AllerGen Success Stories
CHILD research team awarded five-year CIHR grant
Dr. Malcolm Sears, an AllerGen research leader and a professor of medicine at McMaster University, together with a team of CHILD researchers from across Canada, has received a five-year operating grant, valued at over $1 million, from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health. The CHILD Study application was ranked first among 65 proposals reviewed by the respiratory committee in the March 2014 competition.
The project, titled “Early Life Determinants of Asthma,” will use data from over 3,300 infants in the CHILD birth cohort study to explore how selected environmental factors affect allergies and asthma in children with different Genetic Risk Scores (GRS).
A GRS for asthma has recently been developed: the higher an individual's score, the more likely is life-long asthma; however, it is not known how environmental exposures influence this genetic risk.
AllerGen investigators Drs Sonia Anand, Jeffrey Brook and PJ Subbarao are also Principal Investigators for the project.
AllerGen and Canadian Respiratory Research Network (CRRN) partner to invest in grants for early career investigators
AllerGen will partner in the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative (ERLI)—an establishment grant program for researchers at the transition stage from post-doctoral fellow to early career professional in the areas of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and/or respiratory health research. This multi-partnered initiative is led by the Canadian Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and includes organizational partners from non-profit, government, industry, and emerging / existing Networks of Centres of Excellence.
The grant, valued at $150,000 ($50,000 per year for three years), is intended to assist new investigators in establishing independent health research programs and achieving the research productivity necessary to obtain major funding from national and other external granting agencies. A successful CRRN applicant whose research aligns with AllerGen’s mission and research scope is eligible for additional funding of $12,000/year for the length of the award.
CLICK HERE for more information on the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative.
Application submission deadline - September 15, 2014
AllerGen investigator chosen for 2014 “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”
An AllerGen investigator is among 90 Canadians named in Thomson Reuters' new compilation of "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014."
Dr. Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, was ranked as a top influencer in the category of "computer science" for her work in the area of bioinformatics.
Thomson Reuters identified the most influential scientists by analyzing citation data over the last decade. Roughly 3,200 researchers worldwide earned the distinction by ranking among the top 1% "most cited" in 21 broad fields of the sciences and social sciences.
Dr. Brinkman is an expert in the emerging field of bioinformatics—the use of computers to gather, store, analyze and integrate biological and genetic information, which can then be used to study how diseases develop.
Dr. Brinkman heads an AllerGen project to develop an Allergy and Asthma Portal—a web-accessible resource that combines data from the scientific literature with AllerGen research to aid more integrated, advanced studies of molecular networks involved in allergic diseases.
She has also developed Innate DB—an integrated database of the genes, proteins, molecular interactions and pathways involved in allergic responses. This resource provides a platform for sophisticated investigations of asthma and allergy responses and can be combined with bioinformatics and visualization tools for more holistic, systems-level analyses that were not previously possible.
Currently, Dr. Brinkman is conducting a Network-wide assessment of AllerGen data to identify data integration opportunities, leading to new insights in allergic disease.
Network members contribute to new volume on the study of mast cells
AllerGen investigator Dr. Kelly McNagny (The University of British Columbia) is co-editor of a new edition of "Mast Cells: Methods and Protocols," a volume in the Methods in Molecular Biology series published by Humana Press. The text is intended for the use of professionals and practitioners, and provides a sampler of methods and techniques in the further study of mast cell biology.
Among the contributors to the volume are 12 AllerGen-associated co-authors: seven investigators, one partner and four Highly Qualified Personnel.
This second edition expands upon the first with current, detailed reviews covering mast cell neophytes and cognoscenti alike, and features cutting-edge, readily reproducible protocols.
CIC investigators test new drug for allergic asthma
Researchers in AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) have shown that a new drug (quilizumab) successfully blocks the production of an immune system protein, reducing symptoms of allergic asthma.
The study, led by Dr. Gail Gauvreau (McMaster University), was conducted by CIC investigators at six Canadian universities and one international site, and published in the July 2, 2014, issue of Science Translational Medicine.
Quilizumab, manufactured by Genentech, is a new monoclonal antibody that targets a receptor on immature blood cells to block the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a key protein involved in the allergic response. While other drugs bind to circulating IgE, quilizumab acts by depleting the cells responsible for IgE production even before it occurs, according to Dr. Gauvreau.
"The reduction of IgE in the blood was sustained for at least six months after the last dose of quilizumab, suggesting a long-lasting effect on IgE production," says Dr. Gauvreau. "These findings may have implications for patients with severe asthma or other diseases which are caused by high levels of circulating IgE."
