U of T to Lead Canada’s Largest “Living Population Laboratory”
(Original Post at University of Toronto)
The University of Toronto has been selected to serve as the national scientific partner of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health (CanPath), Canada’s largest population research platform that is unlocking the answers to why some people develop cancer and chronic diseases while others do not.
Through a national competition by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Professors Philip Awadalla, in the Faculty of Medicine, and John McLaughlin, in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, were chosen to lead CanPath into its next phase as Canada’s premier health research initiative. This announcement coincides with a recent publication led by Professor Awadalla that received widespread media attention, including in the Globe and Mail, in which analyses of CanPath data from Quebec revealed how air pollution and other environmental factors influence gene expression and disease.
“CanPath enables precision health research because it’s a living population laboratory,” said Philip Awadalla, who is a Professor of Population and Medical Genetics in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Molecular Genetics, and will now serve as National Scientific Director for CanPath.
The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health has more than 300,000 participants, aged 30-74, who have voluntarily provided health and biological information, which can be used by researchers to conduct long-term population health studies. As participants age, some will develop a range of conditions, which allows researchers to search for factors linked to disease onset and progression. These types of studies can detect health links with genetic, environment, behaviour and societal factors.
“We are honoured and grateful for the opportunity to lead this major program at U of T in partnership with many contributors across Canada,” said John McLaughlin, who is a Professor of Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and will now serve as CanPath’s Executive Director.
“While benefiting from the University’s massive research capacity and range of expertise, we will work collaboratively with our many partners to heighten scientific outputs and impacts, enrich the platform with new data linkages, and work with researchers across campus and across Canada who share our vision of how health and health systems can be improved nationally,” said McLaughlin, who is also Chief Science Officer at Public Health Ontario.
“By deeply characterizing and following the health of Canadians, we will be able to develop and optimize tools that slow or prevent disease evolution in an individual. The future of this program is reliant on research and discovery by the research community and the continued participation of Canadians to unlock the genetic and environmental factors associated with the development of disease,” said Awadalla who is also Director of a Genome Canada genomics platform, at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, a strategic partner for the project.
U of T is the natural home for the second phase of the CanPath because of its strong track record of world class population health, biomedical, and health services research and education, combined with its impressive faculty with extensive experience leading large-scale studies and research networks.
“We aim to attract more national and international researchers who can use the platform to further their own research as well as actively engage with CanPath leadership and expand its future direction,” said France Gagnon, Associate Dean of Research at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.