CFI bolsters 22 outstanding McGill research projects


Leaders Opportunity Fund grants $3,122,505 to innovative researchers

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), through the Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF), has awarded grants to 22 innovative McGill University research projects. An infusion of $3,122,505 will strengthen a range of groundbreaking projects – from research on the biochemical basis of memory to a re-examination of intellectual property law to the social, legal and educational implications of honesty and deception in children.

“The support of innovative research by the Government of Canada through the transformative CFI program allows McGill to remain on the cutting edge of research aimed at improving the lives of Canadians and citizens around the globe,” said Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “This continued support enables us to attract and retain the very best researchers of today and tomorrow and to provide them with world-class facilities in which to conduct their work.”

The grants are part of CFI’s latest investment of $28-million in new funds to support 149 projects at 35 institutions across Canada. A total of $23.3-million was awarded under the LOF, a program designed to provide infrastructure to help Canadian universities attract and retain top talent from Canada and around the world at a time of intense international competition.

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-awarded McGill research projects are outlined below:

Roland Bennewitz – Dept. of Physics: Experimental Nanomechanics for Advanced Materials Science

Dr. Bennewitz’s research has focused on nanomechanics, or the mechanical properties of surfaces at the molecular level. Thus far, the scientific success of nanomechanics has been limited to simple-model surfaces. The grant will enable Dr. Bennewitz to gain a better understanding of the microscopic mechanical function of advanced materials and more complex surfaces, paving the way for technological innovation in the fields of wear protection, biophysics and medical technologies.

Yogita Chudasama – Dept. of Psychology: Laboratory of Brain and Behaviour

The grant will enable Dr. Chudasama to establish a laboratory for further study of the neurobiological, neurochemical and molecular basis of the cognitive operations that are required for performing everyday tasks involving planning, organizing and generating problem-solving strategies. These studies will lead to a better understanding of the brain mechanisms responsible for impairments in the cognitive operations in humans, which are characteristic of many disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and chronic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression.

Josée Dostie – McGill Cancer Centre: Role of Spatial Chromatin Organization in Genome Regulation and Human Disease

The goal of Dr. Dostie’s research is to understand the role of spatial chromatin organization in the regulation of gene expression in mammalian cells. She is particularly interested in defining how epigenetic modifications affect chromatin structure and genome function in “normal” and cancer cells. This infrastructure grant will allow her team to pursue research in characterizing and defining the molecular mechanisms involved in genome regulation by using highly specialized technologies, such as the 5C method (Chromosome Conformation Capture Carbon Copy).

Dominic Frigon – Dept. of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics: Environmental Engineering Laboratory for Microbial Community Engineering

Dr. Frigon’s research encompasses several aspects of environmental biotechnology with a focus on microbial community engineering. This funding will enable further study into the physiology and ecology of microbes in the course of waste-water treatment and in the development of alternate fuel sources from municipal and industrial solid waste.

Susan Gaskin – Dept. of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics: An Innovative Approach to the Classic Problems of Turbulence: Lagrangian Analysis of Fundamental Flows

Dr. Gaskin, a specialist in environmental hydraulics and water resources, will take a novel approach to one of the classic problems of physics: turbulence. The funding will enable further study into the dispersion of environmental pollutants and greater understanding of Lagrangian statistics in turbulent flows through the use of sophisticated digital imaging or particle image velocity (PIV).

Philippe Gros – McGill Cancer Centre: Genetic Architecture of Host Defenses Against Infectious Diseases

Tuberculosis and malaria remain two of the top causes of death from infectious disease worldwide. In both cases genetic factors are known to influence susceptibility and progression, but the genetic control is complex and difficult to study in humans. This grant will allow Dr. Gros to create a laboratory and acquire the equipment needed to identify the genetic factors influencing susceptibility to tuberculosis and malaria in genetically engineered mice.

