HBI and Mathison Centre researchers achieve outstanding CIHR success

Of 35 awards granted to UCalgary applicants in the Spring 2020 Project Grant Competition, 12 of these went to HBI/Mathison Centre members, for a total value of $9.2 million, close to half of the total $20.2 million granted to UCalgary.



Researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education have achieved excellence in the Spring 2020 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) project grant competition this year.

Of 35 awards granted to UCalgary applicants, 12 of these went to HBI/Mathison Centre members, for a total value of $9.2 million, close to half of the total $20.2 million granted to UCalgary. Also to note, UCalgary achieved amongst the highest per institution total dollar amount nationally for the Spring 2020 CIHR project grant awards, and HBI members contributed significantly to this exceptional achievement.  

The 11 HBI/Mathison Centre researchers and their teams receiving CIHR project grants are:

  • Role of Inositol 1, 4, 5-trisphosphate Receptor Type 1 in Cardiac Arrhythmias, led by Dr. Wayne Chen, PhD
  • ACCESS: Assessing the Continuum of Care and Eligibility for Services and Supports for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and their Families, co-led by Dr. Gina Dimitropoulos, PhD
  • Does inflammation in brain cause hypoxia, which then exacerbates inflammation: a multimodal study using the EAE inflammation model of multiple sclerosis, led by Dr. Jeff Dunn, PhD
  • Improving epilepsy surgery outcome through better surgical target identification, led by Dr. Paolo Federico, MD, PhD
  • Targeting brain cholesteron homeostasis to counteract prion diseases, led by Dr. Sabine Gilch, PhD
  • Bioenergetic control of plasticity by astrocytes in stress, led by Dr. Grant Gordon, PhD
  • To delineate the role of primary cilia in axonal development and circuit formation, led by Dr. Jiami Guo, PhD
  • The injured peripheral nervous system and aging, led by Dr. Shalina Ousman, PhD
  • Unsupervised learning methods to improve patient-reported outcome measures, led by Dr. Tolulope Sajobi, PhD
  • Central mechanisms of opioid withdrawal, led by Dr. Tuan Trang, PhD
  • The role of the medial zone incerta in the control of exploratory and escape locomotion, led by Dr. Patrick Whelan, PhD
  • Prediction of multiple sclerosis disability worsening scores using multi-stream deep learning, led by Dr. Yunyan Zhang, PhD

Support from the CIHR is helping researchers and clinicians significantly progress biomedical discoveries

Dr. Shalina Ousman, PhD, associate professor of Clinical Neurosciences, Cell Biology & Anatomy, and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Snyder Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine says, "There are no therapeutics for peripheral nerve injuries. Further, the prognosis of recovery decreases precipitously with advancing age. This CIHR grant will allow us to determine if alphaB-crystallin, a small heat shock protein whose expression declines with age in the peripheral nervous system (PNS), contributes to age-related defects in the PNS. It will also ascertain inf alphaB-crystallin could be a therapy for poor age-related regeneration of damaged PNS axons."

“This CIHR grant will help us develop methods to improve epilepsy surgery outcomes, which are urgently needed,” says Dr. Paolo Federico, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and clinician specializing in epilepsy, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, UCalgary, and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. “Proof that intracranial EEG-fMRI can both better identify the surgical target and predict which patients will benefit from epilepsy surgery will be transformative. It will also open the door to future clinical trials and a better outcome for persons with epilepsy.” 

Well managed internal grant review processes positively impact success

The level of success this year demonstrates the exceptional value of the HBI’s internal peer-review process.

“Many thanks to the Office of the Associate Dean (Research) and to our internal peer review committees, especially our IPR leaders Drs. Andrew Bulloch, Richard Hawkes and Oury Monchi, for their incredible work and commitment to their colleagues,” said Dr. David Park, HBI’s director.  He added, “We are proud to celebrate not only our successful members, but all of our exceptional members who submitted a grant. We congratulate each of them and will provide our continued support for their excellent work.”

The Project Grant competition is one of CIHR’s flagship funding programs. Project grants are multi-year grants designed to support researchers at all stages in their careers as they conduct health research and knowledge translation projects that cover the full range of topics across all pillars of health research.