Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and Helmsley Charitable Trust announce largest-ever investment in Crohn’s disease research in Canada

$10 million commitment will support Canadian-led study into causes of Crohn’s disease

Toronto, ON, April 2, 2014 – Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust today announced the largest-ever funding commitment to Crohn’s disease research in Canada. The funds will support the Genetics, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) Project, a Canadian-led international research study investigating the causes of Crohn’s disease, based at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

The $10 million funding commitment is made possible by a lead gift of $6 million from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, one of the largest private foundations in the United States, which includes a focus on Crohn’s disease amongst its funding priorities. The Helmsley Charitable Trust grant will be matched by a further $4 million that Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has pledged to fundraise for the GEM Project. Speaking to a crowd at Mount Sinai Hospital on Wednesday, GEM Project lead investigator Dr. Ken Croitoru, who is a Gastroenterologist and researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital, expressed excitement about the potential that the study holds for Canadians living with Crohn’s disease and their families.

“We know how devastating Crohn’s disease can be for patients and their families. We need to better understand its root causes, so that we can improve outcomes. This major philanthropic investment in the GEM Project will allow us to complete our recruitment of subjects at risk of developing Crohn’s disease and to dig deeper to understand how we might tailor treatments based on an individual’s genetic and microbial make up. This personalized approach to patient care holds the most promise for Canadian’s living with Crohn’s disease and their families.”

Canadians have more reasons to be concerned about Crohn’s disease than anyone else in the world. Canada has one of the highest rates worldwide. An estimated 130,000 Canadians have this lifelong disease. Most alarming, the number of new cases of Crohn’s disease in Canadian children has almost doubled since 1995.

“Given Canada’s extremely high incidence of Crohn’s, it is imperative that we lead the charge to better understand what causes the disease,” explained Har Grover, Chair of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “We are grateful that one of the top philanthropic organizations in the world is placing their trust – and their funding – in Canadian research leading the way. I have no doubt that the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s generous gift will help others to see the enormous potential of the GEM Project and inspire them to give.”

The GEM Project investigates the ways in which genetic predisposition, environmental influences and microbial interactions combine to determine if a person develops Crohn’s disease. To do this, researchers study healthy relatives – either siblings or children of people living with Crohn’s disease. Todate, the GEM Project has recruited more than 2,800 participants. The aim of the increased funding is to reach 5,000 recruits and the project is actively recruiting eligible participants.

“We saw the value of the GEM Project immediately,” said Jim O’Sullivan, Program Director of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s IBD & Crohn’s Disease Program. “We are confident that our grant will be an  accelerator for this research and help to provide answers sooner for people living with Crohn’s and their families.”

The importance of the GEM Project’s research was underscored by one of the study’s young participants. 14 year-old Jake Bryson enrolled in the study because his mother, Sherry Pang, suffers from Crohn’s disease.

“Crohn’s disease is pretty terrible, as I’ve seen from my mom,” said Jake Bryson. “I want to help my mom and others who have Crohn’s disease by finding a way to cure it or preventing other people from getting it. Being in the study has been really easy so far, and I feel like I’m helping in one small way.”

“When you suffer from Crohn’s, your whole family suffers,” explains Sherry Pang. “I’ve had three surgeries and countless trips to the emergency room, which has been incredibly hard on our entire family, but particularly my sons. The GEM Project is not only important research, but it’s a way for family members to feel like they are contributing to helping researchers better understand the disease and maybe to one day find a cure.”

To participate in or learn more about the GEM Project, please visit

About Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is a volunteer-based charity dedicated to finding the cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and to improving the lives of children and adults affected by these chronic diseases. As Canada’s leading non-governmental funder of Crohn’s and colitis research, we have invested over $82 million to foster advances in research, education, awareness and advocacy to date. By working together we can help advance the understanding of these diseases and fund the programs that result in more treatment options and, ultimately, cures.

Please visit, follow us @getgutsycanada on Twitter and Facebook, or call 1-800-387-1479.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in a variety of selected areas. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grantmaking, it has committed more than $1 billion to a wide range of charitable organizations. Through its IBD & Crohn’s Disease Program, the Trust supports leading institutions in the areas of education, research and treatment of digestive diseases, with a particular emphasis on Crohn's and colitis. By supporting a holistic approach to disease management ranging from improving technology to coordinating treatment and care, the Trust hopes to improve patient outcomes and cure diseases. For more information, please visit

About Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are disorders that cause the intestines to become inflamed and ulcerated. This is caused by an abnormal response of the body’s immune system. These chronic diseases severely impact quality of life through ongoing debilitating symptoms, reduction in ability to work, social-stigma, management of bathroom access issues, and limited choices of career, travel and other personal options.

About Mount Sinai Hospital’s Leadership in IBD
Mount Sinai Hospital is home to Canada’s largest and most comprehensive multi-disciplinary team of IBD clinicians and research staff. Approximately 4,700 patients from across the GTA and Ontario come to the Hospital each year for inpatient and outpatient care for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, in particular Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Mount Sinai’s centre for IBD is the tertiary referral centre for all of Ontario for patients with complex IBD.

SOURCE: Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
Note: For more information or to arrange interviews with the Pang Family, local volunteers, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada staff, researchers and patients living with Crohn’s and colitis (in many cases these patients and volunteers are local youth) please contact:

Jeff Livingston
Brand Marketing and Communications Manager
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
(800) 387-1479 ext. 241

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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