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Embracing innovation

$1-million federal investment for health-related research and discoveries

By Jeff Green

Two researchers based in the Faculty of Medicine are benefitting from a $1-million federal investment.

Drs. Michelle Ploughman and Craig Moore have been renewed as Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs (CRC), one of the country’s highest honours for research excellence. Tier 2 Chairs are five-year awards for $100,000 each year.

Dr. Ploughman, associate professor of medicine (physical medicine and rehabilitation), will continue her work as Canada Research Chair in Rehabilitation, Neuroplasticity and Brain Recovery.

Dr. Moore, associate professor (neuroimmunology), has been renewed as Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience and Brain Repair.

Both were initially named Canada Research Chairs in 2014.

Changing lives

Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“My CRC renewal is not only a major marker in my academic career, it is a renewed opportunity to conduct research that has the potential to change the lives of people with stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS),” Dr. Ploughman, a Memorial alumna, told the Gazette during an interview.

She says the renewal will also provide support for graduate students over the next five years.

“This builds capacity in Canada by training the next generation of scientists.”

The focus of Dr. Ploughman’s research is developing new treatments that promote recovery in stroke and multiple sclerosis, two of the most common neurological disorders in Canada.

“Our approach to fostering neuroplasticity and brain recovery positions my lab as one of the best rehabilitation research labs in the country.” — Dr. Michelle Ploughman

The federal funding will allow her to continue critical research in her Recovery and Performance Laboratory, which is based at the Miller Centre in St. John’s.

Canadian leader

“Our laboratory houses cutting-edge technology that measures how the brain adapts and heals over time,” she explained. “This allows us to measure how new treatments, like brain stimulation, alter communication within areas of the brain responsible for recovery of movement.

“Our approach to fostering neuroplasticity and brain recovery positions my lab as one of the best rehabilitation research labs in the country,” she added proudly. “We will test new treatments over the next five years that combine interventions, such as reparative drugs and physiotherapy or brain stimulation, in order to help people with stroke and MS restore lost function.”

Exciting opportunity

Dr. Craig Moore
Dr. Craig Moore
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Moore says the federal investment will help bring his research program to the next level.

“As a chairholder, I am extremely proud of the research team that I have assembled over the past five years and the significant progress that we have made in the field of MS research,” he told the Gazette.

“As one of the only neuroimmunologists in Atlantic Canada, it has been very exciting to witness the growth of my lab and the interest in my research from various stakeholders, study participants and funding agencies.”

He says his research is relevant, as it will help identify novel treatment strategies for treating chronic neurological diseases, such as MS.

“We have identified novel molecules that are altered in the immune and central nervous systems of MS patients.” — Dr. Craig Moore

Since his initial CRC appointment, Dr. Moore has built an extensive collaborative and cross-disciplinary team of researchers and clinicians. He has access to both critical infrastructure and the biological specimens necessary to execute his research.

Further insight

“My research team now has access to valuable and highly characterized patient samples that facilitates the translational “bedside-to-bench-to-bedside” approach that we often hear about in the field of medical research,” he noted.

Drs. Craig Moore and Michelle Ploughman
Drs. Craig Moore and Michelle Ploughman
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

As part of his research, Dr. Moore will continue to investigate how specific genes/microRNAs contribute to disease processes related to brain injury and repair in patients with MS.

“Over the past several years, we have identified novel molecules that are altered in the immune and central nervous systems of MS patients, which may provide insight into disease processes and serve as biomarkers that could predict an individual patient’s progression, repair capacity and response to various drug therapies,” he explained. “We will continue to followup and validate these findings.”

Global excellence

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research) and former Canada Research Chair, says the federal investment provides critical funding for important studies that will benefit Canadians.

“The Canada Research Chairs program is instrumental in allowing Memorial to retain incredibly talented scientists and scholars, such as Drs. Ploughman and Moore, whose research programs strengthen Memorial’s global reputation for excellence in health-related research,” he said.

“I thank the Government of Canada for this significant investment and congratulate Drs. Ploughman and Moore as they embrace innovation to advance scientific knowledge in their fields.”

Memorial is currently home to 21 Canada Research Chairs whose research ranges from ocean mapping and social enterprise to coastal environmental engineering and population physical activity.

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