Pandemic research receives $1.6M funding boost

    HAMILTON, ON, July 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Densely populated cities and
increased air travel can be factors which create and spread pandemic disease.
But a McMaster University researcher is working with isolated Hutterite
communities to understand the transmission of pandemic diseases like
    Dr. Mark Loeb and his research team have received $1.6 million in funding
to carry out the research from the Rx&D Health Research Foundation (HRF), the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency (CFIA).
    Dr. Loeb will work with Hutterite communities in western Canada to
examine the transmission of flu viruses from person to person and from pigs to
humans. Dr. Loeb is an internationally-recognized expert in infectious disease
epidemiology, and has studied SARS (as founding director of the Canadian SARS
Research Network), West Nile Virus, and antibiotic use and resistance. His
team's new research will detect influenza viruses in humans and pigs in
Hutterite communities, and use computer modelling to analyze the transmission
of the virus.
    "Hutterite communities are uniquely well-suited to this sort of research,
because they are active swine farmers and because they live in isolation from
mainstream society," says Loeb. "We hope to use this research grant to learn
important lessons about how disease spreads and how to prevent it."
    "Our foundation supports research in areas that are important to Canada's
health research community and to Canadian society as a whole." said Dr. Yves
Morin, President of the Health Research Foundation. "Our goal is to augment
Canada's position as a world-class centre for health research and a leader in
developing new ways to prevent, treat and cure disease."
    "The SARS outbreak taught us that there are no national boundaries when
it comes to infectious diseases," said Dr. Bhagirath Singh, Scientific
Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity. "Through this
partnership, Dr. Loeb and his team will receive the critical support needed to
further advance knowledge in the area of pandemic preparedness and influenza
    This announcement is the first of a series of annual thematic grants to
be made by the HRF on important public health issues. HRF, one of the leading
private granting foundations in Canada, has awarded over $23 million to over
1,400 researchers in the past 20 years alone.
    "It's gratifying to researchers to see funding come from foundations such
as the HRF, as it indicates a willingness to give back and to further basic
and applied research into important subjects," said Peter George, president of
McMaster University. "This is a critical study, and we're particularly pleased
to see Dr. Loeb's innovative work given well-deserved recognition with this

    The research team includes:

        Dr. Mark Loeb, McMaster University, Ontario (principal investigator)
        Dr. Margaret Russell, University of Calgary, Alberta
        Dr. Jonathan Dushoff, McMaster University, Ontario
        Dr. David Earn, McMaster University, Ontario
        Dr. Kevin Fonseca, Provincial Laboratory for Public Health, Calgary,
        Dr. Julie Fox, Provincial Laboratory for Public Health, Calgary
        Dr. Julia Keenliside, Alberta Agriculture and Food, Edmonton, Alberta
        Dr. Mathieu Lemire, McGill University, Quebec and Genome Quebec
        Dr. Marek Smieja, McMaster University, Ontario
        Dr. Stephen Walter, McMaster University, Ontario
        Dr. Richard Webby, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis,

    About the Rx&D Health Research Foundation (HRF):

    The Rx&D Health Research Foundation is a non-profit organization whose
mission is to support health research in Canadian academic health centres and
to promote the value of health research in Canada. Founded in 1964 by Canada's
Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D), the HRF applies the highest
standards of scientific excellence to address health challenges of great
importance to Canadian society. It accomplishes this through a longstanding
tradition of establishing partnerships with the academic field and government.
As one of the leading private health research foundations in the country, the
HRF contributes significantly to the prevention and treatment of disease and
to a better health care system.

    About Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D):

    Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) is an association
of members dedicated to improving the health of all Canadians. As a partner of
the health-care system, our discoveries help eliminate the need for medical
procedures such as surgery, which have a significant impact on patient quality
of life and health-care budgets. Our community represents over 20,000 men and
women working for more than 50 member companies in Canada and is responsible
for generating 100,000 jobs across Canada.

    About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR):

    The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of
Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new
scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health,
more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian
health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and
support to close to 11,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

    About McMaster University:

    McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university,
fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in
teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of
only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in
the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni
population of more than 135,000 in 128 countries.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contacts: Bob LeDrew, Thornley Fallis,
(613) 231-3355, ext 243,; Veronica McGuire, McMaster
University, (905) 525-9140, ext. 22555,

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