage in my career receiving this sort of recognition from the Ontario Lung Association and Pfizer Canada tells me that I’m on the right track. I’m also very excited because this award allows us to train the next generation of Canadian researchers in respiratory health.”

Bowdish studies the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, a major cause of pneumonia in the elderly.

“For reasons we don’t clearly understand, it appears that acquiring pneumonia predisposes you to many other infections and chronic inflammatory conditions that plague the elderly,” she says, adding her research provides an understanding about how pneumonia gets a foothold in the elderly. “It appears it is because we don’t have proper immune control in our sinuses. So we are trying to improve that, understand the basic mechanisms of why it fails and translate it into clinical studies.”

Considered unique in Canada, her lab studies aged mice, infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae and in coordination with clinical collaborators and colleagues they are hoping to translate their discoveries to humans through a number of initiatives and clinical trials.

She adds the award stresses the importance of funding lung disease research.

“Respiratory research in Canada is underfunded,” she says. “We don’t have the funding mechanisms that our colleagues who are studying things like cancer and cardiovascular disease have and that’s a shame because lung disease and lung health is extremely important in the health of ageing Canadians.”