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Saturday, December 27, 2014

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Manitoba, Hebrew U collaborate on medical research

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WINNIPEG — The province of Manitoba has announced that it’s committing $100,000 per year for the next three years toward collaborative research on HIV/AIDS, influenza and swine flu to be carried out by scientists in Manitoba and Jerusalem.

From left: Jim Rondeau, Sheryl Ronberg, Dr. Adrianne Meyers, and Dr. Frank Plummer.              [Rhonda Spivak photo]

The research will take place under the rubric of the newly founded Global Research Exchange Program, a project initiated by Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU).

The province’s commitment means that the Global Research Exchange Program’s funding now totals $1.1 million, which includes money committed by the University of Manitoba and Hebrew U, as well as a $100,000 grant from the Winnipeg Foundation. It also includes $300,000 raised from the CFHU gala dinner in Winnipeg in May 2008 honouring Winnipeg researcher Dr. Frank Plummer. CFHU also received support from the International Centre for Infectious Diseases after its gala dinner.

Sheryl Rosenberg, president of the Winnipeg chapter of CFHU, said that the funding the project has attracted is a “fitting tribute to Dr. Plummer’s dedication in the pursuit of vaccines to fight infectious diseases worldwide.”

Plummer’s scientific team at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and U of M will collaborate with Dr. Ofer Mandelboim’s team at Hebrew U’s Institute of Medical Research–Israel Canada. The fund will enable the scientists to travel between Winnipeg and Jerusalem to carry out their research.

Jim Rondeau, Manitoba’s minister of science, technology, energy and mines, said the province was pleased to be supporting “such brilliant minds,” through its Science and Technology International Collaboration Fund.

“We look forward to seeing the fruition of this great collaboration,” he added.

Plummer said, “I never would have thought when I was honoured… at the gala dinner… it would have led to securing over a million dollars for research into infectious diseases.”

Dr. Adrienne Meyers, who works with Plummer and is the senior research co-ordinator for the joint collaboration, visited with Mandelboim’s team in Jerusalem this past summer.

“Dr. Mandelboim’s team has expertise in a branch of immunology dealing with natural killer cells [NK cells], which defend against viruses and bacteria,” she said. “The expertise of Dr Mandelboim’s laboratory is a very good match with the expertise of Dr. Plummer’s team, which has extensive experience with HIV/AIDS… The merging of the two teams makes a lot of sense scientifically, and will aid in filling important gaps in our knowledge base of how specific areas of the immune system function in the context of HIV infection.”

Meyers said the two teams have already selected four specific projects, three of which deal with NK cells in the context of HIV, and the other project deals with NK cells in the context of influenza viruses, including swine flu.

The first project, already in progress, will deal with NK cells and host genetics. The second will examine how NK cells recognize the HIV virus. The third project will consider how NK cells interact with other components of the immune system in mediating resistance to HIV infection. The fourth project will research the role of NK cells during influenza infections, including swine flu.

“We want to see if NK cells help fight against the swine flu infection as they do against other viruses,” Meyers said.

The Winnipeg Foundation and CFHU are now trying to generate further donations to secure ongoing funding for the research collaboration.

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