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About SickKids

March 28, 2011

SickKids-led research projects top Genome Canada’s leader board

Two projects led by researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) were tied for the number one spot when Genome Canada awarded $60 million to the 16 winning projects of the Large-Scale Applied Research Project competition on March 25. This competition is part of Genome Canada’s mandate to fund a wide-range of large-scale genomics research projects through a competitive process.

Drs. Michael Taylor and David Malkin will receive close to $5 million from Genome Canada and $5 million from other sources including Genome BC, the Terry Fox Research Institute and SickKids Foundation. Their project strives to better understand childhood brain cancers, which are a leading cause of paediatric cancer deaths worldwide. Along with their colleague, Dr. Marco A. Marra from the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre of the British Columbia Cancer Agency, Taylor and Malkin will determine a rigourous molecular classification and the genetic basis of medulloblastoma, the most common form of childhood brain cancer. The aggressive treatment that is currently used to fight this cancer is expensive and can often lead to diminished quality of life.

“This funding will enable us to determine the genetic basis of this childhood brain cancer,” said Malkin. “We hope to rapidly transform this information into the development of new, more effective and biologically rational approaches to treatment.”

“Some children with excellent prognosis medulloblastoma are likely over treated and suffer unnecessary complications of treatment, whereas other children with very poor prognosis tumours are likely receiving futile therapies. Through a better understanding of tumour biology we plan to develop tools allowing individualization of therapy for each child,” said Taylor.

The other winning researchers are Dr. Colin McKerlie from SickKids and his colleague, Dr. Steve Brown from the MRC Harwell Mammalian Genetics Unit in the UK. Their close to $5 million in Genome Canada funding, matched by close to $5 million from the UK Medical Research Council, will allow them to take part in an ambitious international project aiming to understand the function of all 20,000 human genes.

“To understand how our genes function normally and in disease, we will study the developmental problems and diseases in unique animal models that have different abnormal or mutated genes,” said McKerlie. “This will enable us to determine the effect of each mutation and whether the gene or the protein it produces could be a target for drugs or be used to diagnose disease.”

This project also involves a team of social scientists, led by Dr. Tania Bubela at the University of Alberta, who will examine best practices and policies needed to improve international collaborations among researchers to enhance the process of drug discovery.

In addition to health, the other winning projects come from a wide range of sectors including agriculture, forestry, environment and technology.

“We are proud of the process and the results which are a testament to the high level of excellent applied research being carried out in this country”, said Dr. Pierre Meulien, President and CEO of Genome Canada.