Canada Foundation for Innovation recognizes McGill researchers


Sixteen projects receive support from Leaders Opportunity Fund

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), through the Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF) has awarded grants to 16 innovative McGill research initiatives. A total of $3,549,830 has been earmarked for a wide range of projects – from understanding brain dysfunction in mental illness to groundbreaking work on the nature and history of Islamic civilization.

“The support of exceptional research by the Government of Canada, in this case through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, plays a critical role in enabling McGill University to attract some of the world’s brightest researchers and to play a role in life-changing research across a wide array of disciplines,” said Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University.

The CFI is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure and strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development. The LOF is an ongoing program designed to assist universities in attracting excellent faculty to Canadian institutions, as well as to retain the very best of today and tomorrow’s leading researchers for Canada.

The LOF-awarded research projects, outlined below, are based in the Faculties of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Arts, Engineering, Medicine, and Science.

Barry Bedell – Montreal Neurological Institute: Integrated technology platform for the study of animal models of Alzheimer’s disease.

The primary goal of Dr. Bedell’s project is to better model the events underlying Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in animal models through the integration of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in live animals and post-mortem tissue. This strategy is intended to provide, for the first time, a complete picture of AD in animal models as well as a means for rapid identification of diagnostic markers and effectiveness screening of new drugs.

Elena Bennett – Department of Natural Resource Sciences: Understanding resilience across the landscape: mapping, modeling and managing ecosystems.

Dr. Bennett’s research focuses on the provision, use and management of ecosystem services such as food, water and soil formation. The objective of her study is to create a detailed case study of the interactions between ecosystem services in the agricultural area around Montreal. Gaining an understanding of these interactions will be of great consequence as human population continues to grow and demands for resources increase.

Andrew Boyd – Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics: Laboratory for establishing performance specifications for concrete infrastructure.

With the goal of improving the service life and safety of concrete infrastructure, Dr. Boyd’s work focuses on new and innovative approaches in establishing performance specifications for the transport properties of concrete structures like bridges and parking facilities. Through rigorous field testing, the performance specifications will be based on material characteristics and test methods that most accurately reflect the behaviour of concrete in the environment.

Richard Chromik – Department of Mining, Metals and Materials Engineering: In situ tribology and microtribology of advanced aerospace coatings and MEMS materials.

Tribology, or the mechanisms of friction, lubrication and wear of interacting surfaces that are in relative motion, is a limiting factor for many aerospace applications and micro-electro-mechanical systems. For the aerospace industry, coatings with longer wear lifetimes could reduce replacement and service, saving billions of dollars. Dr. Chromik’s research will allow for smarter coating design through direct observation of in-service wear and chemical processes.

Thomas Duchaine – McGill Cancer Centre: RNAi regulatory function and mechanism during genesis and development of cancer.

Dr. Duchaine’s research program seeks to identify and understand the functional components and underlying mechanisms of the endogenous RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism and to define small RNA expression events. The outcome of his study will offer a whole new set of possibilities to explain how cellular processes can be altered during the emergence of cancer.

Sarah Kimmins – Department of Animal Science: Infrastructure for the establishment of a laboratory aimed at determining the impact of the environment on male reproductive health.

The long-term objective of Dr. Kimmins’s project is to reveal paternal roots of disease and offer new directions to promote reproductive health. The research will provide a better understanding of how environmental agents such as diet and drugs can alter gene transcription, fertility and the consequences for offspring.

Gregory Miller – Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Structural biology of inositol phosphate signaling.

Every cell in the human body uses certain signals, called inositol phosphates, to control critical functions. The known roles that these signals play in cancer and other diseases have attracted attention toward the potential for using medications that target inositol phosphate kinases, a group of enzymes that create these signals cells, in order to affect how they communicate. Dr. Miller’s research will explore how changing the behaviour of these signals can impact human health.

Showan N. Nazhat – Department of Mining, Metals and Materials Engineering: Structure-property relationship of polymeric scaffolds for tissue engineering applications.

Dr. Nazhat is a materials scientist who specializes in the structure-property relationship of polymeric and composite biomaterials. His research focuses on natural and synthetic-based polymers as scaffolds in orthopedic tissue engineering. The project objective is to establish a new multidisciplinary research initiative that will allow for the cross-discipline approach of training of postgraduate students and researchers from Quebec and Canada.

