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Scientific Research Exchange Event

The Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students Association (FHNS GSA) at the University of Manitoba, in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), hosted a dynamic Scientific Research Exchange event on December 1, 2023.

Event Highlights:

Morning Session: The event kicked off with a visit to Cereals Canada, a national organization dedicated to advancing Canada’s cereal grains value chain.

Thirty graduate students gained valuable insights into trade, science, and sustainability initiatives within the industry.

Emphasis was placed on fostering relationships and delivering exceptional customer experiences.

Afternoon Session: The group then visited CCARM, where they were warmly welcomed by Dr. Thomas Netticadan and Dr. Christina Rosell.

A networking lunch provided opportunities for casual discussions and community-building among attendees.

The afternoon included a guided tour of CCARM’s cutting-edge facilities, where students explored health-related benefits in food and derived components.

Engaging discussions with researchers deepened participants’ understanding of the intersection of agriculture, food, and health.

Acknowledgments: The FHNS GSA extends gratitude to CCARM trainee representatives and members for their invaluable assistance. Special thanks to Chamali Kodikara, President, FHNS GSA, and CCARM Assistant Trainee Representative who initiated this idea, and to Dr. Thomas Netticadan for his hospitality and Julie Schoffner for helping coordinate the day’s activities. This collaborative effort underscores the importance of experiential learning in shaping future leaders in food and human nutritional sciences.

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada – 12 years running

For the 12th 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 in the small hospital category, according to data released by Research Infosource Inc. Canada’s source of R&D intelligence.

“We have a great team of researchers, engaged in studies from the lab bench to the bedside, and covering science, medicine, health and wellness from a wide variety of perspectives. The support received from our partners, including the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation and the people of our community, makes this work possible. We are pleased and proud to see this recognition of the impactful work carried out at St. Boniface Hospital Research,” says Dr. Mike Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital has always recognized the power of the research discoveries and potential interventions the talented cardiac, brain, food sciences and clinical research teams are pursuing.  

“It’s great to see our strength in research recognized nationally and celebrate the leading position we have held for a dozen years now, says Nicole Aminot, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital. “This is a very proud day for Dr. Czubryt and his colleagues and team at the Albrechtsen Research Centre and Asper Clinical Research Institute – congratulations!”

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 Clinical Research.  It boasts 30 laboratories, 200 staff, served as training ground for more than 450 students and is also 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.
Research Infosource Inc., a division of The Impact Group, publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals List and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges List.

Intrinsic Analytics Co-Founder Featured

Incubated right here at SBRC, Intrinsic Analytics Inc. is one of Manitoba’s top bioinformation service providers — founded by three former students with an entrepreneurial dream.  This article is reposted from UM Today, featuring CEO Dr. Waylon Hunt, who talks about their beginnings, the challenges they faced, and their expanded success during the pandemic when they became the first private lab in Manitoba to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19.

25th Annual ICS Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards

On November 2nd, 2023, the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, in partnership with the University of Manitoba, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the annual Naranjan Dhalla Awards Day. The two-day event, comprised of a scientific forum and awards ceremony, recognizes the leadership of individuals who profoundly influenced the advancement of cardiovascular medicine worldwide. The awards program also recognizes early-career investigators
and individuals who contributed in a major way to the growth of St. Boniface Hospital and the Institute of
Cardiovascular Sciences.

The Awards are named after some of Manitoba’s most iconic leaders in medicine, research and health education: Dr. R.E. Beamish, Mr. Ken Bowman, Dr. John Foerster, Dr. Vincenzo Panagia, Mr. Jack Litvack, Dr. Arnold Naimark, Dr. Henry Friesen, Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves, Mr. Ken Dhalla, Dr. James McGoey, and Dr. T. Edward Cuddy.

“We were pleased to honour several leaders of the cardiovascular community this year for their stalwart efforts in promoting research, education, and lifetime commitment to advancing patient care. We are especially pleased to honour students and trainees in the early stages of their career,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

“The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences is internationally recognized for the work of its researchers in basic and clinical cardiovascular medicine, and is a leading force in the fight against heart disease,” said Dr. Michael
Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

Congratulations to the following recipients of these major awards:

Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Gold Medal

Dr. Jean-Lucien Rouleau
Montreal, Canada

Dr. Robert Beamish Leadership Award

Dr. Metin Avkiran
London, England

Mr. Ken Bowman Research Achievement Award

Dr. Asa Gustafsson
San Diego, USA

Dr. John Foerster Distinguished Lecture Award

Dr. Jianyi “Jay” Zhang
Birmingham, USA

Dr. Vincenzo Panagia Distinguished Lecture Award

Dr. Zamaneh Kassiri
Edmonton, Canada

Mr. Jack Litvack Exemplary Service Award

Wyrzykowski Family
Winnipeg, Canada

Dr. Henry Friesen Young Scientist Award

Sikta Chattopadhyaya
Winnipeg, Canada

Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves Publication Award

Dr. Rimpy Dhingra
Winnipeg, Canada

Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Award for Master’s Student

Darya Nematisouldaragh
Winnipeg, Canada

Dr. T. Edward Cuddy Student Award

Sargun Rehsia
Winnipeg, Canada

Dr. James S. McGoey Student Award

Hannah Miles
Winnipeg, Canada

Student Awards – Winter Line-Up

L-R: Chamali Kodikara, Shanella Senadhiraja, Chelsey Walchuk, Jaspal Singh Mudharh and Denice Embrador.

CCARM STUDENTSHIP GRANTS (pictured above)

Frank & Jeanne Plett Endowed Studentship Grants were awarded to each of the following students within CCARM:

  • Chamali Kodikara & Denice Embrador, both supervised by Dr. Champa Wijekoon, Plant Bioactives
  • Chelsey Walchuk and Jaspal Singh Mudharh, both supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh, Nutrition and Neurological Diseases

And the TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award was presented to Shanella Senadhiraja, also supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh.

FELLOWSHIPS

Seyedeh Sadaf Asfa, PhD graduate student under Dr. Rene Douville, was recently recognized for academic achievement and demonstrated research potential with the prestigious University of Manitoba Alumni Associate Graduate Fellowship (UMAAGF).

Congratulations as well to Simran Dhaliwal, MSc student in Dr. Henry Dunn’s lab, who was awarded the Clarence Bogardus Sharpe Memorial Scholarship, recognizing her as the highest-ranked applicant among University of Manitoba Fellowship applicants. In addition, Simran has also been honored with the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship Award.

PRESENTATION AWARDS

Also from Dunn’s lab, is Kaden Baskerville, MSc student who recently secured first place in the U of M Undergraduate Research Showcase for outstanding research poster and presentation to the judges.

And from Dr. Dhingra’s lab, congratulations to Ina Siwach, a BSc Med student who clinched multiple awards, including the prestigious Joe Doupe Honorary Presenter Award, earning her the opportunity to present her research work at the National Student Research Forum in Galveston, Texas. Additionally, Ina has been honored with the Oxford University Press Neurosciences Book Prize and the MMCF Class of 1959 Travel Award, Manitoba Neurosciences Network Prize.

Chamali Kodikara, MSc student under Dr. Champa Wijekoon, finished in first place for the student oral presentation at the Cardio Metabolic Research Network workshop.

Bradley Feltham, under Dr. Miyoung Suh, took the Gold Medal in the PhD poster competition at CHRIM’s Child Health Research Days in mid-November.

Happy 10 Years – Youth BIOlab celebrates anniversary with friends and guests

With help from the ‘pros’, the Minister of Education and other special guests were treated to science demos, birthday cake, and lots of fun at a very special celebration at the Youth BIOlab last Thursday. Celebrating 10 years of on-site health literacy and science programming to students from across the province, YBL friends and ‘family’ turned out for an afternoon filled with smiles and learning. Many thanks to: The Honourable Nello Altomare, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning; Christian Michalik, Superintendent and CEO, Louis Riel School Division; Nicole Aminot, President and CEO, St. Boniface Hospital; Lisa Thomson Stifora, Director of Communications and Stewardship, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation; and Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director, Research, St. Boniface Hospital, for sharing in this day and showing your support.

Zieroth among healthcare leaders urging greater diversity in medical research

Dr. Shelley Zieroth, a heart failure cardiologist and clinical researcher at St. Boniface Hospital was among several leaders in the field who spoke passionately – and bluntly – about the problem during a session at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia last weekend.

“We know that women are underrepresented in clinical trials, they are under-referred for care, they are under-prescribed, they’re under-tested, under-treated and this differential care matters,” Zieroth said.

As St. Boniface Hospital Research positions itself to develop a Women’s Heart Health Centre serving Manitoba and the prairies, Zieroth’s efforts to communicate the gap in research and women-centric treatments for cardiovascular disease are timely.

“More and more physicians, specialists, surgeons and researchers are becoming aware of the need to address women’s heart health in a more targeted and customized approach,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum who is leading the charge to establish a Women’s Heart Health Centre here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research. “We are fortunate to have someone of Dr. Zieroth’s expertise on our team, helping raise awareness of this important issue,” he said.

Click below to read some of the media coverage related to this call to action:

Diversity in research: How to improve representation in clinical trials (chiefhealthcareexecutive.com)

The Lack of Diversity in Clinical Trials Hurts Research, and Costs Billions | AHA Scientific Sessions (managedhealthcareexecutive.com)

Schultz, Czubryt & Suh Receive 2022 Merit Awards from U of M

L-R: Dr. Annette Schultz, Dr. Michael Czubryt, Dr. Miyoung Suh

Three St. Boniface Hospital Research leaders were recently recognized by the University of Manitoba with Merit Awards for Outstanding Teaching, Service to Community, Research & Scholarly work and Creative Services.

Dr. Annette Schultz, Principal Investigator focusing on Health Services & Structural Determinants of Health Research, and a Professor at the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, was honored with the prestigious 2022 Merit Award in the Teaching category.

Highlights include Schultz’s efforts in teaching four courses and developing two new graduate level nursing courses in 2022, which focused on engaged research approaches and addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Actions on Indigenous education and health. In particular, her development of a unique and dynamic approach to traditional territories acknowledgment, and her collaborative efforts with Indigenous scholars, was noted.

Schultz’s dedication to exploring structural determinants of health is at the core of her research and teaching philosophy. Her program of research is deeply rooted in understanding the health services and policy context, aiming to expand the conventional understanding of health beyond biomedical perspectives. She meticulously examines the structural influences shaping health, including systemic racism, epistemological privileging, and colonial relations, among others.

As an independent Canadian academic researcher since 2005, Schultz has effectively led numerous national teams consisting of investigators, policy-makers, practitioners, community members, and Elders. Her commitment to nurturing the next generation of health research scholars is notable, which includes exploring Indigenous knowledge within the academic sphere.

Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research St. Boniface Hospital, Principal Investigator Molecular Pathophysiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Professor Department of Physiology, University of Manitoba was named recipient of the 2022 Merit Award in the Combination of Teaching, Service and Research, Scholarly Work and Other Creative Activities.

Notable accomplishments that led to this award include Czubryt’s research success, numerous grants and published works in a well-recognized and well-funded research program.  Being named to a prestigious research chair in fibrosis research supported by an endowment fund and his commitment to service as demonstrated by his work on a variety of U of M committees, including Animal Care, were also highlighted. And lastly, his leadership as Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital and on several national and international committees, including as President and Executive Council member of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences North American section were cited as exceptional examples of the award’s definition.

Czubryt’s research program focuses on the mechanisms of gene activation and repression in the heart, and how these regulatory processes contribute to or are altered in cardiovascular pathophysiology. His laboratory has made significant advances in understanding the transcriptional regulation of cardiac fibrosis, which not only adversely affects cardiac function and arrhythmogenesis, but is now recognized as a significant independent risk factor for heart failure and death due to cardiovascular causes. Recent efforts have focused on translating these discoveries to preclinical studies and the development of novel fibrosis inhibitors for the heart and other organs.

Dr. Miyoung Suh, Principal Investigator, Nutrition and Neurological Diseases, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders, and Principal Investigator Nutrition and Neurological, Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine, and Professor Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba received the 2022 Merit Award in the Combination of Teaching, Service and Research, Scholarly Work and other Creative Activities category.

In addition to developing four new highly-rated courses, Suh supervised 12 students in 2022 while promoting experiential learning by bringing students to Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) and The Pas so they could understand health care and nutritional landscape for northern and Indigenous residents. Attracting multiple grants from both local and national sources, Suh’s health research in diabetes, nutrition and traditional land-based diets has important implications for the health of Indigenous and north populations in Manitoba and across Canada. Suh’s on-going research involves studying the fundamental roles of dietary lipids in brain, retina, and testes/sperm under alcoholic, diabetic and obese conditions.

She has been awarded ‘Scientist of the Year’ by The Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies, which is given to a Korean scientist working abroad with significant contributions in their area of research. Her research in lipids and retina photoreceptors was specifically being recognized. Overall, her research outcomes provide a basis for the provision of optimal nutrition and development of diet strategies beneficial to the target clinical as well as the general population.

Araujo Selected as Finalist for Vascular 2023 Trainee Research Award Competition

Daniel Schwade Araujo, a dedicated PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Todd Duhamel, competed recently as one of four finalists for the Vascular 2023 Trainee Research Award competition in the Clinical Sciences category. His presentation, titled “Examining the associations between components of the senior fitness test and metabolic syndrome risk in older females” took place late October in Montreal, QC.

“To our knowledge this is the first time that a St. Boniface Hospital Research trainee has been selected as a finalist for the Clinical Sciences stream of the Trainee Research Award,” noted Dr. Duhamel.

Daniel’s research was highlighted along with MD/PhD students from the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Harvard University.

Vascular 2023, Canada’s premier cardiology conference, is hosted by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society in collaboration with leading organizations such as the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Canadian Venous Thromboembolism Research Network (CanVECTOR), Diabète Quebec, Diabetes Canada, and Thrombosis Canada. With a substantial number of abstracts accepted for presentation, including 129 under the Clinical Sciences stream, only four exceptional abstracts, including Araujo’s, were selected as finalists for the Trainee Research Award.

Araujo’s achievement as a finalist, competing alongside representatives from prestigious institutions like MIT/Harvard, not only marks a personal honour but also stands as a testament to the high calibre of research conducted at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Derived from the WARM Hearts study, a comprehensive multi-disciplinary project involving 1,018 participants, carried out over three years despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Araujo has been actively involved in this research project from its inception.

Araujo believes that forthcoming studies stemming from the WARM Hearts project will yield further insights into the mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease and frailty in older adults. Additionally, this research has the potential to identify novel targets for the prevention and management of chronic conditions prevalent in this demographic.

Dunn Recognized as Future Leader in Canadian Brain Research

Dr. Henry A. Dunn, Principal Investigator in the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Research, is poised to make significant contributions to the field of neurobiological research. He has been honored as one of the select recipients of the Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research (FLCBR) fund. This prestigious program grants $100,000 to support groundbreaking research aimed at finding solutions for a range of brain disorders and diseases, including ALS, epilepsy, and brain injuries.

After dedicating time to research at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, he was eager to return to his native Canada to continue his pioneering work. He expressed his gratitude, saying, “To be recognized by the Brain Canada Foundation not only provides crucial funding for early-career researchers like me but also opens doors to collaboration within the Canadian scientific community on a national level.”

Dr. Dunn’s research focuses on the study of receptors in brain cells, known as neurons, that play a critical role in facilitating communication between neurons. These receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), are fundamental targets within the pharmaceutical industry, with over 35 percent of drugs utilizing them as a treatment pathway.

His innovative work has unveiled a new mechanism by which GPCRs communicate with other brain cells, a mechanism found to be disrupted in various brain disorders, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and epilepsy. Dr. Dunn’s approach offers a potential new avenue for drug design, introducing a novel signaling pathway and a more precise drug targeting interface. He emphasized, “This is groundbreaking neurobiology, and we anticipate uncovering more such mechanisms among other receptors, which could facilitate the targeting of additional diseases.”

The potential impact of Dr. Dunn’s research is significant, with direct implications for patients as treatments are developed. “We’ve already identified families with members who have mutations in this specific pathway. Their understanding of this atypical signaling mechanism could offer them direct benefits,” Dr. Dunn stated.

The Brain Canada Foundation, since 2019, has been acknowledging the most promising and innovative brain research in Canada, with a particular focus on early-career Canadian researchers, providing funding over a two-year period. This program is made possible through the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), a collaborative initiative involving the Government of Canada (through Health Canada), the Brain Canada Foundation, and the Azrieli Foundation, with support from The Erika Legacy Foundation, The Arrell Family Foundation, the Segal Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Winnipeg’s Mayor Visits Research Centre

Exciting day at St. Boniface Hospital Research. Mayor Scott Gillingham visited the Albrechsten Research Centre, where groundbreaking discoveries are shaping the future of healthcare. Thank you, @ScottGillingham for recognizing the vital work happening right here in our community! @STBHF @sbhwpg

Celebrating Excellence in Medical Research: Yakobov Wins Dr. John Embil Publication Prize

Shay Yakobov, a former student in Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum’s lab, has been awarded the U of M’s prestigious Dr. John Embil Publication Prize for his outstanding journal publication.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, Shay dedicated himself to this research endeavor here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, including the first two years of his medical school education. In 2019, he committed a full year to assisting with various research projects, solidifying his foundation in medical research.

