CIHR awards grants to four York health researchers

Four York University researchers received operating grants Wednesday from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The projects range from mental health promotion among under-privileged youth to obesity prevention to new cancer diagnostics and treatments.

Tony Clement, federal minister of health, announced that York received $921,000 in funding as part of CIHR’s 2008 national spring funding announcement. A total of 764 health research projects were funded across Canada for a total of over $298 million.

“The Government of Canada is committed to investing in knowledge, science and innovation,” said Clement. “In Budget 2008, we increased CIHR’s budget by $34 million and we made a number of other strategic investments designed to further strengthen Canada’s research capacity. The research being supported with the funding announced today will help us address important health issues affecting Canadians, such as cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS.”

In the Faculty of Health, Professor Paul Ritvo’s research project seeks new methods with which to instill psychological strengths – such as optimism, self-efficacy and generosity – in male youth from low social-economic backgrounds and Toronto’s Jane-Finch community by matching youth with undergraduate mentors from York’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science program.

Professor Rolando Ceddia, also in the Faculty of Health, is examining how the physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in fat storage and energy production within fat cells can be applied to treat obesity and its related metabolic disorders. His research has potential applications to preventing and treating major debilitating diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

In the Faculty of Science & Engineering, Professor Michael Siu is researching new biomarkers – biochemical features used to measure the progress of a disease – to allow for the early detection of head and neck cancer, the world’s sixth most common cancer. His research may lead to a new diagnostic test that would ultimately be used by clinicians to reduce patient morbidity and mortality rates.

Also in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, Professor Chun Peng is conducting research to better-understand the role that hormones play in ovarian cancer cell growth and tumor formation. Her study will lead to a better understanding of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC), the most common of ovarian cancers and which also has the highest mortality rate of female cancers. It may ultimately provide a potential screening and or therapeutic approach for treating EOC.

“The federal government’s investments in health research are a key contributor to Canada’s knowledge base and to our quality of life,” says Siu, who directs York’s Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry and is also associate vice-president research, science & technology. “These grants are a testament to the increasing strength of York’s exceptional health, life sciences, and medical technologies research and the significant contributions our researchers are making to both scientific and public policy research across a range of disciplines.”

Left: Michael Siu

The 764 research projects funded underwent a rigorous peer-review process before being approved and exemplify CIHR’s comprehensive, problem-based approach to funding excellence in health research. The funded research projects will be carried out over periods of one to five years.