With millions of Canadians suffering from pain and reduced mobility, and hundreds of millions more around the world, Western University announced today a bold investment that will position it as a global leader in bone and joint research. The new Western Cluster of Research Excellence in Musculoskeletal Health is expected to drive high-impact interdisciplinary research with the goal of providing life-long mobility.
The university is investing $5 million to support a team of all-star researchers from across five faculties to provide them with additional personnel, resources and infrastructure to attract, retain and mentor future leaders.
As part of the Cluster initiative, Western is also strategically investing additional funds in the recruitment of up to three Western Research Chairs.
“We’re interested in helping our researchers answer big questions, which almost always occur at the intersection of disciplines,” said Western Provost Janice Deakin. “The Musculoskeletal Health team has an established track record of collaboration that demonstrates a capacity for commercializing innovative ideas in the marketplace. These ideas have the potential to produce social and economic benefits on a local, national and international scale.”
The cluster, which includes 70 researchers from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Faculties of Health Sciences, Engineering, Science and Social Science, will study conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, trauma, and work, sport and exercise-related injuries.
Discoveries will lead to new preventive, rehabilitative, medical and surgical therapies, diagnostic techniques, and medical and assistive devices. The Cluster will emphasize innovative health care policies, economic efficiency and the development and transfer of intellectual property to private sector partners, with the goal of developing local industries.
“Our team is motivated by the tremendous impact on quality of life and major economic burden associated with musculoskeletal conditions,” said David Holdsworth, Director of the new Western Cluster of Research Excellence in Musculoskeletal Health. “Being recognized as a research cluster at Western provides a tremendous boost to our ability to expand our research, enhance our training program and attract the best and brightest from around the world.”
This new investment is in line with Western’s strategic plan Achieving Excellence on the World Stage, which commits to creating a world-class research and scholarship culture where innovation, knowledge creation, translation and mobilization can thrive.
Last year, Western announced its first Cluster of Research Excellence in the area of Cognitive Neuroscience. Since then, internationally renowned researcher Ingrid Johnsrude has been recruited as the first Western Research Chair.
Core Participating Researchers
- David Holdsworth is the Director of the Western Cluster of Research Excellence in Musculoskeletal Health. Internationally recognized for his contributions to high-resolution 3D imaging for use in vascular and musculoskeletal research, Holdsworth is a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, a scientist at the Robarts Research Institute and the Dr. Sandy Kirkley Chair in Musculoskeletal Research.
- Frank Beier holds a Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Research. A professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and a scientist at the Children’s Health Research Institute, Beier studies the biology of cartilage during skeletal development and the advancement of osteoarthritis. Utilizing genetic, molecular and cell biological approaches, the Beier Lab has demonstrated significant links between cartilage development and osteoarthritis.
- Jeff Dixon is a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. His research focuses on mechanisms underlying the formation and destruction of bone, and therapies to inhibit bone loss and stimulate bone regeneration. Dixon was a founding member of the Canadian Arthritis Network NCE and director of the CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling.
- Dr. Graham King is a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Site Chief of Surgery at St. Joseph’s Health Care London. Having established the Bioengineering Laboratory at the Roth McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre, Dr. Graham and his collaborators have made game-changing discoveries concerning the biomechanics of wrists and elbows while developing groundbreaking medical devices and computer/image-guided surgical techniques.
- Dr. Janet Pope is one of the world’s foremost rheumatology researchers, her work having impacted the care of patients with rheumatic diseases around the globe, particularly those with lupus and scleroderma. A professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Chief of the Rheumatology Centre at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, Dr. Pope is considered one of the few experts worldwide in systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), a rare and debilitating disease that involves the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues.
- Trevor Birmingham is a professor at Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences . As co-director of the Wolf Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, Birmingham develops and evaluates interventions to improve physical function in individuals with musculoskeletal conditions. Birmingham holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation.
- Blaine Chronik is a Distinguished Research Professor at Western’s Faculty of Science. A world renowned expert in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Chronik also provides expert advice to both the medical device industry and the Government of Canada on the safety of new MRI-compatible medical devices and technology for all Canadians. A scientist at the Robarts Research Institute, he also holds appointments at the Faculty of Engineering and the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.
- James Johnson is a professor at Western’s Faculty of Engineering and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. The Director of Biomedical Engineering and a Co-Director of Western’s Bioengineering Research Laboratory, Johnson is one of Canada’s best mechanical engineers in the fields of joint kinematics, fracture and implant fixation, implant development and tendon biomechanics. Johnson, who holds the Graham King Musculoskeletal Research Chair, also serves as a researcher at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Roth McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre.
- Andrew Nelson is the Associate Dean, Research and an associate professor at Western’s Faculty of Social Science. An award-winning anthropologist, Nelson investigates human evolution and human remains from ancient cultures. His detailed forensic and biomechanical analysis of the skeletons of fossil hominins, such as Neandertals, and modern humans has bettered our understanding of evolution and by reconstructing bodies of extinct hominids, has mapped the dramatic changes in musculoskeletal shape and size and skeletal disease that have occurred over the course of human history.
Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability, affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world. As the population ages, the extent of the problem will increase, placing huge burdens on societies and health-care systems.