2017 Discovery Award Recipients

Congratulations to the Banting Research Foundation 2017 Discovery Award recipients. Six grants were funded in the 2017 competition out of 53 applications. The successful Discovery Award recipients are:

Florian Bentzinger, PhD, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, Université de Sherbrooke, for his project “Niche regulation of muscle stem cell specification.” Dr Bentzinger studies the role of key cellular and acellular elements in muscle stem cells in order to understand how regulatory mechanisms are disrupted in aging and disease. His research group aims to apply such insights to the development of novel stem-cell-based treatments for degenerative muscle diseases and muscle tumours.

Jennifer Gordon, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Regina, for her project “HPA axis dysregulation in the etiology of perimenopausal depression.” Dr Gordon is studying depression during perimenopause, when women are 2-4 times more likely to develop depression than at any other time in their lives. She believes that increased fluctuation of estrogen at this time triggers dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body’s central stress response system, causing women to be more susceptible to depression.

Catherine Larochelle, MD PhD, CRCHUM, Department of Neurosciences, Université de Montréal, for her project “Molecular mechanisms underlying T lymphocytes interactions with oligodendrocytes in neuroinflammation.” Dr Larochelle is studying at a molecular level the contact between T cells, a type of white blood cell, and oligodendroctyes, myelin-producing cells of the central nervous system. T cells are considered to be responsible for neuroinflammation and injury of oligodendrocytes that leads to demyelination in multiple sclerosis (MS). Understanding the interaction between the two types of cells could provide targets for therapy to reduce neurological disability in MS.

Gareth Lim, PhD, CRCHUM, Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal, for his project “Evaluating the therapeutic potential of 14-3-3ζ for the treatment of obesity.” Dr Lim has recently shown that a protein called 14-3-3zeta has essential roles in the growth of fat cells. In this project he will further investigate the function of 14-3-3zeta in fat cells, and will test if reducing their function can prevent the development of obesity. No current therapies for obesity directly target fat cells, so this could lead to new approaches in preventing obesity.

Adena Scheer, MD, Department of Surgery, St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, for her project “Cross-cultural communications in breast cancer treatment.” Dr Scheer studies cultural and language barriers in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and their negative effect on communication and trust, which can lead to poorer health outcomes. With the highest rate of foreign-born individuals among G7 countries, cross-cultural communication is a major health focus in Canada. The aim of this project is to develop decision-support tools culturally tailored for specific immigrant groups in order to reduce communication-related health inequities among minority groups.

Julien van Grevenynghe, PhD, Department of Infectious diseases, immunity, cancer and epidemiology, INRS – Institut Armand-Frappier and the Université du Québec, for his project “Autophagy regulates CD8 T-cell killing activity during chronic HIV-1 infection.” Dr van Grevenynghe is studying the role of autophagy, a natural self-destructive process in cells, in immune response to HIV infection. Autophagy can eliminate some viruses from cells, but it also plays a role in shaping functions of T cells, a primary part of the immune system. Understanding the process of developing immunity to HIV infection will help in developing effective HIV vaccines, where attempts have been largely disappointing so far.