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John TrantUWindsor chemist John Trant’s research into new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis has earned him a $375,000 grant from the Arthritis Society.

Chemistry professor awarded grant to focus on arthritis research

UWindsor chemist John Trant’s research into new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis has won him a $375,000 grant from the Arthritis Society.

Dr. Trant researches drugs that could be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis without suppressing the entire immune system. Current treatments are less specific and leave arthritis sufferers more susceptible to infection and cancer. Trant’s biomedical research combines chemistry with computer design, 3-D bioprinting, biology, and biophysics to create custom-tailored drugs that block the molecular interactions that lead to rheumatoid arthritis.

“If successful, this will pave the way for a new treatment with fewer side effects,” Trant said. “What this certainly will provide are the first tools ever that will let immunology researchers turn a specific part of the immune system on and off, like a chemical light switch.

“This will help us understand the molecular basis of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease, and will provide new chemical tools to help us understand how the disease works.”

Trant’s award is co-funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the major federal agency responsible for funding health and medical research in Canada. It’s part of $4.7 million being handed out by the Arthritis Society in 2019 and 2020.

The funding is spread over three years and includes an additional financial commitment from the University for three years after that. It’s called a Stars Career Development award, designed to help early and mid-career researchers.

In announcing the grant this week, the Arthritis Society said it “funds only the best, most scientifically meritorious research proposals that offer the greatest hope for improvements in our ability to diagnose, prevent, treat, repair and lead to a cure for arthritis.”

“Trant is exceptionally creative and is a tremendous asset to the University of Windsor, said K.W. Michael Siu, vice-president, research and innovation. “I am delighted the Arthritis Society has chosen to invest in Dr. Trant’s research. The research he and his team are performing may lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.”

This year alone, Trant has received grants for his biomedical research from the federal New Frontiers in Research Fund, MITACS, the province’s Early Researcher Award program, the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund, and the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research.

─ Sarah Sacheli