McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Health of diverse populations is focus of new Chanchlani Research Centre

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: March 28, 2012
Chanchlani Research Centre opening: John Kelton, Jaya Chanchlani, Vasu Chanchlani and Sonia Anand
At the grand opening of the Chanchlani Research Centre, from left: John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences; Jaya Chanchlani, Vasu Chanchlani and their daughter Tina Chanchlani; and Sonia Anand, professor and director of the Chanchlani Research Centre

Tracking health differences by ethnicity is the cornerstone of the new Chanchlani Research Centre at McMaster University.

The new centre is dedicated to understanding the genetic and environmental causes of common diseases among diverse cultural groups, women and the socially disadvantaged while providing innovative training to the next generation of health researchers.

The centre is funded by a $1 million donation from Vasu Chanchlani, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and founding member of the Canada India Foundation, and his wife, Jaya, a family physician in Brampton for more than 20 years. The couple has given an additional $250,000 to fund an award for an international scholar in the field.

A presentation and ribbon cutting ceremony opened the research centre located in McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery.

"This gift of philanthropists Vasu and Jaya Chanchlani provides significant opportunities for McMaster," said University President Patrick Deane.  As health challenges are increasingly understood in a global context, focus on ethnic and local issues promises to bring benefit not only to those specific communities, but to humanity at large."

Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, agreed: "The Chanchlani Research Centre will be the home of some of our best work and our best people: We know the centre will produce meaningful, life-changing results."

In Canada, diabetes and early heart disease are found among increasing numbers of South Asians who have migrated here from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In India alone, Type 2 diabetes affects 80 million people.

Chanchlani has said the goal of the centre is to "leverage the resources, passion and influence of people of South Asian origin by engaging them in a serious social cause that is afflicting people of South Asian origin around the world."

Director of the new centre is McMaster professor and research scientist Dr. Sonia Anand, a Canadian leader in the research of genetic and environmental causes of vascular disease.

"The Chanchlani gift will enable a group of innovative researchers with talent that ranges from genetics to social determinants to understand the causes and consequences of common diseases that afflict diverse ethnic populations, women, and the socially disadvantaged," she said.

Currently, Anand is leading the START (SouTh Asian birth cohort) study — which is studying two birth cohorts of South Asians in Southern Ontario and another in urban and rural India - to find out why central adiposity and diabetes are so prevalent among the South Asian population.  She was recently funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to initiate a similar style birth cohort among the Aboriginal people of the Six Nations.

Anand received international attention with an earlier study which showed a diet high in fruits and vegetables appears to lessen the genetic risk of the 9p21 gene on heart disease. This led to the SAHARA (South Asian Heart Risk Assessment) study which is intended to find out if knowing about this gene motivates individuals at risk of a heart attack to change their habits.

Other guests included Aditya Jha, an Indo-Canadian entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist who is chairman of the POA Educational Foundation which promotes education and entrepreneurship among less fortunate individuals and groups; and Dr. Budhendranauth Doobay, a Hamilton physician and spiritual leader to the South Asian community in Southern Ontario and various international aid organizations.


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