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U of M researchers benefit from Ice Bucket Challenge

U of M researchers benefit from Ice Bucket Challenge

Remember when your Facebook feed was full of videos of people dumping ice water on their heads in support of ALS research?

A University of Manitoba research team investigating a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was awarded $1.6 M today as one of only five Canadian research teams selected for a translational team grant, thanks to funds raised during the Ice Bucket Challenge.

ALS Societies across Canada and the ALS Canada Research Program, in partnership with Brain Canada, announced $15 million in funding to be invested amongst research teams across Canada to support ALS research.

The largest allocation was to the $10.15 million Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grants (Hudson Grant), awarded to five teams of researchers spanning academic institutions across Canada including research led by Principal investigator Dr. Jiming Kong, University of Manitoba ($1.6 M) into the removal of a toxic protein through a simple injection into the bloodstream rather than an injection into spinal fluid.

Dr. Kong, professor of human anatomy & cell science in the College of Medicine. is conducting the research with Dr. Mike Namaka, associate professor in the College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Hassan Marzban, assistant professor, human anatomy & cell science from the University of Manitoba, Dr. Yu Tian Wang of UBC and Dr. Xin-min Li of University of Alberta.

Kong, who has been studying ALS for more than 20 years, says successful completion of his team’s project could lead to an Investigative New Drug (IND) application and clinical trials.

“This funding is therefore timely and critically important for us to move our research one step further towards a cure for the disease,” says Kong, adding, “There are a number of world-class ALS researchers in Canada. We are fortunate and extremely honoured to be selected as one of the five teams to receive this significant funding.”

In total, 34 projects are being funded through today’s announcements and represent 56 investigators at 15 universities throughout Canada. The astounding $15-M in funding being allocated is a ten-fold increase over historic investments, and was made possible by funds raised during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This news commemorates the one year anniversary of ALS Canada and Brain Canada announcing their partnership to allocate dollars to advance ALS research in Canada.

“This is a great example of grass roots involvement in a worthy cause and we thank the ALS Canada Research Program for supporting our research here at the University of Manitoba,” says Dr. Brian Postl, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences. “We are proud of the innovative and collaborative research – like Dr. Kong’s- fostered in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the far-reaching impact it may have on combatting deadly diseases such as ALS.”

ALS Canada notes the research being funded “represents the most promising science in Canada and will aid in accelerating the development of effective treatments for those affected by ALS.”

Following ALS Canada Research Program announcements, the ALS Society of Manitoba will be providing local advancements. Over $350,000 was raised in Manitoba and will now play a pinnacle role in the national research.

Along with the funds allocated to research, an additional $4.4 million raised by the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge was invested to support the day-to-day care of Canadians living with ALS. Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS today, and the average cost for caring for one person with ALS is between $150,000 and $250,000.

— GARRICK KOZIER, from UM Today, University of Manitoba’s News Source