OVC Researchers Receive Federal Health Funding

May 02, 2023

Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) researchers are among five University of Guelph researchers awarded project grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for preclinical studies intended to advance treatments for mental illnesses, antifungal resistance and cancers. 

Dr. Melissa Perreault

Dr. Melissa Perreault, OVC Department of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr. Samuel Workenhe, OVC Department of Pathobiology, received funding along with Drs. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister and Siavash Vahidi, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), College of Biological Science, and Dr. Jennifer Murray, Department of Psychology, College of Social and Applied Human Sciences.  

Perreault will receive $994,500 to explore a newly identified receptor in the brain that may contribute to stress sensitivity and depression susceptibility in women. Pharmacological treatments are based mainly on what we know about men, she notes. 

In previous research with rodent animal models, Perreault identified a brain receptor and showed that stimulating it induces anxiety- and depression-like behaviours in female subjects. This receptor also becomes more active in specific brain regions following chronic stress in female subjects.  

“Understanding the mechanisms that underlie stress and depression vulnerability in women is important if we are to develop more personalized treatment strategies,” she said.  

Workenhe studies how dying cancer cells interact with the immune system. He and his collaborators have received $100,000 to study how the controlled self-destruction of cells, or programmed cell death, can trigger the body’s defense system to attack cancers. The research will help in developing safe and effective treatment for cancers that resist immunotherapy.  

Dr. Samuel Workenhe

Geddes-McAlister will receive $300,000 to study ways to interrupt the processes that make fungal infections resistant to treatment. Murray will receive $100,000 to study the impact of sex hormones on the risk of relapse for people trying to stop using cocaine. Vahidi and his collaborators have received $100,000 to investigate the cellular processes that lead to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a blood and bone marrow cancer with poor outcomes for most older patients.  

“This generous funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is a vital investment in excellence and expertise,” said Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “Using innovative approaches, these five exceptional University of Guelph researchers aim to improve life by exploring fundamental questions of importance to human health and well-being.”  

“The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is Canada’s federal funding agency for health research, composed of 13 focused institutes where researchers and their partners collaborate to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system,” said Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph. “I am very pleased to see five researchers at the University of Guelph being recognized with funding for research improving the health of Canadians.”  

Read the entire news release on the University of Guelph website

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