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$2 million for high-impact health research at Concordia

The university lands new federal funding for diabetes prevention, addiction treatments and more
June 28, 2017
By Renée Dunk

Federal funding agency the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has announced support for several new projects at Concordia.

Four psychology professors in the Faculty of Arts and Science — Mark Ellenbogen, Adam Radomsky, Roisin O’Connor and Uri Shalev — received a combined total of $1.5 million dollars through CIHR’s project scheme competition.

Simon Bacon, professor in the Department of Exercise Science, was awarded $500,000 to support his work as the Patient-Oriented Research Mentorship Chair in Innovative Clinical Trials.

“I extend sincere congratulations to my colleagues on their funding successes in the area of health research,” says Justin Powlowski, interim vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies.

“Sustained funding from the CIHR is important to Concordia not only because it supports high-impact projects, but also because it helps to demonstrate that we have a lot to offer in the area of health-related research and training.”

As a mentorship chair, Bacon will train researchers to improve their study designs to make significant and meaningful recommendations for prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

The award, which will run for five years, received additional financial and in-kind support from Concordia and several other partners for a total project funding of $1,800,000. The partners are: CIUSSS-NIM, Réseau de recherche en santé cardiométabolique diabète et obesite, Unité de soutien SRAP-Quebec, Diabetes Canada, Hypertension Canada, International Behavioural Trials Network and the CEPS Platform.

A focus on mental health

The other newly funded research projects, all in the overarching area of mental health, are varied in theme. Their principal investigators, all from Concordia’s Department of Psychology, are affiliated with several different university-recognized research centres.

Ellenbogen, the new director of the Centre for Research in Human Development, will continue his investigation into major depressive disorder (MDD), a recurrent and debilitating chronic disease, with a grant of $696,150 over five years.

He and a team of researchers will launch a randomized controlled trial where patients receive oxytocin via a nasal spray to treat MDD in addition to psychotherapy — a traditional treatment to which only two-thirds of patients respond.

Ultimately, Ellenbogen hopes to improve the use of psychotherapy in treating people with MDD with the pairing of oxytocin, which he says might heighten patients’ perception of emotion and improve the patient-therapist relationship.

Radomsky, Concordia University Research Chair in Anxiety and Related Disorders and a member of the Centre for Clinical Research in Health, was awarded $642,600 for five years. He will continue his investigations into an alternative to exposure and response prevention, a method commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Radomsky notes that with exposure and response prevention, patients are encouraged to face their fears repeatedly and for extended periods of time, which often causes anxiety and distress. He and his team are developing a cognitively-based treatment that Radomsky says will be a “kinder and gentler” approach to psychotherapy.

O’Connor, co-director of the Centre for Clinical Research in Health, will look at culture-specific interventions to reduce adolescent cigarette and alcohol use in Indigenous communities. With a bridge funding award of $100,000, she will embark on a multi-phase study that starts with community listening.

O’Connor hopes this will lead to a greater understanding of what causes cigarette and alcohol use and what protects Indigenous youth from smoking and drinking.

Shalev is a researcher at the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology. Using his bridge funding of $100,000, he will examine the underlying neurobiological mechanisms related to the high rate of drug use relapse following periods of abstinence in the treatment of heroin and cocaine addiction.

The knowledge gained through new CIHR-funded studies will contribute greatly to his team’s understanding of the development of prevention and intervention strategies for drug addiction treatment.

Additional funding successes

Earlier this year, in separate CIHR funding competitions, two other Concordia faculty members received research grants.

Lisa Kakinami, an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics in the Faculty of Arts and Science as well as a PERFORM Centre member, was awarded a $63,550 operating grant to analyze pre-existing data linking parenting style and obesity risk throughout childhood and adolescence.

Sylvia Kairouz, associate professor of sociology and anthropology and research chair on the study and prevention of gambling in Quebec, received a planning and dissemination award of $13,594 to support the promotion of her research results.

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