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2021 CIHR Grants to St. Boniface Hospital Researchers just over $1.7M

Congratulations to two St. Boniface Hospital Research Principal Investigators, Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and Dr. Thomas Hack, who were recently granted Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funding for $960,076 and $745,875 respectively.

“This is yet another testament to the fact we have some of the best researchers in the country,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital. “It’s a very competitive landscape, with hundreds of applicants from institutions across the country vying for financial support that is critical for long-term success and sustainability, so this is a huge win for St. Boniface Hospital Research.” 

Dhingra’s work is looking at therapies using adult stem cells derived from young and healthy donors to help repair heart damage in older patients with a history of heart disease. Initial research showed promising benefits, but in recent animal studies and human clinical trials, transplanted stem cells were still being rejected by the host immune system. The nearly $1M in CIHR funding over five years for this phase of Dhingra’s work will be invested in developing better strategies to prevent rejection and improve the survival of transplanted stem cells to potentially provide a permanent cure for patients living with heart disease.

Hack, who works in partnership with nominated principal applicant for this funding, Dr. Shane Sinclair at the University of Calgary, is also joined by two U of M professors in efforts to advance the EnACT study; the development and evaluation of an Evidence-informed, Competency-based, Accredited Compassion Training Program for Healthcare Providers Caring for Older Adults.  This four year, multi-centred study is the culmination of previous research work that developed an empirical model of compassion that carefully delineated what compassion is and what it isn’t, which then led to the creation of a valid and reliable patient-reported compassion measure.

Kirshenbaum featured in PharmaVOICE

Recently, Tourism Winnipeg published an article in PharmaVOICE featuring Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

The article speaks of Winnipeg as an attractive destination to host life sciences sector-related businesses, events, meetings, conventions, networking opportunities and trade shows. A specific example has been Manitoba’s longstanding history of cardiovascular research, as described by Dr. Kirshenbaum.

You can read the article on pages 11 and 12 from the following online PDF:

The Research Dividend

From the desk of Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director Research, St. Boniface Hospital

The Canadian government invests billions of dollars per year in research, particularly in the biomedical and health-related fields, however, on a per-person basis, this represents only about one-tenth of the investment that the United States makes in its own research portfolio. There is clearly room for Canada to do more. In the short term, Canada must double or triple its research investment and aim to close the funding gap over the next decade. While the initial costs would be significant, the long-term outcomes could dramatically build our country’s economic growth.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the incredible power of biomedical research. Never before have we learned so much, so quickly, about a global health threat. The fast-paced development and roll-out of vaccines – including the rapid deployment of mRNA-based vaccine technology – is unprecedented in our history. While Canada deployed additional research funding to bolster these efforts, this was a reactionary approach targeted at a single health challenge. Broader investment in biomedical research will boost our ability to respond to threats known and unknown.

Universities and hospitals are two of the main sites of federally-funded biomedical research activity in Canada. Research at St. Boniface Hospital represents a unique partnership between the Hospital, the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and spans neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular medicine from cells to patients, and the medicinal benefits of the crops we grow and foods we eat. The adaptable training and skills of researchers also make it possible to shift to new areas, such as COVID-19-related studies.

As the Hospital celebrates 150 years of providing outstanding care to Manitobans, the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation marks 50 years of supporting research through the contributions of thousands of Manitobans. Between the Albrechtsen Research Centre and the Asper Clinical Research Institute, more than 200 academics, researchers, clinicians, scientists and students call the St. Boniface research campus home. The discoveries made here have a global impact, as shown by a recent study from Stanford University noting that ten of our researchers rank within the top 2% of scientists worldwide, in any field. Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers are published annually, and several spin-off companies have arisen from the St. Boniface research cluster.

This local research community is an economic engine. Typically, a significant portion of research dollars supports research personnel and students. They, in turn, pay rent or mortgages, buy cars and groceries, order take-out, cover their utilities and pay taxes, contributing to the local economy. For the researchers at St. Boniface Hospital, each dollar provided by donors attracts an additional five dollars in outside funding.

Unlike resource extraction or processing, research can take place anywhere researchers live and are supported. Canada has centres of research in communities across the county, although a critical mass is required to ensure they thrive.

Biomedical research in particular yields both direct and indirect economic benefits. The generation of new patents – of significant value in their own right – and the products that arise from the commercialization of these discoveries are key examples. In biomedicine, these products include pharmaceuticals, surgical and medical devices, bio-diagnostic test kits and more.

To drive these commercial activities, new companies are created – generating not only additional, significant economic value in their own right, but arguably the most important indirect benefit: the creation of new, high-tech jobs. Investment in research supports the training of students in universities, colleges and technical vocational schools to work in this sector, and a portion of these students will make up the next generation of academics and research directors to continue the cycle. Building this cycle through careful research investment is critical – without it, Canada faces a brain drain as the people we invest in leave for other countries where research funding is more readily available.

The pursuit of scientific discovery through research is one of the most important activities humanity can undertake, showing us the way forward to build a better world for all. Canada is well-positioned to take a global leadership role in this area, and by investing now, we will reap a research dividend that can transform our economy in the future.

Dr. Mike Czubryt
Michael P. Czubryt, PhD, FCVS, FAHA, FIACS
Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital
Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathophysiology Laboratory
St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre
Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology
Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

ICS Grad Student Recognized for Outstanding Academic Achievement

Congratulations to Akshi Malik, supervised by Dr. Pawan Singal, Division of Cardiovascular Science at UM and Principal Investigator with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, for receiving the Dean of Graduate Studies Student Achievement Prize for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“This award recognizes Akshi’s outstanding performance as a graduate student in several ways: her overall academic excellence, leadership, teaching ability, volunteerism, and her service to others as a mentor to fellow students,” said Dr. Kelley Main, Acting Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies at University of Manitoba. 

“This award indeed is very competitive, only three are given in one year throughout the University.  For the selection, there is a multi-step process, starting with my nomination to the Department.  The Departmental Committee vets all the nominations and can forward only one candidate.  This time it was Akshi and she made it through.  Indeed a great honour for our lab, the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, as well as the Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology,” said Dr. Singal.

Congratulations again Akshi – we all wish you continued success.

Czubryt named Executive Director of Research

After an extensive search and selection process, St. Boniface Hospital President & CEO, Martine Bouchard, proudly announced Dr. Michael Czubryt as the successful candidate to assume the position of Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital, effective September 1, 2021.

Dr. Czubryt is Principal Investigator of the Molecular Pathophysiology Laboratory in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences in the Albrechtsen Research Centre, and Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba. He is a global expert on gene regulation in cardiac fibrosis and heart failure, with a focus on translating basic research discoveries to the clinic.

He brings significant educational and administrative experience to this position, including previous service as Associate Department Head and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba for the past two years. He has served on the advisory committees of over 40 graduate students, and has contributed to the training of an additional 50 developing scientists at various career stages.

Dr. Czubryt’s record of service includes many years as member or chair of numerous peer review committees at all levels: local, national and international. His extensive work for scholarly societies in physiology and cardiovascular medicine, as well as service to more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific journals, are widely recognized.

Duhamel appointed Associate Dean

Congratulations to Dr. Todd Duhamel, who was recently appointed as Associate Dean (Health Sciences), Faculty of Graduate Studies, effective September 1, 2021.

Dr. Todd Duhamel is a Principal Investigator within the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface General Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and a Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management.

He has successfully secured more than $2.4 million for research as a Principal Investigator and $7.4 million for collaborative research conducted as a Co-Investigator from agencies such as the CIHR, NSERC and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Dr. Duhamel has used those research funds to publish 1 smartphone application and more than 100 peer-reviewed contributions. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recognized Dr. Duhamel with its Young Investigator Award in 2017. Dr. Duhamel serves the Canadian research enterprise by participating in peer-review activities for a variety of national (e.g. CIHR, NSERC, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Diabetes Association) and provincial (e.g. New Brunswick Health Research Foundation; Michael Smith Health Research Foundation; Saskatchewan Health Research Council and Research Manitoba) organizations. Dr. Duhamel’s expert teaching has been recognized by institutional awards, including a 2012 University of Manitoba Merit Award for Combination of Teaching, Service, and/or Research; a prestigious University of Manitoba Graduate Student Association Teaching Award in 2013; and, a Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2014.

CBC Manitoba recognized Dr. Duhamel amongst its “Future 40” in 2015, which celebrated the province’s new generation of leaders, builders and change-makers. Dr. Duhamel has supported graduate education through administrative contributions to the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, where he served 3 years as Graduate Program Chair, 5 years as Associate Dean (Research & Graduate Studies) and 6 months as Acting Director of the Applied Health Sciences PhD program. At the national level, Dr. Duhamel continues to support graduate education as chair of the prestigious CIHR Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Duhamel to his new role as Associate Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Farewell to a legendary leader and mentor

It is with sad hearts and deep respect that we acknowledge the recent passing of Dr. John Foerster, former Executive Director of St. Boniface Hospital Research, and a veritable pillar in the academic, scientific research, medical and faith communities, both here at home, and internationally.

“The legacy of excellence and compassion Dr. Foerster left with St. B is a fitting example of his shining humanity and integrity.  We are all saddened to hear of his passing,” shared Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital. 

The first Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital (1986-2005), he was recruited specifically for the purpose of raising teaching and research to higher levels of excellence and productivity. Dr John Foerster was a Professor at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine and a specialist in hematology and oncology. He was named head of medicine at St. Boniface Hospital in 1975 at the age of 40.

“Dr. Foerster championed, in words and actions, the importance and impact of service to others. His kindness and humility brought people together to accomplish great things. He fostered medical research at St. Boniface Hospital from a dream to the vibrant reality that thrives today, and his legacy is writ large in the research campus that he was instrumental in building, and that continues to benefit the people of Manitoba, Canada and the world,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Interim Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Foerster recruited the first Research Centre program in 1987 (Cardiovascular Sciences), comprised of five faculty members, 40 students, and staff supported by a modest research budget. By his retirement, Foerster had guided its’ growth to more than 190 research and support personnel with a budget of over $7,000,000. The 14 research programs were directly linked to clinical departments – in infectious diseases, respiratory medicine, nephrology, cardiology, clinical nursing research and cancer research.

In 1990, he championed Manitoba’s first Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner – used for research and clinical applications – now the Andrei Sakharov MRI Centre. With Foerster’s leadership, St. Boniface Hospital opened the Centre for Research on Diseases of the Aging in the Research Centre in 1998, which now bears his name. Further growth of the enterprise required the creation of additional space and resulted in the construction of the Asper Clinical Research Institute, which opened its doors in 2006.

Foerster received the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Manitoba Alumni Association for his contribution to the University, the medical profession, and advancing medical research in the province.

“Words are not enough to express the loss that we all feel with John’s passing. Dr Foerster was a true visionary, his insight and forward thinking commitment to bettering the lives of the sick led to the creation of the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, which has flourished into a global research enterprise, known the world over for its leadership in innovative health research. He was a very special person to me. We are forever grateful to Dr John Foerster for his wisdom, vision and kind hearted personality; he will be sadly missed,” shared Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Dr. Foerster also received the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation’s International Award in 2006. These awards largely recognized his leadership abilities as Executive Director of Research for St Boniface Hospital, however, the commitment he demonstrated throughout his professional and volunteer activities encompassed an impressively broad scope of influence in all aspects of life – from national granting agencies and medical ethics to involvement in two seminaries and his church.

“John was a mentor, a role model, such a caring and gentle soul, the epitome of a scholar and a gentleman. He helped me throughout my career and was incredibly honourable when he stepped away to let me move into the Executive Director position. Above all, he was a quiet but strongly convicted man of God, someone who knew right from wrong, the ethical and moral way to conduct himself, something we are so sadly missing in so many today,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba, and Executive Director for St. Boniface Hospital Research from 2005 to 2020.

In 2016, Dr. Foerster was named a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to health care administration and the creation of St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. That same year, he was inducted into the St. Boniface Hospital Research Hall of Fame.

Fellow Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla, had this to say, “Dr. John Foerster was the prime moving force for the development of St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre and promoted collaborations between the Hospital and the University of Manitoba. He inspired others to achieve excellence in both biomedical and clinical research for finding solutions to diverse health problems.” 

On behalf of all the staff and students at St. Boniface Hospital Research, our sincere condolences are offered to Dr. Foerster’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Please feel free to leave your comments and condolences in the reply window below:

Yan selected as 2021 Paul Dudley White (PDW) International Scholar

Weiang Yan, PhD student, was recently recognized by the AHA as part of its upcoming Basic Cardiovascular Science (BCVS) Scientific Sessions 2021 Conference, whereby the primary author of the highest ranked accepted abstract from each country is designated as a PDW International Scholar.

“This is a highly competitive and prestigious award given by the BCVS council of the American Heart Association – we couldn’t be more proud and happy for Weiang,” said Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program here at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Yan is co-supervised by Dr. Dhingra and Dr. Rakesh Arora, Principal Investigator, Patient Centered Inclusive Research – Enhancing the Perioperative Experience (ALIVE to THRIVE),  Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Paul Dudley White was a founder of the AHA and a champion for global cardiovascular health strategies. Yan’s stellar, peer-reviewed work, reflects Dr. White’s vision for global excellence in cardiovascular science and medicine.

The AHA’s virtual conference is scheduled for August 23-25, 2021.

Albensi Accepts Chair Position at NSU in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Congratulations to Dr. Benedict Albensi, Ph.D., BCMAS, CRQM, Principal Investigator and the Everett Endowment Fund Chair for Alzheimer’s Research at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, who will be leaving Winnipeg for Fort Lauderdale as the newly appointed Department Chair for the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at Nova Southeast University in Florida, USA.  Additionally, he will also be Co-Director of NSU Florida’s recently launched B.R.A.I.N. Center, which will look at brain metabolism and the role of antioxidant and nutritional factors across the life span.

Albensi, who is ranked as a world expert, joined the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, in 2005. He is best known for his work with factors involved in ageing, cognition, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), such as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), a mediator of inflammation and a required molecule for memory.

“Ben brought great things to St. Boniface Research and DND, and we will miss his energy and expertise,” said Dr. Paul Fernyhough, Director of DND and Principal Investigator, Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration Lab. “He has always pushed the boundaries, for instance, he is one of the few basic scientists who have ventured into clinical research with his flax beverage study looking at memory loss.”

Fernyhough recruited Albensi 16 years ago to join St. Boniface Hospital Research because he was looking for someone to lead the development and expansion of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) research here in Manitoba.

“He’s been very successful connecting with families, organizations and research teams to develop collaborative research approaches. This was an ambitious plan for our region and the connections he’s forged are important and impressive,” he explained.

For Dr. Mike Czubryt, Interim Executive Director at SBRC, Albensi’s departure is significant, “If you look at some of his metrics, and the recognition he’s received, he’s been a stellar addition to our team here, attracting significant funding, raising our profile as a world leader in basic and clinical research,” he said.

Albensi’s lab and team will remain operational as the majority portion of his current funding is active for another three years. “I’ll be back regularly to check in with my team on major milestones for ongoing projects,” he said.   

For Fernyhough, it’s been good to collaborate with Albensi, “I have always admired his rigorous approach and drive to achieve through lifelong learning. From all of us in DND, we wish him the very best success moving forward.”

Benedict Albensi earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Utah’s Medical School in 1995. He was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, working with Drs. Faden and Pekar, where he developed MRI methods for investigating head trauma and cognition. He then went on to work as a Postdoctoral Scholar with Dr. Mark Mattson, an internationally recognized leader in neurodegenerative research, at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging – University of Kentucky where he was the first to show NF-kB is required for synaptic plasticity in mammals. Other appointments have included the Cleveland Clinic, NPS Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Case Western Reserve University. Over the last few years, his work has been largely focused on mitochondrial dysfunction in AD, and recently showed how very early deficits and sex-based differences in mitochondrial function before the appearance of plaques and tangles, are the classic hallmarks of AD.

Araujo and Manson named 2021 Vanier Scholars

Congratulations to Daniel Schwade Araujo and Anne Manson, PhD students here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, who were both named 2021 Vanier Scholars.

Araujo, studying at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, will undertake a PhD in Applied Health Sciences and works under Dr. Todd Duhamel, Principal Investigator Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Prevention, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences

Manson, a PhD student in CCARM’s Nutrition and Lipid Mediators Lab under Dr. Harold Aukema studies Plant And Animal Biology – Animal Physiology And Metabolism, and her research proposal is Diet by Sex Interactions on Oxylipins and Phospholipase A2 Activity in Rat Hearts.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) program is designed to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Vanier Scholars demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. The Vanier scholarship provides up to $50K per year for three years during doctoral studies.

Science and Economic Development Canada, together with Canada’s federal granting agencies, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, announced the results of the 2020-2021 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships, on July 16, 2021.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

St. Boniface Investigators attract over $300,000 in NSERC funding

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) recently awarded two significant grants to support the work of Dhingra and Moghadasian respectively.

Dr. Mohammed Moghadasian, Principal Investigator of the Pathology Research Laboratory, Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at the Albrechtsen Research Centre, will be using $140K in funding to continue his work investigating the dietary effects of phytosterols and Saskatoon berries on cholesterol and glucose metabolism: the crosstalk between gut microbiota and functional foods.

“Genetics and diets are two main contributing factors to physiologic organ function. Some foods offer more benefits than just their nutritional values; these foods are called ‘functional foods’ a term coined in Japan in the 1980’s. Since then hundreds of functional foods have been produced and marketed worldwide,” Moghadasian said.

Since the mid-90’s, Moghadasian’s research team has contributed to the understanding of how phytosterols (plant sterols and stanols) impact cholesterol metabolism and cardiovascular function. Phytosterols are produced by all plants and reduce blood bad cholesterol levels in humans. More recently, his team came to understand the mechanisms of the effects of several other foods, including wild rice, Saskatoon berries, and wild watermelon seeds on normal vessel function as well as glucose and cholesterol metabolism in animal studies.

