Dr. Marina Ulanova, researcher and professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), recently received a grant awarded by the Canadian Immunization Research Network(CIRN) for the project titled Studies in support of a new vaccine to prevent invasive Haemophilus influenzae type a (Hia) disease in Canadian Indigenous communities.
The funding is provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to the Canadian Immunization Research Network to support 15 research projects across Canada. Ulanova, one of 15 principal investigators in Canada supported by these funds, received $423,518 of the budget allocated for the NOSM project for a period of two years.
Ulanova, who has been studying Haemophilus influenzae type a (Hia) at NOSM for more than ten years, says she knew from her previous research in Russia and Sweden that there were specific population groups who are vulnerable to infections—one of those groups being North American Indigenous Peoples. “I was always puzzled as an immunologist,” says Ulanova. “What is behind this? Why would people be more prone to develop certain infections in certain population groups? This is why I initiated the research, and it evolved from there.”
Having established collaborations with researchers across Canada and in Alaska, Ulanova and her team have contributed to the development of a new vaccine which is at the final stages of development at the National Research Council in Ottawa. “The goal of our current project is to provide evidence in support of immunization to prevent Haemophilus influenzae type a in Indigenous communities,” says Ulanova.
The project is in collaboration with researchers across Canada, including the Vaccine Evaluation Center (University of British Columbia), the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (Dalhousie University), the National Microbiology Laboratory, the National Research Council, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta, the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and others. Lakehead University faculty members, Drs. Kristin Burnett and Chris Sanders, and NOSM medical student, Eli Nix, are co-investigators on this project, which also involves collaboration with physicians at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout and several regional Indigenous health centres.
This grant is an extension of one-year CIRN funding of $165,000 (2016-2017) awarded to Ulanova for the project titled Determination of burden of invasive Haemophilus influenzae type a (Hia) disease in Indigenous communities and study of their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours about Hia disease, vaccine, and clinical trials via a community engagement.