Volume 95, Issue 79

Thursday, February 21, 2002
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Celine Dion loves Western research

Celine Dion loves Western research

By Diana McLay
Gazette Staff

With a $1 million dollar incentive, Western will soon dive into a research grant to combat a bacteria that can be deadly to cystic fibrosis patients.

Yesterday, the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health announced Western would receive a joint research grant of over $1 million dollars.

The research is specifically aimed at treating cystic fibrosis patients who have the deadly bacterium Burkholderia cepacia complex – or B. cepacia – which affects the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

"It is a Canadawide focus to find a cure," said Miguel Valvano, head researcher for the project and a professor in the faculty of medicine and dentistry at Western.

Valvano, who has 40 years research experience with the disease, will lead the joint venture by universities from all over Canada.

Over the next three years, Valvano hopes to develop an antibiotic, as well as a vaccine, that will stop the spread of the deadly bacteria to cells in the lungs.

Valvano was granted the money "because he is the best in his field and has a great reputation," said Andrew Matejcic, CIHR's senior communications executive.

CIHR has provided extensive support to Western research projects in the past, Matejcic said. During 2000/2001 school year, CIHR gave Western a total of $15.8 million for research initiatives.

Along with funds from CCFF and CIHR, this project could not exist without additional donations from the Kinsmen and Kinette clubs of Canada, Zellers, celebrity Celine Dion and the late Michael O'Reilly, said Cathleen Morris, chief executive officer at CCFF.

O'Reilly was an award-winning advertiser who died from cystic fibrosis at age 37 in 1999, Morris said, adding O'Reilly had worked for Zellers, a major supporter of cystic fibrosis research.

Zellers gave his widow, Laura O'Reilly, $200,000 to contribute to this research project, she said.

"This was [Laura O'Reilly's] own wish and decision, she wanted to support Dr. Valvano's effort," Morris said, adding the entire research project has been named in the memory of O'Reilly.

Cystic Fibrosis is one of the most deadly inherited diseases affecting Canadian children and young adults. It attacks the lungs and digestive system. CCFF is a leader in the fight against the disease and continues to lead in new developments.

Western supports CCFF each year through the Shinerama campaign, held during Orientation Week.

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