The culmination of his hard work was the completion of his BSc(Med) Project in the summer of 2022. Titled “Ellagic acid inhibits mitochondrial fission protein Drp1 and cell proliferation in cancer,” Shay’s research project went on to be published at the beginning of 2023. The quality and significance of his work were immediately recognized, resulting in the receipt of the Philippe Yaffe award for the best research paper in a cancer-related topic and the prestigious Dr. John Embil Prize for outstanding publication.

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Shay’s mentor, shared his pride and excitement, “This signifies a major milestone for Shay and reflects the research and training efforts within the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences,” he said.  Dr. Kirshenbaum emphasized that this award carries significant prestige, as it is bestowed upon a select few out of the entire UM BSc (Med) class.

Currently in his last year of medical school, Shay is in the process of applying to residencies across Canada, poised to take the next step in his promising career.

Highlighting Excellence in Cardiovascular Research: 10th Annual Meeting of the North American Section of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences

The 10th Annual Meeting of the North American Section of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, held in Tampa, Florida from September 7-9, 2023 focused on the intersection of Aging, Heart Failure, Regeneration, and Cardiovascular Medicine, and brought together leading cardiovascular scientists and promising young researchers. The symposium covered a range of topics, including heart failure, cardiovascular aging, cardiovascular regeneration, and cardiovascular medicine.

Honoring Excellence in Cardiovascular Research

The conference’s awards celebrated individuals who have made significant contributions to the field and provided a platform for young investigators and graduate students to showcase their research, including several from St. Boniface Hospital Research.

  • The Margaret Moffatt Poster Award went to Molly Crandall, a researcher from the Rabinovich-Nikitin and Kirshenbaum labs.
  • The Morris Karmazyn Poster Award was presented to Sikta Chattopadhyaya, a researcher from the Czubryt lab.
  • The Gary Lopaschuk Graduate Student Award went to Dr. Keshav Alagarsamy with Leena Regi Saleth presenting on Keshav’s behalf. Both are PhD students in Dhingra’s lab.
  • The Buddha Dawn Young Investigator Award: Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin received this award in recognition of her remarkable work as a young investigator.
  • The James Willerson Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences: Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum was honored with the James Willerson Award, acknowledging his exceptional contributions to the field of cardiovascular sciences.

Congratulations to all the winners from ICS who have once again put St. Boniface Hospital Research on the world map for innovation and research excellence.

Date set for Advances in the Health Benefits of Agri-Foods International Conference

We are thrilled to announce the inaugural International Conference on Advances in the Health Benefits of Agri-Foods, presented by the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM). Get ready for a captivating journey into the world of agri-foods and their potential to revolutionize our health and well-being!

📅 Save the Date: October 2-4, 2024

Location: Samuel N. Cohen Auditorium, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, Winnipeg, Canada.

Join the Frontiers of Agri-Food Health Research:

Hosted by the prestigious CCARM, a collaborative effort between St. Boniface Hospital, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, University of Manitoba, and the University of Winnipeg, this event comes at a time of tremendous public interest in utilizing food to achieve health benefits beyond just providing basic nutritional requirements. The need for new information in this area is high, and it is therefore our pleasure to provide scientific sessions that will highlight the progress in this field.

We invite participants to share their research on these topics, or others related to Agri-Food Sciences:

•       Innovative plant breeding for bioactive compounds

•       Amplifying pathogen resistance and eliminating toxins in food crops

•       Elevating nutritional value through advanced food processing

•       Cutting-edge techniques for food analysis

•       Unveiling novel health benefits through preclinical and clinical studies

🎓 Empowering the Future:

At CCARM, we believe in nurturing the next wave of researchers. This conference serves as a platform for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to showcase their remarkable work, connect with peers, and engage in dynamic discussions with like-minded professionals.

🆓 No Boundaries for Knowledge:

As staunch advocates of disseminating knowledge, we’re committed to making this event accessible to all, regardless of financial constraints. There are no attendance fees – our goal is to empower everyone with the gift of learning.

🌐 Hybrid Experience: We’ve Got You Covered!

While we encourage in-person participation for an immersive experience, we understand the importance of inclusivity. Those beyond Winnipeg’s metro area can effortlessly join us through our online link, connecting you to insightful sessions with just a click.

📢 Stay Tuned:

Mark your calendars for October 2-4, 2024, and keep an eye out for more exciting details heading your way soon.

Let’s embark on this transformative journey together, shaping the future of health and agriculture. We can’t wait to welcome you next October!

Exploring patient engagement in Canadian research: A Journey with ‘As PER usual’ Podcast

In an era where healthcare and research are constantly evolving, the importance of patient engagement in shaping the future of medical trials cannot be overstated. It’s this critical aspect of healthcare that the As PER usual podcast explores, taking listeners on an insightful journey into the world of Canadian patient engagement in research.

As PER usual” is a podcast that aims to help make patient engagement in research that standard, or “as PER usual,” by exploring the current state of patient engagement in Canadian research and ways to improve it. This engaging podcast was created in the winter of 2022 following a collaborative study led by Drs. Anna Chudyk and Annette Schultz, academic health researchers here at the Asper Clinical Research Institute, and Roger Stoddard, a patient partner. This study brought together academic researchers and patient partners, all funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR).

The primary goal of this collaborative study was to provide a platform for both researchers and patients to voice their perspectives on patient engagement in health research in Canada. Over the course of four virtual meetings, they worked with 30 participants to identify ten areas where health research in Canada could improve its approach to patient engagement.

Anna Chudyk and Bryn Robinson, another researcher from Atlantic Canada, are the passionate hosts of the podcast. Although Roger Stoddard, a longtime patient partner and advocate for this project, passed away in December 2022, his legacy and contributions to the field continue to resonate through each episode of As PER usual.

The podcast offers a unique and engaging format, similar to a live discussion section of a journal article. Each episode begins with Anna and Bryn discussing one of the themes identified in their study. Listeners are then treated to insights from researchers and patients who have first-hand experience with these issues in the field of patient engagement.

In the third act of each episode, the hosts engage in discussion with their guests, often uncovering practical ways to initiate positive change in the healthcare and research landscape. The goal is not only to highlight the challenges, but also to provide actionable solutions that can be implemented immediately. So, whether you’re a healthcare professional, a patient, or simply someone interested in the evolving landscape of healthcare research, As PER usual promises to be an enlightening and inspiring journey.

Where to find the show

Check out As PER Usual here, and also on other popular streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, making it easily accessible to a wide audience. Additionally, for those who prefer a visual component, the podcast is shared in video form YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@asperusual/videos

SPOR Transition to Leadership Phase 2 Fellowship for Chudyk

Dr. Anna Maria Chudyk, Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba, was recently granted the prestigious SPOR Transition to Leadership Stream Phase 2 Fellowship, marking a notable progression in her career journey.

In tandem with this fellowship, Dr. Chudyk will take on the role of Assistant Professor within the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba, where she aims to contribute her expertise to advance research and education in the field.

Furthermore, Dr. Chudyk is excited to announce her official appointment as an SBRC (Strategic and Patient-Oriented Research Capacity Development) Investigator. This appointment reflects her ongoing commitment to advancing research and fostering collaboration within the SBRC framework.

St. Boniface Hospital Research Dominates Inaugural 3MP Competition

In a testament to the superb training that is the standard here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, two out of the three winners in the Faculty of Graduate Studies inaugural 3MP (3 Minute Postdoctoral Competition) were post-doctoral fellows under the supervision of Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra. Dr. Abhay Srivastava secured the second-place prize, while Dr. Niketa Sareen clinched the third-place position and the coveted People’s Choice Award.

The 3MP competition is a new platform that challenges researchers to condense the essence of their extensive postdoctoral research into a mere three minutes, using only one static slide to elucidate their work’s breadth and significance. The goal is to communicate the significance of their research to a diverse, non-specialist audience effectively. The competition serves as a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public.

Dr. Abhay Srivastava, the second-place winner, presented his research on a stem cell-based personalized drug selection platform for patients with rare genetic disorders. “It was challenging to summarize and simplify our complex ideas and tell a story in those 3 minutes but at the same time it was exciting and a great learning experience. I enjoyed it thoroughly,” he said.

In a similar vein, Dr. Niketa Sareen, who clinched third place and the People’s Choice Award, presented her research on modulating the immunogenicity of stem cells to enhance their post-transplantation survival. “I missed participating in 3MT during my PhD, but I am glad U of M started it for post-doctoral fellows this year and I was able to participate. Given that we generally present our research to scientific audiences in elaborate ways, it was both fun and challenging to summarize it in 3 minutes for a non-scientific audience. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it,” she shared.

The 3MP competition draws inspiration from similar events like the UBC 3-Minute Postdoc Slam and the USask 3MP, with a unique twist to adapt to the University of Manitoba’s setting. These events are all built upon the foundation laid by the “Three Minute Thesis” event, which originated at the University of Queensland in 2008. The 3MP competition is a fantastic opportunity for postdoctoral researchers to refine their communication skills and engage with a broad audience while showcasing the incredible work being done in various fields.

Congrats to both Abhay & Niketa!   

Semenko Takes Second Place at 2023 Young Woman Scientist (YWS) Webinar

Congratulations to Breanne Semenko, MSc student under Dr. Miyoung Suh, who secured second place at the prestigious 2023 Young Woman Scientist Webinar (2023 YWS Webinar Competition). Organized by the Association of Korean Woman Scientists and Engineers (KWSE), this global competition aims to provide a platform for young women scientists and engineers to present their research ideas and engage in discussions with peers and established experts from around the world.

Semenko’s placement is a result of passing three challenging stages of competition: an abstract submission, a concise 3-minute video-recorded presentation, and a final 7-minute live presentation and questions/answers before a panel of more than ten judges.

Her winning research idea, titled “Accessible Fresh Food Production and Processing to Address Diet-Related Disease in Remote Canada,” tackles a critical issue affecting remote and underserved communities. In many remote regions of Canada, access to fresh and healthy food is limited, leading to an increased prevalence of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Semenko’s research addresses this challenge by exploring innovative methods for sustainable fresh food production and processing in these remote areas. For this work, she has received CIHR-CGS-M as well as more recent award the Prairie Improvement Network Scholarship ($30,000).

Hyde Awarded Prestigious Vanier Scholarship for Cardiac Post-Surgery Research

In a remarkable achievement for the realm of nursing research, Emily Hyde, RN, MN, PhD(s), has been named a recipient of an esteemed Vanier Scholarship for her work aimed at improving outcomes for cardiac surgery patients. Hyde’s research delves into an often-overlooked aspect of post-operative care: the cognitive, mental, and physical well-being of patients who undergo cardiac surgery. Her postdoctoral study, titled “PICS-UP CS: Post-Intensive Care Syndrome: Improving Outcomes Through Patient Engagement with Cardiac Surgery Patients,” seeks to address the post-operative journey for cardiac surgery patients by addressing the prevalent issue of Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS).

Hyde’s pursuits in the field of nursing and research has been marked by dedication, innovation, and a determination to make a lasting impact. With a strong background as a Registered Nurse (RN), she has joined forces with Dr. Todd Duhamel’s lab where she has embraced a multidisciplinary approach to her research. Her work focuses on the physical, cognitive and mental challenges that cardiac surgery patients often face. While medical advancements have greatly improved the surgical process, the period of recuperation isn’t as well understood in terms of nursing management and outpatient care. Hyde’s research aims to bridge this gap and ensure that patients not only survive the surgery but also thrive during their recovery.

In her remarks about receiving the prestigious Vanier Scholarship, Hyde expressed her profound gratitude and the validation it brings to her work. As one of the few nurse practitioners engaging in this level of research and pursuing a PhD, she acknowledges the importance of recognition in a field that is traditionally dominated by other disciplines.

“Having third-party validation (like this) is a real confidence boost and very helpful to have that time and money to focus on this research,” she added. The scholarship not only empowers Hyde to dedicate herself more fully to her research but also provides her with the necessary resources to drive her studies forward.

Hyde’s research is divided into several phases, each contributing to a comprehensive understanding of PICS and its impact on cardiac surgery patients. The project encompasses scoping reviews, patient engagement, healthcare team collaboration, and the development of interventions to mitigate PICS. Her research, set to be concluded by 2025, holds the promise of enhancing patient outcomes and fundamentally transforming the way cardiac surgery patients recover.

When asked about her advice for aspiring nursing students, Hyde’s enthusiasm for the field shines through. She emphasizes the versatility of nursing as a profession, where individuals can explore various avenues from bedside care to research and leadership roles. “It’s really empowering to do your own research and create the best evidence to give the best care for your patients,” she passionately stated. Hyde’s journey is a testament to the potential for nurses to drive transformative change through research and innovation.

As Hyde works to help further improve cardiac surgery patient care, she extends her gratitude to those who have played pivotal roles in her success. She acknowledges Dr. Todd Duhamel, who has been a guiding force and catalyst for her achievements. Additionally, Dr. Rakesh Arora’s unwavering support and encouragement have been instrumental in shaping her research path. Her nurse researcher committee members, Drs. Annette Schultz and Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy, have provided mentorship and guidance through individualized courses and manuscript development. Hyde also extends her appreciation to her fellow students and colleagues who have provided invaluable insights and support throughout her journey.

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.

Local Food Science Researcher Donates Nutrient-Dense Lingonberry Plants to the Kitchen Garden at The Leaf in Assiniboine Park.

Winnipeg, August 22, 2023 – A first of its kind partnership between the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health & Medicine (CCARM) and Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC) brings the mighty lingonberry to its Gardens at The Leaf, with an aim to build public knowledge of this nutritionally rich wild berry from the north that may soon be grown on Manitoba farms.   

Native to British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Atlantic Canada, these small, bright red and slightly sweet berries have caught the attention of researchers for their incredible health benefits and potential as a valuable crop for Canadian growers. And while they are popular and widely available in Scandinavian countries, the lingonberry is not familiar to most people and not yet commercially grown on a large scale for Canadian consumers to enjoy and benefit from.

To help address that knowledge gap, Assiniboine Park’s Kitchen Garden at The Leaf now features 50 lingonberry plants, thanks to a donation from food science researchers at CCARM and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research and Development Centre in Morden, which has propagated commercial lingonberry plants to suit Manitoba’s growing conditions for farmers and berry growers further south. 

Dr. Chris Siow, CCARM food scientist located at the Albrechtsen Research Centre at St. Boniface Hospital, has been delving into the myriad of health properties possessed by lingonberries for over 15 years.

“This berry from the north has untapped potential as a versatile, flavourful, and nutritious approach to maintaining kidney health and reducing inflammation, as shown by our research,” he explains. “It is three times richer in antioxidants than blueberries or cranberries, and we hope Canadians can one day buy Manitoba grown lingonberries as easily as other berries for their smoothies, baking, jams and jellies.” 

Dr. Siow, Dr. Molina and Gerald Dieleman, examine newly planted lingonberry bushes


By bringing the plants to the Gardens at The Leaf, Siow and his research colleagues hope visitors from all walks of life, whether garden lovers, foodies, culinary students or just nature lovers, can learn more about the lingonberry. 

As the demand for lingonberries currently outstrips the supply from wild harvest, Canadian producers have a golden opportunity to embrace lingonberry cultivation and capitalize on the increasing market demand. The plants donated to Assiniboine Park are a commercially available European variety that has been acclimatized to southern Manitoba growing conditions.

Drs. Siow and Molina are currently working to develop a hybrid lingonberry that combines the higher yield of the European lingonberry with the antioxidant-rich wild variety that grows in northern Canada, but is more difficult to harvest on a broad scale.

“Right now, there are no commercial growers of lingonberries in Manitoba, but we hope that will change soon,” explained Oscar Molina, Siow’s colleague who oversees the lingonberry test plots at AAFC’s Research and Development Centre in Morden, where commercial lingonberry cultivars are being developed to adapt to Manitoba’s agricultural growing conditions. 

So far, the lingonberry bushes, which were planted in late June, are looking good in their new home in the Kitchen Garden at The Leaf.  The Kitchen Garden is home to a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other edible plants as well as plantings that thematically connect with the adjacent Indigenous Peoples Garden.

‘In the Kitchen Garden, we explore the connection between nature and culture through food and cuisine,” said Gerald Dieleman, Senior Director of Horticulture, Assiniboine Park Conservancy. “This includes showcasing a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other edible plants that can be grown in Manitoba. We are very pleased to be able to share the story of the lingonberry with Park visitors.”

