Three researchers earn Smith awards

October 07, 2004, vol. 31, no. 3
By Howard Fluxgold

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Three SFU researchers have earned prestigious awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR).

Cindy Patton, associate professor in sociology and women's studies has won a senior scholar award under the career award program worth $175,000.

Both Carl Lowenberger, assistant professor of biological sciences and Jinko Graham assistant professor of statistics and actuarial science have won scholar awards.

Graham's award is worth $201,000 while Lowenberger has received $150,000.

Patton is developing the health methods research and training facility at Harbour Centre, a network for innovative health research. The facility integrates community-based research in HIV/AIDS and other public health concerns with the study of health promotion in real-world settings. The award will fund an assistant director, responsible for developing small projects.

“On a personal level, receiving this award is a significant recognition of my work in the area of HIV research,” says Patton, a Canada Research Chair in community culture and health. “SFU has not had sufficient recognition for its existing and growing commitment to research in the health field. This year's success in the Smith foundation competitions will go a great distance toward making our research more publicly visible.”

Carl Lowenberger wants to discover why insects don't get sick from the infectious diseases they carry. He is studying the immune system of disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes that transmit malaria, or the kissing bug that transmits Chagas disease, the fourth leading cause of mortality in Latin America.

“One of our goals is to identify those factors produced by the insects that kill the parasite in its body cavity and determine if we can use these compounds to prevent transmission,” says Lowenberger, a Canada Research Chair in the biology of parasites and disease vectors.

He plans to use the award to hire staff to advance his laboratory experiments.

Graham says that the Smith award will allow her to continue her research into improved statistical methods for studying diseases with a genetic component. “The award will go toward release time and staff who can assist with programming and analysis which is essential for my research,” she notes

Graham studies complex genetic diseases such as asthma and diabetes. “Finding the DNA sequence variants that contribute to a disease has the potential to lead to better treatment and prevention,” she explains.

Named after B.C.'s first Nobel prize recipient, the Michael Smith foundation was conceived of by the Coalition for Health Research in B.C.

In March 2001, the provincial government gave the alliance of universities, teaching hospitals, biotechnology companies and others $110 million to implement a five-year plan for building B.C.'s health research capacity.

Career investigator awards support highly qualified researchers who work in health research.

The awards are partial salary contributions to support investigators at different stages of their career.

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