U of G Health, Sustainability Research Gets $2.5M Federal Investment

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Left to right: Prof. Malcolm Campbell, Prof. Scott Ryan, Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, Prof. Melissa Perreault, Prof. David Wright and Prof. Roy Danzmann (University of Guelph)

The federal government will invest more than $2.5 million in innovative University of Guelph research intended to improve human health and the environment.

The announcement was made today on campus by Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph. In all, U of G received funding for six research projects from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

“This is a fantastic investment from the federal government that speaks to the breadth and depth of our research excellence and our capacity to improve life,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

“These talented researchers are leading collaborations that will create breakthroughs and new understanding in fundamental biology, in physical and mental health, in adaptation to climate change, and in sustaining the environment and food production.”

“We continue our focus on science investments to inform our policy across all governmental ministries. I am thrilled to see the Government of Canada investing in the University of Guelph’s researchers and their evidence-based research which continues to improve the lives of Canadians in so many ways,” said Longfield.

Three of the CIHR projects will go to researchers in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), and one will go to a researcher in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences (HHNS).

Prof. Melissa Perreault will receive $772,650 over five years to study differences between male and female brains and vulnerability to depression.

“I am ecstatic to have a CIHR-funded research program so early following my appointment to the department,” Perreault said.

“This funding will be pivotal towards achieving our goal of understanding mechanistically why females are more susceptible to developing depression.”

It is estimated that twice as many women suffer from depression as men, but researchers don’t know why, she said.

Fluctuating estrogen levels may make women more susceptible to environmental stresses and thus more prone to depression, she said.

“But I think there is more to it, simply because men get depression, too. I believe estrogen is a very important contributor — hence the difference in depression rates — but not the sole contributor.”

She hopes her work will lead to new and more effective antidepressants and treatment strategies.

HHNS Prof. David Wright will use his $573,000, five-year grant to study ways to counter side effects of anti-psychotic drugs. Referring to his research team, he said, “We feel extremely fortunate and lucky to receive this CIHR funding.

“The goal is to determine how pathways that are activated during exercise can potentially be targeted to improve the regulation of blood sugar in individuals taking anti-psychotic drugs.”

Such drugs are prescribed to individuals with schizophrenia and increasingly to patients with other conditions such as anxiety and bipolar disorder, he said.

“We think that our project could have help improve the physical and mental health of individuals taking anti-psychotics.”

Prof. Scott Ryan has provisional funding approval for further research on Parkinson’s disease intended to slow the progression of this fatal neurodegenerative disorder.

Prof. Rebecca Shapiro will receive $100,000 in bridge funding to study antimicrobial resistance using genome editing technologies.

Two researchers in the Department of Integrative Biology will receive funding from NSERC’s Strategic Partnership Grants program. Both projects are intended to benefit Canada’s aquaculture industry.

Prof. Elizabeth Boulding will receive $482,062 to study ways to improve the sustainability and profitability of Canada’s Atlantic salmon industry. She studies natural controls for sea lice, a parasite that hinders commercial salmon production.

Prof. Roy Danzmann will receive $574,149 for genetics research on rainbow trout suited to warmer waters. Higher summer temperatures are reducing yields of the fish in Ontario, the major Canadian producer of rainbow trout.