A follow-up clinical trial involving a larger group of subjects with more severe asthma is underway.
Fresh “face” ready to meet Nobel Laureates
AllerGen trainee and gut microbiome researcher Dr. Meghan Azad has been featured in the “Faces” series leading up to The 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physiology or Medicine), be held June 29-July 4, 2014, in Lindau, Germany.
The “Faces” blog series profiles just a few of the remarkable young scientists who will attend the prestigious meeting that unites more than 30 Nobel Prize winners with 600 of the world’s brightest young scientists.
“I would like to sincerely thank the CIHR for supporting my research and nominating me to attend the Lindau Nobel Meeting. I would also like to acknowledge my mentor, Dr. Anita Kozyrskj, and my colleagues at the CHILD study, the SyMBIOTA research team, and AllerGen Network Centre of Excellence, for their guidance, support and collaboration,” says Dr. Azad.
CHILD Study news to reach 700,000 through Toronto Star
A new digital media campaign on asthma and allergies featuring an online article about AllerGen’s CHILD Study was released on June 12, 2014. The CHILD Study article provides an introduction to the study, its preliminary findings, and the promise the study holds for future prevention and treatment of asthma and other chronic diseases. Drs Malcolm Sears, PJ Subbarao and Stuart Turvey are featured.
Look for the print version of the CHILD Study article in a special supplement to the Toronto Star newspaper on Saturday, June 28, 2014!
Global TV spotlights "Allergy Pals" program
Anaphylaxis Canada's "Allergy Pals," an online peer support and mentorship program for children with severe food allergies, was recently profiled by Global TV News (Edmonton).
Dr. Miriam Stewart and a team from the University of Alberta developed the mentoring program with support from AllerGen NCE. "The importance of peers is that each of the children in the group understands what it's like to live with allergies", notes Dr. Stewart, adding that the mentoring focuses mainly on how kids can "live normal lives despite coping with allergies - at school, in sports and having fun..."
View the clip here.
CIC investigators publish new findings for allergic asthma
Researchers at AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) have discovered that an antibody can block a specific protein in the lungs and reduce the symptoms of inflammation and bronchoconstriction experienced by people with mild allergic asthma.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted at five CIC sites across the country and involved the work of AllerGen Network researchers Dr. Gail Gauvreau, Dr. Paul O'Byrne, Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet, Dr. Donald Cockcroft, Dr. Mark FitzGerald, Dr. Beth Davis and Dr. Richard Leigh.
Epithelial cells in the lung's airways produce a protein called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) that causes inflammation. This study proved for the first time that epithelial cells continually produce TSLP in humans with asthma and that blocking TSLP with an antibody can reduce the symptoms of mild allergic asthma.
These findings have implications for the development of new antibody treatments not only for allergic asthma, but for severe asthma as well, according to Dr. O'Byrne. Dr. Gavreau presented the study at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego, CA.
AllerGen-Stanford collaboration advances food allergy research
A new collaboration between AllerGen and Stanford University will allow young Canadian scientists to pursue advanced food allergy research with Dr. Kari Nadeau, a renowned expert in adult and pediatric allergies.
The Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR)/AllerGen Research Fellowship Award will co-fund a $50,000 award for a Canadian investigator (PhD or MD) with an interest in the prevention and treatment of severe food allergies to pursue academic research training with Dr. Nadeau at Stanford University.
Dr. Nadeau leads translational research and clinical studies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and directs the Nadeau Laboratory at Stanford. Her work studies the mechanisms involved in food allergies, oral immunotherapy for multiple food allergies, and eosinophilic esophagitis. To learn more about SAFAR and Dr. Nadeau’s work, click here.
Dr. Michael Brauer honoured for research on asthma and the environment
Dr. Michael Brauer, a Professor at the School of Population and Public Health, The University of British Columbia, and an AllerGen Principal Investigator, has been named as the first recipient of the Asthma Society of Canada’s Bastable-Potts Asthma Research Prize. The award, valued this year at $10,000, recognizes innovative Canadian research that adds to the body of knowledge on asthma and its relationship to environmental exposures. Read the press release.
Dr. Brauer also received one of three For Life and Breath Innovation Awards, which celebrate the contributions of individuals whose work has dramatically helped to improve the lives of Canadians with asthma and respiratory allergies. The award was presented on April 30, 2014, during the Asthma Society of Canada’s For Life and Breath: Environment, Asthma and Allergy Summit.
