CORPORATE AUTHORS Microcosm-III by JasoRobinson


									 CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity
                                      University of Western Ontario             
                           Siebens-Drake Research Institute, Suite 214          
                      1400 Western Road, London, Ontario, N6G 2V4

                                                             SEPTEMBER 2002

                            Message fro m the Scien tific Director, Dr. Bhagirath Singh

Institute Mission          In the summer of 2002, residents of             research teams under the umbrella of the
                           southern Ontario experienced more days          New Emerging Teams (NET) program.
                           of poor air quality than in any previous        In this edition and those to come, we          IN THIS EDITION:
The mission of the         summer since the current monitoring             plan to familiarize you with III-affiliated
Institute of Infection     system was introduced. While for most,          researchers and to highlight exciting          Message from the            1
and Immunity (III) is to   smog represents an annoyance, for               research initiatives in the areas of infec-    Scientific Director
establish     n ational    asthma sufferers, it poses a significant        tion and immunity.
                           health risk.                                    In this edition you will also find informa-    III New Emerging Team
leadership by setting                                                                                                                                 1
                           Following the selection of its initial health   tion on the Institute’s response, in col-      Tackles Asthma
research priorities and    research priorities, the Institute of Infec-    laboration with Health Canada, to new
creating programs that     tion and Immunity (III) launched several        emerging health challenges in hepatitis C      What’s New at III           2
promote innovative         innovative research programs to begin           research, and relating to large-scale influ-   On the Web                  2
research aimed at          the process of developing these priorities      enza vaccination in Canada. Our Institute
reducing the global        into health care solutions. One of these        is leading a national effort to coordinate     III Events                  2
burden of infection and    programs addresses the thousands of             research into safe food and water, facili-
                           children and adults suffering from asthma       tating a large-scale partnership among all
                                                                                                                          The Institute of Infection 3
immune         based       and allergy. The incidence of these dis-        the stakeholders.                              and Immunity at Work
diseases. The ultimate     eases has risen rapidly in Canada and           I hope you enjoy the second edition of
goal of such strategic     worldwide, largely, scientists believe,                                                        The Institute Advisory      4
                                                                           our newsletter. Your comments on this
research is to improve     due to environmental factors. The suf-          newsletter, and suggestions for future
human life expectancy      fering and the health care costs of these       editions, are always welcome. We also
                           diseases indicate that new and bold re-                                                        A Partnership for Safe      5
and the overall quality                                                    welcome your input with respect to our         Food and Water
                           search initiatives are required. These          research priorities, programs, and topics
of life.                   initiatives include finding the causes of       for workshops with a health research           Strategic Training        6
                           and developing new treatments for               focus.
                           asthma and allergy. III has developed                                                          Initiative in Allergy and
                           partnerships with several other CIHR            Dr. Bhagirath Singh                            Asthma
                           Institutes to enhance training of new           Scientific Director
                                                                           Institute of Infection and Immunity            Strategic Training          6
                           asthma and allergy researchers and to
                           take the initiative in supporting new           Canadian Institutes of Health Research         Grants in the Areas of
                                                                                                                          Infection and Immunity

