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This Week in Research:Banting Foundation Discovery Grant awarded to Jeffrey Gagnon, PhD.

About the award


“Our mission is to invest in the early careers of researchers who demonstrate excellence and creativity in health and biomedical sciences.

Established in 1925 to support the research of Frederick Banting and other scientists across Canada, the Foundation now focuses on funding early-career researchers with innovative projects in all areas of health and biomedical research at universities and research institutes in Canada. Since inception, the Banting Research Foundation has awarded over 1300 grants to support a broad range of health and biomedical research projects all across Canada.

In Canada, the transition from postdoctoral fellow to independent investigator is no easier now than it was in Banting’s era. However, the resources required to initiate new lines of research are often orders of magnitude greater. With national peer-review granting agencies constrained in their capacity to provide high-risk early career support, an ever-increasing number of young faculty from across the country turn to the Banting Research Foundation for seed funding. For example, in 2016, we received 50 such requests and were able to fund only 6.

The Banting Research Foundation provides peer-reviewed grants to assist independent faculty initiating their careers at a university or research institute in Canada who have modest resources but a passion to pursue imaginative, exciting, yet well-grounded new lines of medical research.”


My research project

My Banting Foundation Discovery Grant is entitled, “Investigating the role of H2S in the regulation of ghrelin secretion”. Ghrelin, a hormone produced in the endocrine cells of the stomach, regulates several aspects of metabolic health, including appetite and energy storage. Recently, meals high in the amino acid cysteine have been shown to reduce ghrelin secretion. Foods rich in this amino acid also lead to increased production of the bioactive gas molecule hydrogen sulfide (H2S). H2S has been shown to regulate many aspects of health, including inflammation, cardiovascular health, and endocrine control. My group believes that ghrelin cells can metabolize cysteine to produce their own H2S, and that this H2S reduces ghrelin secretion and reduces appetite. We will first demonstrate how H2S and its precursor amino acid L-cysteine can regulate ghrelin secretion using several ghrelin producing cell models. We will then examine how this amino acid, and its gas metabolite, can suppress food intake through the suppression of ghrelin. This work will provide important information on how ghrelin and appetite is regulated by H2S and may lead to new strategies in weight management.


The importance of this award

At this early stage in my independent research career, obtaining external funding is critical, both to support the running of my research lab, and laying the foundation for productive and successful academic career. This grant will enable me to train graduate students, conduct the planned studies, and publish the findings. With these activities in tow, the likelihood of securing larger, long-term research grants is much higher.