This new wave of Establishment Grant recipients reflect the coming generation of health researchers in the province. Whether finding better ways to screen for cardiac risk factors, analyzing the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, or supporting pediatric rehabilitation in northern communities, these researchers are paving a bright future for Saskatchewan health and healthcare. Congratulations to the recipients. - Patrick Odnokon, SHRF CEO
As the funding opportunity within SHRF's Capacity Program, the Establishment Grant aims to assist early-career researchers in Saskatchewan in establishing an autonomous program of health research that addresses local health challenges. It also supports these researchers in achieving the productivity necessary to obtain major funding from national and other agencies in the future. Establishment Grants are assigned either a 'biomedical' or 'socio-health, systems and clinical' peer review committee to encompass all areas of human health.
Establishment Grants provide up to $150,000 over three years to support meaningful early-career research activities in the province. These grants simultaneously strengthen the Saskatchewan research sector and promote meaningful advances in health and healthcare.
SHRF is proud to announce 11 projects, for a total investment of $1.56M.
Grant Recipients & Project Summaries
Asmahan AbuArish | University of Saskatchewan $120,000
Can Good Lipids Resolve Severe COVID-19 Symptoms?
Dr. AbuArish aims to establish new and reliable methods for measuring inflammation in airways using fluorescence confocal imaging. The COVID pandemic in particular highlights the severity and limitations of excessive pulmonary inflammation and lung damage. Anti-inflammatory treatments can inhibit inflammation, but don’t necessarily resolve the cause of inflammation. Certain lipid molecules have shown to promote inflammation resolution. Using the quantitative imaging methods, basic cellular processes triggering excessive inflammation can be identified, and the effectiveness of lipid pro-resolution molecules in controlling inflammation and promoting healing will be tested.
Scott Adams | University of Saskatchewan $150,000 Artificial Intelligence CT-based Biological Age as a Novel Predictor of Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality
With the goal of reducing cardiovascular health risk and informing the appropriate provision of preventative treatments, Dr. Adams and his team will use the concept of 'biological age' to work towards the development of a fully automated opportunistic screening method that risk-stratifies patients undergoing routine imaging in Saskatchewan. Utilizing advances in artificial intelligence and large, publicly-available imaging databases, the team will collaborate with clinicians, health system leaders and patients to quantify biological age from imaging data, and determine how this information may enhance the accuracy of cardiovascular risk assessment in the province.
Justin Botterill | University of Saskatchewan $150,000 Exploring Hippocampal Circuits That Cause and Prevent Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
Dr. Botterill’s research aims to study the brain circuits underlying temporal lobe epilepsy and test novel anti-seizure, cannabinoid therapies. His research will focus on the role of the hippocampus, and use a genetically-modified mouse model to determine: whether activating or inhibiting different hippocampal circuits can cause or prevent seizures; and how cannabinoid compounds can act on hippocampal circuits to inhibit seizures without undesirable psychoactive side effects.
Jeff Dong | University of Saskatchewan $149,886 Understanding the Effect of Natural Aging on Chronic Injury Found in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
With the goal of better understanding the biology behind Multiple Sclerosis disease progression, Dr. Dong will explore the impact of chronic injury and aging on the latter stages of Multiple Sclerosis (ie., progressive MS). More specifically, this research will investigate how aging impacts the ability of the central nervous system to respond to and recover from chronic injury caused by harmful lipids found in MS lesions, and how aging impacts the behaviour and function of important immune cells that protect the health of the brain and spinal cord. Combined, this knowledge aims to inform meaningful treatment options for progressive MS.
Ernesto Figueiro Filho | University of Saskatchewan $150,000
Placental Growth Factor (PLGF) as a Tool for Obstetrical Management of High Risk Pregnancies
Dr. Figueiro’s work will explore the association between Pregnancy, Diabetes and Placental Growth Factor (PLGF), bringing PLGF testing to Saskatchewan. This blood test (PLGF) will help with the management of preeclampsia (elevated blood pressures during pregnancy) and intrauterine growth restriction, in a population with a high prevalence of diabetes. In doing so, this work aims to improve provincial maternal-fetal care quality, resulting in better outcomes for moms and their future babies in Saskatchewan.