CBC – “Move over kale: Manitoba-grown wild berry could be next superfood, scientist says”

CBC – “The lingonberry benefit” (Video)

Winnipeg Free Press – “Manitoba researchers berry interested in health benefits of small, tart fruit”

The new berry growing at The Leaf | CTV News

De grands espoirs pour une petite baie (la-liberte.ca)

À la découverte de l’airelle, « l’or rouge du Nord »

https://sverigesradio.se/avsnitt/historien-om-lingon-sveriges-viktigaste-bar



Dhingra appointed ADH – Research, for UM Physiology & Pathophysiology

In yet another nod to the depth of expertise here at St. Boniface Research, Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra was recently appointed to the position of Associate Department Head – Research (UM Physiology & Pathophysiology), where he brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to the position.

In this role, Dhingra will assist in the development and delivery of departmental seminars; research knowledge transfer events during the academic year; the development of competitive national grant applications for young and mid-career investigators; and hiring new departmental faculty members with view towards strategic growth within departmental divisions.

Dhingra will also assist in management of the department, in consultation with Dr. Brent Fedirchuk, Associate Department Head – Education and Dr. Ian Dixon, Head of Physiology & Pathophysiology. 

Congratulations Dr. Dhingra.

Rabinovich-Nikitin Wins Two Prestigious Young Investigator Awards

We extend our warmest congratulations to Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, Principal Investigator Women’s Heart Health and Cardiometabolic Function at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, for her recent outstanding achievements and recognition.

Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin has been honored with two highly significant awards. At the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR) meeting held in Madison, WI, she was recently presented with the prestigious “Litsa Kranias ECI Leadership Award.” This distinguished accolade was established in honor of Dr. Litsa Kranias, a respected figure in the field of heart research, to acknowledge early career scientists who exhibit remarkable leadership qualities.

Furthermore, in late May, Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin was named the recipient of the “Outstanding Early Career Investigator” award by the NIH Progenitor Cell Translational Consortium at the 7th Annual Cardiovascular Bioengineering Symposium in Kyoto, Japan. Esteemed delegates from across the globe convened in Kyoto to discuss groundbreaking advancements in identifying novel therapeutic targets and strategies for translating cutting-edge experimental knowledge into practical clinical applications. This recognition of Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin’s achievements underscores her significant contributions to this important area of research.

“We are proud of Inna’s remarkable accomplishments and eagerly anticipate her future contributions to advancing our understanding of women’s heart health, cardiometabolic function, and cardiovascular science as a whole,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.  

Notable Awards for SBRC students

Recently recognized for their academic achievements and/or performance in competitions, we wish to congratulate the following students working out of St. Boniface Hospital Research:

ALBENSI LAB

Pranav Mishra, PhD student received the Deepak and Ratna Bose Prize from the Dept. of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

AUKEMA LAB

Lucien Cayer, PhD student received the Garson N. (Gerry) Vogel Memorial Award
Anne Manson, PhD student received a New Investigator Award for the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, France
Le Kim Long Nguyen, undergraduate student, received the Frank & Jean Plett Endowed Studentship Grant.

DHINGRA LAB

Dr. Abhay Srivastava, Postdoctoral Fellow won Dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow Award, a singular honor in this category.
Keshav Narayan Alagarsamy, PhD student won the Biosciences Association of Manitoba Poster Award and Graduate Student Merit Award of the HSGSA.

DUHAMEL LAB

Daniel Schwade Araujo selected by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society as a recipient of the 2023 Have a Heart bursary; and also selected as recipient of the Pawan K. Singal Scholarship in Cardiovascular Sciences.

FERNYHOUGH LAB

Sanjana Chauhan, 4th year PhD student, won the Martha Donovan Women’s Leadership Award; the Dr. Ian R. Innes Memorial Award recognizing an outstanding research presentation; and UM’s Emerging Leader Award recognizing students who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities.

JASSAL/SINGAL LABS

Akshi Malak, graduate student, won the Dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Poster Award for Excellence in the 2023 Manitoba Student Health Research Forum Poster Competition.

Vibhuti Arya, MSc student, was selected by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society as a recipient of the 2023 Have a Heart bursary.

KIRSHENBAUM/RABINOVITCH-NIKITIN LABS
Molly Crandall, graduate student won the Canadian Society for Chronobiology Research Excellence Award.

RAVANDI LAB

Hannah Zhang, PhD student, selected by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society as a recipient of the 2023 Have a Heart bursary.

SUH LAB
Joanna Candas, MSc student is a recipient of CIHR-CGS-M Award for 2023-2024
Bradley Feltham, PhD student received the New Investigator Award, sponsored by AlaskOmega and N.I.H to present his research at the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, France.
Breanne Semenko, MSc student won People’s Choice Award at the Canadian Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture Conference

WIJEKOON LAB
Chamali Kodikara, MSc student received the Best Poster Presentation Award at the 3rd Annual Manitoba Sustainable Protein Research Symposium. She was also recognized as one of University of Manitoba’s Emerging Leaders. The Emerging Leader Award is designed to recognize UM students who demonstrate exceptional leadership

Nagalingam receives Distinguished Dissertation Award

Congratulations to Dr. Raghu Nagalingam, formerly with the Czubryt lab, for receiving UM’s Distinguished Dissertation Award.  Every year the Faculty of Graduate Studies offers five Doctoral Distinguished Dissertation Awards to graduating students in each of the following categories: applied sciences, health sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Nagalingam’s research studied the role of scleraxis in making the heart muscle stiff, a condition called fibrosis, and how it can lead to heart failure. “When we removed scleraxis from a failing heart in animal models, we could prevent the buildup of proteins that cause this fibrosis.”  Nagalingam’s dissertation indicated how targeting scleraxis this way could be a promising approach for developing new drugs to treat heart muscle fibrosis.

“The Distinguished Dissertation Awards recognize truly exceptional doctoral research,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director St. Boniface Hospital Research and himself a recipient of this award in 2001.  “This is one of the top awards for doctoral recipients and it’s a testament to St. Boniface Hospital Research that we’ve had more than a few who’ve claimed this prize.”

“I was surprised and delighted to receive the Distinguished Dissertation Award – it’s a huge honour from the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba,” he said.  Nagalingam credits many people with supporting his career thus far, but in particular his doctoral supervisor, “Professor Czubryt has played a significant role in shaping me and my research career so far. I’m sincerely thankful to him and all the Czubryt lab members for their support during my Ph.D. Special thanks to David Cheung from Dr. Jassal’s lab for performing mouse echocardiography,” he added. 

Nagalingam is now a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Glen Tibbits’s laboratory at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Simon Fraser University. His Postdoctoral position is funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and Michael Smith Health Research BC (MSHRF) fellowships.”

“I am interested in wound healing and cardiac regeneration to build upon the skills acquired during my doctoral studies at St. Boniface,” he shared. “I am determined to reach my next goal of becoming an independent research scientist and teaching faculty in the field of cardiac pathophysiology.”

Congratulations again from everyone here at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Pierce Named to Order of Canada

Dr. Grant N. Pierce, former Executive Director of St. Boniface Hospital Research, renowned scientist and leader in cardiovascular research, will be appointed to The Order of Canada.

Dr. Pierce has conducted groundbreaking research for over 30 years, significantly advancing our comprehension of diabetes, heart muscle disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and strokes. This honor acknowledges Dr. Pierce’s exceptional contributions to better understanding heart disease and his pioneering discoveries concerning the therapeutic benefits of nutraceuticals like flaxseed in addressing ischemia and high blood pressure. His research breakthroughs have gained worldwide recognition from the scientific community for their potential in treating and preventing the leading cause of death globally, heart disease.

In addition to his scientific achievements, Dr. Pierce’s exceptional fifteen years (2005-2020) as Executive Director helped propel St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre to the top ranks of research institutions in Canada, a position it maintains today, consistently ranking among the top ten in the country.

“We are extremely pleased to see Dr. Pierce named to the Order of Canada. His career achievements are most certainly worth celebrating, and St. Boniface Hospital is proud and honoured of our connection with Dr. Pierce and his remarkable work,” said Nicole Aminot, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital.

Dr. Pierce also played a pivotal role in establishing the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) at the Albrechtsen Research Centre, a unique partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Manitoba. This world-class facility has brought significant research investments, faculty and brain power to Manitoba in order to identify novel food products that may be used to address health challenges. Dr. Pierce’s advocacy for this one-of-a-kind collaboration of food science investigators and agricultural producers has led to a growing recognition that foods can be used to manage certain diseases, helping to alleviate the overall burden on our healthcare system, while simultaneously benefiting Canada’s agriculture sector.    

Furthermore, Dr. Pierce’s efforts have extended beyond the research community, impacting the lives of young students in Manitoba, playing a key role in the development and construction of the RBC Youth BIOlab at St. Boniface Hospital’s Albrechtsen Research Centre, providing thousands of young students in Grades 5 – 12 from every corner of our province, with hands-on experiences in health research.

“The Order of Canada is bestowed, per its motto, on those ‘desiring to make a better country.’ Grant Pierce has always focused his exceptional skills as a scientist, leader and administrator to do exactly that – to improve the lives of others through the performance and promotion of world-class cardiovascular research,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director Research, St. Boniface Hospital. “It is gratifying to see him recognized by his community and country for his career of dedicated service, and we offer our heartiest congratulations on this remarkable honour.”

Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Pierce has published over 250 peer-reviewed papers in esteemed scientific journals and authored eight textbooks on cardiovascular health. His impact is evident by his exceptional H-index of 70 and 15,000 citations. Moreover, his research has received continuous support from major research funding agencies, reinforcing the significance and impact of his discoveries.

Beyond his scientific achievements, Dr. Pierce’s influence extends to global audiences through over 250 lectures worldwide, sharing his knowledge and advances in cardiovascular research. His commitment as a teacher has made him an outstanding ambassador for Canada in the field of heart disease.

https://www.gg.ca/en/order-canada-appointees-june-2023

#OrderOfCanada #GGHonours

Farewell to Dr. Pawan K. Singal: A Pioneer of St. Boniface Hospital Research

The scientific community mourns the loss of Dr. Pawan K. Singal, Principal Investigator
Cell Pathophysiology and one of the original founders who played a pivotal role in establishing St. Boniface Hospital Research almost four decades ago. Dr. Singal passed away after a short illness surrounded by his family.

With a career spanning several decades, Dr. Singal was a distinguished professor in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba and the former Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences (2007-2017). His ground-breaking research on oxidative stress and heart failure has left an indelible mark on the medical community, leading to advancements in patient care and treatment.

“While we mourn the passing of Dr Singal and commiserate with his family, we also warmly remember the tremendous impact he made here at St Boniface Hospital Research and internationally as a researcher, educator, mentor, and leader,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director, Research, St. Boniface Hospital. “Over his impressive scientific career, he was a champion for students, working tirelessly to ensure they were supported and received excellent training opportunities.”

Dr. Singal began his academic journey at Punjab University in India, where he earned his BSc and MSc degrees in Biophysics. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity about the human body, he went on to complete his PhD in Physiology at the University of Alberta in 1974. In 1982, Dr. Singal joined the University of Manitoba, leaving a lasting legacy through his research, teaching, and mentorship.

With over 300 publications, Dr. Singal’s extensive body of work solidified his reputation as a global authority in the field. His laboratory at the Albrechtsen Research Centre was a hub of innovation, unraveling the complex mechanisms of heart failure. Over the years, Dr. Singal and his team gained invaluable insights into the cellular and molecular changes underlying heart failure. His research revealed the involvement of free radicals and their impact on myocardial cells, as well as the weakening of natural defense mechanisms following a heart attack.

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences remembers Singal as a compassionate and deeply caring man who loved his family and lived life to its fullest. “His warm welcoming smile was infectious and his outlook on life was always positive even at times of adversity. Pawan touched the lives of many people and made the world a better place,” he said. “I have very fond memories of Pawan as a mentor, teacher and most importantly as my friend and he will be sadly missed. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to his immediate family, Rohit, Mona and grandchildren.”  

Dr. Singal’s dedication to mentoring the next generation of researchers is exemplified by his role as a mentor to more than 100 trainees, many of whom have achieved success in their own health and research-related careers.

“He has always held my admiration as a scientist, a teacher and mentor, an administrator, a family man, and a member of the community at large. He excelled in all these domains,” said Dr. Elissavet Kardami, Principal Investigator, Muscle Cell Biochemistry, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, “I send my heartfelt condolences to his immediate family.”

“We have lost a great leader, an internationally recognized scientist, a proud Canadian, and a wonderful soul. He will be missed,” offered another long-time colleague, Dr. Grant Pierce, President, International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Singal received numerous accolades and honors in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the field. In 2018, the University of Winnipeg awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, acknowledging his remarkable scientific research and educational career. He was also named a Distinguished Cardiovascular Scientist by the Cuban Society of Cardiology in the same year and received the prestigious Distinguished Physiologist award from the American Physiological Society in 2016. These accolades, along with the Commemorative Medal of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and University of Manitoba Merit Awards, underscore Dr. Singal’s unwavering commitment to excellence in research and teaching.

Beyond his academic achievements, Dr. Singal was a visionary leader, teacher, and dedicated community advocate for cross-cultural understanding. His commitment to the India Centre for Academic, Business, and Community Excellence—an initiative between the University of Winnipeg and the India Association of Manitoba—demonstrated his commitment to fostering a democratic and culturally diverse society.

Dr. Singal was a generous and longstanding donor to the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, and he established the Dr. Pawan K. Singal, ICS Director Fund to support the ongoing needs of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences. He also ably served as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors for six years beginning in 2016.

“Dr. Singal was a true champion of medical research and the power it has to change lives. He generously gave St. Boniface Hospital Foundation time, talent, and treasure to ensure future generations of medical scientists will have the resources they need to make game-changing discoveries. The Board of Directors and staff at the Foundation are deeply saddened by his passing and have his loved ones in our thoughts,” said Karen Fowler, President & CEO of St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

On behalf of St. Boniface Hospital, the Research Centre and the Foundation, we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, and the countless lives touched by his significant scientific contributions.

A memorial service for Dr. Singal will be held on Sunday, June 11 at 2 pm at Thompson in the Park. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation or CancerCare Manitoba.

Dixon named department head of physiology and pathophysiology

Dr. Peter Nickerson, dean, Max Rady College of Medicine and dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ian Dixon as head of the department of physiology and pathophysiology. Dr. Dixon’s five-year term is effective July 1, 2023*

Dr. Dixon earned his bachelor of science in 1983, master of science in 1986 and PhD in 1990, all at the University of Manitoba. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto.

He is a past Medical Research Council Young Investigator, Manitoba Health Research Council scholar, and held studentships and postdoctoral fellowships from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). 

In 1992, Dr. Dixon joined the Max Rady College of Medicine as an assistant professor of physiology. His lab has been continuously funded since then, with grants from the CIHR, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada and the CANUSA program with the Mayo Clinic. He attained the rank of full professor in 2003.

Dr. Dixon’s current research interests include the identification of biomechanical and trophic factors in regulation of matrix deposition by cardiac fibroblasts and myofibroblasts, characterizing the activation of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts, and crosstalk between post-receptor signaling systems in cardiac fibroblasts and their derivatives.

His work also includes investigation of the modulation of fibroblast phenotype in skin wound healing, and in antigen-removed extracellular matrix scaffolds. Another focus of his research is on the expression and role of cardiac extracellular matrix in the development of heart failure.

Dr. Dixon has published 110 full-length research papers and 20 book chapters with 124 abstracts, in addition to editing four books. He has been an invited speaker around the world on topics such as “Clues and mitigating factors for fibrosis in the post-MI heart.”

Dr. Dixon, a principal investigator at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital, has served on many national and international review committees in basic cardiovascular sciences, including chairing for reviews on five different CIHR committees and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He is a reviewer for several cardiovascular journals, including Cardiovascular Research, Circulation, British Journal of Pharmacology and American Journal of Physiology.

Dr. Dixon’s honours and distinctions include the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology Service Award (2022), Max Rady College of Medicine Teaching Award (2011), the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Manitoba Robert E. Beamish Memorial Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research (2001 and 2007) and the Myles Robinson Heart Health Scholarship (2002-2005 and 2006-2009).

Two St. B student interns nab top prizes at Manitoba Schools Science Symposium

Two students from St. Boniface Hospital Research took home two very competitive prizes, a gold and a silver medal, at the recently held Manitoba Schools Science Symposium (MSSS).  The MSSS is the province’s largest annual science event, open to students grades 4-12. Each year some 550 young scientists attend MSSS to present their research to top scientists and industry experts, competing for medals, specials awards, scholarships, program enrollments and trips worth over $30,000.

Congratulations to Rasnoor Singh Goraya, a Grade 11 student at Seven Oaks High School. Rasnoor has been volunteering in Dr. Jeff Wigle’s lab under an internship program and his gold-medal project was titled:  “The Role of Glucose In Controlling Transcriptional Regulators of Fibroblast Activation”.

The silver medal went to Navkirat Kaur also a Gr. 11 student at Seven Oaks, interning with Dr. Ian Dixon. Navkirat’s project was entitled,  “Living Valves” with the goal to seed fibroblasts to ECM scaffolds that are decellularized and also antigen-removed. 

