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The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton congratulates Manali Mukherjee, Terence Ho, and Sarah Svenningsen on their recent awards, including Svenningsen’s prestigious CIHR Banting Award. The awards will support the work of these young researchers as they continue to make significant advancements towards the care that St. Joseph’s provides to patients with complex airway diseases. 

Mukherjee, Ho, and Svenningsen are post-doctoral researchers affiliated with McMaster University, working at the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health. Under the mentorship of Professor Parameswaran Nair, a respirologist at the Firestone Institute and one of the world’s leading experts in severe asthma, the trio has been working diligently to improve diagnostics and treatment of severe asthma and COPD.

 

Manali Mukherjee, PhD is the winner of two salary support awards – a CIHR post-doctoral fellowship and a Canadian Allergy Asthma Immunology/AllerGen NCE fellowship. Mukherjee’s work has been disseminated through a number of high impact publications.

Mukherjee is investigating novel autoimmune mechanisms in severe asthma, particularly in those patients with significant eosinophils – a type of white blood cell – in their sputum. She has identified that severe asthma and other complex airway diseases may be associated with autoantibodies that can be detected in sputum, even if they are not present or detectable in the bloodstream.

Her work is likely to have a significant effect on the choice of treatment, using biologics such as benralizumab and dupilumab, both published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Nair’s laboratory. This research is being funded by grants from CIHR, OTS, and the US Vasculitis Foundation, and done in collaboration with Dr. Nader Khalidi, Dr. Dawn Bowdish, Dr. Roma Sehmi, and Dr. Paul O’Byrne.

 

Terence Ho, MD, FRCPC is the winner of the Frederick E. Hargreave post-doctoral award for clinician scientists. Ho is investigating new mechanisms that may reveal why patients with severe COPD experience recurrent airway infections, sputum neutrophils, and exacerbations. He has developed an algorithm to identify and treat COPD exacerbations based on the cellular characteristics of a patient’s sputum.

Ho is investigating immunoglobulin and antibody responses, as well as iron metabolism in the lungs as mechanisms that may lead to increased susceptibility to airway infections. He is conducting a prospective clinical study to test these hypotheses. This work, in collaboration with Dr. Martin Stampfli and Dr. Mike Surette, may lead to new strategies to decrease susceptibility to infective exacerbations and hospitalizations in patients with severe COPD. This research is being funded by grants from CIHR.

 

Sarah Svenningsen, PhD has been awarded Canada’s most prestigious post-doctoral award – the CIHR Banting Award. She is the only awardee from McMaster University this year. Her research investigates strategies to personalize therapies such as biologics or bronchial thermoplasty for patients with severe asthma, by using CT imaging and hyperpolarized noble gas MRI that she has established at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The Imaging Research Centre of St. Joseph’s is one of just four centres in Canada that has this facility for clinical research.

Svenningsen is also the recipient of this past year’s Charles Polanyi Prize in Medicine, which she won for her work in the personalization of bronchial thermoplasty. This is an innovative procedure, pioneered by Firestone researcher Dr. Gerard Cox, which reduces the smooth muscle within the airways that causes constriction in patients with severe asthma. Using inhaled noble gas MRI, Svenningsen is demonstrating the ability to locate the specific areas of the lungs affected by severe asthma. This allows the bronchial thermoplasty treatment to be targeted to the problematic areas, rather than having to conduct the procedure throughout the entire lungs. This study, in collaboration with Dr. Grace Parraga at Robarts Institute at Western University, is funded by CIHR.

  

For more information on the research conducted by the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health, visit http://research.stjoes.ca/firestone-institute

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