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Two Innovation Grants awarded in Newfoundland and Labrador

As part of our special call for applications in Newfoundland and Labrador, we were pleased to announce that we awarded two Innovation Grants to researchers at Memorial University. These grants were made possible by a generous donation from the estate of W. Gary Rowe, a lawyer, art collector and philanthropist born in St John’s.

In 2013 Dr Mani Larijani was awarded the first W. Gary Rowe Innovation Grant to study an enzyme found in immune cells called activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID). When functioning correctly, this enzyme helps to develop more effective antibodies against infection. However, it can occasionally turn immune cells into very aggressive and drug-resistant leukemia and lymphoma cells. Dr Larijani’s team is now investigating the critical parts of AID’s structure to determine how to block its harmful functions and help develop new treatments.

Read more about Dr Larijani’s grant.

In 2014 we announced the second W. Gary Rowe Innovation Grant awarded to Dr Ken Hirasawa. Dr Hirasawa works in the area of photodynamic therapy (PDT), which is a promising treatment that attacks cancer by making cancer cells more sensitive to light. This has 2 effects: cancer cells are easier to detect (as they are “brighter”), and when they are exposed to a specialized light source they are destroyed. Currently, this type of therapy is only effective on small collections of cancer cells, not large or aggressive tumours. Dr Hirasawa and his team will combine PDT with a molecule that has been found to slow the growth of cancer and, fortuitously, makes cells carry larger amounts of the fluorescent substance used in PDT. If successful, this strategy could help make PDT even more effective on advanced cancer.

Last modified on: December 22, 2015