Supporting health through research and education.

Grant Recipients » 2021

The Manitoba Medical Service Foundation has been awarding Research Grants to researchers since 1971, and over $15.7 million has been donated to furthering this cause, with almost $22.8 million provided in support of all awards.

Go to Previous Awards Annual Brochures to view previous year's awards. Contact the Administrative Assistant for information on awards prior to 2009.

Please Note: Institutional Costs are not eligible expenses for MMSF Grants and Awards funding.

Dr. Alex Aregbesola — Improving Emergency Care for Children and Adolescents in Rural and Remote Manitoba — $30,000 (MMSF $15,000 /CHRIM $15,000)

  • PhotoDr. Alex Aregbesola

Award icon$30,000

Around a third of all general emergency department (ED) visits in Canada are from children. However, these children are vulnerable to receiving care based on adult methods of treatment each time they visit an ED. This puts their lives at risk.

In Manitoba, there is only one children’s hospital that has an ED designed to treat children. Therefore, we expect many more ED visits from children at other hospitals for years to come. Additionally, death in younger children is about two to four times higher in Indigenous and other underserved populations.

To reduce the risk of mismanagement of children in EDs, we want to know the present state of EDs to care for injured and acutely ill children. We will study six main aspects:

  1. Coordination of patient care
  2. Staffing and training
  3. Quality improvement
  4. Patient safety
  5. Policies and procedures
  6. Availability of pediatric equipment/supplies

We want to know why EDs may not be able to give proper care for kids who need emergency treatment. We want to implement the same readiness initiative used in the United States, which was found to reduce child deaths in EDs.

To accomplish our goal, we will provide an online/PDF survey to all EDs to collect the information that we need for assessment. We’ll then conduct a study to implement readiness initiative in EDs. This study has the potential to help improve the emergency care of children in Manitoba.

  • Dr. Alex Aregbesola — MD, Medicine, Obafemi Awolowo University, 2005; MSc, Public Health, University of Eastern Finland, 2012; PhD, Clinical Epidemiology, University of Eastern Finland, 2016

    Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba

    Researcher, Children's hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

Aleeza Gerstein — Variation in Vulvovaginal Candidiasis Drug Response: A Manitoba Cohort Study — $30,000

  • PhotoDr. Aleeza Gerstein

Award icon$30,000

Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC, commonly known as a yeast infection) affects a majority of women at least once in their life. Up to 10 per cent of afflicted women experience recurrent infections, for which there is no cure.

Chronic conditions that affect women are severely understudied, yet they can be incredibly detrimental to quality of life. About half of the women with recurring VCC have no identifiable risk factors, and there are few treatment options.

The fungal pathogen Candida albicans is the most prevalent species that causes VVC, yet other species and co-species infections are increasingly seen as well. Before and after treatment, we will use state-of-the art technology to characterize the genetics and drug responses of the infecting fungal population and the composition of the microbiome (i.e., the bacteria that are in the vagina during infection).

We will enroll two groups of women with VVC infections in Manitoba. The first group will contain women who have their first suspected VVC infection – they’ll be treated with fluconazole, the most common VVC drug. The second group will consist of women who have previously had infections that recurred on fluconazole, who will be treated with boric acid.

By looking for similarities and differences among the responses of these two groups of women, our results will help us to better understand how VVC infections respond similarly or differently to alternative treatments or infection types. In the long term, we aim to identify novel or personalized treatment strategies for this physically burdensome and costly condition that currently has no cure.

  • Dr. Aleeza Gerstein — MSc, Evolutionary Genetics, University of British Columbia, 2006; PhD, Evolutionary Genetics, University of British Columbia, 2012

    Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Manitoba

    Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Manitoba

Biniam Kidane — Organ-Preserving Endoscopic Resection and Adjuvant RADIOchemotherapy for esophageal cancer (OPERA RADIO) — $30,000

  • PhotoDr. Biniam Kidane

Award icon$30,000

Removing the esophagus is the standard way to cure esophageal cancers. However, these risky surgeries can result in eating difficulties, pain, complications and even death. One in 10 people die in the first 90 days after surgery.

Cancers that have travelled only into the first layer of the esophagus can be cored out and removed through the mouth using a scope without surgery. This is called ESD/EMR. This is much less risky and less painful and doesn’t cause any eating difficulties.

If the cancer has spread into the second or third layers of the esophagus, most doctors believe that the riskier surgery is needed to get a better result. But some people don’t want or can’t handle these surgeries.

Prior to studies like this, the treatment of other cancers (e.g. breast cancer) used to only involve intensive surgeries. Today, doctors use combination therapies, like the ones we are proposing, successfully.

Our study aims to see if it is possible and safe to treat these people with cancers of the second or third layers using ESD/EMR followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes, patients who can’t handle or don’t want a riskier surgery get ESD/EMR or just get chemotherapy and radiation.

We think that combining these three treatments will give people a better chance at a cure while still being safer than a high-risk surgery.

  • Dr. Biniam Kidane — BSc (Hons.), Science, University of Toronto, 2005; PhD, Medicine, University of Toronto, 2009; MSc (Non-Thesis), Science, McMaster University, 2012

    Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Manitoba

    Adjunct Scientist, Oncology and Hematology, CancerCare Manitoba

    Adjunct Scientist, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

    Thoracic and Foregut Surgeon and Interventional Endoscopist, College of Medicine, University of Manitoba

Hagar Labouta — Tracking the Accumulation of Gold Nanoparticles in Tumour Tissues — $30,000

  • PhotoDr. Hagar Labouta

Award icon$30,000

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Manitoba, Canada and throughout the world. While considerable advances have been made in the treatment of different cancers, patients still suffer many side effects from current treatments.

The use of nanoparticles (ultra-fine particles in the nanometer scale) as drug carriers to treat cancer has shown promising results in targeting cancer tissue, resulting in better anti-cancer effects and fewer unwanted side effects in other parts of the body.

To enable the clinical translation of many of these nanoparticles, more work is needed to understand their behaviour in the body – especially their ability to penetrate deep into the cancer tissue to kill the cancer cells more efficiently.

We will design different nanoparticles that vary in size and surface properties, and we’ll test their ability to effectively penetrate cancer tissues under conditions similar to real-world scenarios.

This project will inform us about the best nanoparticle designs for penetration into cancer tissues. These nanoparticles will be used in follow-up animal experiments, and they will likely be used to treat patients in the clinic. In the future, successful nanoparticle designs will more effectively cure cancer patients and improve patient outcomes.

  • Dr. Hagar Labouta — BSc, Pharmacy, Alexandria University, 2003; MSc, Pharmaceutics, Alexandria University, 2007; PhD, Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology, Saarland University, 2011

    Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy, University of Manitoba

    Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering, University of Manitoba

    Scientist, Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

Deepak Louis — Mental Health Outcomes of Parents of Children Born Preterm in Manitoba: A Population-Based Cohort Study — $35,000

  • PhotoDr. Deepak Louis

Award icon$35,000

Premature babies are babies that are born four or more weeks before their expected birthday. In Manitoba, approximately 1400 babies are born prematurely every year. These babies are often sick after birth, for which they require admission to hospital and ongoing medical support.

They are also likely to develop health complications while in hospital and can face delays in their growth and development after discharge. Thus, having a premature baby can be very stressful and anxiety-provoking for parents.

Prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety after having a premature baby has the potential to cause mental illness among these parents. However, we currently know very little about their mental health. It is vital to recognize poor mental health, as it can negatively affect parents’ physical health and relationships and impair their children’s growth and development.

