Grants in Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research


The Heart & Stroke/Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research (HSRLCE) and the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre (BBDC) in conjunction with the Vice-Dean, Research and Innovation, Faculty of Medicine introduced a new grant competition: Pilot and Feasibility Grant in Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research.

The purpose of the Pilot and Feasibility Grant is:

  • To establish the University of Toronto as an international leader in the study of diabetes and heart disease
  • To foster the training of graduate students across disciplines and research institutes
  • To encourage collaboration between members of the BBDC and the HSRLCE

Dr. Jason Fish was awarded the 2018 Pilot and Feasibility Grant in Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research for his research project: Elucidating the Pleiotropic Cardioprotective Mechanisms of Empagliflozin on Heart Failure in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Award amount: $97,420.

About the Researchers
Principal Applicant:
Dr. Jason Fish, Senior Scientist, Division of Advanced Diagnostics, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute Associate Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology, University of Toronto
Dr. Sara S. Nunes de Vasconcelos, Assistant Scientist, Division of Experimental Therapeutics, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network; Assistant Professor, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto
Dr. David Cherney, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto; Clinician Scientist, Division of Nephrology, University Health Network
Dr. Filio Billia, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto; Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network

About the Project
Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or your body does not properly use the insulin it makes. As a result, glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy. Type 2 diabetes is treatable, but even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. That may be because people with diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, usually have risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and low levels of physical activity that contribute to their risk for developing cardiovascular disease. However, diabetes on its own worsens cardiovascular disease. Over time, these risk factors in combination with diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop cardiovascular diseases. One such cardiovascular disease is heart failure, which occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain blood flow to meet the body’s needs. While all type 2 diabetes treatments try to lower blood sugar, none of them have been shown to help decrease the risk of worsening cardiovascular diseases like heart failure. A new type of drug, called empagliflozin, helps treat type 2 diabetes by increasing the ability of the kidneys to remove excess glucose from the body through urine. Empagliflozin is unique because it not only helps manage blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes but has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart failure-related cardiovascular death in adults with type 2 diabetes. While we have seen that people on empagliflozin have a lower risk of dying from heart failure, no one knows how this type of drug reduces cardiovascular risk. Our research will use a new technology to look at how gene expression (i.e. the way your genetic code effects how cells function) changes after treatment with empagliflozin. Understanding how this drug interacts with the cardiovascular system could help us better treat people with type 2 diabetes and aid those suffering from cardiovascular diseases like heart failure.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS OF THE Astra Zeneca Impact Challenge Grant in Cardiovascular/Diabetes Research

HSRLCE, Banting & Best Diabetes Centre, UofT Faculty of Medicine, and AstraZeneca partnered to fund a grant in cardiovascular/diabetes research. A total of $1.5 Million was raised to fund this initiative. The purpose of this funding program is to: foster bench to bedside translational research with a focus on innovation and first-in man clinical trials; foster the training of graduate students across disciplines and research institutes; establish the University of Toronto as an international leader in the study of diabetes and heart disease; and encourage collaboration between the BBDC and the HSRLCE.

2017 Recipient

PI: David Cherney (HSRLCE/BBDC)


John Parker (MSH/UHN), Susanna Mak (MSH/UHN), Mansoor Husain (UHN), Bruce Perkins (MSH/UHN), John Floras (MSH/UHN), Jacob Udell (UHN/WCH), Daniel Drucker (MSH)
Research Site: Toronto General Hospital, Renal Physiology Laboratory
Project: iNcretin And TReatment with Inhibition of sodiUm-glucose cotRansportEr-2 combinaTion In Congestive Heart Failure Preserved Ejection Fraction Trial (“NATRIURETIC-pEF”)
Award: $249,863


2016 Recipient

PI: Rulan Parekh (HSRLCE)


Jason Fish (TGRI), David Cherney (UHN), Mansoor Husain (UHN)
Research Site: Toronto General Research Institute/ SickKids/ UHN
Project: Novel Biomarkers of Vascular Dysfunction in Diabetes and End-stage Renal Disease
Award: $224,960


2015 Recipient

PIs: Graham A. Wright & Idan Roifman (HSRLCE)


Kim Connelly (HSRLCE/BBDC), Michael Farkouh (HSRLCE/BBDC), Nilesh Ghugre, Andrew Crean, Harindra Wijeysundera (HSRLCE), Anna Zavodni (HSRLCE)
Research Site: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Project: The impact of Diabetic Microvascular Dysfunction on Late Major Adverse Cardiac Events Post Non-ST Elevation Acute Coronary Syndrome
Award: $247,225


2014 Recipient:

PI: Ravi Retnakaran (BBDC)
Co-Applicants: Candice Silversides (HSRLCE); Philip Connelly (BBDC/HSRLCE)
Research Site: Mount Sinal Hospital
Project: A Randomized Controled Trail to Evaluate Exenatide and Insulin Glargine Combination Therapy for the Preservation of Pancreatic Beta-cell Funcation and Endothelial Function in Early Type-2 Diabetes
Award: $249,340


2014 Recipient:

PI: Kim Connelly (HSRLCE/BBDC)


Richard Glibert (BBDC); Andrew Advani (BBDC); Howard Leong-Poi (BBDC/HSRLCE); David Cherney (BBDC); Darren Yuen (BBDC/HSRLCE)
Research Site: St. Michael’s Hospital
Project: CD34+ Cell Therapy for Diabetic Cardio-Renal Disease
Award: $250,000



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