                                      III New Emerg ing Team Tac kles Asthma
                                        The third week of September             “We think we should know
                                                                                                                          out new things each day.”
                                                                                                                          Chan-Yeung is a member of a
                                        represents an annual peak in
                                                                                everything there is to know               new research team studying
                                        illness for the millions of
                                                                                about asthma,” says Dr. Moira             the genetic and environmental
                                        asthma sufferers around the
                                                                                Chan-Yeung, an asthma re-                 factors that cause asthma. The
                                        world. Although smog and
                                                                                searcher based at the Univer-             team is receiving funding
                                        ragweed pollen are the likely
                                                                                sity of British Columbia. “It’s           through the Institute of Infec-
                                        culprits, no one is certain—
                                                                                a disease that’s been recog-              tion and Immunity’s New
                                        and this is just another un-
                                                                                nized for centuries but we                Emerging Teams (NET) grant
                                        known confronting research-
                                                                                spend millions and millions of            program. This is the first time
                                        ers trying to understand this
                                                                                dollars and we’re still finding                             (Continued on page 7)
What’s New at III                                                                               On the Web
Strategic Funding                                                                                 We are constantly refining
                                                                                                  and updating our website.
Hepatitis C                                                                                       On it you will find infor-
III and Health Canada, in response to the estimated                                               mation about III’s participa-
240,000 Canadians infected with the hepatitis C virus,                                            tion in national and interna-
have made a commitment to building research capacity                                              tional conferences, articles
in this area by launching a strategic research initiative to                                      on III events, and informa-
address the growing epidemic at several levels of re-                                             tion about both new and
search and funding.                                                                               ongoing Requests for Ap-
Oculo-respiratory Syndrome (ORS)                                                                  plications. Check the Cal-
III, on behalf of Health Canada, has requested proposals                                          endar for upcoming appli-
for the collection and analysis of research data from in-                                         cation deadlines. If you
dividuals who have received the influenza vaccine and          haven’t received our first newsletter, it can be viewed by
suffered from ORS to assess possible side effects of re-       following the III Publications link.
peat vaccination with the flu vaccine                          If you can suggest ways we can improve, or information you
For more information, please visit our website and fol-        would like to see, please let us know.
low the III Funding link.                                      Keep up to date
                                                               CIHR has launched an online sign-up feature for its mailing
Annual Report                                                  list that allows participants to select the Institutes from
                                                               which they would like to receive updates. Register from our
The Institute of Infection and Immunity has drafted its
first annual report for the period Jan. 1, 2001 to March       Contact Us page.
31, 2002. The report will be available for general distri-
bution and in PDF version on our website in early fall.

                                                                                         III Photo Contest
                                                                                         On the Lookout for Bugs
                                                                                                 See our website for details
  III Events
   East Coast Open Forums                    Next IAB Meeting                           RFA Launch
  III’s Scientific Director Dr. Bhagirath   The next meeting of the Institute Advi-    The next cycle of Requests for Appli-
  Singh presented at open forums at         sory Board will take place in Ottawa,      cations (RFA) will be launched in early
  Dalhousie University in Halifax on        ON on Jan. 15 and 16, 2003. Please         November. These RFA will represent
  Sept. 19, and at Memorial University      contact III Assistant Director Bruce       a large-scale commitment by III and
  in Newfoundland on Sept. 20. These        Moor ( to communi-            government, research and industry
  forums engaged the research commu-        cate any issues you would like brought     partners to dealing with issues arising
  nity and the public, and were an op-      before the board.                          in food and water safety. Watch the III
  portunity to seek input and partner-                                                 website for announcements and infor-
  ships in the development of a strong                                                 mation on these and other funding op-
  research agenda in infection and im-                                                 portunities.

        PAGE 2
MICROCOSM-III                                                        SEPTEMBER 2002

   The Institute of Infection and Immunity at Work

                                                                    support; these cross-institute strategic initiatives will stimulate
                                                                    RFA as well.
                                                                    How does III determine strategic research areas?
                                                                    The innovative approach to research embodied by CIHR
                                                                    means that research strength in prevalent areas is evaluated on
                                                                    an ongoing basis and that strategic research to develop a
                                                                    stronger research base in particular areas is promoted where
                                                                    appropriate. These strategic areas are identified and validated
                                                                    through extensive consultation with relevant communities and
                                                                    are approved by the Institute’s Advisory Board. The Institute
  III is Open for Business! From left, MP Joe                       of Infection and Immunity has identified 10 areas in its initial
  Fontana, III Scientific Director Dr. Bhagirath                    strategic plan (please see our website, under About the Insti-
                                                                    tute). Strategic areas must have a sufficient number of Cana-
  Singh, MP Sue Barnes, Dean of Medicine and                        dian researchers with expertise to respond to a call for appli-
  Dentistry Dr. Carol Herbert, and UWO VP                           cations, as well as other characteristics which make them ap-
  (Research) Dr. Nils Petersen.                                     propriate for an RFA. Example characteristics may include the
                                                                    potential to stimulate significant growth, the existence of
The Institute of Infection and Immunity (III) officially opened     stakeholders willing to become involved, the potential for the
its doors May 3, 2002, but has already announced the results        research to create a Canadian competitive niche or lead to
of its first round of RFA and launched a second round. For          international linkages, and the nature of the projects being
the uninitiated, here’s how the RFA process works:                  such that they are not likely to be initiated by individual inves-
What are RFA?                                                       tigators.

