Researchers at the University of Manitoba are giving thanks for a popular fund-raising craze that led everyone from little kids to big-time celebrities to get buckets of ice dumped on their heads.
On Thursday, the university announced it had been awarded $1.6-million so that a research team can spend the next five years investigating a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
Other universities will also share in a $15-million research fund announced by ALS Societies across Canada and the ALS Canada Research Program, in partnership with Brain Canada.
Laval University gets $2.48-million to study inflammation; the University of Alberta gets $2.94-million to look at earlier detection using high-powered MRI techniques; the University of Toronto will use $1.44-million to understand the impact of toxic proteins on motor neurons; and the University of Montreal will spend $1.69-million to study how stress granules form abnormally in ALS patients.
The money is a ten-fold increase over historic investments and was made possible by funds raised during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the summer of 2014.
In Winnipeg, a team led by Dr. Jiming Kong and including researchers from UBC and the University of Alberta will research the removal of a toxic protein through a simple injection into the bloodstream rather than an injection into spinal fluid.
Kong, who has been studying ALS for more than 20 years, says successful completion of his team's project could lead to what's called an "investigative new drug" application and clinical trials.
"This is a great example of grass roots involvement in a worthy cause and we thank the ALS Canada Research Program for supporting our research here at the University of Manitoba," says Dr. Brian Postl, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
"We are proud of the innovative and collaborative research – like Dr. Kong's – fostered in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the far-reaching impact it may have on combatting deadly diseases such as ALS."
ALS Canada notes the research being funded "represents the most promising science in Canada and will aid in accelerating the development of effective treatments for those affected by ALS."
Along with the funds allocated to research, an additional $4.4-million raised by the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge was invested to support the day-to-day care of Canadians living with ALS.
Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS today, and the average cost for caring for one person with ALS is between $150,000 and $250,000.