Dr. Jim Petrik named Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Translational Health and Clinical Research

March 13, 2024

Dr. Jim Petrik, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Ontario Veterinary College was announced today as the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Translational Health and Clinical Research.  

Petrik brings 20+ years of cancer research, which will be supported by $1.4 million in federal funding over 7 years.

In 2022, Petrik became co-director of the Bench to Bedside Institute for Translational Health Research and Innovation at the University of Guelph (UofG), which seeks to unite basic science, veterinary health and human health research to develop treatments that benefit both humans and animals.    

“Jim’s cancer research platform is on the cutting edge of biomedical research in North America,” said Dr. Tarek Saleh, Chair, Department of Biomedical Sciences at OVC. “A Tier 1 CRC recognizes Jim’s incredible track record in the cancer therapeutic space and the impact his research is having in translating his discovery program from the lab all the way to companion animal and human clinical trials.  I am very proud of Jim’s accomplishments and this most deserved recognition of his stellar research program, which will serve to enhance the University of Guelph’s reputation for doing state-of-the-art world-class research.”

In 2021, Petrik was inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), the highest honour within Canada’s academic community, in recognition of his impact on translational cancer research.

Developing Therapies for Advanced-stage Cancers

The CRC funding will be used to continue existing research initiatives in Petrik’s lab to develop therapies for advanced stages of ovarian and pancreatic cancers. These cancers claim the lives of close to 10,000 Canadians annually and are typically detected at a late stage when they have spread to other parts of the body and are resistant to traditional anti-cancer therapies.

“Being selected as a Tier 1 CIHR CRC is a tremendous honour,” said Petrik. “I am very proud to be working on the development of a novel therapeutic approach that could have a significant impact on the lives of Canadians with cancer.  We have been able to contribute to a better understanding of the microenvironment within the tumour and developed a strategy to overcome many of the impediments facing traditional therapies on the market in fighting advanced stage disease. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with so many talented mentors, collaborators and students that have made this work possible.  As our team moves forward and incorporates companion animals with cancer in the therapy development program, I think that we can contribute to a significant change in the cancer treatment landscape in Canada.”

Applying the One Health Approach for Cancer Therapy Development

Petrik’s One Health therapy development approach recognizes that both companion animals and humans suffer from many of the same spontaneously occurring diseases and share similar living environments that could aid or impede the new therapy uptake.  

Petrik’s novel approach to restore an adequate blood supply to tumours dramatically enhanced the uptake of anti-cancer therapies, resulting in complete eradication of cancer in the lab. Currently, this approach is undergoing a clinical trial with canine cancer patients at OVC’s Health Sciences Centre and human trials are scheduled to follow within the year.  

Additionally, Petrik’s expertise in developing novel therapies for advanced-stage cancers resulted in collaborations and partnerships with Harvard University, McMaster University, Western University and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

The CRC Program is one of Canada’s most prestigious Research Chair programs, and this CRC position is associated with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) whose mission is to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system. The CRC in Translational Health and Clinical Research will accelerate translational health research at the University of Guelph, positioning it as a world leader in the utilization of animal models of naturally occurring diseases in veterinary patients for the advancement of veterinary and human health. 

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