Tristan Hopper | University of Regina $140,735 Enhancing Community Wellness Programming for Youth Experiencing Homelessness
With the goal of enhancing wellness programming experiences for homeless youth in Regina, Dr. Hopper will embrace a youth-led approach to the co-creation of a podcast where stories are shared and the broader audience is engaged. This process will include the involvement of 8-10 youth co-researchers with lived experiences of homelessness who are currently involved in programming offered by the City of Regina and the Community Wellbeing and Social Inclusion department. By better understanding the ways in which homeless youth experience and engage with community wellness programming, this project will share stories and work to improve accessibility of these important programs.
Stacey Lovo | University of Saskatchewan $149,996 In partnership with Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) Expanding Pediatric Rehabilitation in Northern First Nation Communities
Embracing existing relationships with Indigenous communities and Elders, Dr. Lovo and the team—which includes Indigenous community members and Indigenous knowledge experts—will work in partnership to address inequities in pediatric rehabilitation services faced by those in remote Northern Saskatchewan. This process will begin with communities needs assessments to ensure that the voices and experiences of Indigenous families can guide the development of pediatric rehabilitation services. Remote presence robotics will then be used to bring physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology to the children and families of Pelican Narrows, Deschambault Lake and Southend.
Akram Mahani | University of Regina $150,000 Partnership Between Municipalities and Local Public Health Systems
To address knowledge gaps pertaining to the relationships between municipalities and public health organizations in Canada, Dr. Mahani's work will investigate how partnership models between these bodies influence population health outcomes, and what factors serve as barriers or facilitators to these partnerships. This process will involve a scoping review of existing knowledge, interviews with senior managers from municipalities and public health systems across Canada, and focus groups of stakeholders from both sectors to draw out policy opportunities that stand to benefit the Saskatchewan-context.
Cari McIllduff | University of Saskatchewan Ethel Starblanket | Elder Karen LaRocque | Knowledge Keeper $150,000 In partnership with Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) Where Indigenous Peoples Lead, Health and Mental Health Follows
Building on existing work with partnered Indigenous communities, this project seeks to identify, understand and compile the mental health benefits of self-determined health and mental health research. Applying Indigenous self-determination within the research process itself, this project will empower the communities as they guide research priorities, questions and mental health focal points. In its completion, Elder Ethel Starblanket, Knowledge Keeper Karen LaRocque and Dr. McIlduff hope to address how self-determined research affects the mental health of those involved.
Peter Pioli | University of Saskatchewan $120,000 To Determine if Thymus Antibody-Secreting Cells are Autoimmune and Regulate T-Cell Development
Dr. Pioli’s research explores the immune system, specifically how certain white blood cells (B-cells) interact and regulate the development of other white blood cells (T-cells), with the overall goal of understanding how autoimmune diseases develop. Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis, occur when the immune system cannot distinguish between the body and disease-causing pathogens, resulting in immune cells attacking otherwise healthy tissue. Understanding how the immune cells develop, and in the case of autoimmune disease, develop improperly, will contribute to the foundation for preventative treatments.
Jenny Wachter | University of Saskatchewan $131,258 Identifying Factors Necessary for the Survival and Virulence of the Lyme Disease Bacterium
With the ultimate goal of informing future preventative treatments, Dr. Wachter aims to study B. burgdoferi—the bacteria that infects black-legged ticks and causes Lyme disease in Canada. Her research explores the molecular mechanisms of how the bacteria survives and is able to move from tick to host. Current risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan is low, but Manitoba has seen a 10-fold increase over the last decade and learning how to prevent Lyme disease now will protect people of Saskatchewan in the future.
The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is the provincial agency that funds, supports and promotes the impact of health research that matters to Saskatchewan. SHRF collaborates with stakeholders to contribute to the growth of a high-performing health system, culture of innovation and the improved health of citizens. We accomplish these goals by strengthening research capacity and competitiveness, increasing the investment in health research in Saskatchewan and aligning research with the needs of our stakeholders.
Inquiries about SHRF's Establishment Grant may be directed to Karen Tilsley, Director of Programs and Partnerships, at email@example.com