RFA, or Requests for Applications, are used by institutes to        How will the RFA process evolve from year to year? How
build research capacity in strategic areas. Each RFA consists of    can I have input into the development of future RFA?
a defined research focus combined with a specific implementa-       Areas identified for strategic research initiatives will not re-
tion format, such as a team or training grant. Currently, insti-    main static over time. While multiple RFA may be launched
tutes can launch RFA at four points annually: September, No-        in existing areas where appropriate, the RFA process enables
vember, February and May.                                           the Institute of Infection and Immunity to be proactive when
What are “strategic areas?”                                         new needs arise or when new technology becomes available.
                                                                    Novel areas may also stem from unique ideas or from a per-
Funding is available from a number of established CIHR grant-       ceived need to bring researchers working independently in
ing programs for research projects initiated by individual in-      mutually beneficial areas together.
vestigators or small groups of researchers. However, each
Institute has a discrete pool of resources available for promot-    The Institute encourages Canadian stakeholders in areas relat-
ing research in areas identified as requiring a targeted ap-        ing to infection and immunity to provide input into this proc-
proach. Strategic areas may have elements that are of interest      ess, and will support conferences and workshops which may
to multiple institutes, to non-governmental organizations, and      help define RFA targets or mechanisms. For more informa-
to government departments, and this can lead to the develop-        tion, including instructions on how to apply for workshop
ment of unique RFA sponsored by a number of partners.               funding, please visit our website at http://www.cihr-
CIHR has also identified a number of major initiatives which and explore the fund-
intersect the strategic priorities of several institutes, and re-   ing links, or contact Institute staff.
quire resources beyond the capacity of any single institute to