Moghadasian’s long-term goal is to develop new ways of synthesizing and/or formulating novel nutraceuticals and/or active pharmaceutical ingredients for preserving physiologic cholesterol and glucose metabolism, producing data that will help shed light on understanding how dietary agents preserve the integrity of biological systems. This in turn can help provide directions for the development of new nutraceuticals and/or active pharmaceutical ingredients, with long-term positive impacts on Canada’s agricultural, economic and health sectors.

Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Albrechtsen Research Centre at St. Boniface Hospital will apply $165K in NSERC funding towards the design, synthesis and immunocharacterization of next generation bio-materials.

“A biomaterial is any material that interacts with a biological system such as our bodies,” Dhingra explained. “Many newer bio-materials have been designed to guide the cells in a body on a microscopic level. An example of this is MXene, a family of very small particles with a wide range of biological functions, including sensors, bone replacements and drug delivery systems.”

The NSERC funding will support Dhingra’s team to look at the design and synthesis of biomaterials as well as the language they use to ‘talk’ to immune cells, which is important because the immune system normally protects our body from harmful foreign substances and can act as a barrier between any implanted material and our body. So, for any biomaterial to perform its function, it needs to be compatible with immune cells to stay in the body and not be rejected.

“We recently found that MXenes can interact directly with immune cells due to their structure – essentially a carbon and metal core surrounded by many groups of atoms called ‘functional groups’. These surface functional groups are what MXene uses to interact with cells, and we think the message delivered by biomaterials to immune cells can be altered by changing their surface functional groups,” he explained.
Dhingra’s long-term goal for this research will be to help develop a new way for biomaterials to be made and ensure they are friendly to immune cells.

For more on Dhingra’s discoveries around MXene, please see our other story, available here:

Research Without Borders Partnership Yields Publishing First

In a first for one of the partnerships created through the Research Without Borders initiative, a joint-research endeavour between investigators here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel, Dr. Hope Anderson and Dr. Yoram Etzion recently published findings on the endocannabinoid system as a therapeutic target, specifically with respect to atrial fibrillation (AF).

“The most devastating complications of AF are events such stroke and heart failure. Treatment approaches such as drugs and surgery do exist, but these are limited in effectiveness. In fact, the need for improved therapeutic options is well-recognized,” said Dr. Anderson.

As reported in the paper, drugs which activate cannabinoid (CB) receptors blocked changes in the heart, as well as signalling abnormalities that are hallmarks of AF, indicating these drugs may be a new treatment strategy to treat AF, and therefore warrant further study.

“The focus of the project on the cardiac endocannabinoid system, which is the expertise of Anderson’s lab, as a possible therapeutic target in atrial fibrillation, which is the main focus of my laboratory, has created a fruitful synergistic collaboration for both groups,” elaborated Dr. Etzion, who is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Physiology and Cell Biology and Head, Cardiac Arrhythmia Research Laboratory at BGU. “We hope that the current highly encouraging findings will lead to a long-standing collaboration that may eventually lead to critical therapeutic implications for AF patients,” he added. When feasible, the next steps include Dr. Etzion visiting St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre to assist Anderson’s lab in establishing his pioneering technology within its research program.

Work undertaken by Danielle Lee, a Ph.D. student in Anderson’s lab was vital to this development.

“I visited Ben Gurion University for a term in 2019 and was taught how to use their novel ex vivo tachypacing Langendorff technique. Further experiments conducted since my return to Winnipeg have demonstrated that CB13, a synthetic cannabinoid, altered tachypacing-induced atrial remodelling. CB13 prevented atrial effective refractory period shortening and altered Cx43. Additionally, CB13 also activated cardioprotective mediators in regards to metabolic dysfunction (e.g. AMPK and PGC1alpha). These findings are important as they demonstrate that cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid therapies may be able to prevent atrial remodelling in patients suffering from atrial fibrillation,” she shared.

Molecular Cardiology Program publishes exciting finding on why SKI acts as a ‘scaffold’ inhibiting fibroblast activation.

On behalf of the Molecular Cardiology Program under the direction of Dr. Ian Dixon, we are very pleased to announce the exciting publishing news of their paper, “SKI activates the Hippo pathway via LIMD1 to inhibit cardiac fibroblast activation”. The paper lists Dr. Natalie Landry as the first author and features no fewer than four summer students who have worked and produced data in Dixon’s lab, as well as senior PI’s Drs. Kardami and Duhamel.  The work is published this month in Basic Research in Cardiology, a top basic cardiovascular research journal with an impact factor of 11.98.

In other news from the Dixon lab this month, Dr. Natalie Landry also appeared as a first-author within a book chapter on preserving the quiescent fibroblast phenotype by reducing biomechanical stress (eg, Young’s Modulus, elasticity in tension of a solid material) input to primary mouse fibroblasts using silicone substrates to emulate “heart soft” conditions.  This is important because normal cell culture practice involves plating of these fibroblast cells on polystyrene or other plastics, or collagen-coated plastic – all, extremely stiff substrates – and leads to rapid activation of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts, and thus prohibits the study of the basal quiescent phenotype.  The new method will allow for accurate measurement of physiological responsiveness of the basal cell state, which has not been well documented to date.  The book is entitled Myofibroblasts – Methods and Protocols (Springer) and is edited by Boris Hinz, a world expert out of U of Toronto and David Lagares of Harvard Medical School, as a tribute to the discoverer of myofibroblasts, Dr. Giulio Gabbiani (University of Geneva, Switzerland). Dr Gabbiani also provides a great perspective chapter within the book.

Finally, Dr. Dixon’s group published their findings on a selected compendium of factors that activate and deactivate cardiac fibroblasts, including their finding that PDGF Receptor a is upregulated in activated in senescent cardiac myofibroblasts residing in the infarct scar in chronic post-myocardial infarction.  This work features the efforts of Dr. Rebeca Camargo and Besher Abual’anaz – graduate students in the lab, who provided the data and writing input respectively, and is published in Wound Repair and Regeneration

Congratulations to all!   

Youth BIOlab creates an activity book for kids

The Youth BIOlab at St. Boniface Hospital Research has created an activity book for kids!

Featuring creative artwork by Kyla Lamb, a Red River College graphic design student, the new 28-page activity book is a fun way for kids to explore science and research at the Albrechtsen Research Centre while awaiting the reopening of the Youth BIOlab.

Many principal investigators from St. Boniface Hospital Research offered their own content and feedback towards the project adding many sciences and research-based facts and information.

This print resource was conceived as something that would be provided to students during remote learning periods, especially in communities with internet connectivity issues. The team from the BIOlab, lead by Steve Jones, aims to have this activity book in the hands of students as soon as possible.

A PDF copy is available online. Requests for physical copies may be sent to

Dr. Thomas Hack – Named Distinguished Professor at University of Manitoba

Congratulations to Dr. Thomas Hack, Director, Psychosocial Oncology and Cancer Nursing Research, St. Boniface Research Centre, recently named Distinguished Professor by the University of Manitoba. The title is bestowed to academic staff demonstrating excellence and outstanding achievements in research and scholarship, or in creative professional activity, and a significant teaching record.

“Dr. Hack is so well regarded as an outstanding teacher, mentor and role model for his work in Psychosocial Oncology and Cancer Nursing Research here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and the Asper Clinical Institute,” said Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital. “Our sincere and hearty congratulations to him on this incredible honour.”

Dr. Hack has been a professor at the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, and a Principal Investigator with St. Boniface Hospital and the Asper Clinical Research Institute since 2000.

“For many years, Dr. Hack and his team have conducted important research into how patients cope with a cancer diagnosis, how they interact with the healthcare system, and how they can be better supported at such a vulnerable time. This recognition is a clear testament to the positive impact of Dr. Hack’s work on both the research community and on patients themselves,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Interim Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

In the year 2000, Dr. Hack was named the first recipient of the Dorothy J. Lamont Research Scientist award from the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2002, Dr. Hack received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to those affected by cancer. In 2006 and 2014, he received the University of Manitoba Merit Award for research accomplishment. In 2012, he was awarded a Chair in Psychosocial and Supportive Care Oncology Research from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Prairies/NWT region. In 2019 he was inducted as a fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Hack joins Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla and Dr. Grant Pierce, who were also named Distinguished Professors in previous years, making St. Boniface Hospital Research the active ‘home’ to three such individuals. In addition, two former members of Psychosocial Oncology and Cancer Nursing Research here at St. Boniface Hospital Research have received the title of Distinguished Professor, including Distinguished Professor Emeritus Lesley Degner, and Distinguished Professor Roberta Woodgate, both from the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

St. B Researcher Helps Develop Compassion Measurement Tool For Improved Patient Experiences in Health Care

At a time when virtually all hospital patients and care-residents were and continue to be isolated from loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic due to visitor restrictions, the expression of compassionate care becomes even more important for Canada’s future and the wellbeing of its population.

How patients experience compassion in the healthcare system is something that can now be more accurately measured with the use of the Sinclair Compassion Questionnaire (SCQ), a first-of-its-kind tool developed jointly by Dr. Thomas Hack, of St. Boniface Hospital Research and UM College of Nursing, and his co-principal investigator Dr. Shane Sinclair from the University of Calgary.

“I am so pleased this tool is available to empower healthcare facilities and their teams to be better at alleviating the suffering of our fellow humans,” said Hack.

The product of a comprehensive country-wide study examining patient experiences in the healthcare system, SCQ was based on data gathered from more than 600 individuals in acute care, long-term care and hospice settings, and will be of particular benefit to teams working in these facilities.

“We talk about compassion a lot as health care professionals, but it’s really how the patient perceives and receives compassion that matters the most. That’s why we undertook the study and developed the questionnaire – to create a robust tool that truly captures with consistency, validity, accuracy and sensitivity, that can help inform better programming in our facilities and how our staff are trained to deliver compassionate care,” Hack elaborated.

Chief Nursing Officer Kathleen Klassen of Deer Lodge Centre, helped support patient input from her facility used to inform Hack and Sinclair’s research, which ultimately led to the development of the questionnaire.

“The Compassionate Care Questionnaire provides a reliable and valid measure of compassionate care as experienced by patients and residents. By being able to measure compassionate care, we can target quality improvement actions at the individual, unit, facility level to improve the quality of life and service experience for those living at Deer Lodge Centre,” she shared.

Klassen explained how the questionnaire would be incorporated as part of annual client experience and quality of life surveys facilities such as Deer Lodge Centre regularly undertake. “The results will then be analyzed at the unit, program and facility level to help identify themes and opportunities to improve our quality of life and quality of care delivery models,” she added.

Hack said he and Sinclair hope the SCQ can ultimately become part of inpatient medical records and then aggregated to produce institutional compassion scores.

“This would allow health care teams to improve compassion and patients and families to determine things such as which long-term care home to place their loved ones in, based on the compassion scores of those facilities,” Sinclair emphasized.

British Medical Journal Open
UM News Compassion Measure
U Calgary News Patient-Reported Compassion Measure

Dhingra Lab Publishes Work on Next Generation Biomaterial in High Impact Nanotechnology Journal

Data indicates potential game-changer, extending implantable medical device battery-life up to 20 years.

Researchers in the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program at St. Boniface Hospital Research have synthesized a next-generation bio-compatible electrode named TTO MXene which has the potential to support battery life that can be measured in decades, to safely power medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants, among others.

“When I first saw the data from our research, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Albrechtsen Research Centre at St. Boniface Hospital.

Dhingra explained that the batteries used to power medical devices like cardiac pacemakers have limited lifespans – as short as three to seven years – after which patients must undergo surgical procedures to replace the unit.

“When we compared our electrode to other capacitors currently in use, the batteries made from our new MXene material showed it would last much, much longer than that, up to 20 years,” he said.

To make sure they were truly onto something big, Dhingra sent his material and lab’s data to a colleague in Texas who tested it using a different method and the results were indeed the same.

“It was an exciting moment, for sure,” he shared.

The paper capturing this game-changing development for implantable medical devices was recently accepted for publication in ‘Advanced Functional Materials’, one of the world’s most prestigious journals in the field of medical nanotechnology with an Impact Factor of 16.83, an incredible scope of reach for scientists to share their work.

The paper, titled: “Development of Fluorine-Free Tantalum Carbide MXene Hybrid Structure as a Biocompatible Material for Supercapacitor Electrodes” will be featured this month as a ‘HOT TOPIC’ including a cover image developed by Dhingra’s team.

The article shares details on how the synthesis of the new MXene-based bioelectrode for energy storage applications shows not only an incredible capacity for long-life power storage but excellent stability and bio-compatibility with different human tissues as well.

The work of Dhingra’s team further confirmed TTO MXene’s performance was superior to almost all other bioelectrode materials, including lithium-ion film batteries, electric double-layer capacitors, and aluminum electrolytic capacitors.

A patent for TTO MXene has been filed by Dhingra’s lab, positioning this as a significant achievement with many exciting future applications to help benefit patients across the world.

“We are so pleased to be recognized and published by this journal and look forward to our continued study and development of this important new material,” Dhingra stated.

Media Contact: Karen Hiebert, Manager, Communications & Media Services

BioMark Receives $825K Grant to Develop Its Liquid Biopsy Assay for Lung Cancer Screening

Congratulations to Dr. Bram Ramjiawan and Dr. Pram Tappia from Clinical Research as co-investigators who played a crucial role in the initial stages of this project which has now evolved to include IUCPQ, The Metabolomics Innovation Centre, involving researchers from across Canada.

Albensi paper suggests how Covid-related neurological symptoms such as headaches, coma and brain-fog could be treated with therapeutics targeting pathways prone to inflammation.

The paper titled: The Effect of COVID-19 on NF-κB and Neurological Manifestations of Disease was published today in a special issue on COVID-19, in Molecular Neurobiology, and shows how therapeutics that reduce the NF-κB pathway should be considered in the treatment of COVID-19 and its effects on neurological function.

The work was led jointly by Dr. Aida Adlimoghaddam and Dr. Don A. Davies, post-doctoral fellows at the Synaptic Plasticity & Memory Dysfunction Lab, led by Dr. Benedict Albensi Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which resulted in the pandemic, and initially, COVID-19 was thought to only affect respiration.

“While we are all familiar with the acute respiratory syndrome associated with COVID-19 infections as a result of living through this pandemic, accumulating evidence shows a wide range of neurological symptoms are also associated with the disease, such as anosmia/ageusia, headaches, seizures, demyelination, mental confusion, delirium, and coma,” said Albensi. “Neuro-COVID-19 is increasingly becoming an accepted term among scientists and clinicians, with teams being created to implement strategies for treating the wide range of neurological symptoms observed in COVID-19 patients,” he added. This includes examining symptoms arising due to cytokine storm reaction and heightened states of inflammation in the brain. 

The paper focuses on the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) as a central pathway involved with inflammation and showing it to be elevated in a dose-dependent matter in response to coronaviruses. This suggests that NF-κB has a role in cytokine storm syndrome, which is associated with greater severity in COVID-19 related symptoms.

To access the paper, link here

Aliani’s team shares findings on non-invasive early-stage lung cancer detection approach using the power of metabolomics.

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women combined (Canadian Cancer Society, 2021). Detection of cancer-specific metabolites in the early stages of lung cancer is made difficult due to the small size of tumours and the absence of cellular specificity of almost all metabolites. However, the power of metabolomics may allow for the non-invasive detection of early stages of lung cancer. 

Michel Aliani’s team recently published a paper in PLoS ONE, entitled “Comparative metabolomics studies of blood collected in streck and heparin tubes from lung cancer patients“. The pilot study was undertaken to determine the effect of blood collection tube (BCT) (Streck vs. Heparin), blood location (venous vs. arterial), and sex, on the metabolic profile of cancer patients suffering from various types of lung tumours.

“We are excited to share this work, particularly through PLoS One’s ‘open to all’, fully transparent portal. All raw materials have been uploaded to their public repository, which in my opinion is incredibly vital in order for the whole world to have access to this data,” Aliani explained.

This work provides further insight into the preferred blood collection tube that should be used for improved lung cancer detection and a better understanding of the metabolic variations of different tumour types. 

Goldberg E, Levari-Shariati S, Kidane B, Kim J, Banerji S, Qing G, et al. (2021) Comparative metabolomics studies of blood collected in streck and heparin tubes from lung cancer patients. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0249648. 

Intrinsic Analytics, in partnership with St. Boniface Hospital Research, awarded COVID-19 Innovation Proof of Concept Grant

Among four innovative Manitoba-based companies, Intrinsic Analytics is committed to creating opportunities for development and combining industrial research with modern technology to further the provincial COVID-19 response and assist in the return to normalcy. Partnered with St. Boniface Research Centre, Intrinsic Analytics seeks to combine industry and research to strengthen the pandemic response.

The funding provided by Research Manitoba is dedicated to the evaluation of a novel saliva-based test used in the detection of SARS-CoV-2 to support population-level surveillance for COVID-19 infection. Intrinsic Analytics has also committed to providing funds for this project in addition to Research Manitoba’s support. This robust saliva-based test is more efficient in terms of sample collections – as a nasopharyngeal swab does not need to be administered, and also requires fewer chemical mixtures to be used in the lab. Notably, this method still uses the gold standard for COVID-19 testing: Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), but reduces the need for additional specialized equipment for RNA extraction.

Intrinsic Analytics Inc. logo

“Due to the severe shortage of reagents and consumables caused by the pandemic, Intrinsic Analytics felt called to examine other, more streamlined methods for detecting COVID-19,” says Dr. Jon-Jon Santiago, Chief Scientific Officer of Intrinsic Analytics. “We wanted to find a method to reduce the need for difficult and invasive sample collection that would be as reliable, accurate and rapid as what’s already being done, but also make the whole process more convenient and widely accessible.”

“The support from RM towards this multi-stakeholder initiative is valued and timely given the importance and need for easy to use, accurate, and reliable detection systems.” Says Dr. Bram Ramjiawan, Director of Research Innovation and Regulatory Affairs, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

For more information, click here.

PhD Candidate receives three awards in a row!

Congratulations to Pranav Mishra, PhD candidate working for the Synaptic Plasticity and Cellular Memory Dysfunction Lab, who has been awarded two major grants and also took first place in the Manitoba Neuroscience Network photo contest. Mishra is co-supervised by Dr. Benedict Albensi and Dr. Paul Fernyhough, Principal Investigator, Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration Lab, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders.

