Circulatory and Respiratory Health
© Shawn Goldberg |

Open Access Government looks into the current research priorities and initiatives of Canada’s Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (ICRH)

The Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (ICRH) supports Canadian research into causes, mechanisms, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems, and palliation for a wide range of conditions associated with the heart, lung, brain (stroke), blood, blood vessels, critical care and sleep. While it encompasses a wide range of communities, the institute ensures that various ICRH researchers all relate to its priorities and benefit from upcoming funding opportunities. To do this they focus on selecting common themes (identified through the consultations) that would be of relevance to as many research areas as possible.

ICRH is one of thirteen institutes, each with a specific focus, that together make up the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). CIHR promotes the creation of new knowledge and advances its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health products and services, and a strengthened health care system. (1) Each of the thirteen institutes is led by a scientific director, with the ICRH’s scientific director being Dr Brian H. Rowe. He is also a Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Research activities

In May, Rowe sent a message providing updates on some important research activities in the area of blood and blood vessels sciences. Strengthening Canadas national blood bank inventory, organising awareness campaigns (such as hypertension month and stroke- awareness month), and continued high-quality non-COVID research are just some of the ways in which advancements are being made to make sure wider medical research does not take a backseat during COVID-19. Rowe stated that “the current circumstances have created challenges for patients and our healthcare system. Despite the importance of detecting, treating, and preventing this viral infection, our Institute has heard of many examples of the unintended consequences of the pandemic on patients with non-COVID-19 conditions. Although there may be some apprehension on the part of Canadians about seeking medical attention, it is imperative that we assure patients and family members that all conditions are welcomed, treated appropriately and the health system is safe to receive care. Delays in seeking care can be deadly!” (2)

In terms of COVID-19 related research, to better understand abnormal clotting in critically ill patients with COVID-19 infections, the Canadian Venous Thromboembolism Research Network (CanVECTOR) and the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group (CCCTG) have been collaborating on a large global randomised controlled trial using an adaptive design involving innovative anticoagulation strategies that aim to improve overall outcomes and reduce thrombosis in patients hospitalised with COVID-19. This intervention will be part of the Randomised, Embedded, Multi-factorial, Adaptive Platform trial for Community-Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP), partially funded by the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) at CIHR. (3) Furthermore, the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Héma- Québec launched the CONCOR-1 Trial. (4) This is a Canadian-led clinical trial designed to test the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma as a possible treatment for patients infected with COVID-19 and is supported by a multidisciplinary team of experts from ten countries, including the New York Blood Centre in the United States. (5)

Throughout his message, Dr Rowe gives his thanks and congratulations to Canadian researchers, who “in typical Canadian fashion…have risen to the challenge to understand the disease mechanisms of COVID-19 and to develop potential treatments.”

As a whole, while working collaboratively with diverse partners to increase the resources and opportunities for research funding within its mandate areas, ICRH plans to do the following to reach their research priorities:

  • Facilitate networking within, and among ICRH’s research community and to other stakeholders in the research enterprise nationally and internationally.
  • Enhance training and early career development to build future research and knowledge leaders within ICRH mandate areas.
  • Enhance the conduct of Indigenous Health Research and equitable research under ICRH’s mandate areas.
  • Enhance the ICRH research community’s ability to participate in and contribute to the multi-Institute signature initiatives launched collectively by the Science Council.

Resources & opportunities

In the next three years, ICRH expects to see that resources and opportunities are increased through the collective effort of training and early career development within the ICRH community. Furthermore, they aim to see that stakeholders and partners are engaged and perceive ICRH as able to facilitate their participation in the Institute’s activities. Researchers working in ICRH mandate areas will be further represented in national and international research and knowledge translation and implementation activities. Lastly, health and health system impacts will be realised from research conducted in the ICRH mandate areas, particularly for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) and populations facing potential systematic biases.

ICRH also funds health research to develop and support a well-trained base of investigators with the skills and expertise needed to design and conduct innovative and diverse research and knowledge translation activities aimed at improving health.

Recently, ICRH have been working around the advancement of cardiovascular sciences both in Canada and internationally. Alongside the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS), they have established an annual Distinguished Lecturer Award (including a $5,000 honorarium) in Cardiovascular Sciences in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contribution to the advancement of cardiovascular sciences both in Canada and round the world. (6) The selected candidate will be an outstanding scientist who has conducted the majority of their research in Canada and who has contributed to the advancement of cardiovascular sciences. The individual may have conducted work in any one of a number of cardiovascular disciplines and within any of the four CIHR research theme areas: Biomedical; Clinical; Health Systems and Services; and, Social, Cultural, Environmental and Population Health.

With funding opportunities such as this, ICRH can work towards achieving its mutual goals with CCS of strengthening the Canadian cardiovascular care community, promoting Canadian perspectives on cardiovascular sciences to a global audience and providing a forum for the discussion of public policy to strengthen cardiovascular care in Canada.




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