Crohn's and Colitis Canada's GEM Project

Brother and Sister in the GEM Project
Led by Dr. Ken Croitoru at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, the Genetic, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) Project is a global research study that is bringing us closer to understanding the causes of Crohn’s disease. The more we know about the possible causes, the closer we get to not only discovering a cure, but also to the ability to prevent the disease from taking hold in the first place.

The GEM Project is the world’s largest prospective clinical study on Crohn’s disease with the participation of 107 GEM recruitment sites located in Canada, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States. The study surpassed its goal of recruiting 5,000 healthy first-degree relatives of Crohn’s patients. Researchers are closely monitoring the diet, immune function, intestinal barrier, genetics, microbiome, and environment of the study’s 5,085 participants. Examining this data will help researchers identify possible triggers of the disease in participants that develop Crohn’s. So far, 70 participants have been diagnosed with Crohn’s, and researchers anticipate five more participants will develop the disease by the end of 2018. Researchers are beginning to see biomarkers – changes in blood and tissue – that appear more frequently in participants who developed Crohn’s.

Following an investment of nearly $16 million in phases one and two, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust have invested $6.4 million in the project’s third phase. Known as the impact phase, this phase involves the continued monitoring of participants, further data analysis, verifying biomarkers, and the development of a predictive tool to identify people who will develop Crohn’s even before symptoms appear. This will lead to early and more targeted therapies that can better treat the disease. While the GEM Project focuses on Crohn’s, the research gained from this study will also feed into our understanding of ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust remain committed to continuing to support the GEM Project.

You can learn more about the scientific projects that we support by reading our 2017/2018 Research Report.

  • 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.

Other Areas of Interest