  • Mishra has been named this year’s recipient of the McCrorie-West Family Fellowship for Alzheimer Research, a fellowship award to support promising students who plan on making a career in research for the treatment or cure of Alzheimer disease.
  • He also earned the Dr. Mark Nickerson Grad Entrance Scholarship in Pharmacology and Therapeutics. award which recognizes the most academically deserving student entering the graduate studies program in a given calendar year.

“Pranav Mishra is a relatively new PhD candidate in my lab who has only been here here for a little over one year. Since he came on board during a pandemic he has still managed to win three awards — so, well done Pranav!” said Dr. Benedict Albensi, Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Mishra, who is working remotely from India due to the pandemic, shared that he felt extremely happy to receive these awards and is motivated to be even better.

Congratulations from everyone here at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre and the Division of Neurodegenerative Diseases.

ICS Students Earn Two of the Top Awards at 2021 3MT Competition

Congratulations to Danah Alhattab and Sonu Varghese who respectively earned second place and People’s Choice honours at the 3MT finals for Manitoba, hosted by U of M on April 21, 2021, in a virtual format.

Alhattab, who finished in 2nd place, said the opportunity to practice and explain the complicated part of her work in the lab in simple terms to a lay audience helped her look at the big picture aspect of research.

“It was an amazing experience to prepare for this presentation and see how basic science research can impact future therapies,” she said. “It has been really a great opportunity to be part of this competition and see the other great research projects that were presented.” Alhattab expressed gratitude to her supervisors Dr. Michael Czubryt and Dr. Jeff Wigle, “And also thank all my family, friends and colleagues for cheering me and voting for me!”

For the People’s Choice winner, Sonu Varghese said one of his favourite aspects of this year’s 3MT competition was that his family and friends from all over Canada were able to watch his presentation in real-time.

“It was incredible to participate in this event and compete alongside such incredible graduate students doing some great work at our university! ” he said. Varghese also thanked his supervisor Dr. Davinder Jassal, co-supervisor Dr. Marshall Pitz, and the members of the Cardiovascular Imaging Laboratory for their support.

“And also the members of the SBRC community who rooted us on, and all my amazing friends and family who have supported me every step of the way!”

Varghese and Alhattab, along with Cameron Eekhoudt, represented ICS and St. Boniface Hospital Research in the field of 12 provincial finalists. Congratulations to all for this great showing of competitive strength!

The Science Behind That Swab

The Youth BIOlab team partnered recently with onsite experts from Intrinsic Analytics to demonstrate what’s happening behind the science of COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swab tests, in particular, the gold standard Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test it provides for clients needing the earliest and quickest possible detection of the virus, even before symptoms emerge.

“With the Intrinsic Analytics lab being located right here in our building and having this built-in relationship with their team, we decided it would be a great opportunity to develop some online content for students to understand the RT-PCR techniques used and perhaps inspire them towards further interest in the field of science and bioinformation services,” says Steve Jones, YBL’s Director and lead instructor.

Building on its desire as a made-in-Manitoba success story and the province’s premier bioinformation services company, Intrinsic Analytics’ Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Jon-Jon Santiago explains how they gave the YBL team access to its testing facilities, from patient intake to laboratory analysis of patient samples. 

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been a leader in supporting the provincial response to COVID-19, conducting thousands of tests for local businesses and organizations in order protect their staff and help keep essential services and companies operating safely,” he says.  Intrinsic Analytics uses the internationally recognized Health Canada approved RT-PCR technique which provides the most accurate results for lab-based testing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Although the students don’t have access to a sophisticated RT-PCR machine, Santiago and his team worked with Steve’s Youth BIOlab crew to create a kit for students to do hands-on gel electrophoresis analysis of mock patient samples in class and compare their results to real anonymized RT-PCR data from Intrinsic. 

“The students were really into it,” says Jones “we were able to combine a virtual field trip from our end with some hands-on science at the school. Being able to tie it in to the pandemic experience, especially with students who might have had a COVID test themselves, was a real opportunity to connect to cutting edge science. Two classes from Green Valley School in Grunthal participated, and we’re looking forward to rolling this out to more schools this year and adding it to our regular rotation.”

“Myself and my partners at Intrinsic Analytics are all science graduates ourselves and we incubated our business idea as grad students working in the labs here at St. Boniface Hospital Research.  We have long held a vision that our business services and efforts can also help educate young minds about science, so it was a perfect fit with the Youth BIOlab to talk about COVID-19 testing as a way to promote health and infectious disease understanding in our community,” Santiago further offers.

Since school field trips were no longer possible during the pandemic, the Youth BIOlab team completely re-engineered its youth education programming during the summer of 2020 in order to pivot exclusively to online learning options. 

“We built a new website and then created a whole new series of videos available free to anyone via our YouTube channel, as well as offering interactive live-stream classes to our partner schools.  We also host weekly Meet a Scientist interviews, talking to the scientists, technicians and post-grad science students who work here at the Research Centre,” Jones shares.

To learn more, visit Intrinsic Analytics and Youth BIOlab.

St. Boniface based research students dominate 3MT® competition taking three spots in the finals

At the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for U of M graduate students in a thesis-based program, ICS-based trainees here at St. Boniface Hospital Research nabbed three finalist spots in a heated competition comprised of multiple rounds and one wild card spot.

Congratulations to Cameron Eekhoudt, Danah AlHattab and Sonu Varghese who advanced through that stiff competition from an original pool of 77 students who auditioned for 42 spots. From there, each presenter had to compete in 3 heats (14 students per heat) to get one of 12 spots in the finals.

“For St. Boniface Research to get 25% of those spots?  That’s an amazing accomplishment, and we are very proud of our students, ” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Interim Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.  “We certainly wish them the very best in the finals and hopefully see one or more of them compete in the Western Regionals in May, and be featured in the national showcase event this November.

All three students are in the department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, training here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.  Here are summaries of their winning 3MT projects:

CAMERON EEKHOUDT –  Cardiovascular Imaging lab.  Supervisor – Dr. Davinder Jassal,
Co-Supervisor – Dr. Pawan Singal
Title: Is flaxseed equivalent and/or synergistic with ACE inhibition in the prevention of chemotherapy induced cardiotoxicity.
Description: My project hopes to compare whether flaxseed, grown and harvested here in Manitoba can work comparably to ACE Inhibition in the prevention of chemotherapy induced cardiotoxicity.

DANAH ALHATTAB – Cardiovascular Molecular lab.  Supervisor – Dr. Michael Czubryt
Title: The Role Of Scleraxis in Perivascular Fibrosis
Description: Perivascular fibrosis includes increasing stiffness and reducing the diameter of the vessel as a result of proteins build up in the vessel wall. Our lab has shown that an important protein called Scleraxis triggers the protein build up within the heart which makes it more stiff causing a medical condition called Cardiac Fibrosis. My project is to investigate the role of scleraxis in blood vessels stiffening in hypertensive mice models and whether reducing it genetically will improve the function and flexibility of stiff blood vessels.

SONU VARGHESE – Cardiovascular Imaging lab.  Supervisor – Dr. Davinder Jassal
Title: Exercise to prevent Anthracycline-based Cardio-Toxicity (EXACT 2.0) in women with breast cancer.
Description: This study represents a key first step in developing new standards of care that may include prescription of a 24-week home-based aerobic exercise to protect the heart during the concurrent administration of anthracycline-based chemotherapy in women with breast cancer.

Testing new therapies for rare metabolic disorders

Terms like Leigh, Kearns-Sayre, and MELAS (Mitochondrial Encephalopathy, Lactic Acidosis, and Stroke-like episodes) seldom make the news.

Yet children born with these rare metabolic disorders often do not survive into adulthood and there are no effective treatments.

St. Boniface Hospital researchers are testing new targeted drug therapies that might help.

In Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra’s laboratory, his team reprograms affected patients’ blood cells to behave like stem cells. The team is creating patient-specific models to test the efficacy and safety of new drugs for potential life-saving treatment options for such rare conditions as Leigh Syndrome.

“The approach is both important and exciting,” said Dr. Dhingra. “By creating a ‘disease in a (culture) dish’, we can safely test new drugs for effectiveness and toxicity on human cells, without the necessity of administering them to patients.”

Because so few people are affected by these conditions and their mutations, there doesn’t exist a large enough pool of volunteers to often conduct clinical drug trials.

“Our work accelerates the process so drug developers can more accurately target the most suitable patients for participation on the basis of what has already proven helpful in the lab,” Dhingra explained.

Working with Shared Health’s Metabolic Program at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg and in collaboration with Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg, Dr. Dhingra hopes to find more-effective, patient-specific treatment options for these rare metabolic disorders.

One in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life. February 28th is Rare Disease Day around the world. From its inception in 2008, Rare Disease Day has taken place on the last day of February, a month well-known for having a “rare” number of days. 

For more on Dr. Dhingra’s research at the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, click here:

Donate today to help scientists like Dr. Dhingra unlock the mysteries of rare diseases.

Pierce featured speaker on CIHS Webinar, Feb. 24, 2021

The Canada India Healthcare Summit (CIHS) will hold a webinar on Biotechnology and its Contributions to Overcome COVID-19, featuring Dr. Grant Pierce of St. Boniface Hospital Research and the University of Manitoba, at 8:00 pm CST on Wednesday February 24, 2021.

The current global healthcare crisis, caused by the spread of COVID-19, has resulted in great loss of human life as well as unprecedented disruption of economic activity and social welfare around the world. This has heightened the urgency for democratic countries to work together to develop new approaches to healthcare in the post-COVID world, utilizing new developments in Biotechnology and Artificial Intelligence (“AI”). This will be the third Canada India Healthcare Summit that CIF will be organizing, coming after its earlier initiatives in 2015 in Toronto and in New Delhi in 2017.

Speaking about The Direct and Inverse Impact of COVID-19 and Nutrition, Dr. Pierce is among a roster of expert speakers sharing insights into healthcare innovations in a post COVID-19 world.

“Past Summits brought together healthcare experts, governments and business leaders to explore opportunities for Canada and India to work together on the important theme of healthcare”, said Dr. V.I. Lakshmanan, who co-chaired both summits as well as several similar thematic forums held by CIF earlier.

“Key partners and participants included the Government of Ontario, Ministry of Ayush (Government of India), Apollo Hospitals, Apotex and many others. The Forums facilitated many new collaborative ventures.” he added.  Among the main deliverables of CIHS 2021 are:

  • Enabling private sector, government, universities and research institutions in Canada and India to collaborate in exploring Biotechnology & AI driven healthcare solutions
  • Understanding lessons learnt from managing the COVID-19 healthcare crisis
  • Leveraging R&D in Healthcare, Biotechnology & AI to create economic opportunities and ensure better universal healthcare
  • Helping to shape public policy in Canada and India to provide optimum healthcare to its residents through Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
  •  Coordinating the CIF Competition and recognizing the winners of the competition

Canada India Foundation is a public policy organization, formed to promote stronger relations between Canada and India by emphasizing common public policy perspectives. University Health Network is Canada’s most prominent healthcare network, with the largest research-based hospital program in Canada and including the Toronto Rehab Institute, global leaders in research on physical rehabilitation. FICCI is India’s leading organization representing the private sector companies involved in commerce and industries. 

Full details available here: 

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021

February 11 marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This is a day to recognize women making the world a better place through science and technology. You’ll find many posts on social media trending today using tags such as #InternationalDayOfWomenAndGirlsInScience, #WomenInScienceDay, or #WomeninSTEM.

Here at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Albrechtsen Research Centre, Megan, Brooke and Asmaet are proud members of the science-based team at Intrinsic Analytics.

“We have safely collected samples for PCR COVID-19 testing since May 2020, providing a much-needed service to businesses and workplaces here in Manitoba.”

Sanwal, Olusola and Rabia have worked diligently including late evenings and early mornings to complete
lab tests for clients needing to work or travel safely. The team is also working on new strategies to
develop saliva-based COVID-19 testing.

“We feel we are helping many people during COVID-19, to work safely; to provide for their families, to keep their businesses running…”

Together, these women working in science at Intrinsic Analytics here at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre have helped keep hundreds of Manitoba workplaces COVID-free and prevented thousands of additional COVID-19 cases from spreading, likely saving lives and jobs in the process.

Rabinovich-Nikitin received Martha Donavan leadership development award

Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, whose research is based here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, is one of 10 award recipients funding women’s leadership training through the Winnipeg Foundation’s Martha Donovan Fund. The award will fund her to take the online Laboratory Leadership Course offered by the European Molecular Biology Organization.

“It’s a career-development program to help advance a postdoctoral fellow’s next career step in becoming an independent investigator with their own laboratory,” said Rabinovich-Nikitin, whose long-term goal is to lead cardiovascular research on women’s heart health.

“I anticipate learning techniques and tools for leading teams, tailored specifically to the lab and research setting.”

The $250,000 Winnipeg Foundation Martha Donovan Fund was established in 2019 to provide leadership development opportunities for women in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Up to $50,000 will be awarded annually for five years.

“In this second year of the awards, we received 16 exceptional applications from women at all stages of their academic careers,” said Dr. Sara Israels, vice-dean, academic affairs of the Rady Faculty.

“I was struck by the diversity of academic interests of our awardees, extending from biomedical science to health professions education. We look to these women as future leaders across the full scope of activity in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.”

Justin Trudeau Delights Youth BIOlab team at St. Boniface Hospital Research with a Virtual Visit

Today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met virtually with the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse team here at St. Boniface Hospital Research to learn more about the program’s health literacy outreach efforts to Manitoba students in Grs. 5 – 12.

Steve Jones, Youth BIOlab’s Director, led our Prime Minister through a virtual tour of the facility, which normally sees 4,500+ kids visit each school year to supplement their science education, at one of North America’s most unique biomedical teaching facilities with access to real working scientists.

“It was fantastic to have the Prime Minister express interest in our efforts and show him our facility and how we have been engaging kids’ with the mechanics of science and how it relates to our health,” Jones explained.

Steve Jones, Youth BIOlab’s Director, discusses the Youth BIOlab with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

In welcoming the Prime Minister to St. Boniface, President & CEO Martine Bouchard expressed the hospital and research centre’s gratitude for his visit today. “We’re undoubtedly proud of the Youth BIOlab and its impact on Manitoba students, especially its connection to the Metis and Indigenous communities as an essential partner to inspire young people towards careers in science and medicine.”

Trudeau learned that since late summer, the YBL team has been working virtually in response to pandemic restrictions, after building a new website and developing a series of videos for its YouTube channel called “Healthy Curiosity”.  It also  hosts online weekly “Meet a Scientist” sessions with resident researchers at St. Boniface who study conditions affecting the heart, brain and digestive systems.

“The PM was super interested in what the kids actually do when they are here in the lab, and how we’ve pivoted to deliver meaningful content virtually through our website and You Tube channel,” Jones said. “His obvious love for teaching and interest in a science-based approach to health literacy really came through, especially because COVID has really shown us that there’s a need for people to understand the science behind disease.” 

Dan Vandal, MP for St. Boniface – St. Vital has been a long-standing supporter of St. Boniface Hospital Research and the Youth BIOlab in particular, and was pivotal in making this visit from our Prime Minister a reality! 

For more info, please contact:

Karen Hiebert
Manager Communications & Media Services   
(431) 997-6577

Czubryt Appointed Interim Executive Director

We are greatly pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Michael Czubryt as Interim Executive Director at St. Boniface Hospital Research, effective January 4, 2021.  

Czubryt has been a Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathophysiology, for the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the Research Centre for the past 17 years, as well as a full Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. He also serves as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

“It is my pleasure to accept this interim role as Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital and I am excited by the opportunity to serve our strong and vibrant research community,” said Czubryt.  “Our outgoing Executive Director, Dr. Grant Piece has been a tremendous role model to me and many others over the years. I have always been inspired by his high standards of service, research advocacy and passionate commitment to the success of St. Boniface Hospital research enterprise.”

Czubryt has published over 70 research articles and chapters, and his work has been supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. His work has been recognized throughout his scientific career, including the McDonald Scholarship of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Young Investigator Award of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, and fellowship in three scholarly societies including the American Heart Association.

He has been a reviewer, scientific officer and chair of numerous peer review committees locally, nationally and internationally, and has served in leadership roles for professional organizations such as the American Physiological Society and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. He  maintains an active training program that encompasses high school, undergraduate and graduate students, with more than 50 trainees mentored to date and service on the advisory committees of more than 40 graduate students.

From all of us at St. Boniface Hospital Research, welcome & congratulations! 

Dr. Czubryt’s Executive Office is located at R1003, 351 Tache Avenue, and he can be reached at 204-237-2339 or by email at

In Memory of Susan Zettler

It is with a profound sense of loss that we share the news of Susan Zettler’s untimely passing on Friday, January 1, 2021. 

Sue was a valued member of our team here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and a highly regarded member of Winnipeg’s research community.  Her passing is a sad shock that resonates beyond our walls.

Sue worked diligently and with great professionalism in a variety of administrative support roles for almost 28 years, starting with ICS in 1993 and then transitioning to CCARM where she served as Administrative Assistant since 2007. 

Sue was known for her capable, thorough work habits and her friendly approach to her fellow co-workers. She was a valuable asset to the CCARM team, where she never failed to assist the PIs, lab staff and trainees, even when she was busy with other priorities. 

Personally, Sue always took the time to reach out to others and her positive outlook made her a friend to many. She will be greatly missed by all her St. B, University and Ag Canada colleagues.  It was Sue’s wish that any charitable donations to her memory be directed to CCARM Research through To view the obituary, click here:

To leave condolences and memories of Sue, please use the comment box at the bottom of this page.

2020 ICS Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Award Recipients

Congratulations to the winners of the 22nd Annual Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards.