In this project, we aim to determine how prevalent mental health conditions (like depression and anxiety) are among parents of premature infants. We will use routinely collected anonymized data from the Province of Manitoba to study their mental health outcomes. The information obtained from this study will help health care professionals, policymakers and organizations to plan and provide appropriate mental health support to these parents.

Impaired mental health is a growing concern for Manitobans, and we believe this research will help improve mental health outcomes.

  • Dr. Deepak Louis — MBBS, Medicine, Puducherry University, 2004; MD, Pediatrics, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, 2007; DM, Neonatology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, 2012; Fellowship, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, University of Toronto, 2014

    Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba

    Neonatologist, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Sapna Oberoi — Mental Health Outcomes of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer in Manitoba: A Population-Based Matched Cohort Study — $35,000 (MMSF $17,500 / WF $17, 500)

  • PhotoDr. Sapna Oberoi

Award icon$35,000

Facing a cancer diagnosis is harder for adolescents and young adults (AYAs) than other patients. The diagnosis of cancer profoundly affects their independence, self-identity, fertility, sexuality and relationships. Many AYAs cannot continue with school, work or achieve their career goals due to the cancer diagnosis. As a result, these patients are at risk for depression, anxiety, substance misuse and suicide.

Little is known about how common these mental health issues are among AYAs with cancer. We also don’t know which AYAs with cancer are at higher risk of developing these mental health issues.

Mental health is equally important as physical health and can affect all domains of life. In this project, we will measure how common anxiety, depression, substance misuse and suicide attempts are in AYAs with cancer during the first five years of cancer diagnosis in Manitoba. We will also find out which AYAs with cancer are at higher risk of developing these mental health issues.

Previously collected health data in Manitoba will be used for this study. The information from this study will help healthcare providers, cancer organizations, and policymakers create much-needed supports for AYAs with cancer. The extra mental health support will improve the overall health of AYAs with cancer in Manitoba.

  • Dr. Sapna Oberoi — MD, Pediatrics, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, 2009; DM, Pediatric Hematology Oncology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, 2012; Fellowship, Pediatric Hematology Oncology, University of Toronto, 2015; Fellowship, Clinical Practice Guideline, Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, 2017; Fellowship, Advanced training in Pediatric Hematology Oncology, University of Manitoba, 2018

    Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba

    Affiliate Scientist, Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CancerCare Manitoba

Liam O'Neil — Searching for Citrulline: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Citrullinome Across the Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis — $28,500

  • PhotoDr. Liam O'Neil

Award icon$28,500

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is common. In people who have RA, the immune system attacks joints in the body. This results in pain and movement problems for patients, and it reduces their ability to function. About one in 100 people develop this disease in their lifetime. Indigenous people are more likely to develop RA.

Unfortunately, researchers don’t understand why people develop this very common and serious disease. People with RA develop markers in their blood called antibodies. Antibodies usually fight bacteria and viruses. However, in RA these antibodies are directed against a portion of a protein called citrulline.

We already know that the amount of citrullinated proteins is different in patients with RA compared to healthy people without RA. We suspect that the inflammation that occurs in RA may be triggered by citrullinated proteins. Also, we think that these differences in citrullination are likely to occur before the development of the disease.

Our research team wants to learn which citrullinated proteins are higher in people with RA. We also want to find out which citrullinated proteins are higher when individuals with RA start to develop their antibodies. This will help us discover new markers in the blood that will help find people who are at highest risk to develop RA. This will help future researchers develop treatments that prevents citrullination from happening, which may stop arthritis from developing in the first place.

  • Dr. Liam O'Neil — BSc, Science, University of Manitoba, 2008; MD, Medicine, University of Manitoba, 2012; MHSc, Clinical Research, Duke School of Medicine, 2020

    Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba

Zachary Raizman — Comparing the Effects of Long Acting Versus Intermediate Acting Versus Short Acting Insulins on Severe Hypoglycemia in Type 2 Diabetes — $30,000 (MMSF $15,000 / WF $15,000)

  • PhotoDr. Zachary Raizman

Award icon$30,000

People with type 2 diabetes are sometimes prescribed insulin to help lower their blood sugar. Often, insulin will lower blood sugar too much, which can cause people to go to the hospital or the emergency room because of serious side effects. This can sometimes lead to death.

