OVC Researchers Receive Federal Funding to Study Chronic Pain, Cancer and Vaccinations

July 10, 2024

From studying the mechanisms of cancer cells and chronic pain, to guiding new policies for our microbiome health, nine University of Guelph researchers have been awarded more than $7.1 million in federal grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Four of those recipients include researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

Knowledge from these projects could help advance new treatments for life-threatening diseases, including breast cancer, chronic kidney disease, leukemia and more.  

“These federal investments in University of Guelph leaders reflect the excellence of our research community and their dedication to improve life for all,” says Dr. Rene Van Acker, vice-president (research and innovation). “With this new support, these researchers will deepen the world’s knowledge on the molecular level while tackling society’s most pressing challenges in human health and the environment.” 

Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph, says he is pleased to see the CIHR recognize these innovative researchers at U of G and that it is a testament to the quality and skill of research underway. 

“With this funding, these researchers will be able to continue their important work on neuron electrical signals, brain cells, proteins, among other projects, to advance treatments of seizures, chronic pain and breast cancer cells. U of G has once again shown its exceptional talent and its ability to lead the world on groundbreaking research.”

Dr. Giannina Descalzi, Department of Biomedical Sciences 

Dr. Giannina Descalzi has received $1,086,300 to understand the mechanisms and networks in the brain that cause chronic pain, which is experienced by one in four Canadians over the age of 15. 

People with chronic pain show changes in multiple brain regions for emotion. Two types of brain cells, the neuron and the astrocyte, have also been associated with chronic pain. How they communicate may hold the key to understanding exactly how chronic pain functions.  

Descalzi’s research will determine how astrocytes affect neurons. This team will use genetic tools to reduce the communication between astrocytes and neurons and determine if the development of chronic pain can be prevented. Their findings will provide a leap forward in our understanding of the molecular machinery involved and may propel research into better treatments.  

Dr. Samuel Tekeste Workenhe, Department of Pathobiology

Dr. Samuel Tekeste Workenhe has received $925,650 to investigate the process of cell death and the cellular alarm signals that alert the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Workenhe’s study will identify the conditions that best alert the immune system to fight a particular type of brain cancer, providing the foundational knowledge for new therapies. 






Dr. Roger Moorehead, Department of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Roger Moorehead has received $100,000 to study a protein shown to reduce the growth and spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs. This new funding could lead to new therapeutic targets to prevent breast cancer growth and/or its spread to other tissues in the body. 







Dr. Sarah Wootton, Department of Pathobiology

Dr. Sarah Wootton has received $761,176 to enhance and expand her group’s patented alternative vaccine system, which has been shown to be effective against a range of infectious diseases, including Ebola and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This promising alternative vaccine does not require actual exposure to the pathogen, and her research project will improve this system to help prepare it for further clinical contexts. 

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