Held virtually on December 17th, this year’s awards ceremony was opened with remarks from Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and included greetings from Dr. Digvir S. Jayas Vice – President (Research and International) University of Manitoba and Dr. Jude E. Uzonna Associate Dean (Research) University of Manitoba

Winners were then announced by Dr. Michael Czubryt Secretariat, ICS Awards, as follows:

Jack Litvack Exemplary Service Award: Dr. Bram Ramjiawan
Henry Friesen Young Scientist Award: Mr. Kevin Boreskie
Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves Publication Award: Dr. Alireza Rafieerad
Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Award for Masters Students: Dr. Rebeca Camargo
Kalwant Dhalla Research Technician Award: Ms. Victoria Margulets
T. Edward Cuddy Student Award: Ms. Rachel Cogan

Congratulations to all the winners for 2020!

SBRC Researchers Among World’s Top 2% Scientists – Stanford University Releases List

December 18, 2020.  A comprehensive list recently released by Stanford University identified the top 2 percent of the world’s nearly 7 million working scientists. St. Boniface Hospital Research boasts ten of these top scientists in the world! 

“This is an impressively high representation for one research facility”, said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital, “Considering more than 200 fields of scientific study were included in this roster, this represents an unbiased vindication from a very credible external source of the high quality of research we have here!”

Included among the 6,880,389 listed experts, are the following St. Boniface Hospital Research affiliated individuals and their category of expertise:

  • Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. Ross D. Feldman — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. Paul Fernyhough — Neurology & Neurosurgery
  • Dr. Hilary P Grocott — Anesthesiology
  • Dr. Lorrie A. Kirshenbaum — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. William Leslie — Endocrinology & Metabolism
  • Dr. Mohammed H Moghadasian — Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Dr. Grant N. Pierce — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. Jitender Sareen — Psychiatry
  • Dr. Pawan K. Singal — Cardiovascular System & Hematology

Congratulations to each of these individuals, all who are University of Manitoba Faculty members. They, along with all our staff here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, are truly world-class.

More about the study: Based on citations, h-index, co-authorship-adjusted hm-index, citations to papers in different authorship positions, and a composite indicator, the list was generated based on published work from August 2019 from the Department of Medicine, Health Research and Policy, at Stanford’s Biomedical Data Science, and Statistics and Meta-Research Innovation Center. The study sought to provide a comprehensive database of a sufficiently large number of the most-cited scientists.

As articulated in the publication, co-authored by Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine, Stanford Prevention Research, the effort was focused on offering a solution to overcome many of the technical problems and provide a comprehensive database of a sufficiently large number of the most-cited scientists. The result creates an availability of standardized, field-annotated data to help achieve a more nuanced use of ranking metrics that is more accurate and balanced.

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada – 9 years running

December 11, 2020.  St. Boniface Hospital continues to gain national recognition from Research Infosource’s annual Top 40 Research Hospitals for the year 2020.   The list, which ranks Canadian hospitals on their success in attracting support for health research, placed St. Boniface Hospital as the No. 1 research-intensive hospital in western Canada and Top 5 nationally for the 9th year in a row.

“The scientific investigators here at St. Boniface Hospital Research have proven once again that Winnipeg boasts Western Canada’s finest in attracting major funding commitments that places us on top,” says Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital. “Their efforts in the fields of cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and nutritional studies, all of which are ultimately focused on improving the health of Canadians, are something for which all Manitobans should be proud!”

“Our ability to attract top researchers from around the world is a testament to St. Boniface Hospital’s reputation as a global leader in medical science,” says Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital, “Supporting our 250 person research team is a priority area within our 3-year strategic plan and is a strong commitment to sustain and integrate transformative research and teaching.”  

St. Boniface Hospital Research, in affiliation with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, has four dedicated research programs: The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences; the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders; the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM); and the Asper Clinical Research Institute.  

With thirty laboratories, 250 staff, St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre serves as training ground for approximately 100 students each year and is home to the RBC Youth BIOLab Jeunesse —a space for students and teachers to explore and experience real biomedical science in a world-class research center.

About Research Infosource Inc.
About Research Infosource Inc. Research Infosource Inc. is Canada’s source of R&D intelligence. Drawing from proprietary databases, Research Infosource publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges.

2020 CCS Research Achievement Award goes to Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum

Congratulations to Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, who was elected as this year’s Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) Research Achievement Award recipient. The award acknowledges an individual’s excellence as an established investigator’s outstanding contributions to Canadian cardiovascular health and care.

“I am deeply honoured that our research has been recognized by the CCS, for the research achievement award, having been recognized among other leaders who have received this award in the past is very humbling,  it  speaks to the high caliber of research at St. Boniface Hospital and our team of researchers, ” said Dr. Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, Head, Division of Cardiovascular Science and Disease,and a University of Manitoba Rady Faculty of Health Sciences professor.

The award was presented to Kirshenbaum on Oct. 21 during a Canadian Cardiovascular Congress virtual event.

Kirshenbaum’s Albrechtsen Research Centre-based lab has been a world leader in the field of cell death for the last 25 years. His expertise is in developing molecular and biochemical techniques that study cell death signaling in the heart. His team has made several important and seminal contributions, including demonstrating for the first time that Bcl-2 related protein Bnip3 plays a major role in regulating mitochondrial quality control and cell death pathways in the pathogenesis of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cancer.

His lab has also developed several techniques for monitoring mitochondrial dynamics, mitophagy, respiration by live cell imaging to study cell death signaling pathways during normal and diseased conditions. The team has published several landmark papers in this research area.

Hosted by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and Heart and Stroke , the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC) is the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied health professionals in Canada. Cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, researchers, nurses and other cardiovascular specialists from across Canada and around the globe come to CCC to connect with other members of the cardiovascular team, to discover how to incorporate the latest science into their practice and to attend cutting-edge, accredited education sessions.

Albensi garners two significant appointments

Congratulations to Dr. Benedict Albensi, recently appointed as Vice Chair to the Nutrition, Metabolism, and Dementia professional interest area (PIA) for the International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART)/Alzheimer’s Assoc. – USA.

While there is an abundance of evidence suggesting nutrition and metabolism play a role in cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s dementia, the field of study is particularly complex, and inconsistencies in the literature make the development of sound public health recommendations a major challenge. The PIA Albensi has joined will create a hub at the Alzheimer’s Association to unite scientists and clinicians from both academia and industry who are interested in advancing the field.

The PIA’s goals include:

  1. Develop and advance clinical and research applications of nutrition in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
  2. Develop and submit dedicated research sessions on nutrition and metabolism for consideration at the AAIC annual meetings.
  3. Foster the development of consensus criteria for nutrition and metabolism research and interpretation of findings on AD and related disorders.
  4. Foster the creation of multi-study collaborations around nutrition and metabolism in AD and related disorders.

Albensi was also recently appointed to the Manitoba Brain Injury Association Board (MBIA) which works to educate all Manitobans towards the prevention of acquired brain injury, and offer help and hope to individuals and families living with the effects of brain injury.

Albensi is the Principal Investigator Synaptic Plasticity and Cellular Memory Dysfunction Lab, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre; Professor Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences; Manitoba Dementia Research Chair and Everett Endowment Fund Chair.

17th Annual Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award

Manitoba Medical Service Foundation and St. Boniface Hospital Research Present the 17th Annual Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award

Dr. Jiuyong Xie has been named this year’s recipient of the Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award, receiving a $4,000 contribution to help offset the operating expenses for the supervision of a B.Sc. (Med) student at the University of Manitoba. The Manitoba Medical Service Foundation and St. Boniface Hospital Research have each contributed $2,000 toward this award. Dr. Xie is supervising B.Sc. (Med) student Julian Polimeni for his project, “Identifying Plasma Methylated DNA Markers of Early Stage Cancer Patients by Deep Sequencing.” Dr. Xie holds appointments as professor within the departments of Physiology & Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba.

Thank you to the B.Sc. Awards Selection Committee for adjudication of the candidates and to the University of Manitoba for their administrative support throughout the process. For further details on Manitoba Medical Service Foundation awards, please refer to the Award Recipients pages of our website at

Ideally Suited to Become a Leading Indigenous Scholar

Those were words used to describe the work of PhD student Bradley Feltham who recently won the Doctoral Award For Indigenous Students, U of M, and also won the Prairie Indigenous Knowledge Exchange Network (PIKE-Net)  PhD Graduate Fellowship, U of M.

It was noted by the voting committee that Feltham’s work was exceptionally strong and demonstrated his status as an exemplary student. Another committee member noted that Feltham is ideally positioned to become a leading Indigenous scholar and would be an excellent mentor for others in the PIKE-Net program and beyond.

According to his supervisor, Dr. Miyoung Suh, Principal Investigator with the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders and the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food in Research & Medicine, “I would say, he is simply an outstanding student who balances duality between academic responsibility and leadership roles, especially for the indigenous students on campus and communities.”

Congratulations Brad and best wishes on this stellar achievement!

St. Boniface PhD Student Earns Two Major Canadian Student Health Research Awards

Congratulations to Mihir Parikh, who took home two of the most prestigious prizes at the recent Canadian Student Health Research Forum — The E. L. Drewry Memorial Award, the highest honour conferred upon a senior doctoral student of Max Rady College of Medicine, as well as The St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Inc. Award.

“It’s a real honour and I am very humbled by these two awards,” said Parikh, a PhD student in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

“I owe this to the great mentorship of my supervisors Drs. Grant Pierce and Thomas Netticadan and to the collective efforts of my Pierce and Netticadan lab members. Thank you very much, folks!”

Parikh joins the ranks of several St. Boniface Research graduate students who have earned The E. L. Drewry Memorial Award since the early 90’s, strengthening once again St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences as one of the preeminent basic cardiovascular research programs in the world offering a superior training program for graduate students.

Interested in furthering his studies in the area of molecular cardiology, Parikh recently left Winnipeg for New York, where he will be investigating mechanisms related to ischemic heart disease at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine.

Congratulations again Mihir!

St. Boniface Research, Senior Advisor, Dr. Krishnamurti, invested into the Order of Manitoba

Dr. Krishnamurti “Dak” Dakshinamurti, emeritus professor in the University of Manitoba faculty of medicine, a senior advisor to the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre and an innovator in the epigenetics of vitamins, metabolic syndrome disorders and the pharmacology of vitamins was invested into the Order of Manitoba on September 10, 2020. His biography was included in the Cambridge University Press’s Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century.

The Order of Manitoba was established in 1999 to honour Manitobans who have demonstrated excellence and achievement, thereby enriching the social, cultural or economic well-being of the province and its residents.

“This year, as Manitobans have been tested and have responded with courage, creativity and hope, we are even more aware of the importance of commitment to community,” said Lt.-Gov. Janice C. Filmon, chancellor of the order, who will preside over the ceremony. “The community leaders to be invested into the Order of Manitoba in this, the 150th anniversary of the province, will continue to inspire their fellow Manitobans through their personal achievements and their dedication to our province, our country and our world.” 

Congratulations to Dr. Dakshinamurti on this important recognition.

Dhingra elected Fellow of American Heart Association

Congratulations to Sanjiv Dhingra, elected as Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) conferred by the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS). Fellowship recognizes and awards premium professional members for excellence, innovative and sustained contributions in the areas of scholarship, practice and/or education, and volunteer service within the AHA/ASA.

The American Heart Association is a nonprofit organization in the United States that funds cardiovascular medical research, educates consumers on healthy living and fosters appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke

Sanjiv Dhingra, PhD, FCVS is Associate Professor, Director, Canada Italy Tissue Engineering Laboratory (CITEL), Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Regenerative Medicine Program, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences University of Manitoba.

St. Boniface researcher awarded prestigious AHA Paul Dudley White International Scholar distinction.

Congratulations to Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, post-doctoral fellow with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at the St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre, who was selected as the 2020 Paul Dudley White International Scholar for an abstract submitted to the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2020 Scientific Sessions.

“We are tremendously excited and proud of Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin for winning this prestigious award. Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin is a brilliant scientist and recognition by the American Heart Association of her stellar work reflects the high caliber and international level of our training program at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and University of Manitoba,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research, and Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba.

As one of the founders of the American Heart Association, Paul Dudley White was a champion for global cardiovascular health strategies. The award recognizes peer-reviewed work which reflects Dr. White’s vision for global excellence in cardiovascular science and medicine. The AHA’s 2020 international conference on hypertension will be a virtual event this year, scheduled for September 10-13, 2020.

“I am very honored to receive this distinguished award. I am very grateful for the opportunities and training I have had as a post doctoral fellow with Dr. Kirshenbaum as my mentor and the support of Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) postdoctoral fellowship and St. Boniface Hospital Albrechsten Research,” said Rabinovich-Nikitin.

SBRC Researchers publish study showing N95 masks can be safely re-sterilized, but only once.

A recent study by the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre suggests the only safe number of times an N95 mask can be re-used after autoclave sterilization, is once.  Initiated early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the team of St. Boniface researchers set out to examine how N95 masks worn by lab workers for up to eight hours, and then re-sterilized, would affect performance and efficacy.  

“The results showed that yes, we can safely re-sterilize the kind of single-use N95 masks typically worn by healthcare workers in order to gain a second use, but not more than that,” said Dr. Mike Czubryt, Principal Investigator at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, Professor of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba and lead author of the paper recently accepted for publication by The Journal of Hospital Infection and available here:

As a research team, Czubryt explained how they wanted to look at what happens when they re-sterilized masks worn by living, breathing human beings in real-life conditions. Will the wearing of a mask and subsequent sterilization attempts, affect the material, the fit and the filtration?  The answers were yes. 

“After a second sterilization cycle, the masks started to fail the fit testing, deeming them unsafe for use in a healthcare setting,” Czubryt said.  While these results are discouraging in light of previous studies that seemed to suggest autoclave and other forms of chemical re-sterilization is possible up to 10 times, the St. Boniface researchers are sharing these results to serve as a caution against multiple re-sterilization attempts. The difference between this work and previous studies is the consideration of real-world use, which significantly degrades masks and limits their reuse.

“Since masks can be re-sterilized once, that will still theoretically double the current stockpile of N95s around the world,” Czubryt said, “So this information should be helpful for healthcare decision-makers who are looking at exactly how far they can stretch their stockpile and how much to order from suppliers for future needs.”

The study’s publication in one of the most accessed medical journals on infection prevention and control means that many other health care teams will benefit from the detailed guidance on how the sterilization process can be rolled out in a large urban hospital setting.  “Our paper describes a workflow for other health care facilities to safely recycle hundreds of masks per day while keeping workers safe,” he shared. Autoclaves are common equipment in many healthcare settings, making the study widely applicable.

“This is one of the greatest takeaways from this study and for St. Boniface Hospital in particular, as we are already stockpiling extra masks,” said Executive Director of Research, Dr. Grant Pierce, also a Principal Investigator and co-author of this study.  Dr. Pierce works closely with St. Boniface Hospital leadership, who were eager for their onsite researchers to explore this idea and how it could help the hospital plan for its own needs during the pandemic.

As Czubryt pointed out, “The team believes that if adopted broadly, our mask re-sterilization protocol could dramatically improve global availability, particularly in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 where supplies are low and new shipments delayed.”

Media inquiries: call 204-258-1325.

St. B spin-off, Monteris, receives FDA clearance for neuroblate fusion-s software

Monteris Medical announced that it has received FDA clearance of its NeuroBlate Fusion-S Software and released the product commercially. This latest innovation for the NeuroBlate System has now been used in over 200 cases. Fusion-S Software provides unprecedented visualization for neurosurgeons to ablate brain tissue, including tumors and epileptic foci. With this advancement, Monteris extends its long-standing leadership in laser ablation in the brain.

Innovations to the Fusion-S software display provide a highly intuitive and detailed visual representation of critical anatomical detail, allowing neurosurgeons to more easily view brain structures throughout the procedure. Three dimensional views available with Fusion-S offer an advanced graphical interface to optimally define lesion anatomy. Fusion-S software also builds upon the established safety features of the NeuroBlate System, including an unlimited number of temperature pick points, which can be set at any location in the three-dimensional ablation zone to closely monitor ablation progression and avoid eloquent structures of the brain. Procedure time can also be reduced with the new software through fewer workflow steps. 

“Monteris continues to innovate in ways that are meaningful for neurosurgeons and our patients,” said Dr. Brian Williams, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky. “The launch of Fusion-S software represents a significant leap forward for the broader field of laser ablation for the brain. The views I have with this software offer a level of precision that is so critical for every procedure.”

Martin J. Emerson, president and chief executive officer of Monteris commented, “We are thrilled with the positive feedback we’ve received from our neurosurgeon users on Fusion-S software. With this launch, our team continues to deliver the highest caliber technology to strengthen our leadership position in image-guided laser ablation for the brain.”

The NeuroBlate System utilizes robotically controlled laser thermotherapy that directs an MRI-guided laser to ablate unwanted tissue in the brain where the lesion, or abnormal tissue, originates. Unlike traditional brain surgery, a procedure with the NeuroBlate System does not require a large opening in the skull. Instead, surgeons create a small hole in the skull, about the diameter of a pencil. While the patient is in the MRI machine, the doctor guides a small laser device (probe) through the hole and into the lesion. The precise nature of the procedure helps to lessen the likelihood of harm to nearby healthy brain tissue. When compared to other current treatments for brain lesions, laser ablation has been shown to be a safe, cost-appropriate procedure in which patients experience short hospital stays, minimal pain, low readmission rates, low rates of complications, short recovery and improved quality of life.  

To date, over 3,000 procedures have been performed with the NeuroBlate System at more than 80 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

About Monteris® and the NeuroBlate® System
Monteris Medical is a privately held company that develops and markets innovative MRI-guided, laser-based systems to perform minimally invasive brain surgery, commonly referred to as “LITT” (Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy) or “SLA” (Stereotactic Laser Ablation). Current investors include Versant Ventures, SightLine Partners, Birchview Capital and BDC Capital. The Monteris NeuroBlate System is the only minimally invasive system that enables a robotic interface for the precise and safe delivery of laser energy. The NeuroBlate System is a tool and is not intended to treat any specific disease. Physicians should use their clinical judgment and experience when deciding whether to use NeuroBlate.

SOURCE Monteris Medical.

Blewett & Tappia Co-Edit ‘Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health’, featuring 15 new articles

Scientific investigation into establishing dietary approaches that can be undertaken for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases is being driven by increased public interest. With that in mind, the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS) recently released Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health, a book showcasing 15 articles on the subject, co-edited by St. Boniface Hospital Researchers, Dr. Heather Blewett and Dr. Pram Tappia.

