Catalyst Grant: Sex as a variable in biomedical research

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Since the early 2000s, there has been a growing recognition by the research community that the sex of cells, tissues, animals, and humans matter in biomedical and translational science. Every cell has a sex, with sex differences beginning at conception and varying along the lifecycle.

When sex is taken into account, it improves the reproducibility of research findings and increases scientific rigor by allowing for results to be generalizable to both men and women. When sex is not taken into account, important effects may be missed.

In 2015, the Institute of Gender and Health launched the first Sex as a Variable in Biomedical Research Catalyst Grant competition. This funding opportunity aimed to encourage biomedical scientists to include sex as a variable in their research questions and experimental designs.

In response to the success of this program, the Institute of Gender and Health, the Institute of Aging, the Institute of Infection and Immunity, the Institute of Cancer Research, the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health and the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis launched a second round of this competition.

The specific objectives of this funding opportunity are:

  • To add value to the current state of basic biomedical knowledge on a given topic that has potential to, but has not yet fully elucidated the impact of sex and/or gender on biological mechanisms or pathophysiology.
  • To promote increased awareness, knowledge and self-efficacy among biomedical researchers regarding the integration of sex as a variable in their research.
  • To contribute to the improvement of women and men’s health in Canada.

The total amount available for this funding opportunity is $3,450,000, enough to fund approximately 23 grants for up to 2 years.

Read a full list of awardees and their project abstracts.


Orofacial sensorimotor cortex neuro-glial plasticity induced by intraoral injury: Effects of sex and genetic factors
Dr. Limor Avivi-Arber, University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario)

Amyloid beta sex specifically alters synaptic physiology
Dr. Richard Bergeron, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (Ottawa, Ontario)

Effect of trophoblast sex on uterine immune cell function
Dr. Alexander G. Beristain, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Dr. Wendy P. Robinson

Sex-dependent systemic autoimmunity in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease
Dr. Margaret Fahnestock, McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario)
Dr. Boris Sakic
Dr. Paul Forsythe
Dr. Iva Zovkic

Differential effects of cannabis use on event-related potential (ERP)-indexed brain function in males and females
Dr. Derek J. Fisher, Mount Saint (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Dr. Candice E. Crocker
Dr. Sherry H. Stewart
Dr. Philip G. Tibbo

Intracortical Myelin as a Mechanism for Sex Differences in Major Depressive Disorder
Dr. Benicio N. Frey, McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario)
Dr. Nicholas A. Bock
Dr. Meir Steiner

Sex-specific DNA methylation marks in VKORC1 and UBIAD1 as variables in clinical decision rules for recurrent VTE
Dr. France Gagnon, University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario)
Dr. Marc a. Rodger
Dr. Michael D. Wilson

Sex differences in arginine function in experimental and human bronchopulmonary dysplasia
Dr. Robert P. Jankov, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (Ottawa, Ontario)
Dr. Hartmut Grasemann
Dr. David Grynspan
Dr. Jeremy A. Scott

The Impact of Sex on Kidney Metabolism. Implications for Diabetic Kidney Disease
Dr. Ana Konvalinka, University Health Network (Toronto, Ontario)

Sex-specific regulation of immune function by the histone demethylases JARID1c and JARID1d
Dr. Connie Krawczyk, McGill University (Montréal, Québec)
Dr. Martin J. Richer

Exploring the role of sex-hormone driven natural antibody during bloodstream E. coli infections
Dr. Paul Kubes, University of Calgary (Calgary, Alberta)

Sex-specific functional and transcriptional contributions of the cortico-striatal and -tegmental pathways in mediating stress susceptibility and resilience
Dr. Benoit Labonté, Université Laval (Québec, Québec)

Understanding early life origins of sex difference in insulin sensitivity
Dr. Zhong-Cheng Luo, Sinai Health System (Toronto, Ontario)
Dr. Laurent Briollais
Dr. John C. Kingdom
Dr. Stephen J. Lye
Dr. Kellie E. Murphy
Dr. Zdenka V. Pausova

Sex Differences in Bone Osteocalcin Response to Exercise
Dr. Jane A. Mitchell, University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario)
Dr. Walter L. Swardfager

Sex-Dependent Role of Telomeres and Cellular Senescence in Pain in Mice and Humans
Dr. Jeffrey S. Mogil, McGill University (Montréal, Québec)
Dr. Arjun Muralidharan

Molecular adaptation to allergen exposure: sex-related differences in asthma
Dr. Neeloffer Mookherjee, University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Dr. Christopher Carlsten
Dr. Andrew J. Halayko
Dr. Christopher D. Pascoe

Sex-dependent effects of cranial radiation in the developing brain
Dr. Brian J. Nieman, Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Ontario)
Dr. Jason P. Lerch
Dr. Mark R. Palmert
Dr. Wong Shun

Gene by Sex Interactions in COPD
Dr. Ma’En Obeidat, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Dr. Tillie-Louise Hackett
Dr. Janice Leung
Dr. Peter D. Pare
Dr. Donald Sin

Sexual dimorphism of thymic epithelial cells
Dr. Claude Perreault, Université de Montréal (Montréal, Québec)

Influenza immunization for all Canadians: Does One Size Fit All?
Dr. Caroline, Quach-Thanh, Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine (Montréal, Québec)

The role of sex in regulating interleukin-17-mediated toxicity in the central nervous system
Dr. Manu Rangachari, Université Laval, Québec, Québec

Role of the SUMO system in X chromosome inactivation
Dr. Brian Raught, University Health Network (Toronto, Ontario)

The genetics of sex differences related to perinatal health
Dr. Wendy P. Robinson, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Dr. Carolyn J. Brown
Dr. Allison M. Matthews

Does fetal sex influence in utero HIV antiretroviral toxicity?
Dr. Lena Serghides, University Health Network (Toronto, Ontario)
Dr. Reina Bendayan
Dr. William D. Cameron
Dr. Michelle Dennehy

Targeting sex mitochondrial asymmetry to elucidate sex-specific consequences of intermittent hypoxia in newborns
Dr. Jorge Soliz, Université Laval (Québec, Québec)
Dr. Aida Bairam
Dr. Vincent Joseph

Sex-specific investigations of Parkinson's disease mouse models: application for gonadal drugs repurposing
Dr. Denis Soulet, Université Laval (Québec, Québec)
Dr. Thérèse Di Paolo-Chenevert

Sex differences in innate lymphoid cells and asthma
Dr. Fumio Takei, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Loss of Angiotensin Type II Receptor (AT2R) Sex-Specifically Accelerates Maternal Diabetes-Induced Renal Programming in Diabetic Progeny
Dr. Shao-Ling Zhang, Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) (Montréal, Québec)

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