CFI Innovation Funds back five key projects

Paul Mayne//Western News

Robarts Research Institute scientist Geoffrey Pickering talks with London West MP Kate Young, left, and London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos about his work around vascular research, which will share in the nearly $14 million Western received from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s infrastructure funds.

Progress has been made in treating heart and larger vessel disease. But the real culprit for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, may be found in the vast network of small arteries regulating how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the organs, according to one Robarts Research Institute scientist.

“They are part of the vascular tree we do not see. If we can’t see it, we can’t understand it. If we can’t understand it, we can’t manage it,” said Western researcher Geoff Pickering. “It’s become more and more apparent we’re missing something – and that something is what’s going on in the smaller vessels in our body, those tiny threads of small calibre tubes feeding our organs with the oxygen to make them function.”

Pickering’s work was one of five Western-led projects backed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Research Innovation Fund. The nearly $14-million in funding for Western projects was announced today at Robarts, as part of a $554-million CFI investment in 117 new infrastructure projects at 61 universities, colleges and research hospitals.

London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos, who made the announcement alongside London West MP Kate Young, said this funding puts the right tools in the hands of some of the top scientists at Western.

“As a former academic, I’ve been proud of the research that is being carried out at Western,” he said. “Support for research infrastructure is vital in helping this continue because it provides a key building block for research in the first place.”

Thanks to a $1.9-million CFI investment in its work, Pickering’s team of microvascular experts will now be equipped with the advanced technologies necessary to study everything from changes in organ structure, to the distribution of red blood cells and oxygen, to the discrete molecules involved in control pathways.

“It is precisely this (knowledge) gap the CFI funding will fill for our group,” Pickering said.

Other Western researchers receiving CFI funding include:

  • Brain and Mind Institute Director Mel Goodale, $1.47 million, to fund research into brain disorders;
  • Microbiology and Immunology professor Eric Arts, $3.19 million, to establish a unique-in-Canada biological containment facility called Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation that will allow real-time, non-invasive assessments of pathogen-host interactions by employing advanced cell and pathogen molecular tracking systems;
  • Chemistry professor David Shoesmith, $4.47 million, to study materials degradation and establish Western as an international leader in studying materials degradation and working to avoid and/or mitigate materials damage; and
  • Robarts Research Institute scientist Terry Peters, $2.7 million, to renovate existing medical imaging research space at Robarts Research Institute to build and equip the room as a new Level 2 Animal Operating Suite specifically designed for minimally invasive surgery.