“This book is new and different because it provides an insight into the influential role of nutrition and dietary habits on cardiovascular health and disease and discusses their mechanisms of therapeutic and preventive action all under one forum,” said Tappia.  “It is unique as it also has a mix of reviewed and original articles that provide both clinical and basic science perspectives on nutrition and cardiovascular health.”

More than 100 people were invited to submit articles on the subject, with 15 ultimately approved for inclusion by editors Blewett and Tappia. 

“We believe the compilation is of significant interest to basic science researchers, clinicians and graduate students who are engaged in studying nutrition and cardiovascular health and disease,” said Blewett.

Hardcopies are available for purchase and all articles are free online via IJMS open access portal.

Feldman & Hack amongst Best in Canada, as featured in Research Life

Dr. Ross Feldman and Dr. Thomas Hack were recently featured in the current edition of Research Life, published by the University of Manitoba. Feldman and Hack were among eight researchers recognized for their excellence, expertise, service and leadership in the fields of engineering, health and medicine, arts, and the humanities. The two Principal Investigators working out of St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre were elected to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in the fall of 2019.

Potential health claim could boost buckwheat

As featured in June 11, 2020 edition of the Western Producer, credit: Robert Arnason.

Researchers in Winnipeg have found after more than 10 years of study that eating the crop can control blood sugar levels

After years of minimal acres and a lack of enthusiasm, there are positive signs for Manitoba’s buckwheat industry.

There are new customers for buckwheat seed, including farmers who grow cover crops, and researchers in Winnipeg are trying to prove that it controls blood sugar in humans.

If it works out as planned, buckwheat will soon be promoted with a health claim — saying it reduces glucose levels and can be used to manage diabetes.

“That’s the game that we’re going for,” said Peter Zahradka, deputy team leader of the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

“If you can get some sort of health claim for it … then more people will want to eat it.”

Zahradka and his colleague, Carla Taylor, have been studying buckwheat for more than a decade, looking at beneficial compounds in the seed.

It hasn’t been an easy task. Canada’s buckwheat sector is tiny, with only 35,000 acres across the country, so research funds are scarce. It’s also been challenging to identify the chemicals that control blood sugar.

“One of the biggest difficulties is there are 4,000 to 6,000 different compounds in a seed,” Zahradka said.

Taylor has been at this for a while.

She did studies on buckwheat in the early 2000s and concluded it could be a safe and inexpensive way to lower blood glucose.

“Buckwheat won’t cure diabetes, but we’d like to evaluate its inclusion in food products as a management aid,” she said to in 2003.

Anecdotal evidence about buckwheat goes back much further.

“Many cultural groups have been using buckwheat to help with glucose lowering, or diabetes,” Zahradka said.

One of the big questions for Taylor and Zahradka is about dose.

How much buckwheat is needed to lower blood sugar?

“The amount of the compound (might be) too low to use it in a food. But you can increase the amount and you can enrich it by getting the right fraction, to use as an ingredient,” Zahradka said. “Or possibly to go into a supplement. To help people control their blood glucose.”

The scientists have collaborated with Springfield Mills, a Manitoba company that produces, processes and sells buckwheat seed, to amplify the beneficial compounds in buckwheat seeds.

Together, they have developed varieties with higher levels of “bioactives.”

“We’ve been testing different breeding lines for them,” said Taylor, a professor in Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba. “To use our results, to help inform the (plant breeding).”

Achieving a health claim is critical for growers and the buckwheat sector, said Lorne Kyle of Springfield Mills.

For years, Canadian growers relied upon exports to Japan, where buckwheat is used to make soba noodles. But sales have dried up, partly due to logistical problems.

Several years ago, Springfield Mills sold a shipment of Manitoba buckwheat to a Japanese customer. It was shipped by rail to Vancouver and then put into containers.

It took seven weeks for the railways and shipping firms to get the buckwheat to Japan.

“They (the Japanese) took it. In correspondence they said we like your product, we don’t like your service,” said Kyle, who’s in his early 80s and has been part of the buckwheat trade since the 1970s. “And we’ve never been able to do business with them again.”

With Japan on the backburner, the industry needs to focus on North American consumers, Kyle said.

“Buckwheat is something that’s unknown for what it could be used for…. We have to (increase) the usage.”

A health claim for controlling blood sugar and diabetes could make a huge difference. But Taylor and Zahradka aren’t there, yet.

The scientists have done laboratory tests at the cellular level. They’ve studied the chemical compounds in buckwheat and how they affect the processing of glucose.

The next step is animal trials to see if buckwheat controls blood sugar in mice.

That should provide some guidance about dose.

“That would give the information we need, to tell anybody who wants to manufacture a functional food using buckwheat… how much has to be in that food,” Zahradka said.

“How much needs to be added to it (per) serving.”

If the animal testing is successful, the next step is human trials. Then, asking Health Canada to approve a health claim.

If all goes well, it could take three to five years to get there.

In the meantime, cover crops are creating new demand for buckwheat seed. More farmers are using cover crops to improve soil health, including potato growers.

“We got contacted last year (by people) in Prince Edward Island. They wanted four containers of (buckwheat) seed,” Kyle said, explaining the producers were using buckwheat at plow down.

“The seed potato growers down there have problems with nematodes and wireworm. Buckwheat helps control them.”

Buckwheat is also gluten-free, which is boosting sales of buckwheat flour.

The increased demand has pulled prices slightly higher in Manitoba. Last year buckwheat production contracts were around $14 per bushel. This spring they’re at $15.

Manitoba produces most of the buckwheat in Western Canada, with typically 5,000 to 10,000 acres annually. A large portion of the crop is grown in Ontario and Quebec.

In solidarity with the BLM movement and #shutdownSTEM day

St. Boniface Hospital Albrechsten Research Centre stands in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). We support our colleagues around the world participating in #ShutDownSTEM on June 10, 2020, and like-minded actions across academia.  It’s our understanding that many academic, educational and research facilities around the world are acknowledging this event today.

As an internationally diverse workplace for many years, we all know that there is more that we can do to help improve equity and inclusion in our community. The work to implement meaningful change is our responsibility, and as institutions and STEM facilities around the world pause today in an act of solidarity, we encourage everyone to consider this opportunity and participate in ways that work for you.

Some suggestions on how you can be part of change and progress:

§  Learn and listen to what anti-racist writers have to say

§  Hold a departmental meeting and build an action plan for the future

§  Discuss racism with your team, lab or research group

Additional information and ideas, can be resourced here:

Let’s join together as a community and renew our determination to create a just, equitable and inclusive world.

Pierce to retire as Executive Director end of 2020

After completing his third, five-year term as Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Dr. Grant Pierce will be stepping down from his administrative duties effective December 31, 2020. The formal announcement was made by St. Boniface Hospital President & CEO, Martine Bouchard, on May 21, 2020.

“Dr. Pierce’s work has brought great scientific acclaim to Manitoba and it is with a sense of pride and deep respect that I formally announce he will be stepping down from the role, ending fifteen years of stellar and committed leadership to our Research facility,” said Bouchard in a memo to all staff.

Since joining St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre as a Principal Investigator in the late 80’s, Dr. Pierce played a pivotal role in developing the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and he also helped found the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM).

Under his leadership as Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital has been consistently ranked Western Canada’s #1 Research-intensive hospital for eight years running by Research Infosource in Toronto. With his support and vision, the RBC Youth BIOlab and its highly successful health literacy outreach programming to students throughout Manitoba, is yet another facet of his impressive legacy of dynamic leadership.

His many awards include The Order of Manitoba, elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the country’s most esteemed association of scholars and scientists; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Government of Canada; and Distinguished Professor with the University of Manitoba, and many others.

Dr. Pierce will continue to work as a Principal Investigator at his lab in the Albrechtsen Research Centre, and as a Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. An executive recruitment process will begin soon to find his replacement.

Wishing him the very best for the next stage of his career, his staff and colleagues will remain grateful for his tremendous support and inspiration during his time as Executive Director from 2005 – 2020.

Youth Science Magazine for COVID-19 Info features SBRC experts!

Congratulations to our own Stephen Jones, Meghan Kynoch, Elena Dibrov and Karmin O, for their contributions to No Mercy For the Coronas, a made-in-Manitoba youth science magazine published by La Liberté newspaper and delivered free to Winnipeg Free Press subscribers today! 

Bringing together a world class team of medical researchers, university professors, health literacy educators, and communications and graphic arts professionals, No Mercy for the Coronas is a fun, creative tool to help kids and their families understand the scientific realities of the COVID19 virus and the pandemic.

“I was so pleased that St. Boniface Hospital Research was able to contribute to this first-of-its kind youth science magazine, using the local expertise of our educators from the Youth BIOlab,” said Martine Bouchard, President and CEO of St. Boniface Hospital. “The collaborative efforts involved in this project really speak to the sense of community solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 and providing our children with the most accurate information in a format that is easy to understand and share with their families.”

Virtual Thesis Defence During COVID-19 Lockdown, and Highly Coveted CIHR Fellowship – two wins for Dhingra Lab.

Congratulations goes to Dr. Weiang Yan, who has been awarded a CIHR fellowship ($50,000 /year for 2 years) in the category of Health Professionals. Dr. Yan’s research work includes the investigation of a immunosuppressive biomaterials based approach as a possible treatment to prevent tissue rejection in patients with heart and vascular transplants.

Dr. Yan is supervised by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research. Dhingra’s Regenerative Medicine Program includes a focus on cardiac tissue engineering which recently reported the synthesis and characterization of novel carbon based nanosheets which they believe are able to suppress immune cells.

The fellowship awarded to Dr. Yan will help him take this study to next level and may help bridge the translational gap in biomaterials-based therapies for cardiovascular diseases.

“I would like to congratulate Dr. Yan on receiving this highly competitive fellowship from CIHR. I believe this fellowship will further help him to achieve his career goals as a clinician scientist,” said Dr. Dhingra.

Dr. Yan also works under the co-supervision of Dr. Rakesh Arora, Principal Investigator Heart Failure Therapy, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

In other news, Dr. Dhingra’s team also set a digital ‘first’ recently during the COVID-19 lockdown. PhD student from Dhingra lab, Ejlal Abu-El Rub, successfully defended her PhD thesis on April 15, conducted entirely online using BlueJeans virtual conferencing software. The defence exam was chaired by Dr. Saeid Ghavami from the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science and attended by examination committee members Drs. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Pawan Singal and Jeff Wigle.

“I think this was the first PhD defence exam conducted online and we are pleased Dr. Abu-El Rub was able to successfully complete her doctorate, despite the challenging environment created by the pandemic,” said Dr. Dhingra.

Congratulations Dr. Abu-El Rub! 

AJP-Heart – Best Paper Award Review Article 2020, goes to Parikh, Netticadan and Pierce

The prestigious journal AJP-Heart and Circulatory Physiology awarded “Flaxseed, its bioactive components and their cardiovascular benefits” as its BEST PAPER AWARD REVIEW ARTICLE for 2020. Congratulations to these world-renowned flax researchers for this well-deserved recognition.

Drs. Mihir Parikh, Thomas Netticadan and Grant N. Pierce, of Winnipeg Manitoba, and affiliated with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba; Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.

“It’s not only rewarding to be recognized for our work by one of the esteemed cardiovascular physiology journals, but the fact that it was downloaded more than 2500 times shows the favorable interest flaxseed is generating among scientists” said Parikh.

“Being a researcher in the area of cardioprotection using nutritional strategies, I am very pleased and honored to be part of this award winning review paper highlighting the cardiovascular benefits of flaxseed and its components. I ‘d like to thank Dr. Grant Pierce for giving me the opportunity to able to contribute to this paper, and to Mihir Parikh for leading it,” said Netticadan.

The paper won based upon:
Best Paper Score: 655
Total Citations 2018 – 2019: 11
Online article downloads: 2,640 (as of 3/31/20)

Abstract: Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. The inclusion of functional foods and natural health products in the diet are gaining increasing recognition as integral components of lifestyle changes in the fight against cardiovascular disease. Several preclinical and clinical studies have shown the beneficial cardiovascular effects of dietary supplementation with flaxseed. The cardiovascular effects of dietary flaxseed have included an antihypertensive action, antiatherogenic effects, a lowering of cholesterol, an anti-inflammatory action, and an inhibition of arrhythmias. Its enrichment in the ω-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and the antioxidant lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside as well as its high fiber content have been implicated primarily in these beneficial cardiovascular actions. Although not as well recognized, flaxseed is also composed of other potential bioactive compounds such as proteins, cyclolinopeptides, and cyanogenic glycosides, which may also produce biological actions. These compounds could also be responsible for the cardiovascular effects of flaxseed. This article will not only summarize the cardiovascular effects of dietary supplementation with flaxseed but also review its bioactive compounds in terms of their properties, biological effects, and proposed mechanisms of action. It will also discuss promising research directions for the future to identify additional health-related benefits of dietary flaxseed.

For more information on this impressive award, please visit:

YSC Online STEM Fair

Canada-Wide Science Fair 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta and most of the 103 regional science fairs across the country may have been cancelled, but the passion for discovery and innovation amongst Canadian youth will not be denied. Youth Science Canada (YSC), organizers of the national event since its inception in 1962, announce today the launch of YSC Online STEM Fair, a showcase for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects that reflect the curiosity and creativity of Canadian youth. The online event will be live for the public to explore starting Tuesday, May 19.

“The physical events may have been cancelled, but the work of this country’s curious and talented youth continues,” says Reni Barlow, executive director of Youth Science Canada. “Members of the STEM community have shown the depth of their commitment to engaging and supporting Canadian youth as they continue to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. We could not be prouder of everyone’s efforts and invite them to unite, next month, on this new and exciting online platform.”

Developed by, the site will feature STEM projects submitted by students in grades 7-12, along with opportunities for STEM-related companies, organizations, agencies and institutions to engage visiting students, teachers, parents and the public through the virtual STEM Expo. A bilingual YSC Online STEM Fair student visitor activity guide will be made available as of May 1, to help navigate the event and enhance at-home learning programs.

“Youth Science Canada’s network of regional science fairs plays a critical role in inspiring the STEM leaders and inventors of tomorrow.” said Frank Baldesarra CEO of “Although these unprecedented times have created many new challenges, our entire team is very proud to be working with Reni and his team as we all adjust to new ways of working together. This partnership will help students across Canada to continue to learn, socially engage online and very importantly stay positive about their STEM passions and futures.”

With the support of Youth Science Canada’s National Science Fair Network, as well as partners like NSERC PromoScience, Intact Financial Corporation and Cenovus Energy, YSC Online STEM Fair will provide participants with feedback, opportunities for mentorship, as well as virtual recognition for outstanding projects.

YSC Online STEM Fair is open to any student in Canada from grades 7 to 12 (secondary 1 to Cégep in Quebec), looking to showcase their ideas and discoveries in a time when innovation is more needed and perhaps more valued than ever.

The new online experience is expected to launch for project entries and STEM Expo exhibitors in Early May.

About Youth Science Canada
Established in 1962, Youth Science Canada fuels the curiosity of Canadian youth through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects. The registered charity works to ensure that Canadian youth have the capacity and skills to generate and answer questions and identify and solve problems. YSC also engages leading public and private sector organizations in the development of a national STEM network of Canadian youth. For more information, please visit

About is a global online publisher and discussion forum for problem solving, tech news, innovations and resources, with a simple mission to inspire engineering minds to be and do better. The company’s ProjectBoard platform, now powering, provides Makers and STEM communities a fun and engaging way to share ideas, develop projects and learn in groups online.

For more information:
Melissa Arauz
Torchia Communications
514-299-8290 ext. 205

Research shows new drug can protect hearts in breast cancer patients

In a recent paper published March 2020 in Nature Cancer, research co-authored by Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, shows how heart damage that often results from a widely employed cancer chemotherapy called doxorubicin can be prevented by a new experimental drug referred to as BAI1.

“It’s been well known for years that doxorubicin, a very effective component of regimens used to treat multiple cancers and leukemias in adults and children, has a serious downside of causing cardiac damage in some patients that can lead to eventual heart failure,” said Kirshenbaum. “Finding a way to prevent that damage while retaining doxorubicin’s anti-cancer benefits, is what drove this investigation.”

The work was five years in the making and was conducted in close collaboration with investigators Drs. Richard Kitsis and Evridipis Gavathiotis, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York (Download PDF): A small-molecule allosteric inhibitor of BAX protects against doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy. The work was also recently applauded by NIH’s National Cancer Institute website.

“Collaborations such as these can lead to major advancements and breakthroughs, and this is no exception” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director St. Boniface Hospital Research. “Our sincere congratulations to Dr. Kirshenbaum, Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba, and his associates on this work, which has the potential to save and extend many lives affected by breast cancer.”

The new study builds on insights from the investigators’ earlier research on cardiac damage by doxorubicin and the basic biology of a protein called BAX. Working through BAX, doxorubicin causes two different forms of cell death in the heart. BAI1 targets BAX to block both of these forms of cell death. Studies in animal models showed that BAI1 prevents heart failure from doxorubicin without interfering with the ability of doxorubicin to treat cancer. This work is important because it identified BAX as a single druggable target to prevent heart failure from doxorubicin. Further down the road, it may allow oncologists to prescribe higher doses of doxorubicin in combination with other cardiotoxic drugs, without causing heart damage.

With proof of concept now established, clinical trials will be initiated soon in the United States to test doxorubicin effects when administered in conjunction with BAI1.

To researchers seeking treatments and a vaccine for COVID 19 – we stand with you.

To all the researchers around the globe who are working tirelessly to develop treatments and a vaccine for COVID 19 – we stand with you.

We know that science is the only thing that will beat this. 

The vaccines for cholera, typhoid, diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, tetanus, yellow fever, typhus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, meningitis, and hepatitis A & B were all cures developed by medical scientists working tirelessly in laboratories to test and refine their theories before successfully administering treatments to people.    

Millions and millions of lives have been saved in the last 150 years because of the discoveries supported by robust, peer-reviewed medical research. 

