The GEM Project

We’re on the road to finding a cure 

Watch Dr. Ken Croitoru explain the discovery and its importance 

Marker showing risk of developing Crohn’s discovered 

In 2023, the Genetic, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) project research team discovered that the gut bacteria combination of those who develop Crohn’s disease is different from those who remain healthy - years before they develop Crohn’s. 

The discovery opens the way to:  

Predict a person's risk of developing Crohn's disease.

Find ways to prevent Crohn's disease before symptoms appear.

Develop new treatments for those who already have the disease.

Dr. Ken Croitoru of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, part of Sinai Health, GEM Project Architect and Lead Investigator, said: “We recently discovered that a specific combination of gut bacteria is connected to the future development of Crohn’s disease. We’re starting to see the pattern of bacteria that may be triggering Crohn’s disease, moving us closer to better treatments for those with the disease or even preventing it for those at risk. I’m hopeful that within five years, patients will benefit through treatments focused on the gut bacteria or diet modification.”  

The GEM Project story 

In 2007, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada challenged its research partners to propose a study to accelerate the discovery of a cure for Crohn’s and colitis. They came back with the proposal for the GEM Project. 

By the Numbers

2008 start of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada's GEM Project

Globe with pinpointed locations

107 participant tracking international sites in 7 countries - Canada, USA, United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden

$22 million CAD invested to date. A major fundraising partner is the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust

Children illustration


5000 healthy first-degree relatives (children, siblings) of people with Crohn's disease being followed

 More than 100 have developed Crohn's disease

17 scientific publications since 2015

Globe with pinpointed locations

The 2023 discovery announcement is 15 years in the making. It took more than ten years to recruit healthy family members, collect samples from them and then for enough of the participants to develop Crohn’s disease to begin analysis. We are hopeful that more discoveries will continue to come – as well as new treatments and screening tools.

This unprecedented research is led by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and steered by Dr. Ken Croitoru at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Funding for the GEM Project has been provided by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust

  • 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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