CFI provides $18.5 M boost to research on neuromuscular diseases, cancer-fighting viruses, the power of light and radioactive atoms

Posted on Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has awarded $18.5 million in funding to support cutting-edge research led by four teams from the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital.

“The innovation made possible by this infrastructure support for our researchers will directly benefit Canadians’ health and well-being,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, interim vice-president, research, University of Ottawa. “I want to thank the CFI for their continued support and look forward to the exciting potential outcomes of the four projects.”

Projects receiving funding include:

Harnessing the interaction of light and matter to improve mobile data processing
Muralee Murugesu, Faculty of Science

Portrait picture of professor Murugesu

The key to addressing the challenge of a growing mobile era, with its staggering volumes of data and ever-increasing processing times, is to do more with less. To that end, innovations in faster and lower power electronics are needed.

In recent years, materials based on molecular (e.g., nanomagnets) or two-dimensional (e.g., graphene) systems have shown tremendous magnetic/conducting properties. If these properties can be triggered or harnessed through the application of a small amount of energy, such as light, it will be possible to drastically cut energy consumption for data processing and storage. This research will be conducted in uOttawa’s new state-of-the-art STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) building.

“We’re aiming to extract the full potential of matter through its interactions with light” said chemistry professor Muralee Murugesu. “This Light Matter Interaction program looks at ways to reduce energy consumption related to the information and communication technology sector by leveraging the convergence of three material-centric cornerstones: magnetics, optics and photonics, and electronics.”

World-class hub for neuromuscular therapies
Rashmi Kothary, Faculty of Medicine and the Ottawa Hospital

Portrait photo of Dr. Rashmi Kothary

Already home to one of the world’s largest centres for neuromuscular disease research, the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital will now also house the Ottawa Muscle and Nerve Initiative.

This comprehensive global innovation hub will help researchers systematically develop and assess preclinical models of neuromuscular disease to accelerate the development of therapeutic interventions that can readily be translated to patients.

“Neuromuscular diseases represent a broad group of more than 150 genetic and acquired disorders, the majority of which cause disability and premature death through progressive muscle wasting,” said Rashmi Kothary, who is leading this initiative with Bernard Jasmin, interim dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “This funding will help us build on recent breakthroughs in our understanding of neuromuscular diseases, design much-needed new therapies and evaluate them in patients.”



Portrait photo of Dr. John Bell

Cutting-edge consortium for virus-based therapies
John Bell, Faculty of Medicine and the Ottawa Hospital

John Bell will establish the Canadian Virus and Immunology Consortium (CVIC), to repurpose viruses to serve as platforms for the development of novel oncolytics (viruses that infect and kill cancer cells), anti-virals and vaccines and for applied manufacturing research.

CVIC’s commitment to advancing novel viroceuticals from discovery to human clinical research will advance commercial development of a variety of treatments for human illnesses, including cancer and infectious diseases.

“While most people think of viruses as bugs that make us sick, they are also extremely powerful tools that can be harnessed to prevent and treat disease,” said Bell. “Our goal is to establish Canada as a global leader in this field, from discovery to commercialization and manufacturing.”

An upgraded accelerator mass spectrometer for safer nuclear waste disposal
Jack Cornett*, Faculty of Science

Photo of an accelerator mass spectrometer, a high tech piece of scientific equipment

Canada’s only accelerator mass spectrometer, housed at the University of Ottawa’s Advanced Research Complex, will receive a $3.8-million upgrade to improve its ability to measure rare radioactive atoms.

These atoms are useful for a diversity of applications in biomedical, Earth, environmental and materials science. Examples range from determining the amount of oil contamination in groundwater to identifying the early stages of diseases such as osteoporosis.


CFI has also awarded these four projects an additional $5.5 million to help support the operation and maintenance of the funded infrastructure.


Media inquiries

Néomie Duval
Manager, Media Relations
Cell: 613-240-0275

* In memoriam: Following the publication of this release, the University was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Jack Cornett. The University extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and students.

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