Conquering COVID-19 will be no different, but it will take time.  So we need to buy time for our medical professionals by flattening the curve, but we also need to do it in order to support the researchers who are racing against time.

Please follow the advice of our public health officials.  Be part of the solution! 

  • Wash your hands. 
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Stay home if you feel sick.  
  • Encourage employees to work from home.  
  • Hold meetings remotely. 
  • Cancel large gatherings. 
  • Stop all non-essential travel. 

St. Boniface Flax Research featured on popular & YouTube channel

Dr. Michael Greger gave a tremendous shout-out to researchers here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Dr. Grant Pierce‘s Cell Biology Lab, for their work, which Dr. Greger cites multiple times in a new video called “The Benefits of Flax Seeds for Inflammation“.

Dr. Greger has more than half a million subscribers on multiple social media channels, who follow his recommendations and advice which he shares based on his own analysis of thousands of peer-reviewed papers on science and nutrition.

Kudos to Dr. Grant Pierce and his co-authors on this recognition of their amazing work and key findings!

St. B Spin-off Success – Monteris Medical Founders to Receive Pioneer in Technology Award

Monteris Medical, one of first and most successful spin-off companies originating from St. Boniface Hospital Research, and now the leader in image-guided laser ablation systems for the brain, announced today that its founders, Dr. Mark G. Torchia and Richard Tyc, are the 2020 recipients of the Pioneer in Technology Award by The Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics (SBMT).

Torchia first started thinking about the challenge — using a laser to eliminate brain tumours that were too difficult or risky for traditional surgery — in the early ’90s when he was a principal investigator and Director of Clinical Research at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre.

Known as a creative problem-solver and innovator, Torchia was inducted into the St. Boniface Hospital Research Hall of Fame in 2016, and more recently, he was named the University of Manitoba’s first Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) in 2018.

Congratulations Dr. Torchia on another outstanding recognition for your pioneering work!

Albensi named Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Neurobiology

Congratulations to Dr. Benedict Albensi, Principal Investigator, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND); Professor & Manitoba Dementia Research Chair, Max Rady College of Medicine, Dept. of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, for his recent appointment as Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Neurobiology.

This bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal covers all aspects of molecular neuroscience and contemporary molecular brain research with an Impact Factor of 5.076 (2017). Established in 1987, Molecular Neurobiology is published by Springer Science+Business Media out of New York City.

Dr. Benedict Albensi is also a Core Member in Biomedical Engineering with the Faculties of Health Sciences, Engineering & Science, Research Affiliate Centre on Aging, and serves as Chair of the Everett Endowment Fund for Alzheimer’s Research.

Singal celebrated as a distinguished alumni at global meeting held in India

Dr. Pawan Singal, PhD, DSc, LLD (Hon) visited his Alma Mater, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, as a part of their celebrations of 100 years Honours School Program – first-ever Global Alumni Meet. 

Dr. Singal was honoured with the High Achiever Alumni Award on November 29, 2019.  As part of the celebration, Dr. Singal also planted a tree at the university campus.

Receiving the Alumni Award, Dr. Pawan Singal; Bir Devinder Singh, Former Speaker, Punjab Assembly, India; Prof. Shankerji Jha, Dean, University Instruction; Prof. Bhupinder Singh Bhoop, Professor, University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Planting of the tree: Dr. Pawan Singal and Dr. Jasmeet Nayyar, Alumna and Sports Medicine Specialist, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India.

During the same visit, Dr. Singal was also honoured with two special awards presented to him as a Golden Jubilee Visiting Scientist of the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India, on December 2, 2019, receiving a Golden Jubilee memento (AMRITSAR) and also a plaque in recognition of his Outstanding Contributions to Cardiovascular Research

Dr. Pawan Singal receiving Honours at the Guru Nana Dev University, Amritsar from Prof. Jaspal Singh Sandhu, Vice-Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University. Also in the photo, Dr. Rajbir Bhatti, Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (left) and Dr. Manpreet Bhatti, Head, Department of Botany and Environmental Sciences (right).
Group photo with Dr. Pawan Singal and to his left Prof. Raj Kumar, Vice-Chancellor,
Panjab University, and several other dignitaries.

Congratulations to Dr. Singal on these international recognitions.

The 21st Annual Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards

The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research and in partnership with the University of Manitoba, held its 21st Annual Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Sciences Awards Day on October 18th. The gala awards event is highly anticipated each year as a way to celebrate excellence in cardiovascular research and recognize twelve outstanding recipients for their contributions and success in research, medicine and support services.

“Our mission here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences is to develop and maintain a center of excellence in cardiovascular research and training in Winnipeg. We are proud of our multidisciplinary research programs that provide state-of-the-art education to undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists,” said ICS Director, Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum.

Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of St. Boniface Hospital Research expressed his appreciation and pride for the Institute’s worldwide reputation as being pivotal to putting Winnipeg on the map when it comes to cardiovascular research. “We are unique in the sense that we offer research collaborations between basic and clinical cardiovascular scientists, at the Hospital renowned in Manitoba for its outstanding cardiac care. There isn’t a better training ground than right here,” Dr. Pierce exclaimed, “Congratulations to this year’s very deserving winners.”

The Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Sciences Awards are named in honour of Manitoba’s most iconic scientific research leaders: Dr. R.E. Beamish, Mr. Ken Bowman, Dr. John Foerster, Dr. Vincenzo Panagia, Mr. Jack Litvak*, Dr. Arnold Naimark, Dr. Henry Friesen, Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves, Mr. Ken Dhalla, Dr. James McGoey and Dr. T. Edward Cuddy.

*With sadness, we acknowledge the passing of Mr. Jack Litvak on October 13, 2019.

Institute Status Renewed by University Senate Committee

The University of Manitoba’s Senate Committee on University Research (SCUR) recently recommended and approved a motion to renew the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences for a five-year term.  The renewal comes after the completion of a periodic review of the Institute’s strategic goals and outcomes.

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences noted the importance of the Senate Committee’s motion to renew the term to the end of 2024, “I am thrilled by the renewal of our institute status,” he said.  

“This is invaluable to our institution to have the confidence of the Senate Committee and the encouragement to continue fulfilling our mandate to promote cardiovascular education at the local, national and international levels,” he added. “I want to thank all the members of the institute of cardiovascular sciences, support staff and trainees as well as University of Manitoba and St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation for their commitment and  leadership.” 

Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and home to ICS, said the renewal speaks volumes about the Institution’s reach and body of work since it was founded by Dr. Naranjan Dhalla in 1987 as the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences.

“We achieved Institute status in 1998 and throughout our entire history we have been focused on actively fostering innovative research collaborations locally, nationally and internationally. ICS is recognized as a leading cardiovascular research centre on a global scale and we are excited about the future,” he said.

The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences offers multidisciplinary research programs to understand the pathophysiology and therapy of cardiovascular disease, providing state-of-the-art education and training to undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists

“We are continually seeking new opportunities for  research collaborations between basic and clinical cardiovascular scientists, while also recruiting new talent through our national and international networks and affiliations,” Dr. Kirshenbaum explained.

Recognition is also vitally important to the work undertaken by Researchers and their staff working in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

The 21st Annual Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Scientific Symposium, held this year on October 17 & 18, is an annual event featuring an impressive line-up of visiting speakers and recipients, as well as student work and achievements that are unprecedented for an institution of this size. To view the 2019 award winners, click here.

Beans and lentils: providing cardiovascular health benefits beyond nutrition

Dr. Peter Zahradka was recently featured as an expert author in the Nov/Dec. 2019 edition of International News on Fats, Oils, and Related Materials (INFORM), published by the American Oil Chemists’ Society.

Dr. Zahradka was one of 18 experts to present the latest advances in the analysis, nutrition, and applications of pulse proteins at the inaugural Pulse Science and Technology Forum (November 5–7 in Toronto, Canada).

This unique forum was offered by the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) in cooperation with the Global Pulse Confederation, Protein Highway, Protein Industries Canada, and Pulse Canada. The presentations will be made available on the AOCS website ( so that busy professionals can keep up with the rapid developments in the science and technology of alternative proteins

Download the full article here:

St. Boniface ranked #1 research-intensive hospital in Western Canada

For the 8th year in a row, the St. Boniface Hospital is among Canada’s leading research hospitals, taking the #1 spot in western Canada and ranking in the Top 5 nationally, according to data released today by Research Infosource Inc. Canada’s source of R&D intelligence.

“Most people may not realize that Winnipeg has a skilled and passionate team of scientific investigators here at St. Boniface. whose high standards continue to attract significant funding year after year,” says Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital, “We are working every day to find new ways to approach some of the biggest health issues facing Canadians, so it’s great to be recognized on this scale.”

“It is such an honour to once again stand shoulder to shoulder with Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals,” says Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital, “This demonstrates our research centre’s capacity to attract the best of the best so that our research and innovation contributes to advances that ultimately improve health outcomes. At the core of our new 3-year strategic plan is a strong commitment to sustain and integrate transformative research and teaching. These continue to be exciting times for St. B”.

In affiliation with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, St. Boniface Hospital Research has four dedicated research programs: The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences; the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders; the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM); and the Asper Clinical Research Institute.  

St. Boniface Hospital Research boasts 30 laboratories, 250 staff, serves as training ground for approximately 100 students each year and is home to the RBC Youth BIOLab Jeunesse —a space for students and teachers to explore and experience real biomedical science in a world-class research center.

New Minister of Agriculture visits CCARM

On October 28, 2019, the Honourable Blaine Pedersen, the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development of Manitoba, visited the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Dr. Carla Taylor, Team Leader, CCARM and Dr. Peter Zahradka, Deputy Team Leader, CCARM toured the facility with Pederson and explained how CCARM’s research program aims to translate positive results from basic laboratory science into new food products and safe dietary supplements that will directly impact the health of Canadians. The majority of foods investigated at CCARM are grown on Canadian soil by Canadian farmers.

Left-right in featured image: Dr. Carla Taylor, the Honourable Blaine Pedersen, and Dr. Peter Zahradka

Canada Post Community Foundation $15,000 Gift to Youth BIOlab

St. Boniface Hospital Research and the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse were honoured to receive a gift of $15,000 from the Canada Post Community Foundation to support the purchase of a portable digital microscope, computer and projector. This equipment will support the Youth BIOlab’s work with northern and remote First Nations schools in Manitoba and allow staff to deliver programming and conduct hands-on activities with students.

“Bringing Youth BIOlab activities to these schools will increase the capacity of Aboriginal youth to understand and approach current health challenges in their own communities, and ensure they have the same opportunities to explore a future in science, medicine and medical research,” said Youth BIOlab Director, Stephen Jones.

Jason Candaele, Manager, Retail Business for Canada Post, explained how the Foundation supports a variety of community organizations that pave the way for a stronger future.

“Right now, 118 organizations across Canada are receiving grants close to $1.2 million. These funds will help organizations just like yours to build better, safer, and more supportive communities for Canadian youth,” he said. “Every penny we raise stays in this province, and the grant we are giving out today is the result of some of that effort from last year.  It should be noted here that there were 19 recipients in Manitoba this year, of which 9 are based in Winnipeg.”

Med Students Awarded for Research Projects

The Med summer research program within the Max Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba gives first and second-year medical students an opportunity to engage in original research, either basic or clinical, under the supervision of a St. Boniface Hospital Research principal investigator and/or Max Rady College of Medicine supervisor.

Congratulations to the following recipients, supervised by a St. Boniface Hospital Research Principal Investigator:

Jonathon (J.J.) Gerstein
• BSc (Med) Student Joe Doupe Presenter Honour Award
• Dr. Charles Schom Memorial Bursary – Travel Award to Attend The Nation Student Research Forum Held in April 2020 Galveston, Texas
Supervisor: Dr. Lorrie Kirsenbaum

Amy Lam
• BSc (Med) Student Joe Doupe Presenter Honour Award
• Medicine Class of 1959 BSc (Med) Travel Award to Attend The Nation Student Research Forum Held in April 2020 Galveston, Texas
• Morris Neaman Memorial Award for Excellence and Outstanding Promise in Research During the 1st Summer of the BSc (Med) program
Supervisor: Dr. Davinder Jassal
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Pawan K. Singal

David Nelson
• BSc (Med) Student Joe Doupe Presenter Honour Award
• Medicine Class of 1959 BSc (Med) Travel Award to Attend The Nation Student Research Forum Held in April 2020 Galveston, Texas
• Morris Neaman Memorial Award for excellence and outstanding promise in research during the 1st summer of the BSc (Med) program
Supervisor: Dr. Grant Pierce
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Pavel Dibrov

Hannah Stirton
• MMFC Eva Balazs Memorial BSc (Med) Scholarship
Supervisor: Dr. Mandana Modirrousta
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Amir Ravandi

Fatemeh Bakhtiari
• BSc (Med) Program Award for an Outstanding Clinical Research Project
Supervisor: Dr. Michael Yamashita
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Rakesh Arora

Ilan Rubinchik
• Merck Sharp Award for Best Basic Science Project
Supervisor: Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Delfin Rodriguez

Tyler Spencer
• Dr. Charles Schom Memorial Bursary Travel Award to Attend The Nation Student Research Forum Held in April 2020 Galveston, Texas
Supervisor: Dr. Rakesh Arora
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Todd Duhamel

Janessa Siemens
• Medicine Class of 1959 BSc (Med) Travel Award to Attend The Nation Student Research Forum Held in April 2020 Galveston, Texas
• Dr. Fred W. Du Val Memorial Award for Excellence and Outstanding Promise in Surgical or Pediatric Related Research
Supervisor: Dr. Kanwal Kumar
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Rakesh Arora

Marinya Roznik
• Med Summer Research Program Award for an Outstanding Med Summer Research Project
• Med Summer Research Program Award for Best Oral Presentation Within Venue
Supervisor: Dr. Amir Ravandi
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Ashish Shah

Czubryt, Kirshenbaum, Pierce awarded in Serbia

Drs. Michael Czubryt, Lorrie Kirshenbaum, and Grant Pierce were honoured recently with three special awards presented at a conference in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia held September 11 – 14, 2019 and hosted by International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS).

The conference was the 6th Meeting of European Section and 7th Meeting of North American Section of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS). IACS was established by renowned cardiologists, both experimental and clinical, with headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The IACS provides the organizational structure for the world-wide sharing of research and education in the field of heart health.

Dr Pierce receives award
[L-R] Drs. Grant Pierce, Andras Varro and Bohuslav Ostadal

Dr. Grant Pierce – Naranjan Dhalla Honorary Lecture Award Medal by the European Section of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences

Dr. Kirshenbaum receives award
[L-R] Drs. Gary Lopaschuk, Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Andras Varro and Bohuslav Ostadal

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum – Bohuslav Ostadal Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences

Dr. Czubryt receives award
Drs. Gary Lopaschuk, Michael Czubryt and Andras Varro

Dr. Michael Czubryt – Andras Varro Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences


CAHS Fellowships for Feldman & Hack

Drs. Ross Feldman and Thomas Hack were inducted as Fellows into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) at an induction ceremony held in Ottawa last night.

Induction into the CAHS as a Fellow is considered one of the highest honours within Canada’s academic community. Fellows are chosen by their peers based on their demonstrated leadership, creativity, distinctive competencies and commitment to advancing academic health sciences.

“It is no surprise to me that two individuals from our institution were selected for this distinction. The exceptional achievements of both Feldman and Hack are a source of great pride here at St. Boniface,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital and Distinguished Professor at the U of M.

“These outstanding clinician-scientists deserve this prestigious honour for their decades of research concerned with improving the lives and outcomes for countless patients,” says Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at the U of M.

“It is humbling to be bestowed a Fellow in the CAHS,” said Dr. Hack.  “My research mission has all always been that of improving the health experience of individuals coping with cancer.  It is heart-warming to know that, because of my research, cancer centres and health agencies around the globe are now providing patients with opportunities to record pivotal conversations with their health providers for playback later. Advances in technology allow us to, finally and easily, bring the doctor home to the kitchen table.”

Ross Feldman

“The CAHS is a community that includes so many Canadian biomedical scholars whom I respect and emulate. I am so very grateful to now be included in that community and especially the opportunity to be there alongside those scientists and academics I so much appreciate working beside at the U of M and the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre”, said Dr. Ross Feldman.

“The CAHS is a community that includes so many Canadian biomedical scholars whom I respect and emulate. I am so very grateful to now be included in that community and especially the opportunity to be there alongside those scientists and academics I so much appreciate working beside at the U of M and the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre”, said Dr. Ross Feldman.

As a research scientist in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, Dr. Feldman’s research has provided major contributions to our understanding of how to prevent and control of hypertension, particularly in women. Heart disease in women remains underappreciated, underdiagnosed and undertreated and Dr. Feldman has dedicated his career to rectifying these shortcomings. 

Dr. Feldman was the first Chair of the Canadian Hypertension Education Program. As well, he served as the founding President of Hypertension Canada, now the second-largest cardiovascular disease not-for-profit agency in Canada. He is the author of more than 200 original manuscripts, reviews and book chapters. His clinical research focuses on the development of innovative strategies to improve blood pressure control. His fundamental research focuses on the elucidation of novel cell signalling mechanisms of vascular regulation/dysregulation linked to the development of hypertension and atherosclerosis.

Thomas Hack

Dr. Thomas Hack has made significant progress in our understanding of the psychological issues facing cancer patients and the end-of-life challenges that some will encounter. The professor of nursing in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences who is also a clinical psychologist with CancerCare Manitoba, and a research scientist at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, has published impactful research that has delved into difficult topics of compassion, distress, depression and dignity, as well as therapeutic strategies to aid cancer patients. He is only the second College of Nursing faculty member to be inducted as a Fellow of the CAHS.

He was the principal investigator of an international research team that explored communication between patients and health professionals in the context of cancer, paying particular attention to the effectiveness of using consultation recordings of primary treatment consultations to enhance the well-being of persons diagnosed with cancer. He also studies aspects of coping and adjustment to cancer. His work has earned him numerous awards, including being named, in 2000, the first recipient of the Dorothy J. Lamont Research Scientist award from the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2002, he received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to those affected by cancer, and in 2006 and 2014 he received the University of Manitoba Merit Award for research accomplishment. This month, Dr. Hack also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology.