U. Marcus Lindstrom – Department of Chemistry: Green synthesis and catalysis-water as a superior reaction solvent.

Green chemistry is dedicated to the discovery of chemical reactions and processes that are environmentally benign. The “greening” of these reactions and processes is a great challenge in that many well-established reactions need to be reformatted, reinvented or discovered de novo as a result. This project will develop the infrastructure required – the tools and a laboratory – necessary for Dr. Lindstrom to perform modern synthetic organic chemistry research focused on green chemistry.

Amélie Quesnel-Vallée – Department of Sociology and Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health: Data infrastructure for experiments on health inequality and the private sector from historical and international perspectives.

Dr. Quesnel-Vallée’s research explores health care systems around the world and examines the contribution of social policies to the development of social inequalities in health over a lifetime. The long-term goal of her study is to better understand the socio-economic implications stemming from different types of medical insurance and to ultimately protect and improve health care for Quebecers and Canadians from all walks of life.

Michael Reed – Department of Medicine: Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain variation and the host-response to TB.

Tuberculosis (TB) continues to infect millions of individuals annually, largely as a result of a poor level of understanding of the bacterial determinants of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterial agent responsible for TB. Dr. Reed’s research utilizes a range of techniques to investigate the metabolic and virulence strategies available to this phenotypically diverse pathogen. Gaining a better understanding of this diversity will greatly enhance future efforts in developing new diagnosis strategies and TB treatments.

Isabelle Rouiller – Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology: Exploring the structure of complex molecular machines using cryo-EM and cryo-ET.

Dr. Rouiller’s project goal is to establish a laboratory and lead research in structural biology using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) – two relatively new techniques that allow for the examination of biological samples under natural conditions. Cryo-EM and cryo-ET have numerous applications in molecular oncology, developmental biology, neurobiology and cellular biology.

Maureen Simmonds – School of Physical and Occupational Therapy: Pain, mind and movement: Virtual research and rehabilitation laboratory network.

Dr. Simmonds’s project will establish a state-of-the-art, virtual-reality-equipped Pain, Mind and Movement Laboratory located at the McGill University-affiliated Jewish Rehabilitation Centre. The uniqueness of focus, the innovative use of infrastructure and the strength of affiliated researchers will contribute in making Quebec and Canada a world leader in developing innovative rehabilitation technologies for individuals with pain and movement problems.

Tak Pan Wong – Department of Psychiatry: Establishment of a multidisciplinary unit to investigate the role of synaptic plasticity in the production of abnormal synaptic transmission in mental illness.

The impairment in thinking, mood and behaviour of mental illness patients is now known to be caused by the alteration, or rewiring, of synapses between brain cells. Due to a limited understanding of this synaptic rewiring process, current therapies for mental illness can only ameliorate the symptoms associated with the disorders but cannot repair the rewired synaptic connections. Dr. Wong’s research seeks to understand the underlying biological process that is responsible for abnormal synaptic rewiring in mental illness.

Robert Wisnovsky – Institute of Islamic Studies: The post-classical Islamic Philosophy Database Initiative.

The Post-classical Islamic Philosophy Database Initiative (PIPDI) will create a unique searchable database index that is needed to conduct research on the history of Islamic thought between 1100 CE and 1900 CE. With this tool, Dr. Wisnovsky will be able to construct, for the first time, a systematic and comprehensive narrative on Islamic thought between its classical and modern eras, thereby advancing our understanding of the nature and history of Islamic civilization.

Hugo Zheng – Department of Biology: Laboratory facilities for functional genomics of plant intracellular membrane trafficking.

Dr. Zheng’s research examines how plant genes control intracellular membrane trafficking – a transport mechanism that is central to plant cell integrity, development and adaptation – using a combination of approaches including live-cell imaging, microscopy, molecular biology and genetics. This knowledge is central to the development of new technologies for crop improvement and in the production of valuable bio-products such as vaccines, biodiesel and fuel-grade ethanol.

A complete list of the projects awarded today, by university, can be found here.

Contact Information

Allison Flynn
McGill University
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