Heart Research in Ottawa Gets Funding Boost

Heart Institute new generation of researchers get striking $2.5 million in funding: a new cutting-edge laboratory in Ottawa and hope for patients with cardiac arrhythmia

For almost 40 years, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) has been a strong leader in heart research regionally, nationally and internationally. And its future continues to look bright as veteran researchers and tomorrow’s leading scientists have been awarded close to $2.5 million in new funding from various grant programs, including the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund’s Infrastructure Grant.

“This important funding is great news for us at the Heart Institute, for Ottawa’s scientific community, and for heart health in Canada,” said Dr. Peter Liu, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of Research at the UOHI. “Our young and rising researchers are getting the recognition they deserve as some of Canada’s most talented scientists, while the Heart Institute continues to expand its research capacity with a new, ultramodern lab.”

Among the stellar Heart Institute’s researchers awarded funding are recently recruited and promising scientists that are already recognized as young leaders in cutting-edge cardiovascular research.

A star recruit to the Institute in 2015, Dr. Wenbin Liang’s breakthrough research into how a novel cell signalling pathway contributes to cardiac arrhythmias (heart rhythm disturbances), was awarded $284,058 as part of the HSFC’s Grants-In-Aid. In addition, Dr. Liang has also been awarded the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative (ERLI) award from HSFC, and the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund’s Infrastructure Grant.

“Our project will investigate the underlying mechanisms for cardiac arrhythmias and explore new avenues for therapy,” said Dr. Liang. “It will potentially help improve outcomes for over one million Canadians affected by cardiac arrhythmia, as well as reduce health care costs and increase industry and jobs opportunities in Canada.”

Dr. Thais Coutinho, a clinician scientist and cardiologist who is also a recent recruit to the Institute,
was awarded $220,938 as part of the HSFC’s Grants-In-Aid. In addition, she received a HSF Ontario Clinician Scientist award - Phase I ($280,000) for her research on the role of arterial stiffness and hemodynamics as predictors of disease progression on thoracic aorta aneurysms.

“Our research will help us to identify aortic aneurysm patients at higher risk of complications. It will also help us identify new targets for prevention and treatment. It has significant potential to advance the field and improve the health of people with thoracic aortic aneurysms,” said Dr. Coutinho.

Dr. Benjamin Hibbert was awarded $537,500 from the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund’s Infrastructure Grant. Dr. Hibbert is a cardiologist at the Institute and a new clinician scientist; the funding will help him establish a new, state-of-the-art platelet function analysis laboratory here in Ottawa.

“As Ontario’s population ages, there is a critical need to better understand how to balance the preventive benefit of antiplatelet therapies with the increased risk of bleeding complications,” said Dr. Hibbert. “Ultimately, this understanding will help guide therapies and improve patient outcomes.”

The UOHI’s recent success rate of 50% in the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Grant-in-Aid competition, puts it well above the national average of 20%. Of seven UOHI researchers granted funding for various initiatives, five are new rising star researchers recruited to the Institute. Further details available on the UOHI website:

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is Canada’s largest and foremost heart health centre dedicated to understanding, treating, and preventing heart disease. Its researchers are alive with discovery, ingenuity, insight and invention, setting new standards of clinical care, gaining scientific insight into heart disease, and contributing to the world’s storehouse of cardiovascular knowledge. The Heart Institute also trains the next generation of medical and research professionals, many of whom go on to become leaders in their fields.

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