Congrats to Hoeschen Memorial Awards Recipients

Dr. Jennifer Protudjer and Dr. Emily Rimmer have been named this year’s recipients of the Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award. The award has been equally split, with each recipient receiving a $2,000 contribution to help offset the operating expenses for the supervision of a B.Sc. (Med) student at the University of Manitoba.


The Manitoba Medical Service Foundation (MMSF) and St. Boniface Hospital Research have each contributed $2,000 towards this award.

Dr. Jennifer Protudjer is supervising B. Sc. (Med) student Hailey Hildebrand for their project, “An Investigation into Dietary Pattern and Adolescent Eczema.” Dr. Protudjer is appointed through the Department of Pediatric and Child Health at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Emily Rimmer is supervising B.Sc. (Med) student Jayce Bi for their project, “M-Protein Response Trajectory and Survival in Newly Diagnosed Multiple Myeloma: A Retrospective Cohort Study.” Dr. Rimmer is appointed through the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba

Thank you to the B.Sc. Awards Selection Committee for adjudication of the candidates and to the University of Manitoba for their administrative support through the process.

Visit for more info.

St. Boniface Hospital youth bio-lab receives surprise bonus donation

Everyone was smiling at the Albrechtsen Research Centre the morning of August 20 when guests and staff convened in the RBC Youth BIOlab to host a special cheque presentation from the Manitoba Metis Heritage Fund, (MMHF) which had raised $75,000 at its annual spring Gala to donate to the educational outreach programming here at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

What no one saw coming was the surprise announcement from Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand, who was so inspired by what he saw, delighted everyone with a spur-of-the-moment decision to make a matching donation of $75,000 from the MMF, bringing the total gift to $150,000 in just a few seconds!

“To think that one day, Métis Students will access this incredible facility and accomplish great things in medical sciences, I knew I had to add to the very generous amount already given by my colleagues at MMHF,” he explained.

“I cannot wait to see aspiring Metis doctors, researchers and other medical professionals come through the doors of the BIOlab, enter their field of choice and then take what they’ve learned back to our communities and People. Then I will know this was money very well spent,” Chartrand added.

“This investment will help support our efforts to nurture Métis Youth in MB to explore health and learning in ways that are meaningful to them, their experiences and their backgrounds. If science has taught me anything, there are always new things to learn, and it’s best when we learn together,” said Stephen Jones, Youth BIOlab Director.

Neil Duboff, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Board Chair, emphasizes the impact of this generous gift, “We are grateful to be granted a gift that can purposefully and powerfully change the lives of children who love science and will now get to experience discovery first hand in the coveted RBC Youth BIOlab! Thank you MMHF.”

“It’s wonderful to share this moment with our partners from the MMF and SBHF,” added MMHF Chair Denise Thomas.  “I know we all share the dream of seeing more young people enhance their education and pursuing medical sciences. It’s exciting to know that Métis Youth will have access to a quality training facility such as the Youth BIOlab and move toward achieving those goals.”

The Youth BIOlab at St. Boniface Hospital Research is North America’s most unique biomedical teaching lab focused on community outreach to inspire youth towards a love for science and discovery. More than 70,000 students from every corner of the province have participated since the lab opened in 2013. 

Breakthrough Discovery by ICS Alumni Called ‘Exciting, Out-of-The-Box’

Former ICS grad student and St. Boniface Hospital Research alumni, Dr. Justin Deniset, has published recent work which made headlines last week for a discovery that could lead to new treatments for patients with heart damage.

Published in Immunity and generating extensive media coverage across the country, Deniset’s work is being touted as a breakthrough that could fundamentally change how cardiac surgeons operate and how heart damage can be treated.  Dr. Deniset carried out this ground-breaking work at the University of Calgary.

“This is one of the most important advances in recent memory in the post-MI cardiac fibrosis area of study – truly a gamechanger,” said Dr. Ian Dixon, Principal Investigator. Molecular Cardiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

The heart is known for its very limited capacity to repair itself making heart disease the number one cause of death in North America. This is the first time that a team of cardiac surgeons and basic cardiovascular scientists have explored the possibility that cells outside the heart could participate in the healing and repair of hearts post-injury. 

“It will be exciting to see how this translates to the clinical world and benefit people living with damaged heart tissue,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital. “Naturally we are exceptionally proud of our alumni like Justin, a St Boniface boy, born and bred, who has gone on from his research training at the Albrechtsen Research Centre at St Boniface Hospital to undertake top-tier postdoctoral research – truly outstanding!”

The study was led by Drs. Paul Kubes, PhD, Justin Deniset, PhD and Paul Fedak, MD, PhD. and the specific cell is called a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage. In mice, it has been found to help heal injured hearts. The team is hopeful the discovery will lead to novel techniques that will facilitate quicker recovery times for people who have suffered heart attacks.

Hack Receives Canadian Association Psychosocial Oncology (CAPO) Lifetime Achievement Award

This annual award honours a CAPO/ACOP member who has made exceptional and enduring career contributions to Psychosocial Oncology.

For over two decades, Dr. Hack has conducted research into coping with cancer, and communication between cancer patients and health professionals. He is the author of 100+research publications and book chapters, and the recipient of several grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.

Dr. Hack sits on the Seamless Patient Experience Committee of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and formerly served on the Cancer Survivorship Advisory Panel and the Standards and Guidelines Advisory Group of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. He served on the CAPO Board of Directors from 2002-2013, serving as its President from 2009-2011. Dr. Hack was the inaugural Dorothy J. Lamont Scientist with the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.  He received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal in recognition of his research.

Ramjiawan ACMA Certified as Medical Affairs Specialist

Congratulations to Dr. Bram Ramjiawan, Director of Clinical Research, ACRI, Director of Research Innovation & Regulatory Affairs, and Adjunct Professor, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba on successfully completing the Accreditation Council of Medical Affairs (ACMA) Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS) training.

BCMAS certification is the most comprehensive training program in the world for medical affairs professionals and demonstrates that they have met rigorous standards through intensive study, self-assessment and evaluation. The ACMA is accredited by the International Association of Continuing Education & Training (ANSI/IACET), which is a badge of excellence & distinction indicating that the ACMA maintains the highest standards of quality & excellence in medical affairs and MSL training.

“Bram’s role is vitally important to ensure that we follow all the necessary regulations and processes to the letter. This protects our institution from avoidable risks and engenders confidence in our business partners and affiliates, which is essential as we continually pursue new opportunities for our researchers and clinicians,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

A self-governing entity, the ACMA is internationally recognized as a standard-bearer of excellence and competency-based learning for the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition to this achievement, Dr. Ramjiawan was also the recipient of an honorary medical degree from Rajiv Gandhi University of Science and Technology.

A Profound Legacy of Giving, Remembered

It is with heavy hearts that the staff here at St. Boniface Hospital Research extend our sincerest condolences to the family & friends of Mr. Paul Albrechtsen, who passed away this weekend.

Mr. Albrechtsen’s legacy of extraordinary philanthropy to medical research made him the most significant donor in the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation’s history, including a $5 million donation to support pioneering cardiac research. The renaming of the building in 2015 to the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre was in recognition for his commitment to supporting scientific discoveries to more effectively treat society’s most debilitating diseases and conditions.

Albrechtsen Research Centre

“Mr. Albrechtsen was a visionary leader who gave back to his community in the most important ways – investing in the future health of mankind. Without his extraordinary gifts to our facility, we wouldn’t be able to conduct the calibre of research underway here today,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital. Dr. Pierce also noted Mr. Albrechtsen’s wonderful sense of humour. “He was always engaging, always a joy with whom to talk. He will be sorely missed as an important piece of our community, an unusually generous philanthropist, but most of all as a great human being.”

“His financial gifts were indeed unprecedented and helped provide stability and momentum for continued discovery in cardiac disease here at St. Boniface, but it was his warmth and humanity that truly set him apart,” said Dr. Pawan K. Singal, Principal Investigator, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences. “He always took the time to connect with people, to stop and say hello and share a story or joke. Our community has lost a person of great character and depth, and he will be missed.”

Paul Albrechtsen, a self-made entrepreneur, established Paul’s Hauling in 1957 after immigrating to Canada from Denmark. Albrechtsen built the company from the ground up, all while making it his life’s work to help others in need. Albrechtsen was renowned for his generosity and support to his community.

On behalf of all the staff at St. Boniface Hospital Research, we wish to extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family during this difficult time.

Schwartz Brings Home National Gold!

Leah Schwartz, U of W Collegiate student in Mike Czubryt’s lab, has returned from the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton where she was awarded a Gold Medal at the Senior Level in the competition. She was up against 450 of Canada’s top young science minds at the national competition, earning the top award, as well as a $4,000 entrance scholarship to one of several Canadian universities.

News of her achievement was featured in the Winnipeg Sun,

Congratulations again for another splendid win Leah!

18th Stroke for Stroke Charity Golf Tournament surpasses 30K mark!

Fifty-one players on 13 teams, (with 19 new golfers this year!), enjoyed picture perfect conditions to swing their way through the 18th annual Stroke for Stroke Charity Golf Tournament at The Player’s Course on June 24, 2019.

Their generous donations in support of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation totaled $1,950.00, bringing the all-time Stroke for Stroke fundraising total to $30,340.00 since the tournament was launched in 2002! Well done participants!

Many thanks to our sponsors for their ongoing support and presence on the links that day: Jesse Fernandes and Lisa Lawrence. And special thanks to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation for supporting the raffle & prize draws, as well as having Donor Relations representative, Janellyn Marcial on-hand during the registration and donation process. Thank you!

The Stroke for Stroke Charity Golf Tournament is made possible by the SBRC Social Committee and Alex Austria in particular, who once again spear-headed the tournament’s details and execution. Alex was assisted by social committee members Karen Swanson, Shawna Kynoch, Rob Blaich and Karen Hiebert.

Winners in various categories are as follows:

Winning Team: “Shark and Pilots”
David Nelson, Mihir Parikh, Aleksandra Stamenkovic and Elena Dibrov
Most Honest Team:  “The Jones Clones”
Ian Dixon, Steve Jones, Sunil Rattan and Meghan Kynoch
Best Dressed Team: “Fair Dinkums”
Sam Hirst, Taylor Williams, Scott Williams and Sheila Engel
Wackiest Team Name:  “Weapons of Grass Destruction”
Patti McNeill, Lisa Stifora, Natalie Wesa and Janellyn Marcial
Special Ball Winners: “The Scuba Divers”
Skyler Eastman, Cameron Eekhoudt, Amy Lam, and Chantal Asselin
Marshmallow driving contest: Tyler Pierce
Longest drive Men: David Nelson
Longest drive Ladies:  Catherine Smolinski
Closest to the pin:  Patti McNeill

Photo Gallery

2019 Research Hall of Fame – Kryger & MacLean Inducted

At a beautiful cocktail reception attended by almost 100 former colleagues, family and friends, two distinguished leaders were inducted into the St. Boniface Hospital Research Hall of Fame: Dr. Meir Kryger, and the late George Campbell MacLean. Both men join four previous inductees: Dr. Naranjan Dhalla, Dr. Lesley Degner, Dr. John Foerster, and Dr. Mark Torchia.

Dr. Henry Friesen, Chair of the Research Enterprise Committee, presented to Dr. Meir Kryger for his ground-breaking sleep disorder research. Kryger was Director of the Sleep Disorders Centre at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre from 1988-2006, the first laboratory studying patients with sleep breathing problems in Canada. His laboratory elucidated the interaction between heart failure and sleep respiration and published the first systematic study of oxygen in this condition. Dr. Meir Kryger reported perhaps the first case of sleep apnea in North America. He was the first to use computers in analyzing sleep breathing patterns and validated techniques of monitoring in which diagnostic data, as well as therapeutic data on CPAP, is obtained during the same night.

And Dr. John Foerster, former Executive Director of St. Boniface Hospital Research, presented to the family of the late George Campbell MacLean, including his two grandchildren who personally accepted the award with words of inspiration and gratitude for the legacy of the community service instilled in them by their grandfather. In the 1980’s it was MacLean who single-handedly led the efforts to raise $19M for the construction of Western Canada’s first free-standing research facility associated with a hospital and one of the first in all of Canada. As articulated by Dr. Foerster, none of the last 31 years of medical research undertaken here would have been possible without the tenacity and vision of Cam MacLean.

Medical Careers Exploration Program Visits the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse

This year, the RBC Youth BIOlab worked with over 4,900 students from 120 schools in over 250 sessions. Beyond the many half-day field trip sessions that we typically run, we also ran several special multi-day project-based learning sessions for diverse groups of students from around the province.

In May 2019, students from the Medical Careers Exploration Program (MCEP) at Windsor Park Collegiate spent five days at the RBC Youth BIOlab exploring how medical research is a significant part of healthcare. The MCEP, developed by the Winnipeg Health Region and the Winnipeg School Division, was designed to give students exposure to a wide variety of healthcare jobs throughout high school, challenging them with intensive placements in a health care setting while they maintain their core school studies. The program was established in the Louis Riel School Division this year with the intent of helping students to launch careers in healthcare.

“I learned so much about cells including things like how they develop, how they can grow back and multiply. I learned that vape extract doesn’t affect the reproduction of cells unless it’s high levels of extraction. I really enjoyed how fun they made it and how they included all our ideas and made sure we knew what we were doing. They were one of my favourite placements,” Windsor Park Collegiate student.

The RBC Youth BIOlab was pleased to work with the Windsor Park Collegiate students enrolled in the MCEP program to help serve as their introduction to St. Boniface Hospital. For five afternoons, eight grade 10 MCEP students created and executed their own experiments in the BIOlab. They isolated stem cells from rat bone marrow and designed experiments to test electronic cigarette vapour extract or alcohol on cell behavior and survival. They were able to use a variety of cellular biology techniques to explore sophisticated health concepts and learn something about health issues that are important to them.

Projects like these are a great example of the successful evolution of the BIOlab since it opened in 2013. Working with community partners, the RBC Youth BIOlab makes it possible to meet the diverse needs of youth in ways that hold meaning for them and their futures.

Students from the Medical Careers Exploration Program working with Youth BIOlab instructor Meghan Kynoch, practicing techniques required for their experimental treatments of stem cells with electronic cigarette vapour extract.

More impressions from participants at the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse at St. Boniface Hospital Research

“The science and research was interesting to learn about because you don’t really hear about that section of the medical careers. I loved learning about cells and it was fun seeing what happens to them – I learned a lot about stem cells.”

“What I enjoyed at St. Boniface Hospital was learning about stem cells and I am going to think of this when I am applying for University/College.”

“Overall the experience at St. Boniface Hospital was fun. We learned new things and gained experience we will never forget. I think the research is interesting because they are the ones that do all of the background work that the doctors and nurses don’t do, so I really appreciate all the work they do. I really want to come back next year.”

CCARM Recognized with Renewed NSERC Funding

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) recently invested more than $13.7 million in new funding to Manitoba Researchers, including three from the Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine: Drs. Michel Aliani, Carla Taylor and Peter Zahradka.

Aliani’s NSERC-funded project looks at flavor formation and heat reactions in meat products supplemented with pulse flours. This research will help inform ways to potentially adjust enzymes that react adversely to cooking heat for instance, the effects of which can compromise the ideal flavor profile preferred by consumers. His state-of-the-art flavouromics laboratory will be building a database of flavor precursors and attributes as a way to add further value to the pulses market and help expand the selection of healthy, sustainable and desirable food products for consumers.

Taylor’s NSERC Discovery program studies the role of dietary zinc and dietary lipids (fats) in immune cell function and metabolism and is also investigating the effects of dietary fats on fat cells and immune cells in fat tissue. The research program will train 4 graduate students and 5 undergraduate studies and will build capacity in Canada for fundamental research on nutrition and metabolism, and the biology of immune cells and fat cells.

Zahradka is looking at adiponectin — a hormone secreted by fat tissue that helps keep the liver, skeletal muscle, pancreas and blood vessels healthy. When a person becomes obese, their fat cells no longer make as much adiponectin and it’s been suggested that the negative effects of obesity are caused by a lack of adiponectin. One of the key functions of adiponectin is to help control blood sugar (glucose) levels. This means that adiponectin works with insulin in controlling glucose production by the liver. Less adiponectin in obesity may be the reason insulin levels have to increase to keep glucose levels in check. We have been studying how insulin works to control glucose for over 25 years, but no one has looked at how adiponectin helps. It’s hoped this project will provide the first mechanistic evidence of a direct interaction between insulin and adiponectin in the regulation of glucose production by the liver and add to our understanding of the cellular processes that are critical for efficient liver function.

Outstanding Undergrad Credits Teacher for Inspiration

Bradley Feltham, CCARM Research Assistant, was recently recognized as an outstanding undergraduate student in the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences at U of M, and in-turn, he formally recognized his supervisor, Dr. Miyoung Suh, for teaching excellence at the 2019 Student-Teacher Recognition Reception. The annual event celebrates the teacher-student dynamic so imperative for long-term success.

“No words can describe the dedication she provides to her students,” commented Feltham during his speech at the event. “Dr. Suh has been one of the most influential figures in my career in academia, igniting my love for research. Teachers like Dr. Suh deserve credit for the awards their students receive because no amount or type of award can be given for what they do – it is absolutely priceless.”


Bradley Feltham receives award

Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) Phase 2 funding announcement includes MB Researchers.

Congratulations to Dr. Ben Albensi, one of five Manitoba-based researchers collaborating with 300 other Canadian scientists on 19 research teams to help prevent, treat and cure age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

The government of Canada recently announced an investment of $46 million to CCNA from 2019-2024, primarily from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and 11 other partner organizations, including the Alzheimer Society of Canada (ASC), the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) and Brain Canada.

At a glance

CCNA is the largest initiative in dementia research ever undertaken in Canada; for Phase I, CCNA-affiliated members have managed to successfully leverage 1.5 times their initial allotted funds from other organizations, totaling $49 million. In its second phase of funding, CCNA will bring together over 310 researchers from 39 universities in eight provinces across Canada, and these researchers will continue to leverage funding and foster collaborations with other international studies on dementia.