Robert Kiss – Dept. of Medicine, Royal Victoria Hospital: Live Cell Real-Time Fluorescence Imaging of Intracellular Cholesterol Trafficking

Coronary disease remains the principal cause of death in the Western world. This infrastructure grant will allow Dr. Kiss to determine the role of a specific protein in the intracellular trafficking of cholesterol through the use of live cell real-time fluorescence imaging. As this protein is thought to play a role in the elimination of cholesterol in cells, an understanding of its function could ultimately point to the reduction of cardiovascular illness.

Nathalie Lamarche-Vane – Dept. of Anatomy and Cell Biology: Molecular Mechanisms of Axon Guidance: Role of the Small Rho GTPases in Netrin-1 Signaling

Dr. Lamarche-Vane studies the signaling pathways mediated by the Rho family of GTPases, which has been shown to play a critical role in cell migration, adhesion, morphology and growth. The funding will enable further research into the molecular mechanisms underlying the role of the Rho GTPases in the developing nervous system and in the cellular processes leading to metastasis.

Marc McKee – Faculty of Dentistry: Biogenesis and Function of Extracellular Matrix Assemblies in Health and Disease

A wide spectrum of human heritable disorders originates from mutations in components of various protein fiber systems found in extracellular matrices (ECMs) of connective tissues. This funding will contribute to acquiring state-of-the-art equipment to enhance research into ECM biology and connective tissue disorders and to help develop new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

Naguib Mechawar – Dept. of Psychiatry: The Neuroanatomy of Mood and Emotion: Establishment of a Human Brain Neuroanatomy Laboratory to Investigate the Neurobiology of Depression and Suicide

Dr. Mechawar’s work focuses primarily on identifying the neurochemical and neuroanatomical properties underlying major depression and suicidal behaviours in the human brain. The funding will help establish a human brain neuroanatomy laboratory at the Douglas Institute in association with the Quebec Brain Bank. Research carried out on post-suicide brain tissue can help in developing intervention and prevention programs designed to help those suffering mental distress who are at risk of committing suicide.

Stamatia Piper – Faculty of Law: IsPACE (Intellectual Property in a Creative Environment)

Dr. Piper researches why people create and innovate in science and the arts and is interested in distributed collaboration, open networks and novel legal approaches to intellectual property. The funding will contribute to the creation of IsPACE (Intellectual Property in a Creative Environment), a novel virtual-world simulation that will ask creators about the factors that motivate them to create and innovate within their communities. IsPACE will be used to propose improvements to Canadian innovation policy and intellectual property laws, and to advise private and non-profit enterprise.

Stéphane Richard – Depts. of Medicine and Oncology, Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital: Imaging Spreading Initiation Centres (SICs) in Normal and Cancer Cells

Dr. Richard’s research focuses on explaining the molecular signaling mechanisms in normal and diseased cells. This grant will fund the acquisition of several fluorescence imaging microscopes to further study cellular structures called “spreading initiation centres” (SICs) that are present in normal cells yet absent in cancerous and precancerous cells. Through the use of cutting-edge technology, the analysis of cellular structures could ultimately lead to advances in early cancer detection.

Daniel Schoen – Dept. of Biology: Molecular Ecological Genetic Analysis (MEGA) Laboratory

Dr. Schoen’s laboratory employs molecular tools to investigate ecological and evolutionary processes associated with genetic transmission – the passage of hereditary information from parent to offspring. This process is basic to evolutionary change in populations, and its breakdown can lead to inbreeding and the accumulation of deleterious mutations that underlie genetic disease. This infrastructure funding for the new MEGA lab is intended to build mid- to high-throughput genotyping capacity into Dr. Schoen’s lab. The infrastructure will be used to investigate the mechanism used by plants to promote cross-pollination in both wild and cultivated plants.

