McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Government of Canada invests $6.7M in Canada Research Chairs at McMaster

By Danelle D'Alvise
Published: October 25, 2011
Tim Whelan
Tim Whelan, professor of oncology; Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research in Cancer

Brian Coombes
Brian Coombes, associate professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences; Canada Research Chair in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis
Sonia Anand
Sonia Anand, professor of medicine and clinical epidemiology and biostatistics; Canada Research Chair in Ethnic Diversity and Cardiovascular Disease

With the support of the Canada Research Chairs program, three investigators in the Faculty of Health Sciences will continue to pursue highly successful research programs.

New Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) were announced this month by the federal government for Sonia Anand, a professor of medicine, clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, and Brian Coombes, an associate professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences. Tim Whelan, a professor of oncology, received an advancement of his chair to Tier 1 status.

The health sciences faculty are among eight researchers at McMaster University to receive new and renewed funding through the Canada Research Chairs program — an investment totalling $6.7 million. McMaster now boasts 62 Chairs from an allocation of 69 CRCs — the third highest allocation in Ontario and ninth highest in Canada.

"Retaining these talented individuals means that our University can reap the benefits of their new ideas and their contributions to issues of health, public safety and the economy," said Mo Elbestawi, vice-president research and international affairs.

Sonia Anand, Canada Research Chair in Ethnic Diversity and Cardiovascular Disease, will use her Tier 1 Chair to examine high-risk populations to provide greater insight into the causes and risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Her research could eventually lead to the development of prevention strategies to stem the leading cause of premature deaths in ethnic populations.

Biochemist Brian Coombes has been awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis to investigate how major enteric pathogens — the organisms that enter our bodies and cause serious problems with our gastrointestinal systems — infect humans, and how human and environmental activities influence the evolution of these infectious diseases.

During his tenure as Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research in Cancer (Tier 2), radiation oncologist Tim Whelan served at the forefront of radiation therapy research, leading randomized trials that evaluated novel radiation regimens in breast cancer, changing cancer treatment practice not just in Canada, but across North America. His research successes have propelled Whelan to a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer Research, where he will forge new paths in the study of the biomarkers that indicate the presence of a cancerous tumour to determine if they can be used to help individualize the treatment of early breast cancer to lessen the toxicity and cost of unnecessary treatment.  Whelan w ill also continue to conduct clinical trials to optimize radiation therapy for women with breast cancer and evaluate new technologies in radiation therapy.

"Our government is investing in the people and ideas that will keep Canada at the forefront of the global economy," said Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology. "The Canada Research Chairs are helping to develop, attract and retain the world's top researchers here in our country."

Other McMaster recipients of new and renewed Canada Research Chairs included: Sigal Balshine, Department of Psychology; Tom Maibaum, Department of Computing and Software; Prashant Mhaskar, Department of Chemical Engineering; Yurij Mozharivskyj, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; and Ravi Selvaganapathy, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Tier 1 Chairs, tenable for seven years and renewable, are for outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields. Tier 2 Chairs, tenable for five years and renewable once, are for exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field.

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