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Canada Research Chairs program fuels research excellence and innovation

Snyder Institute member is renewed Canada Research Chair

By Karen Brookins

The federal government is investing money into Inflammatory Bowel Disease research at the University of Calgary’s Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases.

Derek McKay, PhD, received renewal as the Canada Research Chair in Intestinal Immunophysiology in Health and Disease. McKay’s Tier I renewal is a total of $1.4M over seven years. He is one of four successful candidates from the University of Calgary among the 120 newly awarded and renewed CRCs across the country.

McKay says that these awards are designed to attract or retain quality investigators whose research program fit with the strategic plan of the university. He was originally recruited to the University of Calgary as a CRC Tier I for his work in intestinal immunophysiology. “Being recruited with the offer of a prestigious CRC provided the advantage of significant protected time for research, which is essential for my program,” McKay says and adds, “It also provided an incentive to help attract and retain new talent.”

The Government of Canada will provide $90.6M to foster excellent research across 39 Canadian postsecondary institutions. McKay, working out of the university’s department of Physiology and Pharmacology, sees great value in having CRCs at the University of Calgary.

 “Having Chairholders within the Snyder Institute and the university is a very positive thing,” he says. “It speaks to the quality of the research environment and helps highlight the impact that the institute can have within the university.”

McKay’s research program focuses on assessing physiological and immunological mechanisms in the intestine in health and disease, with a particular emphasis on understating pro-inflammatory and pro-resolution mechanisms in model systems relevant to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Specifically he examines the regulation of intestinal epithelial barrier function and aspects of mucosal immunity, from the perspective that understanding these can lead to better treatments. Maybe even one day a cure for chronic inflammatory intestinal disease.

Other renewals in the University of Calgary included Deborah Marshall, PhD, (renewal CIHR Tier II) holding a CRC in Health Services and Systems Research, and Masaki Hayashi, PhD, (renewal NSERC Tier II) holding a CRC in Physical Hydrology. In addition to the renewals, Faculty of Medicine researcher Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, was appointed the new CRC (CIHR Tier II) in Genome Damage and Instability Disease. 

The Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases was named in 2008 in honour of Joan Snyder and her parents, who she credits for teaching her the value of philanthropy. It is a group of more than 104 clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic scientists who are impacting and changing the lives of people suffering from chronic diseases, including sepsis, MRSA, cystic fibrosis, type-1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For more information on the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, please visit us at www.snyder.ucalgary.ca or follow us on Twitter @SnyderInstitute.