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$10M funding supports new Canada excellence research chair


At the announcement, from left: Jean-Claude Dufour, dean of Universite Laval’s Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food; Dr. Renald Bergeron, dean of the Faculty of Medicine; Alain Beaudet, CIHR president; Jean-Yves Duclos, federal minister of family, children and social development; Vincenzo Di Marzo, Canada excellence research chair in the microbiome-endocannabinoidome axis in metabolic health; Kirsty Duncan, federal science minister; Denis Brière, rector of Université Laval; and Edwin Bourget, vice-president research and creation. Photo: Marc Robitaille.

At the announcement, from left: Jean-Claude Dufour, dean of Universite Laval’s Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food; Dr. Renald Bergeron, dean of the Faculty of Medicine; Alain Beaudet, CIHR president; Jean-Yves Duclos, federal minister of family, children and social development; Vincenzo Di Marzo, Canada excellence research chair in the microbiome-endocannabinoidome axis in metabolic health; Kirsty Duncan, federal science minister; Denis Brière, rector of Université Laval; and Edwin Bourget, vice-president research and creation. Photo: Marc Robitaille.

Quebec City, QC – The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is providing $10 million over seven years to fund the research of Vincenzo Di Marzo at the Université Laval. A globally renowned biochemist and pharmacologist from Italy, Di Marzo will become a Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) dedicated to studying the relationship between neurochemical signalling and metabolic health.

Dr. Di Marzo is an expert in the brain’s endocannabinoid system, a group of chemical signals responsible for physiological processes such as appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. His research will examine the links between this system and the complex community of micro-organisms that live in the digestive tracts; links believed to be responsible for numerous health issues like obesity. He aims to develop new therapeutic treatments for these disorders which will deliver significant social and health benefits for Canadians while reducing the strain on Canada’s healthcare system.

“We already know much about the intestinal microbiota,” he said. “It basically consists of bacteria, viruses and yeasts, some with beneficial effects on the body and others with less. We also know that a change in the relative composition of gut microbiota affects physiological functions. Indeed, such a change is closely related to certain bowel disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders and even cancer. I hope to clarify this issue. I want to study the microbiota interactions with the human body at the molecular level. The intestine plays an essential role in many biological functions, including metabolism and the immune system. It consists of good and bad bacteria, generally well balanced. But when this balance is broken, there occurs a so-called “dysbiosis” which disrupts the body. ”

“Over the past five years, enormous advances have been made in our understanding of the connection between gastrointestinal micro-organisms and the brain’s endocannabinoid system,” said Alain Beaudet, president, CIHR. “Dr. Di Marzo and his team are working at the cutting edge of this burgeoning area of research and will help to position Canada as a world leader in this field. We are proud to support their efforts, which will ultimately lead to better treatments for a wide range of conditions, including obesity and cardiovascular disease.”