                                                                                                                    PAGE 3
                                                                                   happen,” he says. “It’s been really fun being involved
         The Institute Advisory Board                                              in helping to shape the way ahead—what the future
             ...they make it possible                                              will look like.”
                                                                                   Dr. Plummer sees the biggest challenge facing the
                                                                                   Institute of Infection and Immunity as establishing
                                  DR. FRANCIS PLUMMER,                             communication links within the research community.
                                  MD, FRCPC                                        “How do we get a feeling of belonging to an institute
                                                                                   to our constituents? That is something that we have to
                                  He’s been living on the North American conti- figure out…it’s going to be important.”
                                  nent for almost a year now, and that’s an un-
                                  usual thing for Dr. Francis Plummer. In his
                                  Winnipeg office, a life-size sculpture of a wild MS. HELAINE SHIFF
                                  African hog is a prominent memento of the 17
                                  years he and his family lived in Nairobi,                                           Diabetes is a focal
                                  Kenya. There, Dr. Plummer directed a variety                                        point in Ms. He-
                                  of University of Manitoba research projects in                                      laine Shiff’s life.
                                  clinical infectious diseases and epidemiology                                       Many years ago,
                                  research.                                                                           when her young
                          Dr. Plummer has a first-hand appreciation for the                                           son was diagnosed
                          hardships faced by the people of developing countries.                                      with juvenile (Type
                                                                                                                      1) diabetes, she
III’s 15-member advisory “My experience in Kenya…has given me the perspec-                                            joined in the fight
                          tive that if we really want to solve these problems we
board was selected to     have to solve them from a public health point of view,                                      to find a cure – not
represent a broad swath using public health tools.” Dr. Plummer’s rich ex-                                            in a laboratory, but
                                                                                                                      as a founding mem-
of researchers, policy    periences in global health issues make him a valuable
                                                                                   ber of the Toronto chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes
advisors and members of asset to the Institute in its development of strategic Research Foundation (JDRF), the world’s largest
                          research opportunities in that area. Having trained at
the lay community. The the University of Manitoba, the University of South- non-governmental, not-for-profit funder of diabetes
Institute Advisory Board ern California, the University of Nairobi and the Cen- research.
(IAB) provides support    ters for Disease Control in Atlanta, Dr. Plummer’s Ms. Shiff feels that bringing the perspective of the
and direction to the      experiences also make up an exceptionally broad community to each Institute is important. “I have
                          background of research that has been recognized found it rather interesting that I have been able to
Scientific Director in    through many awards from both American and Cana- contribute, taking the public’s point of view,” said
aligning Institute        dian organizations, including a Tier 1 Canada Re- Ms. Shiff. Given the Institute’s designation of autoim-
activities with the III   search Chair.                                            munity, with a focus on Type 1 diabetes, as one of its
mission of establishing   Although AIDS is a disease of pandemic proportions, strategic research priorities, Ms. Shiff brings a rich
                          the toll is particularly high in African countries. Dr. background in that field to IAB discussions. Having
national priorities and
                          Plummer and his team have been studying Nairobi worked often with scientists and members of the lay
leadership in research    prostitutes who are resistant to the AIDS virus despite community on JDRF projects, Ms. Shiff says partici-
and training in the       repeated exposure to it. These women may provide pating in similar discussions outside the realm of dia-
areas of infection and    answers as to how such resistance arises, answers that betes is familiar territory. A partner in her own fund-
                          researchers anticipate will lead to the development of raising and consulting firm Focus on You, Ms. Shiff
