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Nine new and renewed Canada Research Chairs celebrated

Minister Kellie Leitch announces 4 new Canada Research Chairs for McMaster and the renewal of 5 Tier 1 CRCs.
Nine new and renewed Canada Research Chairs celebrated

L-R: Robert Pelton, President Deane, MP David Sweet, Younggy Kim, Graham Scott, Heather Sheardown, Minister Leitch, Jamal Deen, Walter Craig, VP Research Mo Elbestawi [click image for fullscreen view]PHOTO CREDIT: SIMON WILSON

April 14, 2015
Danelle D'Alvise
Research Communications  

‘Stick a needle in your eye’ -- that age-old, cringe worthy turn of phrase that immediately conjures up pain and discomfort might well become obsolete with the leading edge technologies and therapies Heather Sheardown and her research team are developing in her lab.

Through Sheardown’s research in ophthalmic biomaterials, the chemical engineer has established McMaster University as an internationally leading center for research into the development of new drug delivery systems and new biomaterials for treating ocular conditions.

Whether it’s developing better biomaterials for contact or intraocular (implanted in the eye) lenses, or determining the best method to deliver therapeutic drugs to the back of the eyes of patients suffering from glaucoma or macular degeneration, Sheardown has been at the forefront of the research that could be translated into novel treatments for a host of ophthalmic diseases.

Sheardown has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Systems, one of four new Canada Research Chairs (CRC) announced today by the Honourable Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women. Leitch also celebrated the renewal of five of McMaster’s current Chairholders.

 “Diseases of the eye represent a significant burden to society, with more than one million Canadians living with vision loss – a number that’s expected to double over the next 25 years,” says Sheardown. “My Canada Research Chair will provide my research team with the infrastructure we need to develop new therapies that have the ability to effectively deliver the drugs that are needed to treat a host of ophthalmic diseases.”

Sheardown explains that her research program includes developing new drug-containing formulations that can be delivered as topical drops to provide long lasting and efficacious delivery of drugs to the front of the eye, as well as the next generation of smart materials that interact with the ocular tissues to promote the long term delivery of drugs to the back of the eye.

The nine Chairs represent $10,800,000 in total funding for researchers from health science, science, engineering and humanities recognized for their promise and their accomplishments. 

"The University is extremely proud of the impressive variety of research undertaken by our Canada Research Chairs" says Patrick Deane, President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University. “As leading individuals in their fields, they inspire us with their depth of expertise and research excellence. As a group, they represent the range of disciplines that makes our research-intensive university so successful.”


McMaster’s Newest Research Chairs

Younggy Kim assistant professor, civil engineering will be using his Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Water and Health to develop new sustainable water and wastewater treatment technologies. Kim’s wastewater and drinking water treatment research seeks solutions for the challenges of: nutrient removal, heavy metal issues in water reclamation and biosolids utilization, protozoan cysts control and reliable drinking water disinfection for underprivileged communities.

 John Lavis, professor, department of clinical Epidemiology & biostatistics has been awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Evidence-Informed Health Systems. Dr. Lavis’ research program emphasizes “evidence-informed” health systems – the health system arrangements and implementation arrangements that will provide the right mix of cost-effective programs, services and drugs get to those who need them. Lavis will evaluate innovative strategies that support the use of research evidence in health systems in Canada and internationally, and will examine how context and issues influence views about, experiences with, and impacts of, these strategies.

 Graham Scott  is a comparative physiologist whose work focuses on how physiological systems function during environmental stress, how they are shaped during development, and how they evolve. Scott – an assistant professor in the department of biology – has garnered a Tier 2
Canada Research Chair in Comparative and Environmental Physiology to examine how hypoxia-tolerant animals have solved the problems associated with oxygen deprivation, which will then provide perspective on issues related to human health (diseases involved oxygen limitation such as COPD and cardiovascular disease) and the environment (climate change and pollution).

Chemical Engineering professor Heather Sheardown has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Systems (Tier I) to continue her internationally recognized research in ophthalmic materials and drug delivery systems. Her research program will develop the next generation of biomaterials and delivery systems that can then be translated into novel treatments for a host of ophthalmic diseases.

Renewed Chairs

When the Canada Research Chairs program was first launched in 2000, there were only 195 recipients from across Canada awarded a prestigious Chair. The Chairs renewed in today’s announcement were among the first group recognized by the federal government for their research excellence. 

Research mathematician Walter Craig will continue his work in partial differential equations (PDEs) and Hamiltonian dynamical systems and their applications in the physical sciences. Craig’s Tier 1 Canada Research Chair of Mathematical Analysis and its Applications provides him with the opportunity to study properties of several PDEs that arise in the physical sciences and engineering, in particular those physical processes such as mechanics, fluid dynamics, quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Jamal Deen, professor, electrical and computer engineering will maintain his world-class research program with his Canada Research Chair in Information Technology. Deen’s Tier 1 Chair focuses on the modeling, design and application of high-performance photodetectors and integrated imagers, especially for emerging applications in health sciences, biomolecular sciences, environmental monitoring and chemistry.

Nicholas Griffin, professor, department of philosophy was first awarded his Canada Research Chair in Russell, Peace and the 20th Century in 2001, the year after the Bertram Russell Research Centre (BRRC) was established on campus to provide a central focus for Russell research worldwide. Griffin’s Chair has been central to supporting and expanding the work of the BRRC, its conferences, publishing and general assistance to global Russell scholarship. The combination of Griffin’s Tier 1 Chair, the impressive work of the BRCC and the Russell Archives (the most extensive collection of original material by or about Russell in the world) has made McMaster the leading international centre for both philosophical and non-philosophical research on Russell.

Adam Hitchcock, professor, department of chemistry and chemical biology Tier 1
Canada Research Chair in Materials Research – CLS/CCRS
has developed
novel instrumentation, techniques and applications for synchrotron X-ray microscopy, including world firsts in: spectro-tomography (3D chemical mapping), soft X-ray fluorescence detection (enhanced sensitivity), chemically selective lithography, and in situ systems (electrochemistry, humidity, temperature). Hitchcock’s research results have contributed to improved knowledge about: protein – polymer interactions (biomaterials); biological magnetism; nanomaterials; and hydrogen fuel cell materials.

Gerry Wright’s  Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Biochemistry has enabled his ground-breaking studies on the exploration of the origin and evolution of antibiotic resistance. Wright’s lab has discovered that antibiotic resistance is ancient by identifying resistance genes in 30,000-year-old permafrost samples and applied this fundamental information in the development of innovative strategies to identify new drugs and preserve the activities of existing ones. Wright also pioneered new approaches to identify antibiotic producing bacteria and applied this to identify new antibiotics.

As a result of McMaster University’s success in securing Tri-Council funding, the University’s total allocation of Canada Research Chairs increased from 70 to 72. With today’s announcement, McMaster has 67 researchers currently holding a Chair.  

There are two types of Canada Research Chairs:
Tier 1 Chairs, tenable for seven years and renewable, are for outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields. For each Tier 1 Chair, the university receives $200,000 annually for seven years.

Tier 2 Chairs, tenable for five years and renewable once, are for exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field. For each Tier 2 Chair, the university receives $100,000 annually for five years.

“Our government is proud to support science and technology through these chairholders, who solve some of the most pressing scientific, economic and social challenges in our country,” Leitch says. “The Canada Research Chairs Program is driving innovation, addressing health, environmental and social issues, and spurring economic growth in our communities—all of which serve to improve the lives of Canadians.”