HAMILTON, July 29, 2008 – Densely populated cities and increased air travel can be factors which create and spread pandemic disease. But a McMaster University researcher is working with isolated Hutterite communities to understand the transmission of pandemic diseases like influenza.
Dr. Mark Loeb and his research team have received $1.6 million in funding to carry out the research from the Rx&D Health Research Foundation (HRF), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Dr. Loeb will work with Hutterite communities in western Canada to examine the transmission of flu viruses from person to person and from pigs to humans. Dr. Loeb is an internationally-recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology, and has studied SARS (as founding director of the Canadian SARS Research Network), West Nile Virus, and antibiotic use and resistance. His team's new research will detect influenza viruses in humans and pigs in Hutterite communities, and use computer modelling to analyze the transmission of the virus.
"Hutterite communities are uniquely well-suited to this sort of research, because they are active swine farmers and because they live in isolation from mainstream society," says Loeb. "We hope to use this research grant to learn important lessons about how disease spreads and how to prevent it."
"Our foundation supports research in areas that are important to Canada's health research community and to Canadian society as a whole." said Dr. Yves Morin, President of the Health Research Foundation. "Our goal is to augment Canada's position as a world-class centre for health research and a leader in developing new ways to prevent, treat and cure disease."
"The SARS outbreak taught us that there are no national boundaries when it comes to infectious diseases," said Dr. Bhagirath Singh, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity. "Through this partnership, Dr. Loeb and his team will receive the critical support needed to further advance knowledge in the area of pandemic preparedness and influenza outbreaks."
This announcement is the first of a series of annual thematic grants to be made by the HRF on important public health issues. HRF, one of the leading private granting foundations in Canada, has awarded over $23 million to over 1,400 researchers in the past 20 years alone.
"It's gratifying to researchers to see funding come from foundations such as the HRF, as it indicates a willingness to give back and to further basic and applied research into important subjects," said Peter George, president of McMaster University. "This is a critical study, and we're particularly pleased to see Dr. Loeb's innovative work given well-deserved recognition with this grant."
The research team includes:
- Dr. Mark Loeb, McMaster University, Ontario (principal investigator)
- Dr. Margaret Russell, University of Calgary, Alberta
- Dr. Jonathan Dushoff, McMaster University, Ontario
- Dr. David Earn, McMaster University, Ontario
- Dr. Kevin Fonseca, Provincial Laboratory for Public health, Calgary, Alberta
- Dr. Julie Fox, Provincial Laboratory for Public Health, Calgary Alberta
- Dr. Julia Keenliside, Alberta Agriculture and Food, Edmonton, Alberta
- Dr. Mathieu Lemire, McGill University, Quebec and Genome Quebec
- Dr. Marek Smieja, McMaster University, Ontario
- Dr. Stephen Walter, McMaster University, Ontario
- Dr. Richard Webby, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee
About the Rx&D Health Research Foundation (HRF):
The Rx&D Health Research Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support health research in Canadian academic health centres and to promote the value of health research in Canada. Founded in 1964 by Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D), the HRF applies the highest standards of scientific excellence to address health challenges of great importance to Canadian society. It accomplishes this through a longstanding tradition of establishing partnerships with the academic field and government. As one of the leading private health research foundations in the country, the HRF contributes significantly to the prevention and treatment of disease and to a better health care system.
About Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D):
Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) is an association of members dedicated to improving the health of all Canadians. As a partner of the health-care system, our discoveries help eliminate the need for medical procedures such as surgery, which have a significant impact on patient quality of life and health-care budgets. Our community represents over 20,000 men and women working for more than 50 member companies in Canada and is responsible for generating 100,000 jobs across Canada.
About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR):
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to close to 11,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.
About McMaster University:
McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 135,000 in 128 countries.
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