CCNA’s mission is to foster research collaborations across disciplines and universities to understand, manage, and treat age-related cognitive decline and dementia which impact over 400,000 Canadians today, and will impact as many as 1.5 million Canadians by 2031. To accelerate and synergize research nationwide, CCNA researchers work under three research themes (Prevention, Treatment and Quality of Life) within nineteen research teams, exploring a range of topics that include new projects CCNA has also implemented a unique observational cohort study. The Comprehensive Assessment of Neurodegeneration and Dementia (COMPASS-ND) is the only cohort study in the world that is collecting a wealth of data on seniors in different types and severities of dementia. To date, 800 people have been included in this study across Canada. CCNA aims to leverage the eventual release of COMPASS-ND data to collaborate with other provincial, national, and international studies, including the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI), the Consortium for the Early Identification of Alzheimer’s Disease – Quebec (CIMA-Q) and the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), Dementia’s Platform UK, the Genetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative (GENFI), and World Wide FINGERS (WW-FINGERS). A multidisciplinary group of six Manitoba based researched spread across five of the 19 CCNA teams, are members of CCNA (2% of the membership) CCNA is also dedicated to encouraging future generations of scientists to become involved n dementia-related studies and supports four trainees across the province.

Five University of Manitoba researchers contributes to the success of CCNA: Drs. Benedict Albensi, Barry Campbell, Verena Menec, Michelle Porter, and Phillip St. John.

ICS Students dominate CSHRF Awards

Four students representing labs from the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, swept up honours in three of the major award categories, and in the oncology category. The awards were issued at the 32nd Annual Canadian Student Health Research Forum at HSC, June 10-14.

Not only did the ICS students dominate in terms of winning major awards, but Navid Koleini also took home the most prestigious prize of this event — The E. L. Drewry Memorial Award, the highest honour conferred upon a senior doctoral student of Max Rady College of Medicine.

“Indeed, I am very humbled having received the Drewry memorial award! It wouldn’t be possible without tireless efforts and great mentorship from my PhD supervisor Prof. Elissavet Kardami,” Navid exclaimed shortly after his win.

All the recipients are as follows:

Navid Koleini (Kardami Lab) The E. L. Drewry Memorial Award, & the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation Cardiovascular Award.

Chantal Asselin – Caroline A. Cope Award for Excellence in Oncology Research (Jassal Lab & Singal Lab)

Ejlal Abu-El-Rub – Manitoba Medical Service Foundation PhD Award – (Dhingra Lab)

Glen Sequiera – Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba Pediatrics & Child Health Award (Dhingra Lab)

Congratulations to all!

Pictured above [L-R]: Glen Sequiera, Ejlal Abu-El-Rub, Chantal Asselin, Navid Koleini

Hoops from the Heart — Slam Dunk!

The 11th Annual Hoops from the Heart event was another great success with 150 inner city youth experiencing fun, food and fitness with top university athletes from U of W and U of M at the Duckworth Centre on May 29, 2019.

“This is just a great way for us to promote cardiac activity, let the kids interact with some of the athletes and coaches, and just have fun together in an environment they may not be exposed to otherwise,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director St. Boniface Hospital Research, and a founding member of the group that first came up with the idea in 2008.

From small beginnings, the event has grown exponentially since it began working with the support of Basketball Manitoba and in coordination with Winnipeg’s Youth Alliance program. The result? Hoops from the Heart has now raised enough money to offer two, $20K basketball scholarships: one for the University of Winnipeg; and one for the University of Manitoba.

“It’s great to see the success of our fundraising efforts, but it’s even better knowing that over the past eleven years 1,000 kids have had a chance to see the inside of a university and maybe give them the idea that ‘hey, maybe I could come here too one day’,” Pierce added.

Participants watched a men’s and women’s basketball game, which included an all-star lineup from both Universities, including a handful of pros. Skills drills, t-shirts and a free basketball to take home, rounded out the evening for each of them. Many thanks to all the sponsors, especially Boston Pizza and The Clay Oven for donating the delicious eats!

Another Big Win in Texas for a St. B Research Student-Alumni!

Congratulations to St. Boniface Hospital Research alumni, and University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine B.Sc. student Ryan Ramjiawan, who took 1st place for Oral Presentation at the National Student Research Forum in Galveston, Texas on April 20th. Ryan’s achievement is exceptional given this is the largest student-run medical conference in North America with some of the top talents from the best schools across the US and Canada. Ryan’s competed in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry category, which had the largest number of presenters.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the B.Sc. Med Program and am very grateful for the ongoing guidance and support of Drs. Grant Pierce and Pavel Dibrov, as well as all of the other supporting members of their respective laboratories,” Ryan said.

“To win a major NSRF category in Galveston is huge,” said Executive Director for Research, Dr. Grant Pierce. “We’re very proud of Ryan’s accomplishment, which has continued a tradition of students from our lab who have won major awards at Galveston where the competition is incredibly fierce. Bravo Ryan!”

World-class team of researchers at St. Boniface help grow MB’s Agri-sector

As part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Principal Investigators at St. Boniface Hospital and the University of Manitoba and The University of Winnipeg will receive $651,570 in new funding to look at ways dietary flaxseed can cure broken hearts in women with breast cancer; improve memory function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease; reduce blood pressure; and validate flax oil as an economically affordable anti-inflammatory.

At a news conference hosted at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechsten Research Centre, Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Ralph Eichler, and Member of Parliament for St. Boniface – St. Vital, Dan Vandal, shared aspects of a joint vision by government to invest in the long-term success of Manitoba’s agriculture based on scientific research.

“St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre has a world-class team of researchers who are keeping our province on the competitive edge,” said Vandal. 

“Manitoba continues to be a hub for research and innovation which benefits farmers, food processors and many other stakeholders,” said Minister Eichler.

“We are excited by the opportunity afforded by the Federal and Provincial governments to our five Principal Investigators here at St. Boniface Hospital to determine if flax can significantly help in the fight against disease and create an economic impact to boost Canadian agribusiness,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

Pierce explained that flaxseed’s health benefits have been vastly understudied which has led to low public awareness and under-consumption.  But he’s confident research can demonstrate those health benefits and ultimately motivate more consumers to choose dietary flax products that are convenient and affordable. “The opportunity to collaborate with major flax companies in Manitoba, like Pizzeys’ Ingredients, gives us another exciting opportunity to produce important information that will advance the flax field,” he added.

Pizzey’s Ingredients Flax Beverage is a breakthrough advancement for dietary flax, providing an easy and delicious way to consume over 30 grams of flax on a daily basis. In the growing market of non-dairy “milk” products, including almond, soy, and coconut milk the demand for these plant-based beverages continues to be driven by their increased health benefits. 

Congratulations to these Principal Investigators and their teams as they embark on their CAP funded flaxseed research.

  • Dr. Benedict Albensi – “Effect of dietary flaxseed on memory and cognition”
  • Dr. Harold Aukema, Dr. Carla Taylor & Dr. Peter Zahradka – “Cost-effectiveness analysis of anti-inflammatory effects of flax oil”
  • Dr. Luc Clair – Health Economist, “Economic and societal impacts of adopting a flax milk regimen to combat disease”
  • Dr. Delfin Rodriguez-Leyva – “Effects of flax milk on arterial hypertension”
  • Dr. Davinder Jassal – “Preventing broken hearts in women with breast cancer”
[L-R] Dr. Harold Aukema, Principal Investigator, Nutrition and Lipid Mediators; Dr. Luc Clair, Principal Investigator, Ag/Health Economist; Dr. Benedict C. Albensi, Principal Investigator, Synaptic Plasticity and Cellular Memory Dysfunction Lab; Dr. Delfin Rodriguez Leyva, Principal Investigator, Translational Cardiology; The Honourable Dan Vandal, Member of Parliament for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital; The Honourable Ralph Eichler, Minister of Agriculture; Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital; Dr. Davinder S. Jassal, Principal Investigator, Cardiovascular Imaging, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences

Manitoba Cardiovascular Leader Inducted into Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

St. Boniface Hospital Research is proud to celebrate Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla’s induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, at a ceremony held in Montreal, Quebec, on May 2, 2019.

Dhalla was recognized along with five other Canadian medical heroes for their lifetime contributions and superior accomplishments as pioneers in their field. This honour caps Dhalla’s 50-year career advancing knowledge, resources and international collaborations in cardiovascular sciences and education.

BIOlab Receives Boost

RBC Youth BIOlab has awarded its fourth, 3-year grant totalling $198,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for science outreach and mentorship efforts to Indigenous students across Manitoba.

“We’re pleased this funding came through because it will help us continue to operate and pursue collaborative partnerships with remote communities here in Manitoba for mentored projects with Indigenous youth,” says Stephen Jones, RBC Youth BIOlab’s Director and a 2018 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Engineering, Technology and Medicine (STEM).

“We’ve been working with Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake First Nation) since last year, and we hosted their Gr. 8 students at the BIOlab recently with great success. This funding will help support our ongoing liaison efforts, travel and accommodation expenses, so that we can continue nurturing a long term partnership with the support of the Cross Lake Education Authority and other partners in the First Nations education community,” he adds.

Jones and Greg Halcrow, Director of Education for Cross Lake Education Authority, both believe the RBC Youth BIOlab’s Indigenous Outreach program can serve as an implementation model for science skills capacity-building in northern communities across Canada, so that future health centres can potentially recruit staff from the local populations.

“It’s really about inspiring kids with the idea that they can pursue a career in science or a related field and not have to leave home. Lives and families would benefit and our communities would ultimately be strengthened,” says Halcrow.

Inspiring youth towards a love for science and discovery since 2005, the RBC Youth BIOlab has hosted more than 60,000 students in grades 8-12 in Western Canada’s #1 research intensive hospital. Youth BIOlab participants experience content well beyond the school curriculum, with access to research scientists studying real world health problems in a state-of-the-art biomedical facility.

“Many kids have experience with disease in their own families, and we want to help them develop meaningful connections to the science behind health. If students can have positive experiences with science and medical research at a young age, we can nurture some long-term interest not only in the field, but also in personal health,” Jones adds.

“The RBC Youth BIOlab is a hub of activity year-round,” says Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital. “From its small beginnings as a science literacy outreach program 14 years ago, interest and popularity has grown and the need for funding has only increased exponentially. We’re grateful for the support provided by organizations like NSERC – it makes a difference.”

MB Schools Science Symposium, Gold Medal Winner

Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences student under Dr. Mike Czubryt, Leah Schwartz, was awarded a Gold Medal for Most Outstanding Individual Project Award at the Senior Level at the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium on April 27-28.

Leah was also selected as a Doctors Manitoba Award delegate to the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, New Brunswick in mid-May. Leah is the third student from Dr. Czubryt’s lab to represent Manitoba at the Canada-Wide Science Fair and its second Sanofi Biogenius winner.

“Leah received outstanding hands-on mentoring from Raghu Nagalingam, a PhD student in my lab, and we are so proud of her recent accomplishments.”

Best of luck Leah – you are doing Manitoba & St. Boniface Hospital Research, very proud!

Small Beginnings Become Significant Over Time

Dr. Singal accepting his 25th Anniversary Pin, presented by Vince Barletta, President & CEO of St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

After 25 years of personal donations to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation (SBHF), Dr. Pawan Singal was recognized for his steadfast contributions at the SBHF Donor Appreciation Breakfast held on April 12, 2019.

“I have always believed that everyone has the capacity to give something, even the smallest amount. Over time, it can make a significant impact in the lives of others,” he said.

Dr. Singal’s personal philosophy of volunteerism and community involvement has been celebrated widely, along with several other individuals who were recognized at this event, each of whom serves as inspiring role models of philanthropic leadership.

President’s Student Leadership Program

PhD students Kevin Boreskie and Jacqueline Hay, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management and part of Dr. Todd Duhamel‘s research group in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, were among twenty-seven successful candidates from across Manitoba selected to participate in the first cohort of the University of Manitoba’s President’s Student Leadership Program.

The President’s Student Leadership Program is unique in Canada and is strategically important for Manitoba’s business community and economy, aiming to develop future leaders in various sectors for the province.  Jacqueline and Kevin are both examining the role of physical activity and cardiovascular health. 

Congratulations Kevin & Jacqueline!  

For more details, please visit UM Today.

Dhingra receives Duhamel Innovation Award

Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, received the 2019 Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award on April 13 at the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation’s annual Donor Appreciation Breakfast.

“When the science gets recognized, that’s more motivation to work even harder,” said Dr. Dhingra.

The late Ronald J. Duhamel (1938-2002) was a long-serving Senator and Member of Parliament for Winnipeg/St. Boniface. Established in 2004 by his family and friends, the Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award promotes innovation and leadership in advancing health care at St. Boniface Hospital.

Vote live today for Kevin Boreskie at the 3MT Western Regionals in Prince George!

Kevin Boreskie took 1st place in March at the University of Manitoba’s 3MT competition, which qualified him to represent today in the Western Regionals in Prince George B.C.!

The People’s Choice award means we can all watch and participate online, so be sure to set your clock and vote for Kevin starting at 2:30 PM CST on April 17, 2019.

Singal’s Efforts Honoured during National Volunteer Week

On Thursday, April 11, 2019, Dr. Pawan Singal, Principal Investigator Cell Pathophysiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences for St. Boniface Hospital Research, was recognized by the Pakistan-Canada Cultural Equation of Manitoba, the Manitoba Historical Society and the Borden-King Institute for his excellence and achievement in volunteer activities in Manitoba. 

It was noted that Dr. Singal has been an instrumental supporter of the India Centre for Academic Business and Community Excellent, the University of Winnipeg, the India Association of Manitoba, and an accomplished fundraiser, who has helped advance many projects in Manitoba.   

Congratulations Dr. Singal!  

CCARM Leadership Confirmed to 2022

Congratulations to Dr. Carla Taylor and Dr. Peter Zahradka, who have both accepted a three-year renewal as Team Leaders, Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM).

Dr. Taylor is Principal Investigator, Metabolic Nutrition, CCARM, Professor Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba and Adjunct Professor, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba. She is currently an Associate Editor for Lipids and has completed the maximum two terms as an Associate Editor for the British Journal of Nutrition. Dr. Taylor’s research has been recognized through two major awards: the International Life Sciences Institute Future Leader Award in Nutrition in 1996 and the Canadian Society of Nutritional Sciences – Centrum Foundation New Scientist Award in 2005.

Dr. Peter Zahradka is Principal Investigator Molecular Physiology, CCARM, Professor Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology & Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, and Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba. Over his seven years as Team Leader, he helped the unit grow from its original 3 scientists to 12 scientists who now occupy the entire second floor. From 2012 to 2018, he also served as head of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolic Disease in the Department of Physiology, a role that fits well with his research program.

CCARM’s vision is to add value to agricultural commodities and finished products through innovative functional food and nutraceuticals research. The CCARM research program aims to translate positive results from basic laboratory science into new and safe dietary supplements and food products that will directly impact the health of the Canadian public.

Our best wishes to Drs. Taylor & Zahradka for their continued success leading the CCARM team here at St. Boniface Hospital Research!

Rapid-Fire Research Symposium 2 Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Rapid-Fire Research Symposium, hosted by the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), designed to challenge trainees to present their research in 7 minutes! The symposium included a career development session, as well as a networking and awards reception for all the participants, their supervisors and a few special guests. Many thanks to the organizers, Dr. Thomas Netticadan and Dr. Samantha Pauls, with help from Chelsey Walchuk, Susara Madduma Hewage and Susan Zettler.

Dr. Taylor and Chantal Asselin
[L-R] Dr. Carla Taylor and Chantal Asselin

1st place: Chantal Asselin
Lab Affiliation: Dr. Davinder Jassal / Dr. Pawan Singal
Research project: Flaxseed prevents broken hearts in the breast cancer setting

Dr. Heather Blewett and Chelsey Walchuk
[L-R] Dr. Heather Blewett and Chelsey Walchuk

2nd place: Chelsey Walchuk
Lab Affiliation: Dr. Miyoung Suh
Research project: Eggs for eyes: Lutein and omega-3 enriched egg consumption improved the eye health of healthy Caucasian older adults

Anne Marques-Mendonça and Dr. Peter Zahradka
[L-R] Anne Marques-Mendonça and Dr. Peter Zahradka

3rd place: Anne Marques-Mendonça
Lab Affiliation: Dr. Harold Aukema
Research project: Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on sex differences in fat tissues in the rat

Dr. Champa Wijekoon and Mihir Parikh
[L-R] Dr. Champa Wijekoon and Mihir Parikh

4th place: Mihir Parikh
Lab Affiliations: Dr. Grant Pierce / Dr. Thomas Netticadan
Research project: Flaxseed helps to reduce irregular beats and injury after a heart attack

Schwartz takes First Place

Congratulations to Leah Schwartz, a University of Winnipeg collegiate student working in the Czubryt lab, for her First Place win in the Sanofi Biogenius Manitoba Regional Competition

Leah has been working on her project “Regulation of Periostin Gene Expression by Scleraxis,” since last summer, mentored by Raghu Nagalingam, PhD student and supported by Dr. Nina Aroutiounova, the senior technician.  She is now set to represent Manitoba at the national competition this May in Toronto.  

The Sanofi Biogenius Canada Competition fosters young minds and talent by challenging participants to carry out groundbreaking biotechnology research.  Well done Leah!  

Photo Source:

PC Caucus Members Take a Tour

We’re always pleased to host new visitors, in this case, 3 MLAs from St. Norbert, Fort Richmond and Transcona stopped by today to learn more about our work in food sciences, cardiovascular research and student discoveries at the RBC Youth BIOlab.  

Thanks for spending the morning with us Jon, Sarah and Blair! 

PC Caucus with Steve Jones
Teaching Liaison, RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse, [Centre] and Dr. Grant Pierce,
Executive Director of Research St. Boniface Hospital [R]
Steve Jones demonstrates what he teaches students in the Youth BIOlab

Dr. Carla Taylor, Team Leader of the Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine, speaks about their research to the PC Caucus