immunity. With these      vaccines against HIV.                                    has also contributed to discussions on public relations
two profiles, we are                                                               and partnership issues for III.
                          Currently the Scientific Director General of the
pleased to begin a series Health Canada National Microbiology Laboratory in Ms. Shiff, currently a member of the JDRF Interna-
of introductions of our   Winnipeg, Man. and a professor in several depart- tional Board of Chancellors and the JDRF Canadian
IAB members.              ments at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Plummer Board of Chancellors, calls her position on the IAB “a
                          appreciates his role as an IAB member for the Institute privilege.” “The interaction of the entire committee
                          of Infection and Immunity. “It’s really an opportunity and their commitment and fortitude has been most
                                                                                                                          (Continued on page 5)
                          to make a difference and see things that you believe in

   PAGE 4
MICROCOSM-III                                                            SEPTEMBER 2002

A Pa r t n e r s h i p f o r S a f e F o o d a n d Wat e r
The microbial safety of Canada’s food and water is            Special Projects, has taken the workshop recommen-
one of the Institute of Infection and Immunity’s top          dations, which included the formation of a national
research priorities. To galvanize research in the area,       research network, from their preliminary stages to
the Institute is spearheading the formation of a na-          their status today. The first step was a meeting held
tional coalition dedicated to the coordination of a           on Oct. 31, 2001 and attended by 17 representatives
safe food and water research agenda for Canada.               from the federal agriculture, health and environ-
This initiative is a follow-up to the June 2000 CIHR          mental sectors, the food and water industry, and            While the United
Opportunity Fund Workshop on Food Safety at                   federal granting agencies. As a result of this meeting          States has had
which researchers from a variety of different disci-          a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is about
plines and sectors came together for the first time to        to be signed among 15 of the 17 members, defining
                                                                                                                           national surveil-
discuss research priorities in the area.                      an agreement to coordinate a national research                lance systems in
By chance, the opportunity fund workshop took                 agenda for food and water safety.                            place since 1996
place just days after the contaminated water disaster         The parties to the MOU are now preparing a Re-
in Walkerton, Ont. that claimed seven lives and               quest for Applications (RFA) for research in two            to collect data on
made more than 2,000 people ill. “Thus,” says Dr.             related areas—the microbial safety of food and wa-          issues of food and
Brett Finlay, one of the organizers of the workshop,          ter, and antimicrobial resistance in the food chain.
                                                                                                                                water safety,
“everyone had a heightened sense of awareness and             The RFA will lay a framework for the coordination
an appreciation of the necessity of preventing future         of Canadian research by combining the strengths,               Canada has no
outbreaks.” Finlay has studied food and water patho-          resources and expertise of researchers from multiple                   parallel
gens extensively. “I was concerned about the lack of          sectors. Research teams responding to the RFA will
coordination of research at all levels dealing with           be comprised of scientists from federal departments,             organization.
food and water safety,” he says. While the United             universities, and possibly industry, working in col-
States has had national surveillance systems in place         laboration. According to Bray, this represents an
since 1996 to collect data on issues of food and wa-          exciting approach to public health issues that will
ter safety, Canada has no parallel organization.              reduce research duplication and help to establish
Finlay says he was also frustrated by the lack of             cooperation and partnership among these sectors.
communication and coordination between basic re-              The above RFA will extend the strategic initiatives
searchers and government and public health offices,           relating to food and water safety launched by the
and the lack of translation of findings into applica-         Institute in May 2002, in collaboration with its
tions. At the workshop, more than 30 scientists and           CIHR partners and two Networks of Centres of Ex-
policy makers from Canadian universities, govern-             cellence: the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network
ment agencies and industry convened for discus-               and the Canadian Water Network, and the Natural
sions that turned out to be “amazingly frank” ac-             Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
cording to Finlay.
Dr. Judith Bray, the Institute’s Assistant Director,

