Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I’d like to thank the committee for inviting me to speak to you about how the Government of Canada is supporting the federal framework on antimicrobial resistance, or AMR.
As you know, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, is the Government of Canada's health research funding agency, with a mandate to support the creation of new knowledge and its translation for more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system.
Within CIHR, the Institute of Infection and Immunity, of which I am currently the scientific director, supports research in the field of antimicrobial resistance. Outside of CIHR, I am also a researcher at Université Laval here in Quebec City, and my primary research interest is antimicrobial resistance. Since 2003, I have had the honour to hold a Canada research chair on antimicrobial resistance.
Between 2011 and 2016, CIHR invested more than $96 million in antimicrobial resistance research, including an investment of over $20 million in the last fiscal year. These investments have supported world-class research towards the investigation of novel antibiotics and alternative therapies, new or improved diagnostics, antimicrobial stewardship strategies, surveillance of resistant organisms, and methods to improve infection prevention and control.
I would like to give you a concrete example that profoundly illustrates the importance of research in tackling this global issue. Dr. Andrew Morris, a physician and researcher at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, and the University Health Network developed a program focused on reducing antibiotic over-prescription for patients in the intensive care unit. This stewardship program led to a 33% decrease in antibiotic prescription. This has led to improved outcomes for patients and a lower incidence of AMR infections. This program has been so successful that it is being adopted as the gold standard in care by Accreditation Canada. CIHR is proud to support research that will contribute to the expansion of this program into other hospital settings.
As my colleague Dr. Njoo just described, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, is a key player in the implementation of the Government of Canada’s framework entitled “antimicrobial resistance and use in Canada: a federal framework for action.” This framework outlines three pillars for action, which are surveillance, antimicrobial stewardship and innovation. While contributing to the research components of the surveillance and stewardship pillars, CIHR's primary role is to lead and support the innovation pillar.
The framework's implementation was followed, in March 2015, by the federal action plan on antimicrobial resistance and use in Canada. CIHR has already contributed to all three pillars of the plan through various strategic investments.
In Budget 2015, CIHR was given $1.8 million a year “to support additional research to better understand and address the health challenges posed by antimicrobial resistant infections.” Through this ongoing investment, CIHR is able to fund the development of new point of care diagnostic tools. The Honourable Jane Philpott announced the first phase of this funding a few weeks ago. The funding will help support five teams through a $1.39 million contribution from CIHR.
These teams, which are working with industrial partners, will develop tests to rapidly and accurately diagnose antimicrobial resistance at the point of care. The intent of this funding is to create commercially viable diagnostic tools that could be scale-up and, when appropriate, commercialized and implemented.
CIHR is also collaborating with its international counterparts to address the antimicrobial resistance issue at a global level. For example, we're participating in the joint programming initiative on antimicrobial resistance, or JPIAMR.
We're working with over 20 partner countries to address the knowledge gaps in antimicrobial resistance using a “one health” approach. This collaboration allows for the alignment of national and international investments in coordinated global research activities.
CIHR is currently one of the top funders in this major collaborative effort of JPIAMR, which represents, so far, a total investment of $6.7 million, with an additional $3 million in future commitments. CIHR participation in this program enables Canadian researchers to build partnerships with their international counterparts to address important issues related to the challenge of AMR and to develop meaningful solutions.
While CIHR's main role is to fund research, we also often play the role of convenor as a means to better coordinate action and inform our activities in this space. For instance, in November 2016 CIHR co-hosted a forum on antimicrobial stewardship. Held during World Antibiotic Awareness Week, this meeting brought together more than 80 people from multiple disciplines and sectors to discuss the responsible use of antibiotics in clinical settings. This one-day workshop led to the development of five recommendations that were centred around innovation and knowledge mobilization. These recommendations will be used to inform on CIHR future investments in antimicrobial stewardship.
I would like also to point out that Canada has indeed cultivated some of the best experts in the field of AMR, not to mention that it has seen the emergence of a great number of hubs of excellence at a number of universities across Canada.
For example, Dr. Natalie Strynadka, from UBC, has been using an array of molecular imaging techniques to define the molecular blueprints of superbugs. Her team is focused on identifying novel targets for new antibiotics that can penetrate the bacterial cell wall while resisting the bacteria's attempts to eliminate the drug.
Similarly, at McMaster University, the work of Gerry Wright focuses on both the discovery of novel antimicrobial strategies, as well as understanding the basis of antimicrobial resistance.
Here's another example. At the University of British Columbia, Dr. Robert Hancock has focused his efforts on designing new therapeutic strategies to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Hancock has demonstrated his ability to translate his laboratory innovations into the development of new enterprises. He co-founded the Centre for Drug Research and Development, and four spin-off companies. These include Sepset Biosciences Inc., which he co-founded in September 2016. Sepset Biosciences has developed a rapid diagnostic blood test that can identify sepsis, a type of infection that causes the hospitalization of over 30,000 Canadians each year.
I’ve hopefully demonstrated how CIHR is supporting the federal framework on antimicrobial resistance through its strategic funding of the research community and its ability to convene expertise from across the country and abroad. The types of new research I’ve just described underpin much of the framework.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, rest assured that CIHR will continue building antimicrobial resistance research capacity in the country and promoting international research collaborations to limit the impact of this problem on the health of Canadians and the global population, and to ensure that we're able to address this growing threat.
Thank you for your attention. I would be pleased to answer any of your questions.