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McGill Lands $9.7M for Pain Genetics Chair, Lures US Scientist

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Canada's government has awarded C$10 million (US$9.7 million) to fund a research program at McGill University focused on pain genetics that will be headed by Luda Diatchenko, McGill said yesterday.

The university was awarded the funding under the Canada Excellence Research Chair program.

The federal funding will create the CERC in Human Pain Genetics at McGill, which also will receive an additional C$20 million from public and private partners, including the government of Quebec, Pfizer, and McGill University, with an additional C$785,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for research infrastructure.

Diatchenko, who was lured to McGill from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the first of 11 chair-holders who are being recruited by eight Canadian universities for the CERC program. She is joining McGill's faculties of Dentistry and Medicine and the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain.

"The primary goal of my research is to identify the critical elements of human genetic variability contributing to pain sensitivity and chronic pain states and that can eventually lead to personalized treatments and therapies," Diatchenko said in a statement.

At UNC, Diatchenko was an associate professor at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences and the School of Dentistry's Center for Neurosensory Disorders. Her studies focused on genetic variation, SNPs, gene expression, and a range of other molecular, cellular, and genetic factors and pathways involved in pain and pain perception.

She also is co-founder and chief scientific officer at Algynomics, a company that is developing novel methods for diagnosing and treating chronic pain conditions, and she co-founded and directed gene discovery at Attagene.

The CERC program is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

There are currently 18 CERCs across Canada, which resulted from an inaugural CERC competition in 2008. In 2011, Canada launched a plan to create 10 more CERCs, and the McGill center is the first of this wave of new centers. The remainder of the 10 CERCs is to be announced during the coming year.