“The interaction of the      (Continued from page 4)               Shiff says “the challenge will be   through awards including the
entire committee and                                               to inform the Canadian public,      federal Canada Volunteer
                             rewarding and enlightening for        health professionals, and scien-    Award, metro Toronto's Can-
their commitment and         me personally,” she adds.             tists how we are meeting those      ada's Birthday Achievement
fortitude has been most       Although she feels that III is on    objectives so that we are not       Award, and JDRF Interna-
                             its way toward accomplishing          operating in a vacuum.”             tional’s Volunteer of the Year
rewarding and                its objectives in its strategic       Ms. Shiff's accomplishments         award.
enlightening for me          research priority areas, Ms.          have been amply recognized
                                                                                                                       PAGE 5
Strateg ic Training Initiative                              Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research
                                                            Grants in the Areas of In fection and Immunity
in Allergy and Asthma                                                          December 2 001
                           Canada has long had a dis-       Principal Investi-   Affiliation       Program Title       Sponsors           Total award
                           proportionately strong im-                                                                  * = Lead
                           pact on allergy research, says   CHUNG,               University of     Transplantation     Heart & Stroke     $ 1,800,000
                           Dr. Kent HayGlass, an im-        Stephen W            British Colum-                        Foundation of
                                                                                 bia                                   Canada, Mi-
                           munologist and a member of                                                                  chael Smith
                           the New Emerging Team                                                                       Foundation for
                                                                                                                       Health Re-
                           (NET) studying the origins                                                                  search, ICRH,
                           of asthma in childhood. Hay-                                                                IHSPR, III* and
                           Glass is also head of a re-                                                                 INMD
                           cently announced CIHR-           DOSMAN,              University of     Public health       ICR, ICRH, III     $ 1,703,952
sponsored strategic training initiative aimed at in-        James A              Saskatchewan      and the agricul-    and IPPH*
                                                                                                   tural rural eco-
creasing research capacity in the areas of allergy and                                             system
asthma.                                                     ELLEN,               University of     Cell signaling in   Michael Smith      $ 1,797,256
HayGlass says that despite Canada’s history of              Richard P            Toronto           mucosal inflam-     Foundation for
                                                                                                   mation & pain       Health Re-
strength in allergy and asthma research, people are                                                                    search, The
still suffering from these diseases. “We’re really not a                                                               Arthritis Soci-
long way from where we were a hundred years ago in                                                                     ety*, ICRH,
                                                                                                                       IHSPR, III,
terms of our capacity to prevent or mitigate allergic                                                                  IMHA*, INMD
diseases, despite the fact we know far more immunol-                                                                   and CIHR
ogy, and far more physiology than we did a century          HAYGLASS,            University of     Allergy and         ICRH*,             $ 1,800,000
                                                            Kent T               Manitoba          asthma: From        IHDCYH*,
ago.” The training program proposal was created to                                                 molecular regu-     IHSPR, III* and
address the shortage of research expertise in immu-                                                lation to popula-   IPPH
nology in general, and in asthma and allergy research                                              tion health
in particular. The program will bring together faculty      KUBES, Paul          University of     Health research:    Alberta Heritage   $ 1,578,404
                                                                                 Calgary           A transdiscipli-    Foundation for
with expertise in areas of allergy research as diverse as                                          nary training       Medical Re-
population health, cellular and molecular immunol-                                                 program in dis-     search, ICRH,
ogy, smooth muscle physiology and clinical medicine,                                               eases of im-        III*, IMHA, INMD
                                                                                                   munopathogene       and CIHR
says HayGlass. “We are going to offer our trainees a                                               sis and inflam-
truly multidisciplinary program of research training.                                              mation
They will be highly competitive.”                           LEVY,                University of     Regenerative        ICRH, III* and     $ 1,784,368
HayGlass emphasizes the interface between asthma            Gary A               Toronto           medicine            INMD*

