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A Hub for Discoveries and Training

Targeting top-performing researchers

Over the past year, the Centre was pleased to welcome new research teams under the respirology component, namely Drs. Aida Bairam, Vincent Joseph, Richard Kinkead and Jorge Soliz, accompanied by their respective teams composed of research professionals as well as graduate students. These researchers are working more specifically on the research thematic of sleep disorders. In addition to these, ten physicians from the Institute joined over the past year the team of the Research Centre.

Photo: Aida Bairam, Jorge Soliz, Vincent Joseph and Richard Kinkead. Credit: CHU de Québec - Université Laval



Research chairs

Fourteen professors and physicians hold research chairs. These create an enabling environment required in order to accomplish valuable research projects. They enable the acceleration of the knowledge transfer from research towards health care and provide unique learning and training experience of high quality to students. During the year 2016-17, two new chairs were created at the Research Centre:

- Canada Research Excellence Chair in the Microbiome-Endocannabinoidome Axis in Metabolic Health 

Led by Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo, this chair of excellence will extend the boundaries of the obesity-related research by integrating the study of the microbiota – henceforth recognized as the second human brain in order to shed light on the mechanisms modulating the metabolic health regarding eating habits. Thus, it will help to generate new therapeutic approaches as well as to design innovative nutritional and medical strategies to maintain health and to prevent obesity-related metabolic complications. This multifactorial disease is considered one of the most important 21st century societal challenges. We are talking about the first research chair in the world devoted studying the intestinal microbiome, including its alterations, influence on obesity-related inflammation, and link to developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiometabolic diseases.

- FRQS Chair on the Pathobiology of Calcific Aortic Valve Disease

The calcific aortic stenosis is the most frequent valvular disease within our societies. The mechanisms that lead to the calcification of cardiac valves remain poorly understood. Dr. Mathieu’s team work done over the last few years highlighted some critical process that may arise on new therapeutic perspectives. His team recently discovered that the aortic valve mineralization has been triggered by lysophospholipid derivatives as well as by a long non-coding RNA dysregulation that foster a cell genetic reprogramming. It is therefore possible to modify the genetic programming of aortic valve cells by using among other things targeted therapies on long non-coding RNA or even via the modulation of lipid mediators. The aim of this chair is to understand the molecular mechanisms of the disease in order to provide new treatments to patients. The support given to this chair is an undeniable asset which will allow Dr. Mathieu’s team remains a world leader in the molecular cause quest behind cardiac valve diseases.

Researcher productivity and knowledge transfer

This year, researchers also published 538 articles in leading international scientific journals, including the following: The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), British Medical Journal (BMJ), Journal of the American College of Cardiology, European Heart Journal, Circulation, European Urology, JAMA Internal Medicine, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine as well as others.

Researchers are also participating in many congresses and international symposia. This year, 256 invited lectures and 606 abstracts were presented worldwide by the physicians, researchers and students of the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre.


Each year, our researchers provide theoretical and practical teaching and also supervise a growing number of graduate and doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, medical residents for their research component, as well as undergraduate and college students. In 2016-2017, our researchers supervised 255 postdoctoral students, as well as 225 interns.

In addition, 19 students got the chance to become part of the Research Centre’s team during summer 2016 thanks to a grant of more than $40,000 through a Canada Summer Jobs funding. This program seeks to help students gain work experience related to their field of study. They have thus been able to rely on expertise of researchers and cutting-edge technology equipment.

Scientific Animation and Organization of Major Events

The scientific animation plays an important role, and helps create a dynamic environment where the knowledge exchange remains constantly present. In fact, the Centre is holding once per year its Scientific Days dedicated to research which allow students and professionals the chance to disseminate their work. In addition, several journal clubs, seminars and conferences are occurring annually. These activities set up in Quebec or elsewhere in the world are gathering the most illustrious international researchers and promote exchanges on studies underway as well as new discoveries.

As leaders in their fields, our researchers regularly organize major scientific events such as the following:  

- International Congress on bariatric surgery

More than 250 specialists in bariatric surgery have gathered in Quebec City on May 27 and 28, 2016, as part of the International Consensus Conference on Duodenal Switch. This international congress was meant to demystify the technical aspects and the postoperative management of patients that have undergone a duodenal switch. The scientific program has been developed in order to introduce the latest knowledge on this technique and its variations, to allow the sharing of both clinical experiences and expertise as well as to discuss practical solutions for patients presenting a failure after a parietal gastrectomy.