Allergy Pals - Online Mentorship for Kids with Food Allergies
Anaphylaxis Canada has launched Allergy Pals, an online mentorship program designed to provide peer support and mentoring to children (ages 7-11) affected by severe food allergies.
Allergy Pals offers eight online support sessions led by older peer mentors with food allergies. Sessions include interactive activities, including brainstorming, problem solving, goal setting and developing effective coping strategies in a safe and secure online environment.
The program materials were designed by Dr. Miriam Stewart, a Professor of Nursing, and her team at the University of Alberta, with research funding provided by AllerGen NCE. Anaphylaxis Canada, one of the project’s collaborators, has licensed the program in order to support children and teens affected by life threatening allergies.
The first session of Allergy Pals will run from May 18 to July 6, 2014. Click here for more information and to register for the program.
Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet named CIHR 2014 Distinguished Lecturer in Respiratory Sciences
AllerGen investigator Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet was presented the 2014 CIHR-ICRH-CTS Distinguished Lecturer in Respiratory Sciences award during the 7th annual Canadian Respiratory Conference (CRC) held in Calgary, Alberta, from April 24-26, 2014.
As part of the honour, Dr. Boulet delivered a keynote lecture at the conference: "From Asthma Pathophysiology to Knowledge Translation: A Journey Through Airways and Human Behaviour," in which he reviewed various aspects of research on asthma, airway function and inflammation/remodelling.
Dr. Boulet is a lung specialist at l'Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (iuCPQ), a professor of medicine at Laval University's Department of Medicine, and a site leader of AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC).
Established in 2006 by the CIHR's Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (ICRH) and the Canadian Thoracic Society (CTS), this annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of respiratory sciences in Canada.
Read the CIHR announcement about Dr. Boulet's award here.
AllerGen to host French-language forum on asthma
Join AllerGen and a panel of Montreal’s leading asthma experts in an engaging public forum about asthma: what provokes it, what exacerbates it, and what can be done to control or prevent it.
The free French-language event will be held on Monday, May 12, 2014, from 7-9 p.m. in the Town Hall of the town of Mont-Royal, QC, and will focus on preventing and managing asthma spikes among school-aged children.
Speakers: Dr. Francine Ducharme (pediatric allergist); Dr. Marie-Josee Francoeur (pediatric allergist); Dr. Louis Jacques, (prevention and public health specialist); and Jocelyne Bouchard (RN/asthma educator).
For more information (in French) or to register to attend the event, visit http://asthme.eventbrite.ca.
Anaphylaxis Canada hosts 7th Annual Community Conference
Anaphylaxis Canada will host its 7th Annual Community Conference, Managing food allergies: Working together for a safer future, on Saturday, May 10, 2014, at the Delta Hotel in Markham, Ontario.
This interactive, informative event will feature:
- Workshops, panel discussions and presentations by clinical experts
- Exhibits showcasing products and services from local and national vendors
- Information on food allergy bullying, understanding anxiety in kids with food allergies, and much more
The conference is open to patients, families, educators, healthcare professionals and community members interested in learning about food allergy and anaphylaxis management.
To register, visit the Anaphylaxis Canada website at http://www.anaphylaxis.ca/
Homeopaths are now medical experts?
Professor Timothy Caulfield, an AllerGen investigator and a University of Alberta professor of health law and science policy, recently wrote that the inclusion of an advocate of homeopathic medicine on an expert health panel for CBC’s “The National” does not provide a legitimate source of evidence-based health information.
Read Professor Caulfield’s “Open Letter to CBC's Peter Mansbridge” published as a guest post by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff on his blog site, Weighty Matters.
AllerGen trainee receives competitive leadership award
University of Toronto (U of T), PhD student, Natalia Mykhaylova, has received the Professor Douglas Reeve Leaders of Tomorrow Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry who have shown the potential to become outstanding leaders, and to inspire others to action and to excellence.
Natalia serves as a co-chair for U of T’s Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering: Graduate (ILead:Grad), a role that has allowed her to support and mentor others to develop their leadership skills.
Natalia is part of the AllerGen-funded BEAM (Better Exposure Avoidance Measures) research project that is developing inexpensive air-quality monitoring devices. She works under the supervision of AllerGen investigator Dr. Greg Evans.
Winnipeg spotlight firmly fixed on CHILD researchers
AllerGen researchers at the University of Manitoba have once again been featured in local news coverage about the CHILD Study. The March 27, 2014 episode of “Small Wonders” on CTV Winnipeg featured researchers, Dr. Allan Becker and Dr. Meghan Azad, Study participants, and highlighted the need for further research funding.