Well done to both of you, and congrats to your supervisors and lab mentors for their excellent guidance.

Kirshenbaum Named to Highest Honour in Manitoba

Renowned cardiovascular scientist Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research and University of Manitoba Rady Faculty of Health Sciences professor, will be invested into the Order of Manitoba (OM) on July 20, 2023. The OM is the highest honour bestowed by the province, recognizing Manitobans who have made significant contributions to the social, cultural, or economic well-being of the province.

Dr. Kirshenbaum has gained international recognition for his groundbreaking research on cardiac cell death and its impact on cardiovascular care and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. His research has led to a better understanding of the genetic and molecular processes underlying heart disease, resulting in new approaches to diagnosis and treatment that have been adopted worldwide.

His contributions to the field extend beyond Manitoba, with his work being covered by prominent national and international media outlets and invitations to speak at scientific conferences globally. Under Dr. Kirshenbaum’s leadership, the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences is home to a diverse group of researchers, including cardiovascular scientists, clinical cardiologists, graduate students, medical students, post-doctoral fellows, research associates, technicians, and visiting scientists. He is a champion for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and has spearheaded the creation of a dedicated women’s heart health program at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

This year’s appointments to the Order also include Frantic Films CEO Jamie Brown, 103.1 Virgin Radio host Ace Burpee, rock music historian and former Free Press freelance writer John Einarson, former judge and Manitoba Liberal leader Charles Huband, former senator Janis Johnson, retired social worker and community volunteer Terumi Kuwada, Price Industries Ltd. CEO and philanthropist Gerry Price, community advocate Alvina Rundle, family physician Dr. Richard Smith, Alyssa Stevenson Eating Disorder Memorial Trust co-founder Elaine Stevenson and community leader and advocate Amarjeet Warraich.

“It is both gratifying and humbling to reflect on the exceptional accomplishments of the 12 outstanding men and women being invested into the Order of Manitoba this year, “ said Lt.–Gov. Neville. “They are leaders, visionaries and mentors, whose efforts have enriched lives across the province, the country and around the world. Their efforts inspire commitment to community that makes Manitoba, and Manitobans, so special.”

Dr. Kirshenbaum’s investiture into the Order of Manitoba is a testament to his commitment and contributions to the community, and we extend our heartfelt congratulations to him on this well-deserved honour.

Knowledge Transfer in Action – Celiac Canada Cites CCARM paper

In a first for CCARM, a 2021 paper co-authored by Drs. Heather Blewett and Miyoung Suh is being referenced by Celiac Canada in its efforts to lobby the federal government to help Canadians living with Celiac disease manage the high cost of gluten-free food.

Cost, Nutritional Content and Number of Gluten-Free Staple Foods Available in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada found the median cost of 819 gluten-free products was $1.50/100g, compared to $0.65/100g for gluten-containing products. Gluten-free products in Manitoba were therefore more than 130% more expensive than gluten-containing products.

The paper was one of several food economic studies cited by Celiac Canada in an open letter to Parliament, urging political leaders to help ease the financial burden on Canadians who need gluten-free food simply to survive.

“It’s great to see our research being used to help people,” said Blewett, who has a personal interest in this subject, living with the disease herself and raising a child with Celiac. 

“I knew the price of gluten-free staple foods were higher than gluten-containing foods, but the exact difference hadn’t been documented in the Canadian prairies,” she said.  The results were surprising, showing that the difference in cost between gluten-free and gluten-containing foods in Winnipeg in 2020 was 1.6-1.7 times higher than what was reported in the Maritimes in 2017.  “Our results showed that despite a steady increase in the availability of gluten-free foods in Canada relative to foods containing gluten, the cost of gluten-free products has also increased, or there is a discrepancy between the provinces,” Blewett explained.

Blewett and her daughter have participated in the Canadian Celiac Association-Manitoba Chapter’s Walk-a-Thon for the past two years, an event to raise money to buy gluten-free foods for Harvest Manitoba to make sure that people who need gluten-free food have access to it. 

“It is so upsetting to think that people who have Celiac Disease and need to use a food bank might have to choose between going hungry or eating foods that will make them sick if gluten-free food is not available,” she added.

To help fund more research, and other ways to support the goals of Celiac Canada, please visit their website. https://www.celiac.ca/ways-to-give/donate-now/

Telles-Langdon takes 2nd place in MT180 Competition

The 2023 MT180 Competition on April 13, 2023 was a huge success with seven challengers competing for the top prize and to advance to the National Final on May 10 in Montreal.

Congratulations to Sara Telles-Langdon, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, who won second place. Telles-Langdon is supervised by Drs. Jassal and Singal at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

As reported in UM Today, second place and third place awards were sponsored by the French Embassy and Acfas Manitoba.

Dr. Jean-Eric Ghia, professor at the University of Manitoba hosted the event which was broadcast on Youtube. “For this 4th edition, we saw solid competitors, demonstrating the presence of many strong francophones graduate students in Manitoba. Most importantly, presentations covered an extensive breadth of science, from linguistics to medical science.“

Pour cette quatrième édition, nous avons vu de très forts concurrents, ce qui démontre la présence de nombreux étudiants francophones aux études supérieures au Manitoba. Mais plus important encore, les présentations couvraient un large éventail de domaines de recherche, allant de la linguistique à la science médicale.

Aurelien took home the top prize of $1600 generously supported by Acfas Manitoba and the University of St. Boniface and he will now advance to the National Final being held on May 10, 2023 in Montreal.

“Thank you to all the competitors for such engaging presentations across such a diverse range of topics. Congratulations to everyone and the winners for showcasing their research in French.”

“Merci à tous les concurrents pour ces présentations intéressantes sur un éventail de sujets aussi varié. Félicitations à tous et aux gagnants pour avoir présenté leurs recherches en français.”  says Kelley Main, Acting Dean in the Faculty of Graduate studies

All challengers and their thesis titles can be found here. The 2023 MT180 recorded event can be viewed here.

Suh & Taylor garner $1.5 million in new funding from CIHR

Two studies led by Drs Carla Taylor and Miyoung Suh, have received over $1.5 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This funding will support innovative research in cardiovascular disease prevention and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

“Congratulations to Dr. Miyoung Suh and Dr. Carla Taylor for receiving CIHR funding. This is a huge achievement as these awards are extremely competitive with applicants from all over Canada competing to garner long-term financial support for their research programs,” said Dr. Thomas Netticadan, Team Leader, Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. “I wish them the very best in advancing their innovative research in nutrition and health.”

Dr. Miyoung Suh, RD, PhD
Project: Perinatal nutrition strategy with omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid to protect brain in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Dr. Miyoung Suh, Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND) & Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM)  has been selected to receive $566,000 over 5 years to study prenatal nutrition to prevent or treat FASD. Suh’s grant was ranked #1 in this highly competitive category.

Suh’s innovative research will investigate the impacts of prenatal nutrition intervention strategies, including omega-3 fatty acids, to mitigate the impacts of alcohol-induced brain inflammation and prevent or treat cases of FASD.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to tackle FASD via neuroprotective nutrient treatments during pregnancy, which is a critical time window for brain development,” said Dr. Suh. “We want to provide scientific evidence on how preventative or therapeutic maternal nutrition strategies, such as DHA supplementation, may enhance the health of mothers and fetuses who are at risk of having FASD, since there is no cure once the infants are born.”

Co-investigators: Michel Aliani (FHNS), Benedict C. Albensi (Pharmacology), Hyo-Jick Choi (Alberta)

Dr. Carla Taylor, PhD
Project: Sex-Specific Targeting of Fish Oil for Decreasing Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. Carla Taylor, a Professor with the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences and Principal Investigator at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, has been selected to receive over $1 million over five years to study the impacts of fish oil on human heart health.

This funding will advance research into the benefits of fish oil in women versus men and its potential role in decreasing rates of cardiovascular disease. This UM-led clinical study will observe men and women over a three-month period to evaluate the impacts of fish oil supplementation and its role in promoting good cardiovascular health. This innovative research may lead to developing new solutions for cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment to support those at high risk.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to examine how post-menopausal women lose their protection against cardiovascular disease, thus becoming as susceptible as men, and to evaluate the possible utility of fish oil as a means of restoring that protection,” said Dr. Taylor. “We hope this research will benefit both women and men by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Co-Investigators: Harold M Aukema (FHNS) and Peter Zahradka (Physiology and Pathophysiology)

Discover Agriculture in the City event returns better than ever!

After a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the “Discover Agriculture in the City” event returned to the Forks Market on March 18, showcasing the exciting world of agriculture and its relevance to nutrition and health. The event provided an excellent opportunity for individuals in the agriculture sector to showcase their activities, as well as for the general public to learn about the field.

Representing the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), a team of researchers including Jo-Ann Stebbing, Chamali Kodikara, Jaime Clark, Suvira Prashar, Danielle Perera, and Vinuri Weerasinghe highlighted their agri-food and health research programs, promoting CCARM to a diverse range of people from different backgrounds, industries, and disciplines.

“We received a continuous flow of visitors who were interested in our giveaway recipes and protein quiz, which I find to be a really good tool to connect us to the school-age kids,” said Shiqi Huang. “There was great interest in the lentil and bean recipes we were sharing, so I find this event a great place to not only promote what CCARM does, but also educate people about healthy eating with our research outcomes.”

For the CCARM team, participating in the exhibition provided a range of valuable experiences, from exposure to a wider audience and networking opportunities to professional development and promotion of their research. By showcasing their work, they hope to attract potential students, funding, and collaborations.

Graduate student Jaime Clark found the event to be a rewarding experience that provided new opportunities to showcase the clinical research going on at CCARM, as well as preclinical science. “The Veggie-Meter was a huge hit among children and adults, and facilitated discussion on general health related to fruit and vegetable intake as well as how we use this instrument in our research,” she said.

Bringing together growers, farmers, researchers and marketers to share their knowledge all under one roof is a great way to connect all the aspects of what makes agriculture so important to people who live in cities.

“This was my first experience at Ag in the City, and I really enjoyed talking to people, leaning new things like the role of genetics in chicken production, or why turkey is not the main reason for feeling sleepy after Thanksgiving supper,” laughed Vinuri Weerasinghe. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to participate in this event and more importantly, represent CCARM.”

For graduate student, Chamali Kodikara, the event also helped facilitate networking opportunities. “Exhibitions can be a great opportunity for students and researchers to network with other professionals in our field, including colleagues, potential collaborators, and investors who may be interested in our research,” she explained. 

Jo-Ann Stebbing noted what a great turnout there was, “This was an excellent opportunity for CCARM to showcase our research and promote awareness of the research centre,” she said. Suvira Prashar and Danielle Perera concurred, noting how visitors were genuinely interested in the versatile research being done at CCARM based on foods grown right here in Manitoba.

Overall, “Discover Agriculture in the City” provided an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages and backgrounds. It showcased the vibrant and innovative world of agriculture, and highlighted the important role of research and science in ensuring safe, healthy, and delicious food for everyone.

ICS students shine in 3MT competition

Graduate students from St. Boniface Hospital Research and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences once again dominated this year’s 3MT competition at UM, with first place taken by Keshav Narayan Alagarsamy from Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra’s lab, and second place going to Akshi Malik from Dr. Pawan Singal’s lab, rounded out by Daniel Schwade Araujo from Dr. Todd Duhamel’s lab as one of the other finalists.   

“We are very excited that two of our students won first and second place in the 3MT competition, this is a highly competitive event and really speaks to the high level of training by the ICS. We are very proud of Akshi and Keshav and congratulate their supervisors Drs. Singal and Dhingra,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of ICS.

Alagarsamy received $2,500 for his first place win of the Dr. Archie McNicol Award, and Malik was awarded the UM Retirees Association Prize. Congratulations to all three students for making it to the finals in this highly competitive event, and for their stellar efforts and performances.

For more on this news, visit UM Today | Faculty of Graduate Studies | 3MT winner is full of heart (umanitoba.ca)

Love of Science Takes Flight

If handling pigs’ hearts and sheep’s brains grossed them out, the smiles on their faces did not let it show.

Four students from the remote community of Brochet in Northern Manitoba were introduced to authentic, hands-on science experiences in Winnipeg this month. This was thanks to a generous in-kind donation from Winnipeg’s Exchange Income Corporation (EIC).

The Brochet youth and their two chaperones joined dozens of others from the Frontier School Division on a field trip to the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.

For many of them in Grades 2 to 8, it was their first time being in a real science lab.

Facilitators Meghan Kynoch, Program Coordinator, and Anjelica Bodnaryk, Education Liaison, guided students in the packed lab. The kids looked at both mouse heart cells and cells swabbed from their own cheeks under microscopes. They also handled and examined animal hearts and preserved brains.

Perimeter Aviation provided flights

Exchange Income Corporation subsidiary Perimeter Aviation flew the group from Brochet School to Winnipeg. EIC is focused on aerospace and aviation services and equipment, and manufacturing.

“The areas we serve are remote northern communities.. As an organization we believe in supporting and fostering growth,” said Charity Scantlebury, Director of Marketing and Communications at Perimeter Aviation.

The trip to Winnipeg was a way for the kids from Brochet to see and try things they might not have access to otherwise. “School introduces students to opportunities they can pursue, but I think the Youth BIOlab is a place where kids can fall in love with science,” she said.

Stepping outside the noisy Youth BIOlab for a quick chat, Scantlebury explained that Perimeter promotes and supports three pillars: “Mental health, education and training, and healthy and active living. In terms of delivering on our pillars, the Youth BIOlab is a great fit,” said Scantlebury.

Frontier School Division spans nearly 75 per cent of the province and is organized into five Areas. Coming from about 15 different northern and remote communities across the Division, the students attended Youth BIOlab sessions from March 14 to 16. They also participated in their annual Science Fair held at the new Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.

“The kids love the Youth BIOlab. They love it! They are exhausted by the end of the day, seeing hearts and brains and all kinds of fun things,” exclaimed Arif Kassum, a Science Instructional Coach with Frontier School Division and facilitator of the Science Fair.

“We are trying to show them that there is a lot more to science than just textbooks and little classroom experiments. There are these kinds of opportunities,” said Kassum.

“They have such a great scope and range of activities available here, depending on the grade level. And they get into everything important, especially when it comes to biomedical research,” he said.

The support from EIC is important, Kassum added. “Our schools have limited budgets that don’t allow students to travel long distances, let alone fly, because of the costs. So, having any type of outside funding and support provides students the opportunity to come to Winnipeg, which they would not have.”

Funds the Youth BIOlab program received in August 2020 from the Manitoba Métis Heritage Fund and matched by the Manitoba Métis Federation helped cover the costs of ground transportation for many of the other Frontier School Division groups on the trip.

“Steve (Jones, Youth BIOlab Director), Meghan, and Anjelica do an incredible job of keeping our students going and interested in science. They are keeping it relevant because a lot of the things the kids are learning are directly related to Manitoba’s science curriculum,” said Kassum.

Since opening in 2013, the Youth BIOlab has welcomed more than 75,000 students like the ones from Brochet School and exposed them to careers and ideas in medicine and research.

Not all of them are destined to become doctors and researchers, of course. With that in mind, the Youth BIOlab facilitators designed programming to teach all kids who visit about health literacy. By connecting them with the science of health in a meaningful way, the Youth BIOlab helps kids understand their own health, and helps them connect their classroom learning to cutting-edge science.

Thanks to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation for sharing this story.

Agriculture in the City is Back

JOIN US AT THE FORKS THIS WEEKEND!
This free public event will be Saturday, March 18, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at The Forks Market (Room 201 on second floor) and will offer visitors a chance to explore the vibrant and innovative world of agriculture in Manitoba. Stop by the booth hosted by the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health & Medicine, (CCARM) to learn more about their research areas and recruitment for clinical trial participants!

The UM Food Fight will take place 10 am. Come watch the University of Manitoba Food and Human Nutritional Sciences students present their new food product concepts that they have taken from drawing board to test kitchen. Student teams will “pitch” their product ideas and provide a product sample to a panel of judges. Who knows, maybe you’ll see their unique entries at a store near you one day!

While you are there, come visit the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre booth where they will be handing out MAKE recipe cards and providing a “living necklace” hands-on activity. Throughout the event, there will be exhibits and information from many of Manitoba’s agricultural and food sector organizations, including lots of giveaways, games and interactive fun from planting strawberry plants to crushing canola.

Bring the family and join in the fun!   For more details, visit https://aginthecity.ca/

ICS researchers call to end Daylight Savings Time

As Spring Forward Day approaches and clocks are turned back one hour this Sunday, the call for an end to Daylight Savings Time (DST) is being heard from two leading cardiovascular scientists.  

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum and Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, both with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research, have conducted new studies that further highlight the negative health consequences of DST. As the two Manitoba members of the Canadian Society of Chronobiology (CSC) which advocates for the elimination of twice-yearly time changes, Drs. Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin support a move for Manitoba to switch to permanent Standard Time (ST) as a mechanism for improved public health.

“Our labs study the link between circadian rhythm and cardiovascular health,” explains Dr. Kirshenbaum, who is Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, and Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, at University of Manitoba. 

