Trainee Award

Using host defense peptides and their synthetic analogs as alternative therapy for chronic infection caused by multi-drug resistant organisms

The discovery of antibiotics was one of the greatest advances in modern medicine, enabling control of infections. However, bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance over time, and become less sensitive to antibiotics. Without effective treatments, infections by these organisms can lead to prolonged illness, and routine surgeries can become life threatening. The lack of new antibiotics to combat the rapidly growing number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) organisms has become one of the most serious global health concerns.

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2018

Identifying oncogenic signaling pathways that mediate immune exclusion in ovarian cancer

Despite major advances in our understanding of the mechanisms behind the body’s immune response against cancer, several obstacles limit the success of immunotherapy as a cancer treatment. In particular, the physical exclusion of immune cells from tumour beds is associated with poor prognosis and a limited response to immunotherapy.

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2018

High-throughput automated mouse model to pilot translational brain stimulation during recovery from stroke

There are 62,000 strokes in Canada each year–one every nine minutes–and 405,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke. Stroke rehabilitation is a large field with a need for further research and treatment development.

Dr. Balbi will investigate brain stimulation and movement-based stroke rehabilitation by studying brain activity and forelimb movement in mice stroke models.

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2018

Defining mechanisms of lineage transformation in lung cancer to combat resistance to targeted therapies

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada. A major reason for the poor prognosis is the lack of effective drugs for treating advanced tumours.

New understanding of the mutations driving lung cancer has led to the development of targeted therapies that selectively inhibit mutated genes, leading to rapid cancer regression in specific subsets of patients. However, while these therapies improve patient survival and quality of life, they are not curative as all patients develop drug resistance.

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2018

Re-establishing cognitive function in models of mental illness by boosting neural activity in the prefrontal cortex

The frontal cortex (FC) of the brain plays a critical role in higher cognitive functions including attention, working memory, and planning future goal-directed actions. Cognitive deficits arising from deceased neural activity within the FC (hypofrontality) are features of many forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia and addiction. Neurochemical, physiological and pharmacological research implicates reductions in the function of key neurotransmitter systems: catecholamines, glutamate and GABA.

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2018

JAK-STAT pathway mutations in B-cell lymphomas: Implications for the tumour microenvironment and treatment failure

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system where tumours develop from abnormal growths of white blood cells. Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas (NHL) are the fifth most common cancers diagnosed in Canada. Of those, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common.

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2018

Overcoming antibiotic resistance with anti-biofilm peptides

Antibiotics are arguably the most important and successful medicines. However, the frequent growth of bacteria as biofilms, bacterial communities that grow on surfaces in a protective matrix, is of great concern. Biofilms account for two thirds of all clinical infections and are especially difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics. They are a serious problem in trauma patients with major injuries, as well as individuals with implanted medical devices.

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Year: 
2018

Defining the dynamics behind ryanodine receptor function using malignant hyperthermia mutant channel

In order for skeletal muscle to contract, signals alert the muscle cells to release calcium from their internal stores. The skeletal muscle ryanodine receptor (RyR1) acts as the essential gatekeeper for these calcium pools. A single mutation within a person’s RyR1 can result in an unpredictable and life-threatening complication called malignant hyperthermia (MH).

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Year: 
2018

Orthogonal multicolour high-affinity tags for RNA imaging and manipulation

RNA plays a very important role in the regulation of gene expression. Yet, the spatial and temporal dynamics of RNA are still poorly understood, mainly due to the scarcity of effective and simple RNA imaging and purification techniques.

The development of technologies that simultaneously allow imaging, purification and manipulation of multiple RNAs in live cells promises to enable the study of RNA in development, metabolism and disease, which is essential for understanding the control of gene expression in diseases such as autism, cancers and type II diabetes.

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2017

The effects of balance training with or without cognitive training in older adults with MCI and impaired mobility

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between normal cognitive function and dementia. The rate of progression of MCI to dementia in older adults has been found to be between 10-12% per year, whereas those without cognitive impairment acquire dementia at a rate of only 1-2% per year. MCI has been linked to poor dual-tasking, impaired balance and functional mobility, and is a significant risk factor for falls. Individuals with MCI need preventive therapies that target both the cognitive and mobility-related outcomes. Dr.

Primary Investigator: 
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Year: 
2017

Improving whole-genome sequencing as a clinical test for intellectual disability

Intellectual disability (ID) is a life-long affliction that impairs the cognitive functioning and adaptive behavior of affected individuals. About two to three percent of people worldwide suffer from ID. ID is mostly caused by irregularities in the DNA of an individual and is the most common reason for genetic testing. There are thousands of different mutations that we now know can cause ID. Diagnosis is necessary for accurate and effective genetic counselling, however deciphering the underlying genetic component remains a challenge.

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2017

Elucidating the effect of O-GlcNAc modification on protein stability

The glycosylation of proteins with O-GlcNAc is a ubiquitous post-translational modification found throughout the metazoans. Deregulation of O-GlcNAcylation is implicated in several human diseases including type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

However, the basic biochemical roles of O-GlcNAcylation remain largely unanswered. Several recent studies have demonstrated a clear link between O-GlcNAc and cellular thermotolerance.

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2017

Development of improved substrates for live cell imaging to aid in discovering new glucocerebrosidase therapeutic agents

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, with no standard treatment currently available. Therefore, there is a major need for new therapeutic agents to treat or prevent the progression of PD. One promising solution involves targeting the protein glucocerebrosidase (GCase) encoded by the gene GBA1. Studies have shown small molecules that increase GCase activity could help prevent the progression of PD.

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2017

The acute impact of spinal cord injury on cardiac function, and novel hemodynamic management in SCI patients

Following acute spinal cord injury (SCI), one of the only presently available neuroprotective strategies is to try and optimize management of spinal cord blood flow. This treatment specifically aims to immediately increase blood flow to the injured spinal cord tissue to prevent the spread of injury to surrounding spinal cord tissues.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2017

The role of PCSK9 in clearance of bacterial lipids and the development of anti-PCSK9 treatment for sepsis

Sepsis, which is characterized as an uncontrolled inflammatory response to severe infection, is the leading cause of death in intensive care units. In Canada, sepsis led to a total of 13,500 deaths in 2011, which translates to approximately one in 18 deaths in Canada involving sepsis. Despite this pressing medical need, there are currently no effective treatments for sepsis. 

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2017

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