CHILD researchers Dr. Allan Becker and Dr. Meghan Azad
Continuation of the Study is “so important when you are trying to understand how disease and health develop and evolve over time,” said Dr. Becker. Sherri Pinkerton, who participates in the Study with her two daughters, commented that the CHILD Study “gives the researchers a lot of insight into what could potentially be causing asthma and allergies that are so prevalent.”
To view the Small Wonders episode, click here.
“Is it something in our DNA, the environment or both?”
AllerGen researchers at the University of Manitoba have been featured in local news coverage about the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.
AllerGen’s CHILD Study is following 3,500 Canadian children from pre-birth to age five, in order to examine how genetics and what a child is exposed to during pregnancy and in the first few years of life can influence the risk of developing allergies, asthma, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Talented AllerGen trainee to meet Nobel Laureates
AllerGen trainee and gut microbiome researcher Dr. Meghan Azad has been selected to attend a prestigious week-long meeting that unites more than 30 Nobel Prize winners with 600 of the world’s brightest young scientists.
The 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physiology or Medicine) will be held June 29 - July 4, 2014, in Lindau, Germany. The annual event—the only one of its kind in the world—provides a unique opportunity for the intercultural and intergenerational exchange of knowledge and ideas between Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physiology, medicine and physics, and talented young scientists from across the globe.
“I am so excited to be given the opportunity to 'rub shoulders' with these prestigious scientists. Can you imagine brainstorming with a Nobel Prize winner, let alone 30 of them, for an entire week? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Dr. Azad.
Dr. Azad’s research uses samples from AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study to investigate the impact of antibiotics, breastfeeding and environmental factors on infant gut microbiota and the subsequent development of allergic disease. Dr. Azad is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta under the supervision of AllerGen researcher, Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj. She was named a Banting Post-doctoral Fellow in September 2013.
The 2014 Nobel Laureate Meeting meeting will focus on the topics of physiology or medicine, and allow Nobel Prize winners and young scientists to discuss topics such as global health, the challenges to medical care in developing countries and future research approaches to medicine.
Commercialization of biobanks a murky issue
Biobanks are important research platforms that involve the collection and storage of human health data and biological samples, including DNA, blood, urine and tissues. According to AllerGen Principal Investigator and health law expert, Professor Tim Caulfield, biobanks may operate in murky waters, facing ethical and security questions associated with public trust, consent and ownership of samples.
In a new paper published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Professor Caulfield and co-authors, including AllerGen Research Leaders Drs Allan Becker and Malcolm Sears, explore the challenges of commercializing biobanks for the purpose of advancing medical research and knowledge.
Read how Canadians feel about the commercialization of biobanks here.
Experts evaluate food allergy ‘apps’
How useful are smartphone apps designed for people with food allergies in mind?
In the lead-up to The Allergy Fix—a new The Nature of Things documentary about food allergies in Canada and beyond—CBC interviews a consultant at Anaphylaxis Canada and clinical expert Dr. Scott Sicherer about the benefits of mobile apps for food allergies.
“There’s a big difference if you’re deciding if something’s going to send you into [life-threatening] anaphylaxis, or if the calories are higher or lower. The margin of error is different,” says Dr. Sicherer, Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Click here to read the full article.
The Allergy Fix, which features AllerGen researchers Dr. Susan Waserman and Dr. Stuart Turvey, airs Thursday, February 27, 2014, at 7 p.m. EST on CBC.
Pushing toward personalized medicine
AllerGen Principal Investigator Professor Tim Caulfield will speak on the topic of The Policy Challenges and Health Limits of Personalized Medicine at The University of British Columbia on Thursday, February 20, 2014, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Professor Caulfield’s presentation, which is open to the public, will explore the recent “push” toward personalized medicine and its limits, including the data regarding clinical value and whether genomic risk information will help individuals to live healthier lives.
For more information on the event and Professor Caulfield, click here.
Athletes allergic to Sochi?
The Norwegian alpine skier, Aksel Lund Svindal, recently withdrew from his final event at the Sochi Olympics, citing allergies and the use of medications to combat itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Dr. Chris Carlsten, an AllerGen Principal Investigator who researches the health effects of air pollution, was contacted from Sochi, Russia, to comment on the possible role of the city’s concrete dust in causing allergic symptoms in Olympic athletes. Read Dr. Carlsten’s comments in the February 19 Toronto Star article.