“Recent work we’ve been doing is showing a strong link that further substantiates the very real and detrimental effects of DST on cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart disease in people who work shifts, and it may differ between men and women,” he says.  

Drs. Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe that a move for Manitoba to switch to permanent standard time would be a positive investment in the long-term health outcomes of Manitobans.

Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin, who is Principal Investigator, Women’s Heart Health and Cardiometabolic Function at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, explained how Standard Time would put the social clock closer to our intrinsic body clock, our circadian rhythm, which is set by the dawn.

“We specifically found that the circadian clock regulates a crucial adaptive stress response which affects the ability of the heart to control quality control mechanisms and survival of heart cells after a heart attack. So, maintaining a healthy circadian clock is important not only for disease prevention, but also affects the outcomes following heart attack,” she says.

Both Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe moving Manitoba to permanent Standard Time would help prevent the negative effects of DST on physical and mental health, including increased risks for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and some forms of cancer. 

“This is vitally important for many people, but particularly for shift workers, many of whom work in the healthcare field,” Rabinovitch-Nikitin emphasizes.

Approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide change their clocks twice a year to and from DST. Documented research in this area has shown DST can make it difficult for shift workers to adjust their internal clocks to their work schedule, leading to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and decreased cognitive function, which can negatively impact their physical wellbeing and health. Other public health statistics linked to DST include:

  • Studies have shown that the risk of heart attacks increases by 24% on the Monday following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: New England Journal of Medicine)
  • The incidence of stroke is also higher in the days following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: American Academy of Neurology)
  • There is a 6% increase in fatal car accidents in the week following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: University of Colorado)
  • Sleep deprivation due to the time change in the spring is associated with increased rates of workplace injuries, workplace accidents, and lower productivity. (source: Journal of Applied Psychology)
  • DST disrupts our natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to a higher risk of depression and anxiety. (source: Journal of Biological Rhythms)
  • Studies have shown that the switch to DST in the spring is associated with an increase in suicide rates. (source: International Journal of Legal Medicine)
  • For more information on the CSC, visit their website at www.chronobiology.ca

Winnipeg Free Press

CBC News Manitoba

CTV News

CITYtv

Dhalla Drops Puck for Jets’ South Asian Heritage Game night theme

On Feb. 11, the Winnipeg Jets  hosted the franchise’s first South Asian Heritage Night, presented by Canada Life. The team beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1, while celebrating South Asian heritage with specialty jerseys featuring a unique logo, an auction supporting Punjabi Community Health Services Manitoba, merchandise, and South Asian food and cultural performances at the Canada Life Centre. 

But the highlight for many was seeing Dr. Naranjan Dhalla lead the ceremonial puck-drop, flanked by Sukhvir Singh, Raj Brar and Monika Deol.

https://www.nhl.com/jets/news/dr-dhalla-proud-to-represent-wpg-south-asian-community-on-world-stage/c-340905454

The 2023 International Trainee Symposium in Agri-Food, Nutrition and Health

The inaugural International Trainee Symposium in Agri-Food, Nutrition and Health was hosted by CCARM on January 19-20, 2023 at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre.

Building on the success of CCARM’s Rapid Fire Research Symposiums in 2017 and 2019, which was paused during the pandemic, the CCARM team under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Netticadan decided to relaunch the event this year on an even bigger scale at no cost incurred by the participants.

“It was our desire to invite trainees from around the world to join us, in order to expand our shared body of knowledge for Agri-health and provide them with a broader audience to hone their presentation skills,” said symposium chair, Dr. Thomas Netticadan, an objective achieved by partnering with the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology -IATA- in Spain.
“In addition, we also wanted to welcome all other researchers globally to join this event and learn of the latest advances in the field of Agri-health.”

With 49 trainees answering this invitation, the symposium featured presentations from young food sciences and nutrition/health investigators from Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom.


Featuring guest lectures by Dr. Samantha Pauls, Assistant Professor College of Pharmacy University of Manitoba, and Dr. Michael Eskin, and opening remarks from Dr. Joyce Boye, Director General of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Science and Technology Branch – Prairie Region, and Dr. Eric Liu, Director, Research, Development and Technology Transfer  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for Manitoba, the program was moderated by Dr. Nicola Gasparre, Jenny Bouchard, Bradley Feltham and Dr. Ruchira Nandasiri.

Using the rapid-fire presentation format, the delegates were challenged to explain their research problem, their findings and the implications for Agri-foods and health in only seven minutes. Those from overseas presented virtually over Zoom, a cost-effective way to allow students with limited travel budgets to participate and benefit from the symposium experience.   

The two-day event was a great success, held exclusively onsite at the Albrechtsen Research Centre, culminating in the awards presentation to each sessions’ winners and a banquet held in the Asper Clinical Research Institute mezzanine room overlooking the Red River and the Winnipeg skyline.

Closing remarks were graciously provided by Dr. Scott Duguid, Associate Director, Research, Development and Technology, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dr. Cristina Rosell, Professor and Head of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, and Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

“We are very pleased that the Symposium provided trainees with an international platform to disseminate their research findings, and an opportunity to network with colleagues, mentors and other researchers in the field. It was also greatly satisfying to note that the event was well attended by audiences from all over the world,” added Netticadan. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the organizing committee for the huge amount of time and effort they invested in organizing this event, as well as the volunteers, communication and audiovisual support services, and housekeeping services for their valuable assistance.” CCARM’s next bit event is a three-day hybrid meeting titled “International Conference on the Advances in Health Benefits of Agri-Foods” in 2024, a more elaborate session for trainees to help with their career development.

  • Winners of the 2023 CCARM International Symposium
    Session I 1st Prize: Andrea Bresciani, University of Milan, Italy; 2nd Prize, Laura Andrea Cabrera-Villamizar, University of Valencia, Spain
    Session II 1st Prize: Paulo D.M. Brites, University of Aveiro, Portugal; 2nd Prize: Ana Rita Soares Mateus, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária, Portugal
    Session III 1st Prize, Breanne Semenko, University of Manitoba, Canada; 2nd Prize: Shiqi Huang, University of Manitoba, Canada
    Session IV 1st Prize: Vibhuti Arya, University of Manitoba, Canada: 2nd Prize: Charith U.B. Wijerathne, University of Manitoba, Canada
    Session V 1st Prize: Mohamed El-Shetehy, University of Manitoba, Canada; 2nd Prize: Roshema Mihindukulasuriya, University of Manitoba, Canada
    Session VI 1st Prize: Mohammed Mira, University of Manitoba, Canada; 2nd Prize: Anashwar Valsalan, University of Manitoba, Canada

Congratulations to all, and we look forward to next year!

Winnipeg skyline photo credit: Salvador Maniquiz

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada Eleven years running

For the 11th 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.

“We have a phenomenal team of researchers, clinicians and students at St. Boniface Hospital Research, and it is wonderful to see their efforts recognized. The outstanding partnership we enjoy with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, along with the support of donors through the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, is critical for generating new discoveries that broaden our understanding of disease and its treatment,” says Dr. Mike Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital has always recognized the power of the research discoveries and potential interventions the talented cardiac, brain, food sciences and clinical research teams are pursuing.

“Congratulations to our science leaders at the Albrechtsen Centre and Asper Clinical Research Institute,” says Nicole Aminot, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital, “We are tremendously proud to be home to some of the most internationally recognized experts in the fields of cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and food science research.”

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 Clinical Research.  It boasts 30 laboratories, 250 staff, served as training ground for more than 450 students and is also 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.

Hospital Research Spending Flatlines
Toronto ON, 31 January 2023. Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals, Hospital Networks and Health Authorities reported a combined $3.06 billion to research in Fiscal 2021, indicating flat 0.1% growth over Fiscal 2020, according to Research Infosource Inc., which today released its annual Top 40 Research Hospitals ranking. Over half (23) of the organizations lowered their research spending in Fiscal 2021, while 17 others increased research spending. The number of researchers nationwide increased by 3.9% to 9,889. For more on this, visit: RE$EARCH Infosource Inc. (researchinfosource.com)

About Research Infosource Inc.
Research Infosource Inc., a division of The Impact Group, publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals List and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges List.

Titanium Carbide MXene nanosheets Potential Next-Generation therapy for Organ Transplant Patients

Dhingra lab files another patent in their effort to develop nanotechnology-based approaches to prevent heart transplant rejection.

In a first using titanium Mxene, the team under Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Associate Professor Regenerative Medicine Program, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba, has shown it to be effective for the prevention of cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV), an aggressive form of coronary artery disease in patients with heart transplants, and a major cause of mortality.

A paper based on the study will be published next month in Nano Today, a prominent journal in the field with an impact factor of 20.7.

For Dhingra and his team of researchers here at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, their work is focused on studying immuno-engineering interventions using next-generation bio-compatible nanomaterials.

As Dhingra explained, “This work focuses on immuno-engineering interventions which could be helpful for people receiving organ transplants to avoid the need to rely on anti-rejection drugs, which they normally have to take for the rest of their lives.”

CAV affects around half of heart transplant recipients within 10 years. It contributes to the death of 11-13% of people one year from heart transplantation.

“No one has stopped CAV with MXene until now – the titanium carbide has the ability to prevent the activation of immune cells which triggers the beginnings of CAV. Our research shows prevention of that activation.”

In light of these promising results, Dhingra has filed a US patent on the application of titanium Carbide Mxene nano sheets for CAV to help prevent transplanted organ rejection.  “This is our fourth US patent application for nano-material based interventions,” Dhingra indicated, adding that next steps for the team will be larger animal studies. “Our goal is to come up with something to prevent heart transplant rejections, so that patients will no longer be reliant on anti-rejection drugs and the complications they produce in the body.”

SBRC alumnus part of top innovations for 2022

Congratulations to SBRC alumnus, Dr. Josette Northcott, Senior Manager, Assay R&D at Personalis. https://www.personalis.com/   

Personalis hit the #1 spot on The Scientist ranking for Top 10 innovations for 2022 for a new product that uses a patient’s own tumors to detect, quantify and monitor circulating tumor DNA in order to spot molecular residual disease (MRD) and track responses to therapy. https://www.the-scientist.com/features/2022-top-10-innovations-70792

Northcott was a PhD student who trained under Dr. Jeff Wigle from 2004-2012 here at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. “It was a great joy to be Josette’s mentor her at the SBRC.   She has built on her training from here and has gone on to excel both in academic research and in industry.  Her role in leading the development and implementation of a new clinical diagnostic assay is a very impressive accomplishment,” Dr. Wigle shared.

As a member of the team working on the NeXT Personal technology, Dr. Northcott shared that they are very excited by this product launch. 

Dr. Josette Northcott in her student days
Dr. Northcott (pictured here @2012) trained under Dr. Jeff Wigle, Principal Investigator
Vascular Development, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Associate Professor Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics

New research suggests fish oil supplements may be first non-pharmaceutical approach to lower the risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2

University of Manitoba researchers working at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre, have discovered that animals consuming fish oil have fewer anchor points required for entry of the SARS-CoV2 virus into the heart, aorta and kidneys.

“This discovery represents a potential new tool for our medicine chest, a therapeutic that will not lose potency as vaccines do,” said Peter Zahradka, Principal Investigator, Molecular Physiology, CCARM, and Professor, Physiology and Pathophysiology, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

At the cellular level, scientists Shiqi Huang, Carla Taylor and Peter Zahradka have shown fish oil results in a 50 to 75 per cent reduction in a protein known as ACE2 that is present on the surface of certain cells. Since it acts as an anchor for SARS-CoV-2 to attach to cells, this reduction in ACE2 means these cells cannot be infected as easily by the virus responsible for COVID-19.

Why fish oil?  Previous research conducted at CCARM has shown the beneficial effects of DHA, a fish oil component, on blood vessels in relation to cardiovascular disease. It was on that basis the team began to explore how DHA treatment might affect the number of ACE2 anchor points SARS-CoV2 uses to infect tissues.

“Treating animal models with DHA showed a strong reduction in ACE2 levels present in a variety of animal tissues, so we then extended the work to the cells that form the lining of blood vessels,” Zahradka explained. “From there, it was established that yes, DHA treatment significantly lowered ACE2 levels on these cells.”

Once it was confirmed that the ACE2 anchor points declined by 50 to 75 per cent on human cells treated with DHA, a model system was developed to measure the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect the cells. This experiment showed that the DHA treatment reduced entry of the virus into cells by more than 50 per cent.  A paper describing these findings was published on Nov. 10, 2022, in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

While further studies in people are needed, the team at CCARM believes it possible that the lowering of ACE2 levels and reduced viral entry should make individuals more resistant to SARS-CoV2 infection.

 “Essentially, this treatment could enhance our body’s ability to defend against SARS-CoV-2 infection by making it more difficult to infect our cells. This means you would need to be exposed to higher amounts of virus for a longer period of time to actually get infected and experience symptoms. We also would like to explore the possible effects on long Covid, since DHA treatment may be able to reduce the severity of its symptoms,” he added.

To determine whether these potential therapeutic uses of fish oil are valid, the research team is in conversation with clinicians who deal with COVID-19 to determine which direction the research should take next.

Mario Pinto, UM vice-president (research and international), concurs that “it is important to verify whether these initial observations also apply to people. Consequently, the research team is now approaching clinician scientists who are studying the effects of COVID-19 in patients. Their goal is to examine the relationship between omega-3 levels, susceptibility to infection, and disease severity to determine whether fish oil has a potential therapeutic application in the management of COVID-19.”

A separate human study by Drs. Zahradka, Taylor and Harold Aukema, and graduate student Lisa Rodway and post-doctoral fellow Samantha Pauls, showed genes that strengthen immune function and provide resistance against infection are increased in persons taking fish oil supplements. Their results, to be published in the journal Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, indicate fish oil could work through other routes to help fight COVID-19 as well as help protect against other viruses.

https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/it-s-very-exciting-u-of-manitoba-research-finds-fish-oil-may-lower-infection-risk-of-coronavirus-strain-1.6220431

https://winnipeg.citynews.ca/2023/01/09/fish-oil-covid-infection-study/

Inaugural Berdie & Irvin Cohen (BERVIN) Scholarship granted to Chattopadhyaya

Congratulations to PhD student Sikta Chattopadhyaya Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, who is the first recipient of a new scholarship created specifically to support doctoral students in their first and second years of study here at the Albrechtsen Research Centre. Chattopadhyaya’s work is focused on ways to help find cardiac fibrosis treatments in Dr. Michael Czubryt’s Molecular Pathophysiology lab.

The Berdie & Irvin Cohen (BERVIN) Scholarship is made possible through the BERVIN Endowment Fund stewarded by St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, and will be issued annually on a go-forward basis to successful applicants. Donors who support the long-term educational goals of tomorrow’s science leaders are vitally important to the future of healthcare in Canada.

Naranjan S. Dhalla Awarded Honorary Doctorate from the University of Banja Luka

At a colourful ceremony on November 7, 2022, attended by more than 300 dignitaries including the Prime Minister of the Republic of Srpska and several Federal Ministers, the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia-Herzegovina bestowed Honorary Doctorate upon Naranjan S. Dhalla for his outstanding contribution and development of the University and the Faculty of Medicine. 

Dr. Dhalla is a senior scientist in the field of Experimental Cardiology at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.  He is the Honorary Life President of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences and Editor-in-Chief of the journal “Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry”.

Dr. Dhalla has received 212 Awards and Honors including 6 Honorary DSc/MD degrees, 2 Professor Honoris Causa and 4 Honorary Professorships from different institutions worldwide.  He has been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in London Ontario and Citizen Hall of Fame in Winnipeg.  He has edited 65 books and published 864 research papers and review articles; his work has been cited more than 32,850 times with an h-index of 84.

“We are tremendously proud of Dr. Dhalla’s many accomplishments and congratulate him on receiving this prestigious honour from the University of Banja Luka”, said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.  

CCARM Students Garner Endowment Grants

Congratulations to three outstanding young investigators with CCARM, who have each been recently recognized with student endowment awards through St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

PhD student Shiqi (Sunny) Huang is a member of Dr. Carla Taylor’s Metabolic Nutrition lab, and will receive $17,963 from the Mark G. & Patricia N. Smerchanski Endowed Studentship Fund which supports young investigators in research every year since 2010.

Chamali Kodikara is a MSc student in Dr. Champa Wijekoon, Plant Bioactives lab and will receive $7,764 from the Frank & Jeanne Plett Endowed Studentship Grant, which recognizes graduate students at St. Boniface Hospital Research annually since 2016.

Joanna Candas will receive $4,590 from the TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award, established in June 2015 to support research into aboriginal health issues at St. Boniface Research Centre. Joanna is an MsC student supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh, Nutrition & Neurological Diseases.

Best wishes for your continued success!

Advances in Cardiovascular Science and Medicine Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion supported by Education, Research, and Technology Innovation

41st North American Section of
The International Society for
Heart Research

9th North American Section of
The International Academy of
Cardiovascular Sciences

This cardiovascular conference was the first joint meeting between the North American Section of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS) and the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR).

