University of Saskatchewan

September 19, 2014   

U of S Researchers Take the Wind out of Respiratory Diseases with Health Grants

John Gordon (Courtesy of Debra Marshall)
May 07, 2008

Saskatoon, SK – University of Saskatchewan health scientists are working on a cure for asthma and a needle-free vaccine for a childhood respiratory virus thanks to major Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grants announced today.

Immunologist John Gordon’s initial research on a new asthma treatment has demonstrated more than a 90-per-cent decrease in asthma symptoms in the animals tested. Gordon will use his $674,000 CIHR grant to test the treatment on human cells.

“Our research shows great promise for asthmatics,” says Gordon. “Current asthma drugs only treat symptoms—they don’t go after the cause. Our treatment has the potential to get at the root of what causes asthma.”

Gordon believes his lab is on track to curing asthma by developing a new therapy that takes dendritic cells, which act as “on/off” switches for the immune system, out of a blood sample and grows them in a test tube with a protein that tells the cells to switch off allergic reactions. When these cells are reintroduced into the bloodstream, they pass on the “off” message to allergic T cells.

Virologist Sylvia van den Hurk is also addressing respiratory health by using her $620,000 grant to develop a needle-free vaccine for a respiratory virus that infects 65 million young children each year.

“Unfortunately, newborn infants, who constitute the major target group, are not only prone to infections, they also develop weak immune responses to most conventional vaccines,” says van den Hurk.

The senior Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) scientist is focusing her research on the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can lead to reoccurring respiratory problems, such as asthma and pneumonia. There is no vaccine for RSV, the most common virus to cause respiratory infections in infants and small children. She is hoping to develop a vaccine specifically for this age group.

These scientists were among eight U of S researchers awarded a total of $2.5 million in CIHR grants today by federal Health Minister Tony Clement.

“The Government of Canada is committed to investing in knowledge, science and innovation,” said Minister Clement. “The research being supported with the funding announced today will help us address important health issues affecting Canadians, such as cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS.”

A complete list of the CIHR projects funded at the U of S is located here.

Located in the heart of Saskatoon, the U of S is one of the leading medical doctoral universities in Canada. With 58 degrees, diplomas and certificates in over 100 areas of study, the University is uniquely positioned in the areas of human, animal and plant studies. World-class research facilities, renowned faculty and award winning students make the U of S a leader in post-secondary education.


For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Cam Zimmer
U of S Research Communications
(306) 966-2427

University of Saskatchewan CIHR 2008 Grant Recipients:

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