A University of Manitoba led national team of researchers has been awarded $300,000 in new funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study the mechanism of infection and the immune response of patients who experience severe respiratory illness (SRI) associated with the H1N1 flu virus.
The team is being led by Satyendra Sharma, professor and head of the section of respirology in the University’s department of internal medicine and head of respirology at the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface General Hospital.
Federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq today announced support for a total of five new research projects designed to help further understand and address the H1N1 flu virus, while touring the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
“Canada is a global leader in H1N1 flu virus research, including research with our international partners on a safe and effective H1N1 vaccine,” said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “The scientific research we are funding today will help ensure that our knowledge, approach and planning remain among the best in the world.”
Sharma’s project will provide insights into what leads to SRIs that result in hospitalization of the patient. The team will study the immune systems of the infected individuals, the spectrum of gene activation in host cells upon H1N1 viral infection, and the genetic variation in both individuals with SRIs and those with mild disease following H1N1 infection. This approach will reduce both the number of people who become ill and those who die as a result of seasonal influenza.
“The research team led by Dr. Sharma and his colleagues nationally, is taking a unique approach to finding answers to the factors associated with SRIs in at-risk populations,” said Digvir Jayas, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Manitoba. “This collaborative approach will give answers that can be used to reduce the severity of current and future pandemics.”
The research team is made up of collaborators across Canada and includes the Cadham Provincial Laboratory; University of British Columbia; University of Western Ontario; Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto; Institute for Biodiagnostics, National Research Council; McMaster University, Dalhousie University, Public Health Agency of Canada; and the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion.
The research announced today – a total $2.4 million to five projects over 2 years - is being funded through CIHR’s Catalyst Grant program, which provides short-term funding for targeted health research activities. The projects were selected through a rigorous, independent peer review process following a call for applications issued in July 2009.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support over 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada. www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca