Unity Health awarded more than $7 million in CIHR funding for research projects

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Fourteen Unity Health investigators have been awarded grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for their research projects, totaling more than $7 million in federal funding.

CIHR released the funding as part of their Spring 2023 Project Grant competition. This program funds projects with the greatest potential to advance health care, health systems and health outcomes.

The funded Unity Health projects investigate a wide range of critical issues and span all areas of research, including social-cultural, health systems and service delivery, biomedical and clinical research.

Congratulations to all of the Unity Health investigators who were awarded funding, including Drs. Ahmed Bayoumi, Gillian Booth, Charles de Mestral, Tara Gomes, Boris Hinz, Benita Hosseini, Karim Ladha, Gaspard Montandon, Andrew Pinto, Fahad Razak, Amol Verma, Areti Angeliki Veroniki, Darren Yuen, Haibo Zhang, and their teams. Here’s a small sample of the funded projects. A complete list can be found on the CIHR website.

Can prescribing park use reduce diabetes? Dr. Gillian Booth and her team will develop and implement a parks prescription intervention intended for use among urban populations at a high risk of developing diabetes. The research team will develop a prescription for park usage that will motivate people to use the network of green spaces and trails within their cities to engage in walking and other physical activities. The team will test which elements of their park prescription intervention are effective at encouraging patients to walk more in outdoor settings.

How can we prevent amputation among people experiencing homeessness? Every day in Ontario, four people lose a leg to diabetes and that number is increasing. Amputation can be prevented with the right kind of care, however the people at greatest risk of amputation often face difficulties receiving that care. Dr. Charles de Mestral and his team will examine why people experiencing homelessness with diabetes are at increased risk of amputation.

Are antioxidants a cheap and accessible treatment for COVID-19? Dr. Benita Hosseini and her team have received funding to study the effectiveness of antioxidant therapy for COVID-19 treatment. The funding will allow the CanTreatCovid trial to evaluate a combined antioxidant therapy of selenium, zinc, lycopene and vitamin C that COVID-19 patients will take for 10 days, compared to standard care and other medications. With antioxidants widely available at a fraction of the cost of current COVID-19 treatments and without the need for a prescription or close medical supervision, this alternative therapy could have the potential to reach and benefit patients worldwide.

Can we create painkillers that don’t kill? Opioid medications and street drugs are widely used and abused in Canada and can have severe side effects, including respiratory depression (breathing disorder) that can be lethal. Respiratory depression by opioids is due to abuse of street drugs like heroin, but is also caused by abuse of prescription pain killers – which are the cornerstone of modern pain therapy. Dr. Gaspard Montandon and his team want to identify the brain circuits regulating opioid-induced respiratory depression and pain relief. The team’s ultimate goal is to determine whether these neural circuits can be activated to prevent respiratory depression without reducing pain relief from opioids. This research may contribute to the development of new drug therapies to prevent opioid-related harms and deaths.