media release

SFU health research gets financial boost

August 25, 2011

Lori Last, MSFHR, 604.714.2788, 604.868.2313,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

Six Simon Fraser University researchers are collectively receiving up to $405,000 in funding from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) to further investigate health issues affecting many Canadians.

They are studying borderline personality disorder, organ transplant rejection, natural product discovery, environmental toxin contamination, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) immunity and proteins linked to vision impairment and obesity.

The six SFU recipients are among a total of 95 recipients of MSFHR 2010/2011 research scholar and trainee funding on the 10th anniversary of the creation of the MSFHR. The organization is the provincial government’s health support agency and has a mandate to support B.C.-based health research through funding competitions.

More than 300 university and hospital based researchers applied for funding in the MSFHR’s 2010/11 research-scholar and trainee competitions.

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Backgrounder on MSFHR 2011 SFU recipients

The MSFHR is awarding up to a maximum of $535,000 over eight years in individual-research scholar funding to Alexander Chapman, associate professor of psychology; Jonathan Choy, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Robert Britton, assistant professor of chemistry.

  • Research in Chapman’s personality and emotion research laboratory examines the role of emotion regulation in the cause, maintenance and treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and self-injury in an effort to improve treatment of them. BPD is among the most complex, misunderstood and stigmatized mental health problems, affecting up to 20 per cent of psychiatric inpatients. Chapman lives in Burnaby.
  • Choy is investigating endothelial cell regulation of T-cell responses. T-cells are specialized cells in the immune system that protect us from infections but can attack and damage transplanted organs. Choy is trying to better understand how T-cell survival and persistence are regulated in transplanted arteries. Choy is a Port Moody resident.
  • Britton is developing new synthetic methods and strategies for advancing natural product drug discoveries. He lives in North Vancouver.

Three SFU postdoctoral fellows are recipients of three-year awards of up to $135,000 in new MSFHR funding for advanced research training. They are Glenys Webster in the Faculty of Health Science, Victor Jensen and Naveed Gulzar in molecular biology and biochemistry department.

  • Webster is investigating how chemical flame-retardants used in furniture foams, textiles and plastics, and stain repellents called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are affecting human health. PFCs are used in non-stick pans, furniture, cosmetics, household cleaners, clothing and packaged food containers. These materials are widely used in consumer products and are detectible in the blood of nearly 100 per cent of the general population. They are known thyroid toxicants in animal studies, which could potentially affect fetal brain development.
  • Jensen is investigating novel cilia genes that are associated with multiple disorders, including blindness and obesity. His research will provide essential information about the association between disease and different genes, as well as the function of cilia. The cilium is an extension on most cells and tissues that works similarly to a television antenna, in that it receives signals from the environment. When a mutation disrupts the function of cilia, cells no longer receive the proper environmental input.
  • Gulzar is studying the cellular basis of antibody (Ab)-mediated immunity in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Understanding how this can work will profoundly advance scientific understanding of host-virus interactions, protective immunity and HIV vaccine design. Antibodies (Abs) are proteins that bind to molecules on the surface of invading pathogens, flagging them for destruction.


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