Dr. Carlsten is the Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease and Associate Professor of Medicine at The University of British Columbia (UBC).
Former AllerGen trainee chosen for international research on anaphylaxis
Dr. Jennifer Protudjer, a past President of the AllerGen Students and New Professionals Network (ASNPN), has been named one of three post-doctoral fellows to investigate anaphylaxis and the risk factors associated with severe allergic reactions at the Centre for Allergy Research (CfA) at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Karolinska Institute is an AllerGen partner and one of the world’s leading medical universities. The new research initiative—funded through a donation from Karin and Sten Mörtstedt CBD Solutions AB—will study the factors that precipitate anaphylactic reactions with the goal of improving diagnosis and developing new treatments. Dr. Protudjer’s research will examine the prognosis of food allergy from childhood through adolescence. A kick-off ceremony for the project will be held on February 13, 2014.
Dr. Protudjer originally developed her relationships at the Karolinska Institute during a six-week trainee exchange made possible through AllerGen’s International Partnership Initiative (IPI) funding, which aims to produce globally-engaged scientists in the fields of allergy and asthma.
Traffic fumes affect asthma in children genetically susceptible to the disease
AllerGen researchers at The University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and University of Manitoba, in partnership with collaborators in Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands, have identified that children with a specific genetic profile may be at an increased risk of developing asthma after exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TrAP).
The Traffic pollution, Asthma, Genetics (TAG) Study is the first Canadian-European consortium to examine how traffic-related air pollution and genetic profiles contribute to the development of childhood asthma.
The study is led by AllerGen investigators, Dr. Michael Brauer, a professor in the School of Population and Public Health, and Dr. Chris Carlsten, Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease, at The University of British Columbia.
Study findings, published in January in Environmental Health Perspectives, suggested that children with one variant of the gluathione S-transferase P1, or GSTP1 gene, had double the expected risk of developing asthma associated with traffic-related air pollution. “This supports the plausibility of a causal relationship and brings us closer to understanding the mechanism of action of traffic pollution in vulnerable people,” said Dr. Brauer.
The TAG Study combined data from over 15,000 children enrolled in six (two Canadian and four European) birth cohorts. "Generous partnership with our European colleagues allowed us to gather enough children to show an effect that would likely be hidden within a smaller group; extrapolating to the global population, this has important public health implications," Dr. Carlsten commented.
AllerGen investigator joins Board of Directors of Clinical Trials Ontario
Dr. Anne Ellis, a Kingston-based allergy specialist and an AllerGen Principal Investigator, has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Clinical Trials Ontario for a three-year term.
Established in 2012, Clinical Trials Ontario is an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to attracting global clinical trials investments to the province. The organization aims to improve the speed and reduce costs of multi-centre clinical trials by streamlining the research ethics approval process, harmonizing administrative processes, and improving participant recruitment and retention through education about the benefits of clinical trials.
Dr. Ellis is Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Allergy & Immunology, Department of Medicine, Queen's University and Principal Investigator of AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative—Allergic Rhinitis.
AllerGen 9th Annual Trainee Symposium
April 30 - May 2, 2014
Open to all AllerGen trainees and ASNPN members.
For more information contact Michelle Harkness
AllerGen trainee gains international research experience
With funding provided by AllerGen’s International Trainee Research Visit Program, Dr. Jeremy Hirota recently spent eight weeks working with Professor Philip Hansbro at The University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases in New South Wales, Australia.
During his stay, Dr. Hirota performed in vitro and in vivo experiments to study how uric acid— an antioxidant naturally produced by the body—may contribute to airway health and disease. Ultimately, Dr. Hirota hopes to determine how the lung copes with environmental insults with the goal of informing public policy to improve air quality for Canadians. Dr. Hirota is supervised by AllerGen Investigator, Dr. Chris Carlsten at The University of British Columbia.
In 2011, AllerGen and the The University of Newcastle signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which supports training and skill acquisition opportunities for trainees and young professionals in both Canada and Australia.
The CHILD Study helps provide answers about family pets and childhood allergies
Owning a dog may protect against the development of allergies if exposure begins in the womb to the first year of life, according to an overview of relevant research presented in the Winter 2014 issue of Allergic Living magazine.
The article “Child’s Best Friend” highlights research conducted between 1999 and 2012 investigating the impact of pets on a child’s risk of developing allergies. AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study — a birth cohort study following 3,330 Canadian infants from pre-birth to age five — was featured as an important study looking at the connection between allergies and early-life environmental exposures, such as pets, among other factors.