Insulin can be short acting, intermediate acting, long acting, or pre-mixed and each type of insulin may have a different risk of dangerously low blood sugar. Our study aims to determine which type of insulin treatment has the lowest risk of dangerously low blood sugar and death.

To do this, we will look at historical health records in Manitoba. We will look at every person with type 2 diabetes who has been prescribed insulin and check whether they died or had to go to the hospital or emergency room because of dangerously low blood sugar. From there, we will see if there are differences in those outcomes between different types of insulin.

Patients are not identified to protect their privacy, but we can link records of prescriptions, hospital visits, and emergency department visits to a unique person.

We will share our findings with doctors and patients so we can help improve patient quality of life. Additionally, our findings have the potential to help the healthcare system be more efficient by lowering the number of times people need to go to the hospital or emergency room because of a low blood sugar event.

  • Dr. Zachary Raizman — BSc, Biochemistry, University of Winnipeg, 2013; MD, Medicine, University of Manitoba, 2018

    Resident, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba

Christiaan Righolt — Infant Vaccination Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Manitoba — $34,000

  • PhotoDr. Christiaan Righolt

Award icon$34,000

Physical distancing restrictions introduced as part of the response against the COVID-19 pandemic have limited access to medical services. Early reports suggest that childhood vaccination rates are lower during these restrictions. Infants that miss or delay their vaccines are at increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases (such as measles and polio) and the reduced herd immunity can lead to new outbreaks of these diseases.

We need to know how many infants missed their vaccines, so we can plan for catch-up programs and minimize effects of future COVID-19 waves and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

We will examine this by comparing infant vaccinations before and during the pandemic. We will measure the drop in vaccinations, both for all vaccines combined as well as for individual vaccines (e.g. the measles vaccine). We will determine whether these infants catch up on missed vaccines in the short term (within six months) to minimize their risk.

This information will help build the response to COVID-19 and prevent further harm from the pandemic.

  • Dr. Christiaan Righolt — PhD, Engineering Physics, Delft University of Technology, 2014; MSc, Engineering Physics, Delft University of Technology, 2009; BSc, Engineering physics, Delft University of Technology, 2007

    Assistant Professor, Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

    Analytics Manager, Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre, University of Manitoba

    Scientist, Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

Tanveer Sharif — Understanding how Chemoradiotherapy Promotes Glioblastoma Tumor Recurrence — $31,500 (MMSF $16,500 / CCMF $15,000)

  • PhotoDr. Tanveer Sharif

Award icon$31,000

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary brain tumor in adults. In Canada, less than five per cent of GBM patients can expect to live past five years after they are diagnosed.

The current standard of care for GBM patients involves surgery followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy. While this may be effective at eliminating most of the tumor cells in the short term, the majority of GBM patients will relapse within seven to nine months. These recurrent tumors are highly aggressive and resistant to virtually all available treatments, and the patient will eventually succumb to the disease. There is an urgent need to understand why tumor recurrence occurs so often in GBM patients and improve the current standard of care.

Recent research has found that chemoradiotherapy, in addition to slowing the growth of tumor cells, may also unexpectedly promote tumor recurrence. Chemoradiotherapy causes damage to the DNA of cancer cells, leading to the activation of proteins called tumor suppressors. These tumor suppressors, as the name suggests, will suppress the growth of tumor cells. However, our recent work has uncovered an unconventional role of the so-called “tumor suppressor” protein TP73 in promoting GBM cell growth. In this project, we will investigate how chemoradiotherapy alters TP73 expression and activity and whether TP73 plays a role in promoting tumor recurrence.

This project will allow us to better understand how GBM cells respond to chemoradiotherapy. The knowledge generated from this project will allow us to design better therapeutic strategies to help improve outcomes for GBM patients.

    Dr. Tanveer Sharif — B.Pharm, Pharmacy, Bahauddin Zakariya University, 2004; MSc, Pharmacology, Bahauddin Zakariya University, 2006; PhD, Pharmacology, University of Strasbourg, 2006

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, University of Manitoba

Peter Thompson — Designing a Targeted Drug Delivery System for Beta Cells in Type 1 Diabetes — $25,000 (MMSF $12,500 / CHRIM $12,500)

  • PhotoDr. Peter Thompson

Award icon$25,000

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a life-long disease where the body loses the ability to produce the essential hormone insulin because the immune system mistakenly destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. T1D is often diagnosed in children, affecting one in 300 Canadians and approximately 13,600 in Manitoba alone.

While insulin is required to manage the disease, it is not a cure. Children and adults living with T1D are at risk for a variety of health complications and there is currently no way to prevent this disease.

Remarkably, some of the beta cells are actually culprits in triggering T1D. These harmful beta cells acquire a cellular sickness that promotes disease development. Removal of these sick beta cells with drug therapy spares the healthy ones and prevents the disease, akin to getting rid of rotten apples to save the good ones. However, these drugs are currently limited in their ability to specifically target the sick beta cells, hampering efforts to bring this promising new approach to the clinic.

All cells produce and export small cargo units that are like mail packages or shipping containers to communicate with other cells. Interestingly, this cargo delivery system can be programmed with specific addresses in order to deliver cargo to specific cell types in the body.

This project seeks to harness the cell’s cargo delivery system as a better approach to target drugs to sick beta cells for T1D preventive therapy. These studies will take us a step closer towards safe and effective ways to prevent T1D.

  • Dr. Peter Thompson — BSc, Molecular Genetics, University of Alberta, 2007; MSc, Molecular Biology, University of Alberta, 2010; PhD, Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, 2016; Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California, 2020

    Assistant Professor, Physiology & Pathophysiology, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases Division, University of Manitoba

    Principal Investigator, Childhood Diseases Division, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

    Member, Diabetes Research Envisioned and Accomplished in Manitoba (DREAM), Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

Jarret Woodmass — Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty with and Without Subscapularis Repair — $30,000

  • PhotoDr. Jarret Woodmass

Award icon$30,000

The shoulder is a “ball and socket” joint that can become severely arthritic. A total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA) replaces arthritic bones, but some patients also have torn shoulder muscles so a standard TSA does not work. When this happens, surgeons must switch or “reverse” the natural position of the ball and socket to compensate for the torn muscles. This technique is called a reverse TSA (RTSA).

An additional procedure is sometimes done with a RTSA called a subscapularis repair. Some surgeons feel this reduces the risk of shoulder dislocation while others feel it may restrict movement too much. There has never been a study to compare these approaches. The main goal of this study is to compare a RTSA with and without subscapularis repair.

Eighty-four patients with shoulder arthritis and severe rotator cuff injury will be randomly assigned to have a subscapularis repair or no repair. The main outcome is a patient-reported questionnaire that asks patients to rate their pain and ability to perform daily activities. Range of movement and rates of shoulder dislocation will also be compared.

The surgeons involved in this study perform all RTSA procedures done in Manitoba. Therefore, we have an incredible opportunity to potentially involve all patients that require this surgery from our population to evaluate their outcomes and to improve care for patients like them across the world. This study is critical in guiding surgeons to make the best choice for their patients and maximizing the outcome of this major shoulder procedure.

  • Dr. Jarret Woodmass — BSc, Science, University of Manitoba, 2007; MD, Medicine, University of Manitoba, 2011; BSc, Research, University of Manitoba, 2011; FRCSC, Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Calgary, 2016

    Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Manitoba

    Surgeon, Pan Am Clinic

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