and allergy, pointing out that the great majority of        PLUMMER,             University of     International       IAPH, III*, IPPH   $ 1,800,000
                                                            Francis A            Manitoba          centre for infec-   and CIHR
asthma sufferers is also allergic. Research in the area                                            tious diseases
has often focused on either asthma or allergy, but                                                 training program
HayGlass and his colleagues have traditionally focused      REITHMEIER,          Hospital for      Structural biol-    ICR, ICRH, IG*,    $ 1,800,000
on both and the relationships between them.                 Reinhart A           Sick Children     ogy of mem-         III, INMD and
                                                                                 (Toronto)         brane proteins      INMHA
With both the NET and the strategic training initia-                                               linked to disease
tive based in Winnipeg, there is potential for each to      ROY,                 Centre            Résistance aux      Fonds de la        $ 1,638,000
enhance the other. NET leader Dr. Allan Becker and          Paul H               hospitalier de    agents antim-       recherche en
team researcher Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj are members of                               l'Université      icrobiens           santé du
                                                                                 Laval                                 Québec and III*
the training team as well. Becker believes the overlap                           (Québec)
is enormously valuable. One provides training for the       SCHURR,              Hôpital général   Infectious dis-     Fonds de la        $ 1,800,000
other, and the other provides support and spin-off          Erwin A              de Montréal       eases and auto-     recherche en
                                                                                                   immunity            santé du
research for the basic project. “I think the collabora-                                                                Québec, IGH,
tive overlapping environment will be enormously                                                                        III*, IMHA, IPPH
effective in providing a dramatic multiplier effect, and                                                               and CIHR
giving these individuals a much better chance of be-        TESCHKE,             University of     To bridge public    Michael Smith      $ 1,800,000
                                                            Kay                  British Colum-    health, engi-       Foundation for
coming established as independent investigators.”                                bia               neering and         Health Re-
HayGlass agrees. “I think to have a successful training                                            policy research     search*, III,
                                                                                                                       IPPH* and CIHR
program you’ve got to have your trainees working on
something that’s really relevant, very publishable,
interesting and important, and I think the NET fits all
                       those criteria. We’re excited!”
   PAGE 6
MICROCOSM-III                                                           SEPTEMBER 2002
(Continued from page 1)
                                                        Seven researchers, four pillars
all seven members will be working on the same
                                                                                                                   Asthma clinician
project, titled Origins of Asthma in Childhood:         Dr. Allan Becker, team            University of
                                                                                                                    specializing in
The Role of Gene:Environment Interactions (see                  leader                     Manitoba
                                                                                                                  childhood asthma
                                                                                      Manitoba Centre for
Where historically, research into asthma has                                            Health Policy,            Epidemiology,
focused on management of the disease, this team          Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj
                                                                                        University of            population health
will focus on the causes, says team leader Dr.                                            Manitoba
Allan Becker. “The bottom line is that the best
we have to offer right now is control of asthma                                           University of
                                                          Dr. Kent HayGlass                                         Immunology
and other allergic diseases that ideally, we’d like
to cure.” However, the goal of this team is not
to discover a cure, says Becker, but to identify                                          University of           Community and
                                                         Dr. Michael Moffatt
                                                                                           Manitoba               aboriginal health
factors that could be influenced to prevent
asthma from developing.
                                                        Dr. Andrew Sandford           University of British
Those who have never felt the suffocating grip of        and Dr. Peter Paré               Columbia
an asthma attack are largely unaware of how
serious the disease can be. Becker, an asthma                                         University of British        Environmental
clinician, says, “That’s the sad part—there’s           Dr. Moira Chan-Yeung
                                                                                          Columbia                    disease
probably no disease where there’s a larger dis-
connect between the ability to control the dis-
ease and actual control.” Treatment and manage-
ment of asthma is complex; a given patient must
avoid all triggers, and may have up to three dif-
ferent inhalers.
Worse, asthma, the most common chronic dis-
ease of children, is on the rise. In the last quarter
century, says Becker, the prevalence of asthma
and other allergy-associated diseases has in-
creased dramatically—but strangely only in de-
veloped countries. Because asthma is known to             Dr. Allan Becker, Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, and Dr. Michael
be strongly heritable, “the change in prevalence          Moffat are part of the team researching the early origins of
ought not to be due to genetic change but our                                       asthma.
belief really is that this is due to changes in our
environment,” says Becker.                              negative bacterial cell walls). All chil-   nificantly less asthma and allergies
It’s long been recognized that asthma is the            dren will be clinically re-evaluated for    compared to children who are
product of both genetic and environmental inter-        asthma and allergies. Blood samples         growing up in cities,” says Chan-
actions, but where most research has focused on         will be collected for first immunologic,    Yeung. Endotoxin is generally
one or the other in isolation, this team will ex-       and finally genetic analyses.               recognized as playing a role in the
amine these factors together. Using Manitoba’s          The NET grant will also allow the team      development of asthma in chil-
health care databases, the researchers will evalu-      to further investigate the grounds for      dren, but the nature of this role
ate the health care services provided to children       the “hygiene hypothesis,” which attrib-     has not been determined.
born in 1995, such as medication, physician con-        utes the increased prevalence of asthma     A province with a large aboriginal
tact and institutional care. Children identified as     in developed countries to inhabitants’      population, Manitoba provides the
having asthma will be invited to participate in the     decreased exposure to bacteria and          opportunity to study allergy and
study, as will an equal number with no indica-          endotoxin, resulting in improperly de-      asthma in aboriginal children—a
tion of either asthma or allergy. The children’s        veloped immune responses. Within            largely undeveloped research area.
family and environmental situations will be as-         developed countries, “they found that       In aboriginal children of both rural
sessed, and dust from their homes analysed for          children growing up on farms, particu-      and, to a lesser extent, urban
allergens and endotoxin (a component of gram-           larly those that raise animals, have sig-                      (Continued on page 8)

