February is Heart Month, and the federal Minister of Health, the Honourable Jane Philpott, chose to kick it off by coming to the Ottawa Heart Institute to announce $2.9 million in funding for five of its researchers. Heart disease is the second-leading cause of death in Canada. This funding, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, supports projects to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease.
“We have five world-class research teams that we are supporting today, emphasizing the kind of research that is done at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute,” said Minister Philpott. She went on to say, “As Canadians, we need to be proud of and support these talented individuals who are committed to excellence, who are committed to asking the big questions and finding the cutting edge solutions.”
The funded researchers are studying various forms of heart disease:
- David Birnie, MD, received over $600,000 to conduct the first study of its kind to learn more about cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can cause sudden death.
- Wenbin Liang, MD, PhD, received $577,000 to study how to develop more effective therapies for treating cardiac arrhythmias, conditions which affect over 1 million Canadians.
- Ruth McPherson, MD, PhD, received $263,000 to research new ways to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects around 20% of Canadian adults and increases the risk of heart disease.
- Katey Rayner, PhD, received almost $980,000 to study how to identify and treat high-risk plaques in the arteries before a heart attack happens.
- Benjamin Rotstein, PhD, received over $462,000 to develop new imaging techniques to identify plaque buildup in arteries which has the potential to lead to heart attack or stroke.
Anita Vandenbeld, MP for Ottawa West-Nepean, helped to draw the connection between research funding and the lives it touches when she shared her own personal story.
“Everybody in our community, in our city, our country knows [the University of Ottawa Heart Institute] is world class and the cutting edge research that is done here impacts so many people,” she began.
Then she told the audience, “Just over a month ago, my husband was an inpatient here… For every one of those dollars, there is a name, there is a face, there’s somebody’s loved one. In my case, that name is my husband Don. The research that is going to be funded could very well be the research that will mean my husband will never have to be admitted here again.”
Commenting on the announcement, Peter Liu, MD, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of Research, said, “Today’s funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is truly a shot in the arm for Canada’s health innovation during this critical time. It is also timely and enabling for the world-class, life-changing research at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and a testament to the hard work from our research teams in seeking solutions to eradicate heart disease.”