Awards and recognition

Dr. Harry Brumer receives Crohn’s and Colitis Canada 2019 Innovations in IBD Research Award

Harry Brumer

Dr. Harry Brumer, Professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Chemistry

In a press release published today, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, one of the world’s leading non-governmental funders of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis research, announced over $2.8 million in grants to eleven Canadian investigators and their teams. One of the recipients is Dr. Harry Brumer, Professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Chemistry, who received a 2019 Innovation in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Research Award! 

Certain peptides are promising new therapies for IBD but the approach to delivery is limited. Dr. Brumer and his team are working on a new technology where the peptide will be packaged as an inactive pill that can be taken orally and only becomes active in the lower gut. These “glyco-caged” peptides become active by gut bacteria-specific enzymes that release the peptide from the glyco-cage. Dr. Brumer and his team will test this idea by synthesizing this glyco-caged peptide, evaluating the release of the active peptide from the glyco-cage by human gut bacterial enzyme in vitro, then testing the glyco-caged drug using a mouse model of IBD.

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s annual research grants, which are funded entirely by donors, fuel the most promising projects to deliver new therapeutic hope for the 270,000 Canadians living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – a number set to top 400,000 by 2030.

“Canada has among the highest rates of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in the world and we are determined to drive discovery, the only way to prevent and cure these chronic and debilitating diseases,” says Mina Mawani, President and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “Next to CIHR, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada invests the greatest amount in Canadian IBD research – high-potential work that enables our organization to improve lives and relentlessly press forward toward finding the cures.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada delivers grants-in-aid at $125,000 each year for three years, and innovation awards at $50,000 for one year.

2019 Innovations in IBD Research Award Recipients:

  • Dr. Harry Brumer, University of British Columbia: Certain peptides are promising new therapies for IBD but we need better, more effective ways to deliver them to the gut – Dr. Brumer is developing a “glyco-caged” version of the peptide that can be unlocked only by certain enzymes produced by gut-specific bacteria. 
  • Dr. Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Université de Sherbrooke: Assessing IBD remains a clinical challenge, and Dr. Beaulieu will test a new strategy that uses mass spectrometry to analyze stool samples from patients to identify new biomarkers for IBD.
  • Dr. Jean Sévigny, Université Laval: By targeting certain molecules linked to inflammation in the gut, Dr. Sévigny seeks to create a novel IBD treatment in the “NTPDase8” enzyme, which appears to prevent colitis by stopping this inflammatory pathway.
  • Dr. Sara Ahola Kohut, Hospital for Sick Children: To support the often-overlooked needs of parents whose children live with IBD, and in turn those young patients’ health and well-being, Dr. Kohut will measure the impact of a new online workshop series called “Acceptance and Commitment Training.”

2019 Grants-in-Aid of Research Award Recipients:

  • Dr. Laura Sly, University of British Columbia: Through multiple studies, Dr. Sly will test a new drug’s ability to stop Crohn’s inflammation in cases where the “SHIP” protein is low – a patient base for whom there are no effective treatments
  • Dr. Carolina Tropini, University of British Columbia: By analyzing how bacteria respond to and change their environment, Dr. Tropini will develop algorithms to predict the state of IBD and the effectiveness of drugs – with an eye to new therapies that restore a healthy gut.
  • Dr. Bruce Vallance, Children’s and Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia: After identifying a dangerous bacteria in the intestines of many people with ulcerative colitis, Dr. Vallance will define how these bacteria cause inflammation and identify new drug targets to clear these bacteria away.
  • Dr. Stephen Vanner, Queen’s University: Using two novel strategies, Dr. Vanner will study targeted opioid delivery to neurons in the gut in an effort to bring new treatments to relieve IBD stomach pain – a great unmet need reported by patients – with minimal or no side effects.
  • Dr. Elena Verdu, McMaster University: By targeting bacterial enzymes known to cause inflammation, Dr. Verdu aims to design new microbiome-based therapies for ulcerative colitis – possibly in the form of probiotics – and strategies to improve fecal transplantation.
  • Dr. Pierre-Yves von der Weid, University of Calgary: Opening a potential door to immune-based treatments for Crohn’s, Dr. von der Weid will test whether a dysfunctional lymphatic system impairs the immune response in the gut and perpetuates inflammation.
  • Dr. Robert Young, Simon Fraser University: In search of a much-needed drug to safely repair and protect the gut lining in IBD, Dr. Young will prepare and test novel “prodrugs” to do just that by releasing the active drug directly where needed.