2022 Grant Recipients

We fund innovation in Manitoban health care.

2022 HSC Foundation Grant Recipients

The HSC Foundation is proud of the researchers we fund. The work they do ultimately leads to improved patient care at Manitoba’s flagship hospital. Research is the key to deepening our understanding of health matters, and often leads to new technology, medicine, or practices.


The HSC Foundation 2022 grants were awarded through four different competitions and applications were reviewed by experts in their fields from HSC.

Allied Health Grants

Brenda Tittlemier, $16,215: “Adult outpatient musculoskeletal and hand physiotherapy services during healthcare system transformation”

Synopsis: Physiotherapy can help people live, work, and play to their best ability. In Manitoba, people can access physiotherapy through the public system at no personal cost, or the private system. Due to healthcare transformation, most publicly-funded hospital-based physiotherapy departments in Winnipeg were closed in 2017. We will study the impact of healthcare transformation on access and delivery of physiotherapy. Using clinical data, we will compare who accessed publicly-funded outpatient physiotherapy in Winnipeg hospitals before and after transformation. We will study wait times and treatment outcomes. By comparing with data from private practice, we will highlight gaps in access to care.


General Operating Grants

Peter Thompson, $70,000: “Understanding the relationship between beta cell dysfunction and autoimmunity in Type 1 Diabetes”

Synopsis: Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is caused when the immune system mistakenly destroys, specialized cells in the pancreas that make insulin (beta cells) leading to insulin deficiency. T1D is the second most common chronic disease in children and youth after asthma, with an estimated 7,000 Manitobans affected as of 2020. There is no cure or way to prevent the disease. This project will explore the relationships between the immune system and beta cells using donor tissues and cell models. This will be a key step in understanding how T1D occurs and may point to new therapies.


Heather Armstrong, $69,780: “Dietary fibers: feeding the microbiome, or fueling inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis”

Synopsis: Unlike most dietary components, dietary fibres are not degraded in the intestine; instead, they are fermented by gut microbes (bacteria, fungi), typically producing health benefits. However, we previously showed that a subset of inflammatory bowel disease patients (~20%) display inflammatory response to specific unfermented dietary fibres ( -fructans); this was caused by loss of fibre-fermenting microbiota, resulting in increased presence of unfermented -fructans in the gut and loss of anti-inflammatory byproducts of fermentation. Interestingly, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients display similar altered gut microbiota. We aim to investigate the disease specific mechanisms underlying response to select dietary fibres in RA to determine if personalized dietary fibre interventions could reduce disease burden in RA patients.


Jennifer Protudjer, $50,000: “Cross-Canada Anaphylaxis Registry (C-CARE) in Manitoba”

Synopsis: Anaphylaxis is a severe, and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that affects at least 2 in every 100 people in North America. Reactions are primarily caused by food, insect stings and drugs; and occur most often at home, school or work. Immediate treatment with a drug called epinephrine, commonly in an autoinjector or “pen,” is essential. Yet, 3 out of 4 people with anaphylaxis do not immediately use their epinephrine. Reasons for this lack of use are not fully understood. Yet, not using epinephrine leads to the use of more hospital resources, and increases the risk of anaphylaxis-related death.


Asher Mendelson, $70,000: “Microvascular monitoring in ICU survivors to evaluate ICU-acquired weakness”

Synopsis: Intensive care unit (ICU)-acquired weakness is a problem with skeletal muscle that significantly reduces quality of life for survivors of critical illness, and there are currently no treatments that can prevent or reverse this condition. Much research has focused on skeletal muscle biology without considering how the microcirculation (smallest blood vessels) contributes to ICU-acquired weakness. Our team will use advanced non-invasive tools to understand the relationship between blood flow in the microcirculation, oxygen delivery, and exercise capacity in ICU survivors. These findings will be used to identify patients at high risk for long-term complications, and help develop new treatment strategies to avoid these complications.


Abdullah Al Maruf,$69,996: “Pharmacogenetics of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor-Induced Behavioural Activation in Children and Adolescents (PGx-SImBA)”

Synopsis: Major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are amongst the most common mental health disorders in children. Antidepressants are frequently prescribed for these children. Although these medications are generally effective and safe, some children suffer from adverse effects. One such adverse effect is behavioural activation, characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, or irritability. Unfortunately, we do not currently know why some children develop these adverse effects while others do not. The proposed project aims to identify a panel of genetic variants that could assist clinicians in detecting children at-risk for developing this adverse effect.


Mindel & Tom Olenick Award in Immunology

Courtney Marshall, $5,000: “Sex-related differences in airway inflammation: Immunomodulation by innate defense regulator peptides”

Synopsis: Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease. Nearly 3 million Canadians suffer from asthma, and more than 10% of patients do not respond to available steroid therapies. These non-responders represent the major burden of asthma and account for annual healthcare costs of around $2B in Canada. Also, commonly used steroid treatments for asthma can increase the risk of lung infections, which can make asthma worse. This research will focus on new molecules known as innate defence regulator (IDR) peptides, which can control both inflammation and infection. Asthma also affects females differently than males, with females experiencing more severe forms of asthma and represent ​most patients that do not respond to current treatments. Therefore, effective development of new treatments must consider the differences in disease and response to therapy between females and males.  This research will directly support the development of a new IDR peptide-based therapy for asthma by examining its effect in male and females separately, using animal models and human lung cells. It is entirely possible that we will need to develop sex-specific treatment protocols to provide the most efficient care for asthma sufferers.


Stella Onwah, $5,000: “The role of metabolic enzymes in the virulence and immunopathogenesis of Leishmania infection”

Synopsis: Leishmaniasis is an often a fatal disease that is caused by various species of the protozoan parasite that belongs to the genus Leishmania. The clinical disease manifests in various forms, ranging from disfiguring skin ulcers to life-threatening disease that affects the spleen, liver and bone marrow. Current treatment modalities against the disease are not very effective and are associated with severe side effects and increasing incidence of drug resistance. Therefore, there is urgent need to develop novel therapies including vaccines against the disease. We previously showed that two Leishmania metabolic enzymes, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPCK) and dihydrolipoyl dehydrogenase (DLD) are key targets of immune response in infected hosts. This current research hopes to determine the role of these enzymes in the ability of Leishmania parasites to cause disease in their infected hosts. We will further aim to understand how these enzymes influence the host immune responses during Leishmania infections. We will do this by genetically modifying the expression of these enzymes in the parasites. The findings from this research could help determine whether parasites deficient in expression of these enzymes can be used as a live attenuated vaccine against Leishmaniasis.

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