Interview with Dr. Philip Sherman on the importance of the EGCD Funding Opportunity Announcement



David Coulombe: This is David Coulombe for CIHR’s Health Research in Action news. The Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) has launched a major funding opportunity on environments, genes and chronic disease, or EGCD.

CIHR contributes to $15.4 million in this project that will address the interactions between our environment, our genes and our microbiome and how they affect disease.

To talk about this important project, my guest today is Dr. Phil Sherman, Scientific Director for the CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes (CIHR-INMD).

Thanks for joining us, Dr. Sherman.

Dr. Philip Sherman: Thank you, David.

David Coulombe: So what are the parameters of this funding opportunity?

Dr. Philip Sherman: Well, as you said, through these programmatic grants in environments, genes and chronic disease, the Canadian Institute of Health Research will fund research on environments and how the human genetic code interact to contribute to chronic diseases.

The funds will support programmatic grants across the nation for research into a variety of important chronic disease conditions. These grants are supported with contributions from partner organizations, including Genome British Columbia and the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.

David Coulombe: Can you explain why this funding opportunity is so important?

Dr. Philip Sherman: Sure. So chronic non-communicable diseases, like obesity and diabetes, are leading causes of illnesses in Canada. In most cases, we still do not understand the underlying causes of these conditions. These chronic diseases place a huge burden on affected patients, their caregivers and on the Canadian healthcare system.

For example, the prevalence of these chronic diseases is going to increase as our population ages. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 400 million people in the world currently have diabetes, including more than two-and-a-half million people living in Canada.

Most of these chronic conditions involve multiple genes in complex interactions with environmental influences. This funding will advance research to better understand these complex interactions and identify new ways to prevent and treat chronic disease conditions.

It’s interesting that new technologies have emerged that provide researchers with greater understanding of the genome, the epigenome, the microbiome and the metabolome. Together these new advances in technology will provide greater understanding of mechanisms underlying chronic disease, thereby offering new hope and new insights for disease prevention and treatment.

David Coulombe: So what’s the main goal of this project?

Dr. Philip Sherman: Well programmatic grants in the environments, genes and chronic disease are part of a CIHR effort in – on the environment and the health signature initiative, which aims to better understand how the environment contributes to health and disease across the lifespan.

The programmatic grants we’re launching will increase understanding of just how environmental factors and genes interact to influence human health. And in doing so, will identify ways to prevent and treat a variety of chronic diseases affecting Canadians.

David Coulombe: Very interesting project. Thanks so much, Dr. Sherman.

Dr. Philip Sherman: Thank you very much David.

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