Dr. Malcolm Sears, Research Leader for the CHILD Study, and Dr. James Scott, one of the study’s co-investigators, were both interviewed by Allergic Living. Early data from a small subgroup of CHILD Study participants has revealed that household pets and siblings increase an infant’s exposure to environmental microbes and influence the makeup of the gut microbiota, which may have implications for the development of allergies.
To read the study “Infant gut microbiota and the hygiene hypothesis of allergic disease: impact of household pets and siblings on microbiota composition and diversity,” co-authored by Drs Sears and Scott, click here.
"Dean Befus Asthma Clinic" opens in El Salvador
On November 28, 2013, a much-needed asthma clinic opened in El Salvador’s National Lung Hospital. The "Clinica del Asma: Dr. Dean Befus" is named after AllerGen investigator Dr. Dean Befus, director the University of Alberta-based Alberta Asthma Centre, who spearheaded the initiative to help establish the new facility. Support from AllerGen was essential in the development of cooperative relationships which led to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Alberta Asthma Centre and the country’s Ministry of Health.
The project provided staff training; developed a spectrum of teaching and educational materials; and secured a donation from Alberta Health Services of major pulmonary function equipment. Under the leadership of Dr. Befus and his colleague Dr. Gustavo Zayas, the Alberta Asthma Centre will continue to collaborate with their partners in El Salvador towards the development of a national Asthma Management Program and accessibility to high quality, inexpensive asthma drugs across the country.
Trainee Meghan Azad publishes on probiotics and childhood asthma in BMJ
AllerGen trainee and Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Meghan Azad (University of Alberta) is lead author on an article that concludes there is insufficient evidence to recommend probiotic supplementation for the prevention of childhood asthma and wheeze.
Published in the December 2013 issue of BMJ, the article "Probiotic supplementation during pregnancy or infancy for the prevention of asthma and wheeze: systematic review and meta-analysis" investigates the relationship between the use of probiotic supplements during pregnancy or the first year of an infant’s life and the development of childhood asthma and wheeze. Having found no evidence of a protective association, the authors conclude that, based on current knowledge, "probiotics cannot be recommended for primary prevention of childhood asthma or wheeze." Co-authors include AllerGen investigators Dr. Allan Becker (University of Manitoba) and Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj (University of Alberta).
AllerGen researchers comment on Canadian recommendation to introduce potentially allergenic foods as early as six months
AllerGen investigators Drs Anne Ellis and Stuart Turvey recently commented on a joint position statement issued by Canadian pediatricians and allergists, which recommends that babies at risk for food allergies may eat potential “trigger” foods as early as six months.
Dr. Ellis, an associate professor of medicine and Chair of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Queen’s University, spoke with the CBC’s Ontario Morning in a phone interview.
“These recommendations reflect what allergists have been recommending for a couple of years now,” Dr. Ellis said. “There is clear-cut evidence from the research that the recommendations we have been following for so long — delaying the introduction of high-risk allergenic foods — truly did not do anything to prevent the development of food allergies, and possibly could be associated with the increase in allergies that we have seen over the past 10 years.”
Dr. Turvey is an associate professor of pediatric immunology at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver site leader for AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal (CHILD) Study — a national birth cohort study investigating the early-life influence of genes and the environment on the development of allergies and asthma.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Dr. Turvey suggested that the spike in asthma, seasonal allergies and food allergies in recent decades is likely multifactorial, influenced by such factors as air pollution, modern housing and a variety of lifestyle changes, including reduced contact with farm animals.
The position statement, issued jointly by the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) and the Canadian Society of Clinical Immunology (CSACI) on December 2, 2013, has also been endorsed by the Dietitians of Canada.
Dr. Allan Becker brings the CHILD Study to Manitoba television viewers
University of Manitoba-based AllerGen investigator Dr. Allan Becker was recently featured on "Doctors Care"—a multi-episode television series on healthcare produced by Doctors Manitoba and broadcast throughout the province. In Episode 4, on Children's Health Research, Dr. Becker spoke about the importance of AllerGen's Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study and the scope of its investigation into genetic predispositions and environmental factors in the development of allergies and asthma. Dr. Becker is the Manitoba site leader of the CHILD Study.
Post-Doc Opportunity at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute
The Centre for Allergy Research (CfA) of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, an AllerGen research partner, invites applications to a post-doctoral research position in Chemometrics, Biostatistics and ‘Omics data integration. The successful candidate will join the multidisciplinary ChAMP (CfA highlights Asthma Markers for Phenotyping) project, a collaboration between the Karolinska Institutet and AstraZeneca. The project employs an integrated approach to understanding disease and to developing predictive models in asthma, allergies and COPD.
The application deadline is January 15, 2014.
For a full description of the opportunity, application details and contact information, CLICK HERE.
New Canadian guidelines on the introduction of potentially allergenic foods to babies
Delaying the introduction of potential “trigger” foods, such as peanut, fish or egg, beyond six months of age, does not prevent, and may even increase, the risk of developing food allergy, according to new guidelines from Canadian pediatricians and allergists. The position statement, issued jointly by the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) and the Canadian Society of Clinical Immunology (CSACI) on December 2, 2013, has also been endorsed by the Dietitians of Canada.
Although parents may hold off introducing specific solid foods until the first year or even later—particularly for babies with a parent or sibling who has a food allergy or another allergic condition like eczema, asthma or hay fever—the current best evidence suggests there is no significant protective effect on allergy prevention.
The new Canadian recommendations, which also suggest that mothers should not restrict these foods from their diet during pregnancy or breastfeeding, are consistent with guidelines from the United States and Europe. Additional research on tolerance induction by introducing solid foods earlier than six months, is currently underway. Read the CPS/CSACI position statement.
“Bold innovation” to develop bronchitis test strip wins Grand Challenges Canada award
A project to develop a simple test strip to measure bronchitis in patients with asthma and COPD has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Grand Challenges Canada's global health care program.
Dr. Parameswaran Nair, an AllerGen investigator and the CIHR Canada Research Chair in Airway Inflammometry at McMaster University, has developed the test, which measures the quantity of eosinophil peroxidase (EPX), a protein that can be detected in sputum.
Dr. John Brennan, a Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry and the Director of McMaster University’s BioInterfaces Institute, is helping Dr. Nair transform the technology into a simple, paper-based strip by using novel “bio-inks.” The bioactive paper would offer an inexpensive, diagnostic test for infectious and allergic bronchitis that could be performed at home or in a doctor’s office.
“This frugal innovation, we hope will change the way airway diseases are managed globally, both in resource-poor and resource-high countries, and in both children and adults,” Dr. Nair explains in his online video about the project. He continues this work as a legacy to the late Dr. Freddy Hargreave who pioneered the use of sputum cell counts at the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health (Hamilton, Ontario) to treat patients with severe airway diseases. In the next phase of this research, Dr. Nair and Dr. Brennan plan to use the strip to study the treatment of bronchitis in India.
The project was one of 83 “creative, out-of-the-box ideas” selected for recognition from among 451 applications to Grand Challenges Canada—a federal agency dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health. The award was announced November 21, 2013, and featured in The Hamilton Spectator and GlobalNews.
Development of the biosensor test strip is also supported by funding from a CIHR -NSERC grant through the Collaborative Health Research Program. Dr. Nair's research program is supported by AllerGen NCE.
“Modern Life versus microbes” article highlights CHILD Study
Postmedia News outlets, including the Montreal Gazette, The Province (BC), The Windsor Star and The Ottawa Citizen, recently highlighted AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study and ongoing research on the importance of the human microbiome. AllerGen investigator, Dr. Stuart Turvey, and Dr. Brett Finlay, both professors at The University of British Columbia (UBC), were interviewed for the article, “Modern life versus microbes: Our obsession with clean living is harming us.”
Dr. Turvey leads the Vancouver arm of the CHILD Study—a birth cohort study of roughly 3,500 children in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario that investigates early-life influences contributing to the development of asthma and allergies.
Dr. Finlay’s UBC-based research lab is working with Dr. Turvey to explore how antibiotics affect the development of children’s microbiota and immune systems using samples obtained from CHILD Study participants.
AllerGen investigators share clinical expertise at food allergy fair
Allergy experts Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan and Dr. Yuka Asai gave free public lectures in front of a standing-room only crowd at a food allergy fair on Saturday, November 9, 2013, in Montréal.
Drs Ben-Shoshan and Asai answer questions at AQAA Food Allergy Fair.
Drs Ben-Shoshan and Asai, both AllerGen investigators from McGill University, discussed the genetic links to peanut allergy, the mechanisms of food allergies and the development of a new pan-Canadian database to track cases of anaphylaxis.
The event was hosted by the Quebec Food Allergy Association (AQAA) to promote awareness and understanding of food allergies and featured expert speakers, interactive workshops, kiosks and recipe demonstrations.
