CFI funding goes to innovative York projects


Three York University research projects have won grants totalling more than $650,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The projects are in chemistry, mathematics and kinesiology.

Three of the awards are part of $43.5 million in CFI funding announced June 18 in Ottawa by David Strangway, CFI president and CEO, and Rey Pagtakhan, federal minister of veterans affairs and secretary of state (science, research and development). This latest round of CFI funding, under the New Opportunities Fund for research infrastructure, will support 282 new faculty appointments in 46 universities across Canada. 

Three principal researchers have received more than $200,000 each for the following projects:

Kinesiologist Michael Riddell (right) has received $206,195 for an exercise physiology and endocrinology laboratory to study metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Over two million Canadians have type 2 diabetes and up to three million have symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Regular exercise prevents the development of diabetes. In his unique and multidisciplinary laboratory, Riddell will investigate the divergent effects of exercise, stress and lifestyle on the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. With endocrine/metabolic tools, he will assess changes in hormones and receptors caused by stress and exercise. Using exercise physiology equipment, he will study the effects of lifestyle factors on the disease progression.

Chemistry researcher Robert Hudgins has received $200,167 for his project, Facility for the Structural Characterization and Sequencing of Proteins and Peptides in Vacuo. With the funding, he will develop a more financially accessible, custom-built apparatus to perform electron-capture dissociation (ECD) – one of the most promising new biological mass spectrometry techniques – and to perform ion-mobility spectrometry (IMS) on mass-selected biological ions, one of the only techniques available for studying the structures of biomolecules in an unsolvated environment. The concept and design of this ECD/IMS apparatus is completely new and will provide York with unique opportunities to train personnel and develop patentable new instrumentation.

Mathematician and statistician Huaiping Zhu (left), with co-applicants Steven Wang and Zijiang Yang, has received $250,045 to build a parallel computing facility for a mathematical and statistical analysis of complex systems, large data sets and performance analysis. Zhu’s epidemiological modeling and analysis of mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus, could help predict outbreaks. Wang’s clustering algorithms of large data sets will improve classification of genes related to human diseases such as cancer and to drug discovery. And Yang’s work on complex optimization algorithms operating on very large databases will provide an objective tool to measure information technology (IT) performance and a science-based guideline to optimize IT spending.

York was offered funding in this latest round for a fourth project. However, it has declined CFI funding for a laboratory to study growth, maturation and physical activity because principal investigator Joey Eisenmann has transferred to another university.

The CFI funding will cover 40 per cent of the cost of the research projects. York expects confirmation of matching funding from the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) in July.

The CFI is an independent, not-for-profit corporation established by the Government of Canada in 1997 to strengthen the capacity for innovation in Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and other non-profit research institutions.