“After a three-year delay, largely due to pandemic travel restrictions and gathering limitations, we were able to bring together members of these two societies for the first time ever,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Conference Chair, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

Overcoming many logistical challenges to bring together the top cardiovascular scientists, clinical cardiologists, research fellows and trainees from around the globe, the conference featured dedicated programs and workshops on women’s heart health and women in science programs, as well as programs to support the professional development of early career and mid-career investigators.

Organizers were pleased to host a veritable who’s-who of international cardiovascular expertise right here in Winnipeg, including Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, Director, Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars Sinai, Los Angeles, California; Dr. Joseph Hill, Division Chief, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Division of Cardiology and Director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center, Dallas, Texas; and Dr. Ramesh Goyal, Vice Chancellor, Delhi Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research University, New Delhi, India.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Bairey Merz, shared her mission to close the knowledge gap and approach to addressing cardiovascular disease in women, through research, clinical care, and educational programs to teach women and healthcare providers about the importance of early diagnosis and recognizing different forms of heart disease in women to provide better healthcare.

“It was inspiring to hear Dr. Bairey Merz share her experiences and vision to expand women’s heart healthcare to address many of the major deficiencies in treatment and diagnosis,” Kirshenbaum said. “To that end, we are pursuing the capital investment and development of a women’s heart health centre right here in Winnipeg, as part of the St. Boniface Hospital’s well-known reputation for cardiac care in the province of Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.”

The conference scientific program was comprised of 27 scientific symposia, 10 named lectureships, and 118 poster presentations with 350 attendees. The conference attracted world experts in cardiovascular medicine from 11 different countries including Canada, USA, Brazil, Israel, Argentina, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Chile, Turkey, France and India.

“One of the pillars of this conference was to provide an opportunity for early and mid-career trainees to meet with cardiovascular leaders in person and participate in symposia featuring superb scientific content and knowledge translation. The conference was a spectacular success, and the large number of international scientists that came to Winnipeg to attend reflects the high calibre of research taking place here at St. Boniface Hospital” commented Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

In addition, the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences in partnership with the University of Manitoba held its 24th Annual 2022 Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Ceremony during the course of the three-day conference. The awards day celebrates excellence in cardiovascular medicine, research and education with a focus on students’ contributions, as well as individuals who have made outstanding contributions in support services. The awards are named after iconic leaders in Manitoba that include Dr. R.E. Beamish, Mr. Ken Bowman, Dr. John Foerster, Dr. Vincenzo Panagia, Mr. Jack Litvack, Dr. Arnold Naimark, Dr. Henry Friesen, Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves, Mr. Ken Dhalla, Dr. James S. McGoey, Dr. T. Edward Cuddy, and ICS Gold Medals which recognize the outstanding leadership in cardiovascular sciences were presented to Drs. Bohuslav Ostadal, Prague, Czech Republic, Ranko Škrbić, Banja Luka, Bosnia and C. Noel Bairey Merz, Los Angeles, California.

The award presentations were made by Drs. Kirshenbaum and Czubryt (see below).

Young Investigators Net Two Major AHA Awards

With stiff competition from prestigious international universities and research centres, two St. Boniface Hospital Research members each won a major award at the American Heart Association’s 2022 Scientific Sessions, held earlier this month in Chicago.

Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin is the winner of the Louis N. and Arnold M. Katz Basic Science Research Prize for Early Career Investigators competition by the American Heart Association’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS).  She is also the first Canadian to win this highly coveted award, historically recognizing research involving biochemical, cellular, molecular, and genetic sciences, and now includes whole animal studies, especially those related to the creation of new genetic lines. Rabinovich-Nikitin is a Principal Investigator, Women’s Heart Health and Cardiometabolic Function at the the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Assistant Professor Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Weiang Yan, a PhD student from Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra’s laboratory is the winner of the Vivien Thomas Early Career Investigator Award which acknowledges the accomplishments of early career investigator members of the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia (CVSA) with a focus on fundamental and applied surgical research.

“It’s incredible to have two winners of these major AHA awards be awarded to SBRC members,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba. “It speaks volumes to the high-level training and rich research environment in our laboratories here at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.”

Chicago, IL – AHA 2022 – Scientific Sessions is the leading cardiovascular meeting for basic, translational, clinical and population science, in the United States, with cardiovascular experts from around the world attending the meeting. Photos by © AHA/Scott Morgan 2022

Rabinovich-Nikitin received the award following the presentation of her proposal, ‘Shift Work Disrupts Circadian Rhythm and Mitochondrial Quality Control in the Heart,’ saying, “I am earnestly grateful for the recognition I have received for this work, which was carried out during my CIHR funded postdoctoral fellowship under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum. I am proud to be the first Canadian to have ever received this award and hopeful that it will open new avenues of research in the field of Women’s Heart Health and Circadian Biology in Canada and worldwide.”

Yan received the award, named in honour of Dr. Vivien T. Thomas, for his project on the application of Next-generation MXene nanomaterials in preventing allograft vasculopathy after heart transplantation. After an organ transplant, patients have to take anti-rejection pills for the rest of their lives, which come with serious side effects. Anti-rejection drugs suppress immune responses to keep the body from rejecting the new organ.

“But with MXene nanomaterials that we have produced in our laboratory this could be a thing of the past,” said Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Associate Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba.

Using immuno-engineering-based approaches, the Dhingra lab has created an intrinsically immunomodulatory material, titanium carbide MXene nanosheets which is able to stop body’s automatic immune response. Dhingra Lab’s application for a US patent was recently approved which confirms their claim of novel immunomodulatory properties of MXene and first application of this material in preventing rejection of transplanted donor organs by recipient immune system.

“This is very exciting and speaks about the quality of research being conducted at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. I want to congratulate both Rabinovich-Nikitin and Yan for winning these prestigious awards,” Dhingra added.

Weiang Yan was equally thrilled, “I am extremely honoured to be receiving this prestigious award for the work that we have accomplished on the immunomodulatory effects of MXene nanomaterials. I am grateful to the supervision and mentorship of Drs. Sanjiv Dhingra and Rakesh C. Arora, and the funding and support provided by the University of Manitoba Clinician Investigator Program and the CIHR fellowship. I am hopeful that the training I received at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences will help be succeed in both ongoing and future translational and applied surgical research.”

Congratulations to both winners! 

SBRC researchers identify protein linked to heart failure in chemo patients, with potential to save millions of lives.

A team led by Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum has identified a protein called TRAF2 that stops functioning in cancer patients taking the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, which can result in heart failure. Their findings were published in the American Heart Association’s cardiac journal, Circulation, widely considered the top scientific journal for cardiac research with an impact factor of 39.92.

“The finding could lead to new drugs that save cancer patients,” said Kirshenbaum, principal investigator and director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and UM Canada Research Chair in molecular cardiology.

While doxorubicin is used to treat many types of cancer, particularly breast and ovarian cancer, some patients who receive the drug develop heart problems that lead to heart failure.

Using a variety of state-of-the-art approaches, the researchers discovered that doxorubicin impairs the activity of TRAF2 in the heart which leads to heart failure. The team also showed that interventions that restored the TRAF2 activity suppressed the unwanted side effects and heart failure induced by doxorubicin treatment. 

“This is a significant finding that we are very excited about,” said Kirshenbaum, who is a professor of physiology & pathophysiology and pharmacology & therapeutics, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba. “We discovered that TRAF2 was consistently down-regulated in cancer patients with heart failure who had received doxorubicin treatment. Our pre-clinical study showed that by restoring TRAF2, we could prevent injury to the heart muscle and heart failure induced by doxorubicin.”

The results of the study, titled Proteasomal Degradation of TRAF2 Mediates Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Doxorubicin- Cardiomyopathy, were published in the American Heart Association’s cardiac journal Circulation, the top journal for cardiovascular medicine.

Kirshenbaum said the research has revealed a novel cellular pathway that connects the loss of TRAF2 to the undesirable cardiotoxic effects of doxorubicin that could lead to new ways to completely eliminate this unwanted side-effect in millions of cancer patients.

“Essentially, we’re talking about the difference of the heart tissue surviving unscathed versus experiencing premature and irreversible cell damage as a result of these powerful cancer-treating drugs,” said Dr. Richard Kitsis, professor of medicine and cell biology, director, Wilf Family Cardiovascular Research Institute, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “Enhancement of TRAF2 function in the heart may provide a novel therapeutic approach.”  

Kirshenbaum and his team are currently working on new therapies and drugs that could be used to prevent cardiac injury in cancer patients undergoing doxorubicin treatment.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, UM vice-provost (health sciences), and dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, said he’s excited about the study and prospects of new therapies that could improve patient care.

“This study builds upon Dr. Kirshenbaum’s leadership in cardiovascular sciences globally, and importantly, it reflects the high calibre of CIHR funded research at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and” Nickerson said.

The research was supported by a foundation grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

Better understanding the benefits of oats could boost its production in the country

This article reposted as an English translation from: CBC ici.radio-canada.ca. Originally published October 6, 2022

A study on the health benefits of oats taking place in Manitoba is looking at the effects of this cereal on lowering cholesterol and on blood sugar levels. Producers estimate that positive results could make it possible to increase the area devoted to the production of this cereal.

Dr. Thomas Netticadan, team leader at the Canadian Center for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine and professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Manitoba, confirms that animal tests carried out over the past few months are conclusive.

An oat protein was isolated and given as a drink to obese rats in experiments performed in a laboratory at St. Boniface Hospital.

Oat protein has not only been observed to lower risk factors like cholesterol and blood sugar in his animals, but it also protects the heart, its structure and cardiac function , explains Dr. Netticadan.

Over time, in these animals, heart structure and function become abnormal, and oat protein was able to prevent the development of heart complications. This is therefore another very interesting result of our study.

The research team is currently analyzing the results in greater depth to write a scientific paper for peer review, says Dr. Joseph Sijo, an Agriculture Canada researcher and professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Manitoba. He hopes the article will be published by early 2023, followed by the next step which is to test on humans to further validate the findings.

Dr. Joseph Sijo, an Agriculture Canada researcher and professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

If all goes according to plan, the researchers would like to get a certification from Health Canada that says oat protein is good for maintaining healthy blood pressure or even says oats are good for controlling your blood sugar response , launches with enthuses Joseph Sijo.

He recalls that Health Canada has already authorized the statement: Oat fiber helps reduce/lower cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease , found on the Government of Canada website.

Dr. Sijo also points out that with their sedentary lifestyle, Canadians are at increasing risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

The Prairie Oat Growers Association recently secured $106,000 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to fund this study. The chairman of the board of directors of the Manitoba branch of the association, Yves Lapointe, hopes that the scientists will arrive at results that will improve the health of Canadians.

He also hopes that the study’s findings will provide additional impetus for farmers who produce oats.

We want to find new markets and spread our oats for global products. If you find added value in oats, that will help our industry enormously. We will be able to sell more oats and increase our acres in Canada , says Mr. Lapointe. He explains that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta produce 90% of Canada’s oats.

Mr. Lapointe says farmers grew oats in huge quantities in the 1950s and 1960s. Interest in the cereal subsequently declined because there were fewer products to be made from oats” he points out.

However, he says that for the past few years, the level of oat production has been on the rise due to healthy protein trends, which is explained in particular by oat milks for those who are vegan.

In September 2022, Statistics Canada predicted a harvest of over 4.6 million metric tonnes of oats nationwide for the current year. For comparison, in 2016, the oat harvest was 3.2 million metric tons.
In 2020, Canadian oat exports were valued at $465 million, according to a press release from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Government of Canada invests in food research to support disease prevention – Canada.ca

A new target for treating heart disease

October 06, 2022 – For Release 12:00pm UTC

A cardiac research lab in Winnipeg is the first to discover and demonstrate the critical role of a protein called scleraxis in regulating cardiac fibrosis, a condition that stiffens the walls of the heart.

The study, published today in the European Heart Journal, shows how scleraxis is an important new factor for therapeutic targeting in a condition that currently lacks any treatment.

Fibrosis is a major clinical problem for millions of cardiac patients worldwide, contributing to arrhythmias, heart failure and death. It can develop following high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and/or valve disorders, and can be monitored by MRI, but no viable therapeutics to halt or reverse the condition are currently available.

The scleraxis protein acts as a stress response pathway, playing an important role in structures rich in connective tissue like tendons and valves. Most of the existing research on how scleraxis helps and hinders our bodies, has been focused on tendons.

But the Czubryt lab has been looking at and building a case for more than a decade that scleraxis is vitally important to the heart as well and new findings show it holds the key to developing new therapeutic drugs for cardiac fibrosis.

“This work confirms that scleraxis is critical in the initiation and ongoing maintenance of cardiac fibrosis, and it should be targeted to treat this condition, improving patient quality of life and heart failure survival rates,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathophysiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Professor of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba.

This research and the resulting paper were a major group effort involving 17 authors in total, including graduate students and fellow Principal Investigators at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.

Another key finding according to Czubryt, is showing that ‘fixing’ cardiac fibrosis alone is enough to improve heart function – even without halting the abnormal growth (cardiac hypertrophy) that usually accompanies disease.

“Most prior work has shown that fixing the hypertrophy did lead to improvements in fibrosis – but separating the two has been difficult,” he said.

The work involved using cutting-edge approaches including a cell-specific deletion of the scleraxis gene in mice and confirming that scleraxis levels are elevated in the hearts of human patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and high levels of collagen, which is the main component of fibrosis in the heart.

“We’re very pleased to have our work presented in a journal that commands a broad readership of cardiovascular scientists and clinicians around the globe,” says Czubryt.

The European Heart Journal is an international peer-reviewed medical journal of cardiology and cardiovascular medicine, the second highest ranking journal in this field with an impact factor of 35.8 published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.

Reference: Nagalingam RS, Chattopadhyaya S, Al-Hattab DS, Cheung DYC, Schwartz LY, Jana S et al. Scleraxis and fibrosis in the pressure-overloaded heart. Eur Heart J 2022. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehac362. https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/advance-articleabstract/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehac362/6748266

MEDIA CONTACT:
Karen Hiebert, Manager, Communications & Media Services, St. Boniface Hospital Research
| khiebert@sbrc.ca | 431-997-6577

SBRC alumnus, Dr. Anju Bajaj receives Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented Dr. Anju Bajaj with a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence This award presented, Monday October 3 in Ottawa, honoured Dr. Bajaj for her commitment to preparing her students for a digital and innovations-based economy.

Dr. Bajaj imparts a love of learning and the ability to use the skills and knowledge gained to prosper in the 21 st century. She is a teaching vice-principal at Holy Cross School Archdiocese of Winnipeg.  She is recognized as: a leader, researcher, activist, organizer, author, STEM educator, consultant, public speaker, and visible minority role model.

She provides encouragement and opportunities for students, especially female students through her school clubs such as the New Horizon Club. The club in conjunction with St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre provides opportunities to interact with female and male researchers. Through her work with science fairs, especially the Bison Regional Science Fair, which she founded, females and males have been able to participate in the Canada Wide science Fair and win awards.

In her one-to-one meeting with Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, she was humbled to hear from the PM.

“Dr. Bajaj Congratulations to you! I would have loved to have science teachers like you. It would have likely changed the course of my studies. I almost went into sciences in university, but there was that little spark missing that I know I would have had for sure if I had teachers like you in high school. Proud of your accomplishments,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Dr. Anju Bajaj is a former Postdoctoral Trainee working under Dr. Pawan Singal, Principal Investigator Cell Pathophysiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences  

“Dr. Bajaj worked with us for two years in our lab, so it is delightful to see a former colleague recognized for her ongoing achievements.  She always stayed in touch with her faculty members in ICS, and with the Foundation, and regularly brings her students to participate in programming at our Youth BIOlab,” Dr. Singal noted. “We wish her our heartiest congratulations on this tremendous honour.”

(1) Prime Minister’s Awards 2022 National Ceremony | Facebook

Ramjiawan one of four new Fellows from UM joining the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

The University of Manitoba is proud to announce an impressive four new Fellows elected to The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) for 2022. The CAHS Fellowship recognizes excellence in health sciences and these 71 new Fellows across Canada reflect a rich and varied expertise.

The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences brings together Canada’s top-ranked health and biomedical scientists and scholars who make a positive impact on the urgent health concerns of Canadians. Election to Fellowship in the Academy is considered one of the highest honours for individuals in the Canadian health sciences community.

“The innovative research programs of these outstanding clinician-scientists have made indelible impacts on the lives of so many around the world,” says Dr. Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at UM. “We congratulate them on this most deserved recognition for their decades of research into Canada’s most complex health challenges.”

Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-provost (health sciences) and dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, added, “We are honoured to congratulate our four faculty members on election to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Their extensive and impactful research into global public health, Indigenous health, clinical research and infectious diseases has not only improved health locally, nationally and globally, but rightfully earned them this prestigious distinction.”   