- Symposium annuel de la Chaire de transfert de connaissances, éducation et prévention en santé respiratoire et cardiovasculaire

The seventh edition of the Symposium cœur-poumons of the Research Chair on Knowledge Transfer, Training and Prevention Chair on Respiratory and Cardiovascular Health held on September 30, 2016. This activity brought together more than 180 general practitioners, men and women nurses as well as other health professionals in order to optimize the management of cardio-respiratory diseases. The topics discussed included the metabolic syndrome, the prevention among young people, the implication of new scientific studies in the cardiorespiratory field, the new tools used by the chair, the chronic obstructive lung diseases and the hypertension in the elderly person.

- Symposium international annuel de la Chaire de recherche sur l’obésité

On November 18, 2016, the Annual International Symposium of the Research Chair on Obesity took place in Quebec City. This 19th edition experienced a record-breaking year with more than 100 researchers, professionals and students from the regions of Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Montreal. This year’s theme had focused on the role of the gut-brain axis in energy homeostasis. On this occasion, world-class researchers came forward from North America and Europe to share their new advances related to this field.

- Thoracic Surgery Congress in Quebec City

For the second year in a row, the Thoracic Surgery Congress hosted a delegation of more than 80 surgeons from South America and the United States. It took place from July 25 to 29 in 2016. At this congress, participants were fortunate to exchange ideas on new medical practices minimally invasive in lung and esophageal surgery. In addition to conferences, discussions and case studies, they were able to attend the live webcast to different leading edge procedures performed in our Institute including one by thoracoscopy.

- Conference on Weight Management, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Disease 

The International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk and the Chinese Medical Association jointly organized the first edition of the Chinese International Congress on weight management, lifestyle as well as cardiometabolic diseases, which was held in Shanghai on November 5 and 6. This first conference turned out a success with more than 400 participants and served to break down silos between the different medical disciplines to the benefit of the Chinese medical establishment as well as the one regarding patients.

Annual Fellowship Competition for Students

Over the past 15 years, the Research Centre offers a scholarship program for students pursuing master’s or doctoral-level degrees as well as being enrolled in a post-doctoral fellowship, contributing to the recruitment of highly qualified candidates and thereby increasing significantly their productivity. This competition is opened to students who don’t benefit of a granting agency scholarship. As of this year, it is supported by the IUCPQ Foundation in partnership with Desjardins.

The assessment committees were composed of Drs. Benoit Drolet, Julie Milot and Elena Timofeeva (for those at the doctoral level) as well as Drs. Marie-Renée Blanchet, Mathieu Laplante and Patrick Mathieu (for those at the master’s level). This past year, 44 applications were reviewed and nine students have benefitted from scholarships, either:

  • Geneviève B. Marchand (Dr. André Tchernof)
  • Nathalie Bastien (Dr. Sébastien Bonnet)
  • Jean-Christophe Bérubé (Dr. Yohan Bossé)
  • Camila De Avila Dal Bo (Dr. Elena Timofeeva) - Bourse Desjardins
  • Myriam Gagné (Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet)
  • Cynthia Gagné-Thivierge (Dr. Steve Charrette)
  • Jennifer Labrecque (Dr. André Tchernof)
  • Guillaume Plourde (Dr. Olivier F. Bertrand) - Bourse Desjardins
  • Louis Simard (Dr. Marie-Annick Clavel)


The media have taken notice of the remarkable discoveries and achievements by the keen minds that make our centre so special. Some examples include:

  • The Government of Quebec inaugurates phase IV of the Institute Research Centre’s expansion project
  • Launching of the book “Comment faire mieux? L’Expérience québécoise en promotion des saines habitudes de vie et en prévention de l’obésité”: actions to 50 possible improve population health
  • Prevention of cardiovascular diseases among men aged 55 and over as well as women aged 65 and over: the Institute is collaborating in a major new international study
  • Exceptional contribution to the interventional cardiology research: the Institute confirms its expertise in the treatment of heart diseases
  • Major Breakthrough in the C. difficile management strategy: a research team from the Institute achieved a world first!
  • The International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk Global Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Sale Barometer highlights marked differences between the worldwide sales of sugary drinks
  • Launching of two books from the collection ”Le patient expert”: for an active participation in the asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease management
  • Establishment of a Canada Research Excellence Chair, the first chair in the world to devote itself to the integrated study of the intestinal microbiome
  • New book on taxing sodas: analysis of its relevance from a Canadian perspective
  • A researcher from the Institute is revealing the truth about sugar in his book “La vérité sur le sucre”
  • New large-scale study in interventional cardiology assessing the occurrence of endocarditis after transcatheter aortic valve replacement
  • A first step toward prevention of the unexplained sudden cardiac death
  • The excellence achieved in cardiology research at the Institute is internationally recognized
  • Scientific Breakthrough on the genetic aspect of cardiovascular diseases

