Funding: Nearly $10 million awarded in CIHR grants

Researchers from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry were awarded $9,933,800 in funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) for 13 studies making important contributions in diverse research areas, including five projects at Robarts Research Institute.

Tracking therapeutic cells

Paula Foster, PhD, is one of five Robarts Research Institute scientists who received a CIHR grant. Foster, a Professor of Medical Biophysics, is researching magnetic particle imaging (MPI) techniques to track in vivo cells used in cell therapy.

“We are on the threshold of a new age of therapeutics. The therapeutic administration of immune cells (such as T cells or dendritic cells) and stem cells is now recognized as a safe and effective treatment for a growing list of diseases,” Foster explained.

“Despite its immense potential, clinical results have been variable and discordant because of disparities in cell source, preparation and route of administration and implantation methodologies. Currently, the only truly direct way to monitor the transferred cells is through an invasive biopsy; this is not desirable.” 

As part of the study, she is investigating different types of iron particles that can be used to mark the therapeutic cells, allowing for their effective tracking in the body using MPI. Foster is also developing a new MPI method, called multicolour MPI, which facilitates the imaging of two different types of therapeutic cells with different iron particles. Robarts Research Institute is home to the first and only MPI system in Canada, placing Foster in a unique position to investigate the capabilities of this technology. 

Ultimately, the goal of this research is to advance the limits of therapeutic cell tracking, providing clinicians a new tool to refine cellular therapies. 

Congratulations to the successful CIHR Project Grant applicants from Robarts Research Institute:

  • S. Cregan, PhD - Investigating the ATF4 Cellular Stress Response Pathway in Parkinson's Disease
  • P. Foster, PhD - Development of Magnetic Particle Imaging for In Vivo Cell Tracking
  • W. Inoue, PhD - Elucidating the cellular and network mechanisms for stress sensitivity control in the hypothalamus
  • J. Ronald, PhD - Development of Molecular Imaging Tools to Monitor the Fate of an Off-The-Shelf Chimeric Antigen Receptor Natural Killer (CAR-NK) Cell Immunotherapy
  • D. Welsh, PhD - Reimagining O2 Demand-to-O2 Supply Coupling In the Microcirculation: Cellular Mechanisms to Disease Application


Read the complete list of successful applicants from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry