Research teams backed with nearly $20 million

Western and Lawson Health Research Institute researchers recently received a financial boost from the Government of Ontario as 20 projects are now being supported with nearly $20 million from the Ontario Research Fund (ORF).

Biomedical imaging researchers in London, Ont., were the big winners as three new locally led initiatives in advanced health technologies received more than $9.5 million in Research Excellence funding, while a fourth project, led by investigators at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto and Maria Drangova and Terry Peters from Robarts Research Institute, brought an additional $1.8 million to Western.

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“Biomedical Imaging is a major area of strength at Western and in London as it is so strongly linked to the excellent research being done by our experts in neuroscience and musculoskeletal health,” said John Capone, vice-president (research). “Western is extremely proud of all of the researchers as these funded projects significantly enhance our capabilities for basic discovery and will also have a positive economic impact in the region.”

Projects funded by the Research Excellence program are matched with funding from private sector partners and local institutions, bringing the total funding for the following three projects to more than $28 million over the next five years. Those projects included:

  • Blaine Chronik, Science, received $2.6 million for his project, Development and Translation of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology for Neuro-interventional Applications, which looks to develop new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems that are smaller, lighter, cheaper and easier to use, yet still deliver high-performance neuroimaging results;
  • David Holdsworth, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and his co-investigators from Schulich and Engineering, received $3.3 million for their project, Development of Novel Therapies for Bone and Joint Diseases, which looks to advance novel therapies for musculoskeletal disorders, which cost the Ontario economy more than $9 billion dollars annually, based on state-of-the art MRI and X-ray systems; and
  • Frank Prato, Schulich, working with collaborators at the Ottawa Heart Institute and Sunnybrook Hospital, received $3.6 million for their project, Heart Failure: Prevention Through Early Detection Using New Imaging Methods, which looks to improve methods for early diagnosis and preventive care for heart disease, which affects 10 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 60.

Additional provincial funding of nearly $7 million will support new research infrastructure for nine researchers at Western, including $3.5 million for Chemistry professor Elizabeth Gillies toward building a new facility enabling biomaterials to be studied in 3D, while $2.2 million in funding was awarded to Civil & Environmental Engineering professor Timothy Newson for a unique laboratory designed to conduct scaled physical modeling of geotechnical problems.

Other researchers, and their projects, included:

  • Earth Sciences professor Audrey Bouvier, Isotopic and Geochemical Investigations of Planetary Materials, $199,997;
  • Chemical and Biochemical professor Lauren Flynn, cross-appointed to Anatomy and Cell Biology, Laboratory for Cell-based Regenerative Strategies with Adipose-derived Stem Cells, $199,826;
  • Physiology and Pharmacology professor Stephen Lomber, cross-appointed to Psychology, Equipment for Electrophysiological Recording and Functional Imaging of Brain Plasticity, $200,000;
  • Clinical Neurological Sciences professor Penny MacDonald, Investigating Cognition in Parkinson’s Disease: Identifying Clinical and Cognitive Features That Predict Functional Impairment, $134,749;
  • Biochemistry professor Patrick O’Donoghue, Hardwiring Protein Modifications As Probes of Signalling, Epigenetic, & Redox Networks, $199,804;
  • Engineering professor Abouzar Sadrekarimi, Bidirectional Cyclic Simple Shear Testing of Soils, $125,220; and’
  • Biology professor Danielle Way, Infrastructure for the Analysis of Global Change Impacts on Tree and Forest Function, $179,347.

Seven more Western investigators received more than $1.3 million in total funding through the Early Researcher Awards program, which is intended to help new researchers build a team. Those researchers, and their projects, included:

  • Health Studies professor Shauna Burke, H.A.M.P. Families: Designing and implementing a community-based program of research targeting childhood obesity via health-related behaviours and literacy, $140,000;
  • Chemistry professor Joe Gilroy, Functional Polymers for Next Generation Solar Cells, $140,000;
  • Epidemiology & Biostatistics professor Sisira Sarma, The Impact of Physician Mode of Remuneration on Health Care Utilization, Costs, and Quality of Care in Ontario, $140,000;
  • Physiology and Pharmacology professor Cheryle Séguin, Mouse models to study intervertebral disc development, health and disease, $140,000;
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Ana Luisa Trejos, Development of Wearable Mechatronic Devices for Rehabilitation, $140,000;
  • Ivey Business School professor Jean-Philippe Vergne, Is Bitcoin the Future of the Digital Economy?, $140,000; and
  • Biology professor Danielle Way, Understanding how climate change will affect carbon and water dynamics, growth, and survival of boreal tree species, $140,000.