    Expanding Infrastructure

    Construction of New Research Spaces

    As part of the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) program launched by the Government of Canada in April 2016, the Research Centre has been awarded an important grant that will allow the construction of new research spaces (3,200 m2) at the Institute. This project will enable the expansion of activities by creating a powerful retention and recruitment incentive of exceptional researchers, an essential component to the development and nurturing of the Institute’s excellence and international competitiveness. This expansion in particular will make it possible to welcome the chairholder of the Canada Research Excellence Chair in the Microbiome-Endocannabinoidome Axis in Metabolic Health as well as his team. It is expected that the construction work is largely made over the next year.

    New Catheterization Laboratory in Basic Research

    The Research Centre received authority to acquire highly specialized equipment for the implementation of a catheterization laboratory in basic research. This platform will enable the creation of new partnerships in support of Phase 1 first-in-man studies development in this sector of activity. This laboratory will be in place over the next year.

    Retrofitting of the Basic Research Pavilion

    In the fall of 2016, the Research Centre undertook refit work in both sectors of E and M pavilions. These construction activities have made it possible to welcome four new research teams who are working more specifically on the thematic of sleep disorders. They were thus able to integrate these new state-of-the-art facilities that meet their needs.

    Partnerships in support of research and innovation development

    International Joint Unit (UMI) for chemical and biomolecular research on the microbiome and its impact on metabolic health and nutrition

    Created in collaboration with the Italian National Research Council (CNR), the UMI is a bilateral research unit aimed at strengthening the scientific and technological cooperation through exchanges of students and professors in the framework of pioneering bilateral research projects. The UMI collects experts from the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre, the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, the Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry and the Department of Chemical Sciences and Materials Technology of the CNR, from the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences of Université Laval.

    Alliance santé Québec

    The deployment of strategic actions for informing and engaging the research and innovation ecosystem key players from the greater Quebec City area around a unifying concept marked the year covering 2016-2017: the sustainable health. Managers, researchers, clinicians from health as well as social services institutions located in this specific region, including the Institute with their partners (Université Laval, research centres, businesses and the municipal sector) took part in this sense in preparatory activities in order to develop a concrete and structural project. The latter concerns namely the collaborative research and intervening platform in sustainable health. Ultimately, this collaborative platform will become a powerful tool for creating knowledge and decision support to the attention of researchers, policy makers and the population in general.

    An Incubator for Innovative Companies

    The Institute Research Centre as well as the Université Laval support development and business incubation activities in order to help innovative projects to emerge and to get established in their respective markets. The Centre is working for example with Oxynox since its inception in 2009 by providing the assistance and resources it needs to develop FreeO2, a new apparatus for optimizing oxygen therapy. Oxynov is indeed temporarily located within the hospital in order to innovate upon daily contact with clinicians and future users.

    Balance sheet of the Research Ethics Committee

    The Research Ethics Committee (REC) is designated by the Minister of Health and Social Services (MHSS) under section 21 of the Civil Code of Québec. It reports to the Board of Directors from the Institution. The REC met on eleven times during the year. From April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, 140 new research projects started at the Institute. Of these, 103 were assessed by it, while 37 projects obtained approval by another REC from the health and social services network (RSSS). To that effect, a single-window service (GUR) was introduced and formalized over the past year as the gateway for research projects taking place in our institution regardless of where they were evaluated ethically. The GUR is responsible for coordinating the triple-bottom-line assessment of clinical research projects taking place at the Institute (ethics, scientific, and of convenience).

    On March 31, 2017, 570 files were underway at the Institute. During the year, follow-up protocols required a sustained extensive correspondence between researchers and the REC (1,393 written communications). The GUR offered two information meetings to discuss on diverse themes related to research involving humans, including the project ethical follow-up.

    Achievements over the past year:

    • Implementation of a policy managing incidental findings through research activities;
    • Update of the Guide for Researchers for submission of new projects and follow-up of ongoing ones at the Research Ethics Committee;
    • Update and review of information as well as consent form templates (standard texts as required under new legal provisions proposed in April 2016 by both the MSSS and FRQS);
    • Update of the REC operating rules.

    These highlights are taken from the 2016-2017 Activity Report. Click here to view past issues.