This year, Dr. Ken Croitoru earned the title of Canada Research Chair, a prominent federal distinction that recognizes and supports world-class scientists from coast to coast.
“Being recognized as Canada Research Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a huge honour and testament to the strength of our full investigative team,” says Dr. Croitoru, a clinician-scientist who specializes in IBD at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “Most importantly, it’s a foundation to continue our diverse, multi-dimensional research program that is closing in on some exciting developments.”
The core of this program is Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s Genetic, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) Project – the world’s largest prospective study that aims to better understand the origins of IBD. Through the GEM Project, researchers monitor the diet, immune function, genome, microbiome, and gut environment of over 5,000 first-degree relatives who did not have Crohn’s disease when the study started. When it began in 2008, this study was the first of its kind in Crohn’s and colitis. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has supported this research from its conception and continues to today.
“The project’s design was based on a simple question: why does one person develop IBD instead of someone else?” says Dr. Croitoru, the lead investigator. “Now we have over 10 years of data, and with technology that has evolved during that time, we can perform analyses that we hadn't even dreamed of in 2008.”
For instance, researchers can identify not only the genes of each person, but also genes unique to the bacteria and microorganisms in the gut. How are they different in those who developed Crohn’s? And can they be altered to change the outcome for patients?
“Nobody else in the world has this cohort of people, samples, and data to investigate what causes IBD,” says Dr. Croitoru. “We’ve long focused on how to control the symptoms, the inflammation. But here we’re asking how to cure the disease, and we have intriguing data soon to be published about potential early triggers of Crohn’s.”
This is exciting news for the Crohn’s and colitis community. As the number of Canadians expected to live with one of these diseases continues to grow, research in this field becomes increasingly pressing. Dr. Croitoru credits Crohn’s and Colitis Canada with making this groundbreaking research possible.
“Since the beginning of my research career, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has been instrumental in getting my research career launched and then supporting it over the years,” says Dr. Croitoru. “What’s most special is that the organization is willing to invest in high-risk, high-reward projects like GEM, which is truly transformative. And they continue to be at the forefront of supporting cutting-edge research, willing to take risks on big ideas when others do not.”
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is equally thankful toward their donors for believing in research like the GEM Project, and to the researchers who make these advancements possible.
“Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is proud to be driving game-changing Crohn’s and colitis research thanks to the passion and curiosity of Canadian researchers like Dr. Ken Croitoru and his team, combined with the generous support and patience of our donors,” says Mina Mawani, President and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “High-impact research like the GEM Project takes significant time and money, but the value of the research outcomes makes the investment worthwhile, as they continue to bring us closer to finding cures and ways to prevent these diseases. Dr. Croitoru’s recognition as a Canada Research Chair demonstrates that our collective efforts are making a difference in the lives of people living with Crohn’s or colitis. We are honoured to be able to support researchers like Dr. Croitoru and his team.”
Support Crohn’s and colitis research.
Learn more about the Canada Research Chair Program.
Learn more about Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s GEM Project.