Dr. Bram Ramjiawan

Director of Clinical Research, Innovation and Regulatory Affairs and Director of Research, Asper Clinical Research Institute, St. Boniface Hospital and Research Centre

Dr. Bram Ramjiawan is responsible for the oversight of clinical research and to oversee and ensure that all clinical, regulatory and business issues are handled as required by national and international agencies. Dr. Ramjiawan is an International expert on clinical trials. He is resident internal reviewer for the European Union, various United States departments (FDA, NIH) and Canada.

Prior to joining the hospital, Dr. Ramjiawan worked with the Government of Canada (National Research Council) as an industrial technology advisor who specialized in life sciences and biomedical technologies. Dr. Ramjiawan is an adjunct professor of pharmacology and therapeutics, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba.

He serves on many national and international organizations. At the national level Dr. Ramjiawan is on the steering committee of the Canadian Standards Association on Medical Technology and Health Care. At the international level, he is a reviewer for the United States National Institutes of Health and for the European Union Commission on Health Science and Ethics.

Dr. James Blanchard

Professor, Community Health Sciences, and Executive Director, Institute for Global Public Health, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. James Blanchard is an epidemiologist and public health specialist focusing on global health. His research focuses on how the characteristics of individuals, communities and large populations contribute to the local and global distribution of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Over the past 25 years, he has also provided leadership globally to applying research to improve the design and implementation of large public health programs related to sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS and maternal, neonatal and child health focused in south Asia and Africa.

Dr. Blanchard has also contributed to the development of scientific knowledge about what creates epidemics of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and in the translation of that knowledge into effective programs and policies to improve health. Globally, he has advanced knowledge about the factors that generate HIV epidemics and translated that knowledge into high impact programs to control HIV in south Asia and Africa. In Canada, he has been a leader in developing methods to study the emerging epidemics of diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

He holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in epidemiology and global public health.

Dr. Josée G. Lavoie

Professor, Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, and Director of Ongomiizwin -Research, Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. Josée G. Lavoie, a Fulbright scholar, is an internationally-renowned researcher who, for the past 30 years, has been working in partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations to improve Indigenous peoples’ access to responsive health services.

Dr. Lavoie’s program of research is uniquely positioned in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and other Indigenous groups across Canada, in Alaska, Norway, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand and circumpolar countries.

Her research focuses on improved access to primary health care for underserved and marginalized populations, in rural, remote and inner-city environments; and on shifting health policy.

Dr. Lavoie’s program of research demonstrates leadership in engaged scholarship. She is particularly interested in how western and Indigenous knowledge systems interface in the provision of health services in Indigenous communities. She maintains on-going partnerships with the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba and with the Manitoba Inuit Association. She is actively engaged in collaborations in Australia and New Zealand, and in circumpolar health research.

Dr. George Zhanel

Professor, Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. George Zhanel is research director of the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Alliance (CARA) and the founding and chief editor of the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Alliance (CARA) website (www.can-r.com).

Dr. Zhanel has been involved in treatment guideline development for a variety of infectious diseases and studying antimicrobial usage/resistance in humans, animals and food and the impact of antimicrobial exposure on human and animal microbiomes. 

He has published over 1,000 papers, chapters and abstracts in the areas of treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics and discovery and development.

Dr. Zhanel has been involved in treatment guideline development for a variety of infectious diseases and is also interested in antimicrobial usage/resistance in humans, animals and food (one health) and the impact of antimicrobial exposure on human and animal microbiomes.

In 2020, he received the Canadian Association for Medical Education merit award, and in 2021, he was 1 of 190 Canadian scientists recognized as a “highly cited researcher”, an honour received by 1 out of 1000 of the world’s scientists.

Alzheimer’s Association awards Adlimoghaddam $175,000

Congratulations to Dr. Aida Adlimoghaddam from Dr. Ben Albensi’s lab for receiving the Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF) valued at $175,000 USD.

The AARF grant program supports exceptional researchers engaged in their post-graduate work and before they have their first independent faculty positions. These researchers work in diverse research areas, including basic, translational, clinical, functional and social-behavioural research.

Funding received from the Alzheimer’s Association will allow Dr. Adlimoghaddam to continue her novel neuropharmacological research. She aims to uncover an innovative therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease via repurposing two FDA-approved drugs.

Dr. Adlimoghaddam is the first recipient from St. Boniface Hospital Research of this highly prestigious and competitive international award. Other current and prior awardees come from notable institutions such as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Oxford.

Dr. Albensi contributed to her success by providing the association with documentation on mentoring plans, past success with trainees, equipment, and the focus of his lab.

Yan and Nagalingam Recognized at Max Rady College Awards Day

Max Rady College of Medicine Awards Day were held June 20, 2022 and two St. Boniface Research members were among those receiving honours.

Congratulations to Weiang Yan in Dr. Dhingra’s lab, who received the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Inc. Award for Cardiovascular Biology, and who was also awarded the E.L. Drewry Memorial Award, the college’s highest honour of the year.

And another round of congratulations to former student of Dr. Michael Czubryt, Raghu Nagalingam, who received the Manitoba Medical Service Foundation PhD Student Award. Nagalingam is now completing his post doc in British Columbia.

Well done gentlemen!

CCARM student nets two awards at Protein Symposium

Congratulations to MSc student Jenny Bouchard who recently won two awards for her presentation at the 2022 Manitoba Sustainable Protein Symposium:  The People’s Choice Award and the Scientific Merit Award in the Undergraduate/MSc category.

Bouchard is a MSc student in Food Science at the University of Manitoba doing her research at CCARM under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Netticadan (CCARM) and Dr. Sijo Joseph (Richardson Centre for Food Technology and Research), co-supervised by Dr. Maneka Malagoda. Bouchard is examining the potential of oat protein in improving cardiovascular health in an animal model of metabolic syndrome.

The 2nd annual Manitoba Sustainable Protein Research Symposium was hosted by the University of Manitoba, Manitoba Agriculture and the Manitoba Industry-Academia Partnership June 7-9, 2022.

Suh receives Duhamel Innovation Award

Dr. Suh (L) accepts her honorarium from St. Boniface Hospital Foundation President & CEO, Karen Fowler.

Congratulations to Dr. Miyoung Suh, Principal Investigator in the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders and Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre for being awarded the 2022 Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award.  

Honouring the late St. Boniface Member of Parliament and Senator Ronald Duhamel, this annual award supports leadership in the advancement of health care at St. Boniface Hospital. It includes a cash honorarium, which for 2022 was $12,156.38.  

Dr. Suh is a world leader in the field of nutrition and dietetics. One of her areas of specialization is the role of maternal nutrition in reducing the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is vitally important because FASD is a preventable developmental disability, resulting from fetal exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, affecting 400,000 Canadians and 3,000 infants annually.

Dr. Suh’s research focuses on identifying early nutrition intervention strategies during pregnancy and lactation, which may be key in preventing or mitigating the severity of FASD.

Partnering with First Nations Communities in Manitoba, her research team found more than 85% of pregnant women with alcohol consumption were not meeting recommended omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) requirements, a vital structural component of the brain required for optimal fetal brain development and function.

A study is underway to test the efficacy of DHA to ward off alchohol-induced effects during this vital growth stage. The outcomes of this study will ultimately inform care and enhance the health of mothers and infants at St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital Foundation thanks everyone who submitted a nomination for the 2022 Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award and is pleased to announce this year’s award recipient. 

Youth BIOlab Hosts National Educators Attending Reconciliation Summit,
and Attracts NSERC Boost to promote STEM

Since the first lockdown in early 2020, the Youth BIOlab team has made extraordinary efforts to expand its reach and connect with students from all walks of life, all across the province, in particular kids who live in our remote northern communities.  

From live-streaming course work and project sessions, to producing original science-based activity books as well as writing and producing two original video series on its website and YouTube, in both official languages, our YBL team has been working non-stop, and now that students are starting to return to our building for in-person learning, they will once again be busier than ever. 

On May 17, Director Steve Jones hosted a group of local and visiting school division CEO’s, superintendents and education leaders from across the country who were attending C21 Canada, a leadership summit to continue the national conversation on Reconciliation in Canadian Education in Treaty One, Homeland of the Red River Metis. Showcasing landmark ventures with first-hand site visits to future-ready partner innovations was a key aim of the summit, showing nuanced pathways to reconciliation.

“We have partnered with the Louis Riel School Division since 2005, and this work directly led to the development of the Youth BIOlab,” explained Jones. This partnership model and guiding principles still form the basis of all its work with students, teachers and other school divisions. “By working together, we can meet the unique needs of learners, communities and schools, whether here on Treaty One land or elsewhere in the province,” he added.

Joining Christian Michalik, Superintendent of the Louis Riel School Division and Summit Co-Host, and Karen Yamada, Learning and Innovation Lead for C21 Canada, guests sat down with Jones in the Youth BIOlab to learn more about its programming and outreach efforts to youth from all corners of Manitoba.

Then on May 19, more good news for YBL, when the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry announced over $10 million in funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) PromoScience and Science Communication Skills grants, as well as the NSERC Awards for Science Promotion.  YBL will receive $93,000 for 2022, which Steve will continue to invest in youth outreach programming with new and existing partners.   

Way to go team YBL! 

Srivastava from Dhingra lab earns prestigious CIHR Postdoc Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr. Abhay Srivastava with the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, ICS, who was recently awarded the highly competitive CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship worth $135,000 over three years.

Srivastava’s application received an impressive 4.54/5.0 rating and will help support his project working under the supervision of Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, to develop a personalized pre-screening platform for patients with Leigh Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder.

Working with Dr. Dhingra’s collaborator, Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg from Children’s Hospital of Manitoba, Srivastava works with blood samples from patients to create a patient-specific stem cells based personalized platform to determine cell function and metabolism, and screen potential new drugs to help understand which treatments may work.

“It’s like performing clinical trials in a cell culture dish, and hopefully in the near future we can create a library of treatment data from which new therapies can be developed,” he explained. 

Srivastava felt incredibly honoured to receive this highly competitive fellowship, “I think the credit goes to our entire team at the Dhingra lab who have contributed tremendously in building my research portfolio. Dr. Dhingra and I worked very hard in preparing the application and it’s very gratifying and humbling to see it come through,” he said.  Thanks were also expressed to Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg as his clinical collaborator and mentor, as well as Dr. Sarita Gupta, Ph.D. Supervisor.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), provides vital support to Canadian researchers, spanning the tightly linked pillars of health research, with the ultimate goal of improving health for all Canadians.

Arya Awarded Nancie J. Mauro Scholarship in Oncology Research

Congratulations to Vibhuti Arya, who has been recommended to receive the Nancie J. Mauro Graduate Scholarship in Oncology Research. 

Arya, who immigrated to Winnipeg in 2016, graduated with a BSc. (hons.) Cell, Molecular Biology, from University of Manitoba and then sought experience in Clinical Research. In May 2021, she started in the Cardiovascular Imaging (CVI) lab; and under the guidance of Dr. Davinder Jassal, was awarded CancerCare Manitoba’s Research in Hematology and Immunology (RIOH) summer studentship which helped her gain a strong understanding of ethics involved in clinical research. As a member of Dr. Jassal’s lab, Arya is contributing to the CANFLAX study to understand the benefits of flax milk products to help prevent heart failure in women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

“Dr. Jassal has been a very supportive supervisor and excellent mentor, helping me realize my passion for healthcare research,” she said. With heightened interest and appreciation for the role of clinical research in bringing the bench top science to patient’s bedside, Arya is now pursuing a MSc. in Physiology and Pathophysiology.

The CANFLAX project is the first clinical study of its kind to promote new standards of care that may help protect the hearts of women receiving chemotherapy in the breast cancer setting. Through partnerships with scientists and clinicians locally and abroad, the Cardio-Oncology program is focused on developing strategies, programs, and guidelines to prevent cardiovascular complications in the cancer population.

“For me, the Nancie J. Mauro graduate scholarship symbolizes the unity between my sense of service towards patients and my passion for scientific inquiry,” Arya added. She also wished to acknowledge the support of her co-supervisor Dr. Marshall Pitz and all the CVI lab members for their constant motivation and assistance with research study coordination and planning. 

Congratulations on this outstanding recognition.

Feltham garners prestigious doctoral program scholarship

Congratulations to Bradley Feltham who was awarded a Canada Graduate Student (CGS) doctoral program scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards to promote continued excellence in Canadian research by rewarding and retaining high-calibre doctoral students at Canadian institutions. By providing support for a high-quality research training experience to awardees, this program strives to foster impacts within and beyond the research environment.

Feltham will receive $105,000 over three years for his project studying whether omega-3 fats could be used to protect babies from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh, RD, PhD, Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND) & Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, she indicated a great sense of pride having Bradley as a member of the DND and CCARM teams.

Feltham shared more about his work with UM Today, https://news.umanitoba.ca/um-grad-students-receive-significant-cihr-research-awards/

The CGS D program is a federal program of scholarships awarded through national competitions by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

CIBC partners with St. Boniface for earlier detection of lung cancer

$75K commitment to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation will fund new research with potential to
improve patient outcomes


An estimated one in four cancer-related deaths are caused by lung cancer. Research at St. Boniface Hospital, made possible by the support of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), aims to improve the odds for lung cancer patients.

CIBC’s $100,000 donation will go toward a project led by Dr. Michel Aliani, Principal Investigator, Nutritional Metabolomics Research at St. Boniface Hospital Research. His lab has identified a number of biomarkers – molecules found in blood and other body fluids and tissues that allow scientists to see how the body responds to a treatment for a disease – that change with the presence of lung cancer.

Dr. Aliani believes tracking changes in these biomarkers will aid in earlier diagnosis of lung cancer and show why some people respond to particular treatments and others do not. This ability will help doctors track their patients more closely, and quickly detect changes in a patient’s cancer, both during and after treatment.

“We’re proud to support Dr. Aliani and the incredible team at St. Boniface Hospital Research and their ambition to make a healthier society through excellence in research and health care a reality,” said Matt Sachkiw, Vice President & Region Head, CIBC Commercial Banking. “Through this donation, we’re taking another step towards helping achieve our longstanding and collective goal to ensure no one has to fear a cancer diagnosis.”

CIBC has generously supported medical research at St. Boniface Hospital for decades. With this latest commitment CIBC has now donated more than $260,000 to advance research and improve patient lives.

“CIBC’s generous support will provide hope for the thousands of people diagnosed with lung cancer,” said Karen Fowler, President & CEO of St. Boniface Hospital Foundation. “This gift demonstrates CIBC’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of Canadians, and we are proud and grateful to join them in their goal to create a future where no one has to fear a cancer diagnosis.”

In 2021 it was estimated 29,600 Canadians would be diagnosed with lung cancer and 21,000 Canadians would die from the disease, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It is the leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada. One reason for the high death rate is that there is currently no non-invasive early detection protocol for lung cancer. Too many lung cancers are diagnosed too late – often at Stage 3 or 4 – for a hopeful survival prognosis.

Having mapped 250,000 metabolic pathways, Dr. Aliani can analyze metabolic biomarkers to see how the body’s metabolism reacts to different conditions, including cancer. By analyzing non-invasive samples from cancer patients, he can identify the biomarkers that change when a tumour is present and post-cancer.

Analysis of biomarkers in urine could open the door for a simple, non-invasive early detection system for lung cancer. Resulting early diagnosis protocols could dramatically improve the prognosis for those diagnosed with lung cancer in Canada and around the world.

“This important investment is a testament to the world-class research performed at St. Boniface Hospital Research, where leading scientific investigators are discovering new approaches to achieve better medical outcomes for Canadians,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Mishra claims first at 3MT

Congratulations to Pranav Mishra, a Graduate Student from Dr. Benedict Albensi’s laboratory and co-supervised by Dr. Paul Fernyhough, who claimed first place and a prize of $2500 at Three Minute Thesis (3MT) on April 7th.

The University of Manitoba 3MT is an annual competition for graduate students in a thesis-based program. 3MT is part of an overall strategy to highlight graduate students, promote U of M research and connect with the community.

You can learn more about 3MT by visiting https://umanitoba.ca/graduate-studies/student-experience/three-minute-thesis-3mt

Netticadan appointed CCARM team lead

Congratulations to Dr. Thomas Netticadan who has been named Team Leader of the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), for a three-year term effective April 1, 2022.

Dr. Netticadan is Principal Investigator, Heart Failure Research Laboratory, CCARM; Acting Associate Director, Morden Research and Development Centre (MRDC) and Science Team Leader of the Agri-Food and Food Security Group, MRDC and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and Adjunct Professor Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba.  

Best known for his research studying the heart-healthy benefits of resveratrol, a natural compound found in dark grape and berry skin, Dr. Netticadan joined CCARM in 2007 after working as a Principal Investigator in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, also at St. Boniface Research, and as Assistant Professor in Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba, for six years. 

Netticadan began his education in his home country of India, where he first graduated with a BSc in Chemistry, a Masters in Biochemistry, and his PhD in Physiology from the University of Bombay. He completed his postdoctoral training in Paris, France, at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Medicalé, and then moved to Canada to complete a second post-doc at the University of Western Ontario.

