Heart and stroke funding keeps McMaster cardiovascular research on world stage


[img_inline align=”right” src=”http://padnws01.mcmaster.ca/images/Weitz2.jpg” caption=”Jeffrey Weitz”]A $2-million infusion of funds to a McMaster University research team will help bring to fruition major developments in the fight against heart disease and stroke.

Jeffrey Weitz has been awarded the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario/J. Fraser Mustard Chair in Cardiovascular Research at McMaster University, providing perpetual funding for this important work.

Unlike a one-time research award, the endowed chair consists of a $2- million fund, from which investment income will generate continued financial support for the chair.

The chair is named in honour of Dr. J. Fraser Mustard, who helped establish at McMaster the medical school with its radically different curriculum. After 16 years at McMaster, he created and established the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, a network involving over 160 researchers around the world in the study of complex problems in the sciences and social sciences. Fraser Mustard has received many awards for his work, including the Order of Canada, Order of Ontario and the Gairdner Foundation International Award for Medical Research.

Weitz is a professor of medicine at McMaster and director of the Experimental Thrombosis and Atherosclerosis Group at the Hamilton Civic Hospitals Research Centre. He is a world-renowned scientist who is equally at home at the bedsides of patients as in the laboratory.

Weitz, who is on the editorial boards of two scientific journals, has published over 150 research papers and book chapters. He has received the Medal in Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and has been elected to membership in the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Because blood clots are implicated as the cause of most heart attacks and strokes, drugs which interfere with the clotting mechanism are vital for successful treatment and prevention. Weitz has contributed significantly to the basic understanding of how many of these drugs work and to the future development of new medications. Other aspects of his research have more immediate impact on patient care. He has been involved in clinical tests of both new and existing drugs to devise better means of treating clotting disorders, as well as the development of tests for better diagnosis of these problems.

“We have devised strategies using a D-Dimer test to exclude blood clots in the legs or lungs. Those who test negative for D-dimer and have a low probability of a clotting problem can now avoid costly tests and treatment,” said Weitz.

“One of our current research projects was inspired by the vampire bat. When the bat punctures a vein to drain its victim, the blood of the prey begins to clot – a natural defense mechanism that could interfere with the bat's smooth ingestion of blood. But the vampire bat's saliva contains a molecule that dissolves the clot.

The funding couldn't have come at a better time, said Weitz. “We see this research as an opportunity to one day develop an exciting new class of drugs to dissolve blood clots in human patients and this generous funding will support us in that goal.”

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario has committed $1 million as part of its endowed chair program; a program developed to ensure that Canada's best scientific minds always have funding, rather than have them search it out south of the border. The $1 million from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario will be matched by McMaster University.

“The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario is passionately committed to reversing the brain drain of Canadian medical talent to the United States as the major funder of heart and stroke research in the province,” said Rick Gallop, president, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. “The newly endowed chair is an example of the bigger and better funding required for researchers to pursue their life-saving work and realize breakthroughs at a faster pace.”

“This chair confirms the excellence of our researchers, the importance of their work and McMaster's position as an international leader in cardiovascular research,” said Russell Joffe, dean and vice-president of health sciences at McMaster.

This is the second endowed chair to be established at McMaster by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. The first was awarded to Salim Yusuf in 1997 as an international leader in the prevention of heart disease.