                                                                                                                                PAGE 7
INSTITUTE OF INFECTION                                (Continued from page 7)                                    ASTHMA FACTS
    AND IMMUNITY                                                                                     •       Asthma kills approximately 500
           University of Western Ontario
                                                      communities, there is a lower incidence                adults and 20 children every year
    Siebens-Drake Research Institute, Suite 214       of asthma than in Caucasian communi-                   in Canada
  1400 Western Road, London, Ontario, N6G 2V4         ties. The researchers hope to learn not,              only why there is a difference, but also       •       Between 10 and 20 per cent of chil-
                                                                                                             dren in Canada have asthma
                                                      how to maintain it. Becker cites fears
                        Dr. Bhagirath                 that asthma is an epidemic in the making       •       Asthma is the leading cause of
                        Singh                         in aboriginal communities that could                   emergency room visits
                        Scientific Director
                                                      reach proportions similar to the diabe-
                                                      tes epidemic already raging there. He          •       Studies have shown that poor air
                        TEL: (519) 661-3228                                                                  quality increases the number of
                        FAX: (519) 661-4226
                                                      hopes the team will be able to figure out
                                                                                                             emergency room visits for asthma
                                                      what the triggers are, and use this infor-
                                                      mation to make changes or improve-             •       Estimates suggest that proper
                        Bruce Moor                    ments in the aboriginal communities.                   education could prevent more than
                        Assistant Director
                                                      Dr. Michael Moffatt is already working                 80 per cent of asthma-related
                                                      with the Centre for Aboriginal Health                  deaths
                        TEL: (519) 661-3228
                                                      Research in Winnipeg, Man. to facili-
                        FAX: (519) 661-4226                                                          •       Estimates of the world-wide
                                                      tate access to these communities, and
                                                                                                             economic costs of asthma are
                                                      says that the main advantage of this                   higher than those for both tu-
                        Carol Richardson              study to the aboriginal population will                berculosis and HIV/AIDS
                        Administrative Officer        be the potential for prevention of future              combined
                        TEL: (519) 661-3228           asthma and allergy-related illness. Dr.
                        FAX: (519) 661-4226           Andrew Sandford, who will be working         several years, at which point it may be possi-
                 on the genetic aspect of the project with    ble to pinpoint, prenatally or at birth, chil-
                                                      Dr. Peter Paré, adds that aboriginal         dren at risk. Paré adds that in the shorter
                        Tess Laidlaw                  children could have different variants of    term, treatments might be tailored to indi-
                        Communications                the genes involved in causing allergy        viduals’ genetic underpinnings for differences
                        Assistant                     and asthma, genes that would not be          in their immunologic responses as asthmatics,
                        TEL: (519) 661-3228           found in Caucasian children.                 potentially greatly increasing the precision of
                        FAX: (519) 661-4226           The in-depth immunology work                 clinical trials and the treatment of individual
                     planned will also represent an expan-        patients.
                                                      sion of that field in allergy and asthma     Sandford says being part of the NET program
                        Judith Bray                   research. “We’ll be looking more at the      is beneficial for each member of the team. “If
                        Assistant Director, Spe-      cellular level,” says Chan-Yeung, “for       we’re thinking about which genes we should
                        cial Projects                 example, in the hygiene hypothesis,          look at, it’s much better that we talk to some-
                        TEL: (613) 954-7223           what kinds of cells are being activated      one like Kent (HayGlass) who has a lot more
                        FAX: (613) 941-1040           and what’s the mechanism?” As well,          in-depth knowledge of that immunology than
                            Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj’s work with the          we do.” HayGlass appreciates that CIHR and
                                                      health care databases, which contain         III are supporting a research area that has such
                        Patrick Haag                  information on all of the children born      a high public profile. “It’s not something ob-
                        Project and                   in Manitoba in 1995, will identify sub-      scure that my neighbour across the street
                        Communications Officer        jects to take part in the study, as op-      would say, ‘That must be nice but I haven’t
                        TEL: (613) 946-1270           posed to beginning with, for example,        got a clue what you’re working on.’ It has
                        FAX: (613) 941-1040           children known to have been treated for      tremendous relevance for all Canadians.”
                            asthma by a particular clinic. Dr. Peter     HayGlass also appreciates being able to de-
                                                      Paré describes this approach as very         velop a research area where he believes there
                                                      powerful, “because you can then gener-       is a strong opportunity to advance the field,
                                                      alize back to the whole population. It       through taking a multidisciplinary approach.
                                                      would be more representative of the          Becker agrees, saying that the funding behind
                                                      general population than most studies.”       the team allows the research to be performed
                                                      Becker forecasts that the early results of   on a highly efficient level. “I don’t think this
                                                      the team’s work will begin translating       would have happened without the request for
                                                      into benefits for asthma patients within     proposals for the NET by CIHR and the Insti-
                                                      the year. The team expects that a thor-      tutes, and I think that’s one of the single best
                                                      ough analysis of the interactions among      changes that I’ve seen in the approach to fund-
                 ISSN 1703-9088                       genes and the environment will take          ing.”

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