OHRI ranked third this year among Canadian hospital-based research institutes for funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), up from eighth just 10 years ago. In total, OHRI researchers held 156 active CIHR grants and salary awards in 2011-2012, worth more than $20 million. CIHR is the most important and most competitive source of peer-reviewed funding for health research in Canada, so OHRI’s growing success with CIHR provides important evidence of the overall success of the Institute. OHRI also ranked highly in Research Infosource’s list of Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals and in SCIMAGO’s research publication impact ranking. Other local hospitals and universities have also ranked highly in research measures in recent years, helping to build Ottawa’s reputation as a leading centre for health research.
OHRI has opened a new laboratory that is uniquely designed to accelerate the development and testing of new cancer therapies. The Centre for Innovative Cancer Research, located on the third floor of TOH’s Cancer Centre expansion at the General Campus, includes sophisticated equipment to analyze cancer cells at the molecular level and develop and test new treatments in cancer models. Promising treatments can then be manufactured in a new “clean room” laboratory and delivered to patients just one floor below. Another special laboratory allows researchers to analyze patient tumour samples and evaluate their response to treatment so that better, more personalized therapies can be developed. Construction was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.
Medical research often happens in small steps, but a new facility at The Ottawa Hospital is designed to enable researchers to answer the big questions that can truly change medical practice and make a difference for patients. Called the Centre for Practice-Changing Research, the new two-storey building provides space for approximately 275 clinicians, researchers and staff from The Ottawa Hospital and OHRI and 60 researchers from the adjacent Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). All the researchers are affiliated with the University of Ottawa and the building is connected to all three institutions at the Smyth Road academic health sciences centre. Construction was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, The Ottawa Hospital and the CHEO Foundation.
OHRI’s Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research celebrated its fifth anniversary this year, with a number of major milestones and breakthroughs to look back upon. Under the leadership of Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Sprott Centre scientist have made important discoveries that could help with the development of new therapies for diseases that affect the heart, muscle, brain, blood and other organs. An experimental stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis developed at OHRI has also continued to show promise in human clinical trials, and further stem cell trials are expected to start soon for heart attack and septic shock. Over the last year, OHRI also recruited world-renowned stem cell researchers, Dr. William Stanford and Dr. Bernard Thébaud, while Dr. Rudnicki and Dr. Lynn Megeney were named two of the Top 25 People in Ottawa this year by Ottawa Life Magazine. See Success Story for further details.
Dr. Eve Tsai was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential Women of 2011 by Women of Influence magazine. As a neurosurgeon, associate scientist and assistant professor, Dr. Tsai focuses her influence on bringing clinicians and researchers together to develop better treatments for patients with spine and brain diseases. She has established a multidisciplinary research group focused on investigating stem cells, nanotechnology and tissue engineering for spinal cord repair. She has also developed a novel MRI imaging technique that allows surgeons to easily visualize spinal cord nerve fibres and identify those that are healthy and those that are disrupted.
Alexis Given, a PhD student in Dr. Dennis Bulman’s group, received the prestigious Synapse Mentorship Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for her outstanding efforts in youth science outreach. As a member of Let’s Talk Science, Ms. Given has delivered more than 90 science outreach activities in local schools, involving about 4,000 youth. She also co-organized the first StemCellTalks event in Ottawa, and has travelled to Nunavut and Africa to give science workshops.