Pediatric researchers in Montreal unite to tackle infection and immunity on two different fronts


Two inter-institutional teams start research projects to address rare immune diseases and antibiotic overuse
Published: 13Feb2020

Researchers at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre – the Children’s - and the CHU Sainte-Justine are coming together within the scope of two new projects, funded under the auspices of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4): improving the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial pneumonia and better understanding rare immune disorders.

Improving the appropriateness of antibiotic use to treat pneumonia

Antibiotic overuse is an important cause of bacterial antibiotic resistance. Most pediatric pneumonias are caused by viruses, for which antibiotics are not necessary. However, children sick enough to be hospitalized for such lung infections typically receive antibiotics because there are currently no adequate tests to exclude the possibility of bacterial pneumonia, which requires prompt antibiotic treatment.

The first project, led by Dr. Jesse Papenburg at the Children’s and Dr. Jocelyn Gravel at CHU Sainte-Justine, will evaluate the feasibility of collecting high quality samples and performing advanced laboratory and statistical analyses to test new ways to distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia in children. If successful, this approach will improve the diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia, allowing doctors to safely use fewer antibiotics, the key to fighting antibiotic resistance.

Developing innovative modeling of primary immunodeficiencies

Rare chronic immune disorders, known as primary immunodeficiencies (PID), represent a large, heterogeneous group of diseases responsible for a wide range of illnesses including susceptibility to infection, autoimmunity, allergies and cancer. Advances in DNA sequencing have led to the identification of many genetic changes that are linked to PID. However confirming which genes are responsible for PID in a given patient can be challenging. This may lead to over- or under-diagnosis of PID, with impacts on patient care.

Led by Dr. Fabien Touzot at CHU Sainte-Justine and Dr. Constantin Polychronakos at the Children’s, the second project aims to establish an innovative research platform that will identify which genetic changes underlie the development of PID, combining the strengths and resolution of cutting-edge technologies including stem cells, genome engineering, and pre-clinical models. This innovative platform will direct patient diagnosis and care and permit testing of therapies in participating patients.

First pediatric grants for MI4

Established in April 2018, MI4 aims to foster interdisciplinary research to discover, develop and implement innovative solutions for infectious and immune threats to human health. The pediatric seed fund grant components of MI4, made possible through equal contributions from the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, are designed to establish new, inter-institutional translational research teams linking world-class pediatric investigators at the two institutions to support preliminary innovative new ideas, and proof-of-concept studies with the potential to improve child health. The projects will each receive $150,000 over two years to carry out their work.

“Infectious and immune diseases are among the greatest threats facing humanity, at a level on par with climate change,” explains Dr. Don Sheppard, Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University, scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and Director of MI4. “We are grateful to the two hospital foundations for their generous support, which allows us to award the first two, of what we hope to be many, pediatric grants.”

“Having worked in both institutions and having experienced first-hand the high level of research that happens in our two pediatric hospitals, I am delighted to see the emergence of new collaborations, aiming at improving children’s care,” adds Dr. Caroline Quach, Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Université de Montréal, Clinician scientist at CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre and scientific lead on the MI4 initiative for the CHU Sainte-Justine.

Additional quotes:

‘’The CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation supports the CHU Sainte-Justine’s priorities and as such, puts an emphasis on preventing, offering new therapies and curing infectious diseases. Thanks to our donors, we’re able to support this collaboration with the Montreal Children’s Hospital, which brings together some of the brightest minds in the field. We’re hopeful that merging our expertise holds the key to tackling some of pediatric health’s most pressing issues.’’

Maud Cohen, President and CEO of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation

“We are very proud that Dr. Papenburg and Dr. Polychronakos have been rewarded for their dedicated, hard work of the last few years. Their innovative projects are poised to spearhead the optimization of children’s health, and are part of the Children’s continued efforts to be at the forefront of pediatric healthcare and Finding Unexpected Ways to Heal.”

Renée Vézina, President, The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation

About the CHU Sainte-Justine

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

About the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation

About the Montreal Children’s Hospital

About the Research Institute of the Montreal University Health Centre

About MI4

Contact Information

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