Working collaboratively with several other labs, Netticadan’s role as Team Leader will be to continue advancing CCARM’s research program which 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.

“We have such an excellent team of researchers in diverse areas such as nutrition, food chemistry, health and plant sciences, I would like to take initiatives to strengthen the translational research capacity to support multiple clients along the agri-food value chain,” Netticadan explained. 

Ideally, this will include plant breeders, food processors and producers, regulatory bodies and consumers. “It’s really about utilizing the research outcomes from the existing farm-to-bench-to-fork-to-bedside path and translating it back to the farm by promoting crops with robust nutritional and health attributes, a win-win for the health of Canadians and growth value for Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector,” he added.

“Dr. Netticadan is well respected internationally for both his ground-breaking research, but also his skills as a mentor and leader. We are delighted that he has been appointed to lead CCARM for the next three years,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

CCARM represents an ongoing unique partnership between St. Boniface Hospital, the University of Manitoba, The University of Winnipeg and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and is located within the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and the I.H. Asper Clinical Research Institute.

From laboratory to human research, CCARM conducts clinical research studies of functional and health food products and nutraceuticals identified by its laboratories as having potential beneficial effects on diseases that are of clinical and financial significance to Canadians. Diseases targeted thus far include, immune disorders, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular and vascular diseases.

“AAFC has a longstanding partnership with CCARM and Dr. Netticadan has been instrumental in this collaborative partnership,” says Dr. Joyce Boye, Director General for AAFC’s Science and Technology Branch for the Prairie Region. “CCARM is paving the way for innovation in functional foods and nutraceuticals research and helping the agri-food industry continue to provide food products that directly impact the health of Canadians. We wish Dr. Netticadan all the best in this new leadership role,” on Thomas’ appointment .

Patient-oriented research boosted by leadership training award

Dr. Anna Chudyk, part of SBRC’s Health Services and Structural Determinants of Health Research group is a CIHR funded postdoctoral fellow (College of Nursing, UM) who was recently awarded one of 13 Martha Donovan Leadership awards through the Winnipeg Foundation. Dr. Chudyk’s fellowship is a newly emergent opportunity that aims to develop leaders in patient-oriented research and this award will support the completion of training through the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

“My research focuses on the scholarship that underlies patient engagement in research, along with a number of clinical and health system studies that engage patients and caregivers as co-researchers,” she said.  Dr. Chudyk plans to apply the skills she develops to enhance her research program, which includes the co-development of a system/culture for patient-oriented research at St. Boniface Research Centre. The work’s ultimate aim is to produce insights and knowledge to restructure the research process and healthcare system to better meet patient and caregiver priorities and perspectives.

“Enrolling in this globally recognized course will enhance my leadership in patient-oriented research by expanding my toolbox of practical hands-on techniques for planning and conducting patient and public engagement projects and activities and great networking opportunities,” Chudyk elaborated.

“I can’t wait to share these learnings with my collaborators at SBRC and University of Manitoba, as well as to apply them to enhance how I currently engage patients and caregivers in research. Thank you so much to the Winnipeg Foundation and Award for supporting my continuing evolution as a leader in patient-oriented research.”

Supervised by Dr. Annette Schultz, Principal Investigator of the Health Services & Structural Determinants of Health Research at SBRC, Chudyk also collaborates with Drs. Rakesh Arora and Todd Duhamel and has emerging networks across Canada.

“Support for women in science is imperative to enhance spaces where women can excel and realize the careers they have envisioned for themselves,” Schultz said. “The Martha Donovan Women’s Leadership Development Award creates opportunities for young women in science to be nurtured and develop leadership skills to prepare them to become the next generation of thought leaders.”

The IAP2 is a global organization whose mission is to provide individuals that engage patients and the public in organizations’ or projects’ decision-making processes with the tools, skills, and networking opportunities to enhance the practice of engagement.

Schultz further explained, “The IAP2 will expose Dr. Chudyk to novel ideas, tools, and most importantly to international networks of leaders that regularly engage patients and the public in their work. St. Boniface Research Centre and the University of Manitoba, are very fortunate to have this emerging leader in the field of patient-orientated research at our institutions.”

Leadership Training Vital to Success

Sikta Chattopadhyaya, a PhD student with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, is one of 13 award recipients funding women’s leadership training through the Winnipeg Foundation’s Martha Donovan Leadership Fund.

The $250,000 fund was established in 2019 to provide leadership development opportunities for women in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Recipients are funded to take a leadership course of their choosing, allowing them to develop their skills and advance their careers. Up to $50,000 is awarded annually for five years.

Currently working on research to help find cardiac fibrosis treatments in Dr. Michael Czubryt’s Molecular Pathophysiology lab here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, Chattopadhyaya will be investing her award money to study a leadership course through Harvard Business School. Her long term goal as a researcher is not only to help identify therapeutic strategies to block or reverse fibrosis, but ultimately start her own independent laboratory.

“To lead a lab, I will need to further develop qualities such as good communication skills, adapting leadership styles to different students in crisis, managing a team to elicit their best performance, handling stressful situations, managing and dealing with different personalities, getting people to believe in you, and leading them towards success. This course will help me develop most of these skills and will help me achieve the goals in my chosen career path,” she shared.

Dr. Czubryt explained how leadership capabilities are so valuable for researchers to develop as they pursue their careers, “The Martha Donovan Women’s Leadership Development Award provides a great opportunity for students to build their skills in preparation to become the next generation of thought leaders,” he said. “The course through Harvard Business School will help Sikta identify ways to build on her strengths in order to handle demanding situations while fostering team achievement.”

Chattopadhyaya credited her supervisor for his unwavering support, “I would also really like to thank Dr. Czubryt for his continuous guidance. I am lucky to be his student.”

Congratulations to Sikta and much success in your new studies!

Tantalum Carbide MXene Quantum Dots Potential Game-changer for Heart Transplant Patients

For patients needing heart transplants in the future, a recent discovery by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and his team of researchers in the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, may mean they never have to take anti-rejection drugs, which come with significant side effects.

Dhingra’s work studying immuno-engineering interventions using next-generation bio-compatible nanomaterials is again attracting international attention with the recent publication in Advanced Functional Materials, a prominent journal in the field of nanotechnology with an impact factor of 18.8.

The paper, titled Fabrication of Smart Tantalum Carbide MXene Quantum Dots with Intrinsic Immunodulatory Properties for Treatment of Allograft Vasculopathy is featured in AFM’s Frontispiece cover, a nod to its significance as a first to report this application for in vivo treatment of transplant vasculopathy.

MXene nanomaterials have sparked significant interest among interdisciplinary researchers to tackle today’s medical challenges. As Dhingra explained, “This work focuses on immuno-engineering interventions which could be helpful for people receiving organ transplants to avoid the need to rely on anti-rejection drugs, which they normally have to take for the rest of their lives.”

The team’s approach uses rational design and synthesis strategies to develop intrinsically immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory tantalum carbide MXene quantum dots. These MQDs are able to alter surface receptor expression of immune cells and reduce their activation. “In other words,” Dhingra explained, “We believe that MQDs may halt the body’s automatic inflammatory response, which is the irreversible first stage of the body’s rejection attempts.”

This work also comes at a critical juncture in the field, as poor long-term safety of several other MXene compositions is being challenged as viable for eventual clinical translatability.

Dhingra said, “Our tantalum nanomaterial is non-toxic and highly bio-compatible based on our observations thus far. We are confident it can be integrated into the body without harm, but of course, human clinical trials will be needed to confirm that.”

The team’s application for a US patent was recently approved which confirms their claim of a novel, immuno-engineering method and first application of this material in preventing rejection of transplanted donor organs by recipient immune system.

“It’s an exciting development and we are looking forward to advancing our research to the next stage.” Dhingra shared.

2021 ICS Naranjan Dhalla Poster Day Winners

23rd Annual Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Poster Day Award Recipients

The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences held its annual ICS Naranhan Dhalla Poster Day virtually on February 3, 2022.

Congratulations to the following winners:

Basic Research Oral Competition

First Place:
Dr. Weiang Yan
“Titanium Carbide (Ti3c2tx) Mxene Nanosheets for Immunomodulation
and Prevention of Allograft Vasculopathy”

Second Place:
Sikta Chattopadhyaya
“Regulation of Gls1 Expression by Scleraxis in Cardiac Fibroblasts”

Honourable Mention:
Akshi Malik
“ER Stress Mediation of Dox-Induced Cardiomyopathy and its
Mitigation by Il-10”

Clinical Research Oral Competition

First Place:
Dr. Sandeep Krishnan
“Prehospital Ticagrelor Administration for St Segment Myocardial
Infarction is Associated with Lower Incidence of Intracoronary
Thrombus than Clopidogrel”

Second Place:
Dr. Hilary Bews
“High Output Heart Failure, A Forgotten Phenotype: Evaluating the
Incidence, Plausible Etiologies and Outcomes”

Honourable Mention:
Dr. Anas Alzahrani
“Clinical Presentation and Outcomes of Patients Presenting with
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy: iFast”

Dr. Triston Eastman
“Discordance between Parameters Defining Cardiogenic Shock Among
Patients with ST-elevation”

ICS Graduate Students Recognized for Excellence

Congratulations to two graduate students with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences who were recently recognized for exceptional accomplishments, by the University of Manitoba’s Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology.

Arun Surendran PhD student, supervised by Dr. Amir Ravandi, was awarded the 2021 Grant Pierce Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Physiology.

Keshav Narayan Alagarsamy supervised by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, won the 2021 Edwin Kroeger Young Investigator Award in Cell Biology.

“These awards reflect the superb calibre of investigation and discipline undertaken each day here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of ICS and Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba. “We are thrilled for both Arun and Keshav and share our heartiest congratulations to them both, as well as their supervisors, Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and Dr. Amir Ravandi for their excellent mentorship.”

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada – 10 years running Top 5 in Canada since 2012

For the 10th 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.

“I’m proud of the more than 200 academics, researchers, clinicians, scientists and students who call the St. Boniface research campus home. 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. This is another nod to those endeavors,” says Mike Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital has always recognized the power of the research discoveries and potential interventions the talented cardiac, brain, food sciences and clinical research teams are pursuing.  “It’s great to see we have held onto our position nationally, showing our strength in research. Congratulations to everyone at the Albrechtsen Centre and Asper Clinical Research Institute,” says Nicole Aminot, Interim President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital.

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 Clinical Research.  It boasts 30 laboratories, 250 staff, served as training ground for more than 450 students and is also 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.
Research Infosource Inc., a division of The Impact Group, publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals List and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges List.

AJP lists SBRC paper as one of 2021’s Top Cited articles.

The American Journal of Physiology recently listed a paper published by a group of researchers out of St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, as one of the top four papers cited in 2021. AJP publishes hundreds of papers annually and has an impact factor of five.

The paper, titled: “Oxidized phosphatidylcholines trigger ferroptosis in cardiomyocytes during ischemia-reperfusion injury was downloaded 605 times last year. Contributors include: Aleksandra Stamenkovic, Kimberley A. O’Hara, David C. Nelson, Thane G. Maddaford, Andrea L. Edel, Graham Maddaford, Elena Dibrov, MohamadReza Aghanoori, Lorrie A. Kirshenbaum, Paul Fernyhough, Michel Aliani, Grant N. Pierce, and Amir Ravandi.

“We have shown that bioactive lipids generated during a heart attack can kill heart muscle cells, a pathway that had not been shown before. We are currently working to use this pathway to come up with therapies that protect heart cells during a heart attack,” Dr. Amir Ravandi elaborated.

Congratulations to all!

23rd Annual ICS Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards

The 23rd Annual Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Day & Scientific Symposium was held virtually on Thursday, December 2nd, 2021. Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Michael Czubryt, Secretariat was supported by Dr. Sabine Hombach-Klonisch and Dr. Ross Feldman as symposium Co-Chairs, and the event was kicked off with opening remarks by Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Congratulations to the following recipients of these major awards:

Dr. David J. Lefer, New Orleans, USA

ROBERT BEAMISH LEADERSHIP AWARD

Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, Bethesda, USA

KEN BOWMAN RESEARCH AWARD

Dr. Ali J. Marian, Houston, USA

JOHN FOERSTER DISTINGUISHED LECTURE AWARD

Dr. Merry Lindsey, Omaha, USA

VINCENZO PANAGIA DISTINGUISHED LECTURE AWARD

Dr. Hugh Scully, Toronto, Canada

ICS LEADERSHIP GOLD MEDAL

Mr. Larry Vickar, Winnipeg, Canada

JACK LITVACK EXEMPLARY SERVICE AWARD

Dr. Abhay Srivastava, Winnipeg, Canada

ARNOLD NAIMARK YOUNG INVESTIGATOR AWARD

Dr. Aleksandra Stamenkovic, Winnipeg, Canada

HENRY FRIESEN YOUNG SCIENTIST AWARD

Dr. Natalie Landry, Winnipeg, Canada

SR. JACQUELINE ST-YVES PUBLICATION AWARD

Mr. Matthew Guberman, Winnipeg, Canada

ICS AWARD FOR MASTERS STUDENT

Mr. Triston Eastman, Winnipeg, Canada

T. EDWARD CUDDY STUDENT AWARD

Ms. Paris Haasbeek, Winnipeg, Canada

JAMES S. MCGOEY STUDENT AWARD

CCARM Students Garner Endowment Grants

L-R: Ronak Fahmi, PhD student; Breanne Semenko, MSc student & Sawanee Wickramasekara, MSc student.

Congratulations to three outstanding young investigators with CCARM, who have each been recently recognized with student endowment awards through St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

PhD student Ronak Fahmi is a member of Dr. Michel Aliani’s Metabolomics lab, and will receive $11,050 from the Mark G. & Patricia N. Smerchanski Endowed Studentship Fund which supports young investigators in research every year since 2010.

Breanne Semenko will receive $4,400 from the TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award, as well as $6,650 from the Smerchanski Endowed Students Grant. Breanne is a MSc student supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh in the Nutrition & Neurological Diseases lab. The TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award Endowment Fund was established in June 2015 to support research into aboriginal health issues at St. Boniface Research Centre.

Sawanee Wickramasekara is a MSc student in Dr. Carla Taylor’s Metabolic Nutrition lab, and will receive $6,900 from the Frank & Jeanne Plett Endowed Studentship Grant, which recognizes graduate students at St. Boniface Hospital Research annually since 2016.

Best wishes for your continued success!

IACS Honours Local Science Leaders at Eastern Europe Convention

Attended by leading cardiovascular researchers from 16 countries, the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS) held its European and North American section meetings in Banja Luka in the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on September 20-23, 2021.

With dozens of presentations, keynote speakers and a presidential address held over 25 sessions, participants were able to exchange their scientific ideas, renew the existing and forge new friendships. Several important awards were presented, including major recognition to three St. Boniface Hospital Researchers as follows:

The Naranjan Dhalla Honorary Lecture Award to Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

IACS Logo

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the IACS awards committee for bestowing upon me the prestigious Naranjan Dhalla Lectureship Award during the European Section meeting of the IACS in Banja Luka Serbia 2021. I am very honoured to have received this award and very humbled by receiving the award named after the patriarch of the Academy Dr. Naranjan Dhalla who is a true visionary, builder and academician,” Kirshenbaum shared as a virtual participant.

The Jan Slezak Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences to Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

“I am very proud to be recognized by the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences with the Jan Slezak Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences. I have known and respected Dr. Slezak for many years, and it is particularly gratifying to receive this award named after him,” Czubryt who attended virtually, said.

The Roberto Bolli Young Investigator Award to Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

“I am very honored to receive the Roberto Bolli Young Investigator Award. This is a very proud moment for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to present our work on women’s heart health and circadian rhythm. This achievement would not be possible without the support, help and mentorship of Dr. Kirshenbaum, for which I sincerely express my heartiest thankfulness. I would also like to express my gratitude to CIHR for being the funding agency for my postdoctoral fellowship,” Rabinovich-Nikitin shared.

Additionally, Dr. Naranjan S Dhalla received the Medal of Merit of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Banja Luka, and visiting Professorship, along with Dr. Grant Pierce, who was also named a visiting professor.

Congratulations to all!  

For more details, be sure to download your copy of the September edition of CV Network.

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: https://www.pharmavoice.com/digital-edition/september-2021#12

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.

https://professional.heart.org/en/meetings/scientific-sessions?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1N_MsI_A8gIVCZyzCh0NqQ-aEAAYAiAAEgKyTfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

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: https://www.sbrc.ca/2021/06/dhingra-lab-publishes-work/

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.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.642398/full

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 biolab@sbrc.ca.

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, Director, Communications & Media Services khiebert@sbrc.ca

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.

https://www.biospace.com/article/biomark-receives-825k-grant-to-develop-its-liquid-biopsy-assay-for-lung-cancer-screening/

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  https://rdcu.be/clNN4

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. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249648 

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.

https://umanitoba.ca/graduate-studies/student-experience/three-minute-thesis-3mt