Arthritis Society invests $4.2 million into Canadian researchers

September 30, 2015

Helping fill funding gap that may be discouraging more young investigators

Amid a constrained funding environment for health science, The Arthritis Society continues its annual commitment to Canadian research into arthritis, pain, and inflammation. This year, it will direct $4.2 million toward 21 new projects and rheumatology training in medical centres across the country. 

“There are very exciting and novel ideas coming out of Canada, particularly for osteoarthritis, which causes pain and disability for an overwhelming number of people,” says Joanne Simons, chief mission officer at The Arthritis Society. “The research community can make tremendous progress in the coming years – it’s vitally important we fund ideas born in the lab that have the potential to alter the future of many chronic diseases.” 

Highlights of the 2015-16 research awards include: 
  • Reprogramming immune cells to reverse osteoarthritis (OA): Some immune cells create inflammation and some reduce it. Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan (University of Toronto) will reprogram immune cells to a less inflammatory state and test if they will work against OA, which currently has no cure.
  • Saving knees from arthritis after ACL injury: Dr. Steven Boyd (University of Calgary) will use the world’s only HR-pQCT scanner* adapted for knee scans to monitor early changes in the bone after an ACL injury – the point at which osteoarthritis can begin.  Proactive measures can be taken if we have an accurate warning radar for arthritis.
  • Improving the cognitive health of lupus patients: Dr. Zahi Touma (University Health Network) aims to reveal tests that will screen, diagnose and, most crucially, monitor cognitive impairment in people with systemic lupus erythematosus, who commonly face problems with language, memory, learning, and thinking clearly. 
  • Stopping OA with a protein: Dr. Frank Beier (Western University) previously found that the PPARdelta protein – found in cartilage – is implicated in osteoarthritis. This new work will see if blocking PPARdelta can slow disease progression and if the protein is involved in cartilage breakdown in humans, perhaps paving the way for a new treatment path. 
“In the current environment this level of funding is difficult to obtain, so we are very grateful,” said Dr. Frank Beier. “It’s a critical time for biomedical research but I’m concerned the reduced government funding will discourage young investigators. We risk losing a generation of people who can make a difference.”

The Arthritis Society directed $300,000 toward Canadian medical schools that will help further develop research at local arthritis centres across the country and enhance the training of new rheumatologists at teaching hospitals. 

The largest non‐government funder of arthritis research in Canada, The Society has invested over $190 million into investigating arthritis and chronic pain since 1948. 

(* High-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography)

About The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis, The Society is Canada's principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the more than 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non‐government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing over $190 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada's Standards Program. For more information and to make a donation, visit www.arthritis.ca. 
 
- 30 -

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jeff Jurmain 
National Communications Specialist – The Arthritis Society
tel: 416-979-7228 x3354
cell: 647-461-0743
email: jjurmain@arthritis.ca