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Three IRIC researchers receive substantial support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation

Published on September 4, 2020

By Fatéma Dodat

On August 18, 2020, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced the selected research projects that will benefit from its financial support. This substantial support allows researchers to acquire highly specialized avant-garde equipment and infrastructure, and to recruit and retain internationally renowned scientists.

The financing comes from various sources: 40% from the CFI, 40% from the ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec, and 20% from various other partners.

Three research projects led by IRIC Principal Investigators received a financial support: Kathy Borden received $ 688,762$ and David Knapp and Geneviève Deblois, new Principal Investigators at the Institute, received $ 528,749 and $ 415,565, respectively.

The project led by Kathy Borden aims to overcome multi-drug resistance in cancer. Her team has shown that in some cancers, drug resistance is caused by cancer cells producing particular enzymes that modify drugs, rendering them inactive. The goal of the project is to develop small molecules that target these enzymes to restore sensitivity to chemotherapy in patients who have developed resistance to treatment.

David Knapp’s work focuses on a mechanistic investigation into the establishment and loss of functional cell identity. Indeed, the cellular machinery that establishes the identity of different cell types remains poorly understood. We now know that cells can change from one type to another and that they lose their identifying characteristics when they become cancerous. New technologies will allow David Knapp and his team to measure with unprecedented precision what happens during these transitions and to manipulate these changes. This will provide insights into how these processes are broken in cancer and reveal new vulnerabilities that could be targeted therapeutically.

Finally, Geneviève Deblois’s project aims to understand –the interplay between metabolism and epigenetics in drug resistant cancers. Resistance to treatment is indeed very common in triple-negative breast cancers, a form of the disease for which there are few treatment options. Cancer cells develop this resistance, among other things, by altering their metabolism and the expression of their genes. Professor Deblois’ project aims to better understand the interaction between these two types of changes to ultimately allow the development of new, more effective therapeutic strategies.

According to Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and CEO of the CFI: “Support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation ensures researchers are equipped for success at every stage of their career.”