Clean Air Champions receives 2013 International Olympic Committee award
Clean Air Champions, an Ottawa-based national charity and an AllerGen partner, has been awarded the 2013 International Olympic Committee (IOC) World Sport and Environment Award. Deirdre Laframboise, co-founder and Executive Director of Clean Air Champions, accepted the award at the IOC World Conference on Sport and the Environment in Sochi.
Clean Air Champions is devoted to inspire Canadians to live more sustainable, active and healthier lifestyles and is the first Canadian charity to receive the prestigious award. Read more about the award and the upcoming Sochi Olympics at http://www.cleanairchampions.ca/
‘Salon’ for food allergies to be held in Montréal,
The Quebec Food Allergy Association (AQAA) will host its first annual ‘Salon for food allergies’ on Saturday, November 9, 2013. This free public fair will feature:
The Salon will be held at the Complexe Desjardins, Grande Place in Montréal from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on November 9. For more information and directions, visit the Quebec Food Allergy Association website at www.aqaa.qc.ca.
Hamilton Spectator features AllerGen researchers
Several AllerGen researchers were featured in “Picture of Health: The players and the innovators in Hamilton's health care sector,” part of the October 24 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
“Working to stem the rising tide in allergies” highlights Dr. Judah Denburg’s research, which focuses on the underlying causes of asthma and allergy and the mechanisms of allergic inflammation, including the role played by cells in bone marrow.
“Unravelling why heart disease targets ethnic groups” describes Dr. Sonia Anand's work to shed light on how environmental, dietary and genetic factors influence the development of heart disease.
“Cracking the case on asthma’s rapid rise” features Dr. Paul O’Byrne’s research investigating why the number of children with asthma has quadrupled in the past 20 years.
The Hamilton Spectator health supplement is available online at http://www.thespec.com/hamilton-topics/4169063-picture-of-health.
Going gluten free under debate
There is no credible evidence to suggest that embracing a wheat- and gluten-free diet is a wise lifestyle choice—except for people with specific ailments such as celiac disease—according to a recent commentary by Professor Timothy Caulfield, an AllerGen investigator and a University of Alberta professor of health law and science policy.
“Gwyneth and Miley may believe gluten-free works wonders, but the science tells a different, more complex, story,” Professor Caulfield wrote, in a special commentary to the Star on October 18. Read Professor Caulfield’s commentary here.
AllerGen investigator wins prestigious Trudeau Fellowship
Professor Timothy Caulfield, a health law expert whose work debunks common health myths and informs the development of Canadian health and science policies, has been chosen as a 2013 Trudeau Fellowship recipient.
The fellowship, valued at $225,000 over three years, recognizes exceptional contributions in research, creativity and commitment to solving social issues important to Canada.
Professor Caulfield is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and a professor at the University of Alberta. His research explores the legal, ethical and social implications of emerging health technologies, such as genetic testing and stem cell research; complementary and alternative medicine; the commercialization of research; and access to health care, among others.
He is also a Principal Investigator on several AllerGen research projects that broaden our understanding of how evidence can be used in the development of public policies and legislative initiatives relevant to the asthma and allergy community.
Established in 2001, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation supports outstanding scholars in four areas that relate to the life and work of former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau: human rights and dignity; responsible citizenship; international affairs; and the environment. Each year, the Foundation selects up to five fellows who have demonstrated excellence in one or more of these thematic areas.
The 2013 Trudeau Fellowship winners were announced on October 16, 2013, at the Université de Montréal in Montréal, Québec.
A fond remembrance of an asthma and allergy pioneer
Dr. Redwan Moqbel, an internationally renowned authority on the pathophysiology of asthma, passed away on October 9, 2013, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, after a protracted battle with cancer. Dr. Moqbel, a longtime AllerGen NCE friend and colleague, was best known for his work to elucidate the immunobiology of human eosinophils and their potential role in airway disease. He was among the first to identify the immunological cell types that regulate asthma and allergy.
As a founding member of the AllerGen Board of Directors, a former Research Management Committee member and joint Theme Leader for the Diagnostics and Therapeutics research area, and as a Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on numerous AllerGen research projects, including the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study, Dr. Moqbel provided vision and leadership to the entire AllerGen Network.
Dr. Moqbel leaves behind his wife, Shar Mitchell, as well as children, grandchildren, family, friends, and a scientific community in Canada and abroad who are saddened by his passing. An obituary can be viewed online at the Winnipeg Free Press.