Wayne Sossin – Montreal Neurological Institute: Infrastructure for Imaging the Biochemical Mechanisms Underlying Memory Formation

The biochemical basis of memory is one of the fundamental mysteries that remain in biomedical science. The grant will allow Dr. Sossin’s lab to detect the biochemical changes that occur during memory formation through the very sensitive detection of fluorescence. His research will not only elucidate a fundamental question in basic research, but the information gained will be able to inform a large variety of health issues where memory formation is a serious issue.

David Stellwagen – Dept. of Medicine, Montreal General Hospital: The Effects of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha on Synaptic Transmission, Homeostatic Plasticity and Neuronal Adaptation

Dr. Stellwagen’s research seeks to define the mechanisms underlying synaptic scaling, investigate the role of synaptic scaling in normal neuronal function and determine the contribution of dysregulation of this process to neuronal injury and neurodegenerative disease. This research may yield new insight into a variety of dysfunctions of the nervous system, where neuronal inflammation, seen during neural trauma and neurodegenerative disease, may lead to cell death or to the maladaptive changes seen during addiction or chronic pain.

Moshe Szyf – Dept. of Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Epigenetic Basis of the Effects of Early Life Environment on Health Outcomes

Dr. Szyf is a specialist in epigenetics and its implications in anti-cancer therapy. This funding will help provide the necessary lab equipment for Dr. Szyf’s team to map the epigenome of individual tissues in a significant number of subjects with high resolution. The research developed by this project will also advance other similar whole-genome resolution epigenetic projects that are being performed in collaboration with other researchers.

Victoria Talwar – Dept. of Integrated Studies in Education: The Truth Project: Promoting Children’s Truth-telling in Legal and Applied Settings

Dr. Talwar’s infrastructure grant will help fund the creation of a unique interdisciplinary facility to address educational, psychological and legal issues related to honesty and deception in children. The project will yield empirical results and recommendations for clinicians, educators, forensic and legal professionals both in Quebec and internationally with detailed information about the development of children’s lying and relation to antisocial behaviour, methods of promoting honesty and fostering moral development, the credibility and veracity of children’s testimony and the factors that impact such testimony.

Jose Teodoro – McGill Cancer Centre: Identification of Novel Anti-cancer Mechanisms Through the Study of Cytotoxic Viral Proteins

Dr. Teodoro’s research focuses on identifying molecular pathways that limit tumour growth and delineating the mechanisms by which they become subverted in cancer. This research project involves the study of cytotoxic viral proteins and how such factors destroy cancer cells.

Alexander Thiel – Dept. of Neurology and Neurosurgery: Integrated Translational Neuroplasticity Research

Dr. Thiel is a stroke neurologist and neuroplasticity researcher. His neuroplasticity program seeks to define the predictors for successful post-stroke recovery. This funding will provide the laboratory infrastructure required for the analysis of physiologic imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Elena Torban – Dept. of Medicine, Nephrology Research Centre, Royal Victoria Hospital: The Role of the Novel Molecular Pathway (Planar Cell Polarity Pathway) in Kidney Disease in Humans and Mice

Dr. Torban, an expert in the molecular biology of renal development, will study the complex role of the Planar Cell Polarity Pathway (PCP) in the development of kidney disease. This work is expected to bring about new treatment strategies.

Nico Trocmé – Centre for Research on Children and Families: Canadian Child Welfare Data Lab

The Canadian Child Welfare Data Lab will provide a timely response to the critical need for knowledge in the area of child abuse and neglect in Canada by building the capacity for researchers to study child welfare service trends over time and to compare policies and impacts between jurisdictions.

Brian Ward – Centre for the Study of Host Resistance: Biomarker Discovery Program for Parasitic Diseases

Dr. Ward is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and associate director of the McGill Centre for Tropical Diseases. The funding will support the ongoing novel parasitology research into the use of biomarkers to improve diagnostics, treatment and vaccine development to fight infectious disease.

Complete list of the projects awarded funding, by university.

Contact Information

Allison Flynn
McGill University
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