Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou named Canada Research Chair in Translational Therapeutics in Autism

October 16, 2014

Network Investigator Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou and Holland Bloorview colleague Gillian King were named Canada Research Chairs today by the Hon. Ed Holder, Minister of State in Science and Technology.

The two scientist-clinicians join an influential group of 137 chairholders across Canada, which includes NeuroDevNet Scientific Director Dr. Daniel Goldowitz. The Canada Research Chairs program, backed by over $118 million in government support, promotes innovation and supports top-tier talent at Canadian post-secondary institutions.

"The premise for the research program is that autism has lacked biological and molecular targets," said Dr. Anagnostou. "That's why therapeutic approaches have been subject to so much failure. There are other reasons - including the inability to stratify populations appropriately so we know which kids respond to what kind of approach.

"We have to do a bit more exploration of molecular approaches and their influences on the brain and behaviour," she adds. "We can start mapping common and unshared brain circuitry pathways in ASD, focusing on therapeutics and targeted approaches."
As first-time, Tier II Canada Chair, Dr. Anagnostou's approach will be comprehensive, including genetic, and epigenetic analyses, neuroimaging, and phenotyping investigations linking behavior with biology. Improving clinical trials infrastructure and testing novel models of drug discovery are also part of Dr. Anagnostou's agenda. Her ultimate goal: translating her findings effective treatments people on the autism spectrum.

"We are exceptionally proud of Dr. Gillian King and Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou for this important honour," said Dr. Tom Chau, Vice President, Research & Director, Bloorview Research Institute. "The Canada Research Chairs program recognizes Canadian researchers who are leaders in their field and provides them critical support for their life-changing work. We are confident that Dr. King's groundbreaking research into optimal care for children with disabilities, and Dr.Anagnostou's research at the vanguard of autism therapeutics will make them ideal chairholders."

Dr. Anagnostou is the co-lead of the Autism Research Centre at Holland Bloorview, where she conducts critical research into treatments to improve the quality of life for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. Dr. Anagnostou has examined the impacts of oxytocin and other interventions on core symptoms of ASD, and has collaborated in the development of an anxiety app that teaches self-monitoring and regulation to youth with autism.

A research project built around the app is one of 13 projects proposed for NeuroDevNet in a second cycle of funding from the National Networks of Centres of Excellence program.

"Our government is committed to science, technology and innovation to improve our quality of life and create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians," said Minister Holder. "Our government's Canada Research Chairs Program develops, attracts and retains top researcher talent in Canada whose research, in turn, creates long-term social and economic benefits while training the next generation of students and researchers in Canada."

Read the Minister of State's announcement about the new and renewed Canada Research Chairs