Project Description

Project Components

Team Members

Team Structure

Research Agreement

Partners / Links







Cree Translation of Team Members (with audio)


John T. Arnason, Ph.D.
(Biology, University of Ottawa) will be in charge of the preparation of all plant extracts. With the help of bioassays carried out in the laboratories of Drs. Haddad, Prentki, Johns and Bennett, he will also identify useful marker substances and biologically active principles in order to standardize the extracts. His laboratory is one of the best-equipped
facilities for this work in Canada and his longstanding collaboration with Dr Tony Durst (Chemistry, University of Ottawa) provides for the structure elucidation of novel active principles. Dr. Arnason has extensive experience with the medicinal profiling and standardization of commercial plant material for quality assurance purposes.
Solomon Awashish
is the Program Officer for the primary prevention of chronic diseases at the CBHSSJB. Recognized nationally as being on the forefront of the promotion of Cree approaches to prevention, Mr. Awashish will bring his expertise to aspects of the project dealing with integrating TM into Cree diabetes programs. He will also ensure that the project activities are linked into the continuum of services from prevention to diabetes care and education.
Steffany Bennett, Ph.D.
is a CIHR New Investigator and heads the Neural Regeneration Laboratory at the University of Ottawa. Her laboratory will assess the anti-apoptotic activity of plant extracts on retinal and nervous tissue in collaboration with Drs. Arnason, Haddad, Prentki and Johns.
Jane Blacksmith and Elizabeth Coonishish
are respectively Director of Social Services and Coordinator of Public Health for the Cree Nation of Mistissini. Jane has been involved in the current CIHR NET project from its onset providing invaluable insight into Cree health realities. Both will advise the CIHR Team on culturally-adapted and feasible interventions in the context of Public Health and will sit on the Local Integrating Committee for the RDI Pilot Project.
Jean-Louis Chiasson, M.D.
is the leader of the Hormone Signalling and Metabolism Research Unit of the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM). He notably led a worldwide clinical trial on diabetes prevention called STOP-NIDDM, using acarbose, an inhibitor of intestinal alpha-glucosidase isolated from strains of the fungus Actinoplanes spp. Dr. Chiasson, Dr. Yale (see below) and the CBHSSJB will design and oversee pilot clinical studies and randomized controlled trials (RCT) to assess the safety and efficacy of promising anti-diabetic plants. They will also use their wealth of knowledge and experience to help develop a novel and culturally sensitive diabetes care and education program for the Cree populations.
Alain Cuerrier, Ph.D.
is a plant taxonomist and research scientist at the Plant Biology Research Institute (IRBV) of the Montreal Botanical Garden where he is also in charge of the First Nations Garden. He will be responsible for ethnobotanical surveys as well as the identification of the anti-diabetic plants, with the close collaboration of Cree Elders and Healers from various communities, and with the experienced help of Drs. Arnason and Johns. He will also oversee studies surrounding issues of sustainability and geographical variations.
David Dannenbaum, M.D.
is a chronic disease medical advisor at the CBHSSJB. He has first-hand experience working with Cree diabetics and is directly involved in the RDI at the CBHSSJB. He will be involved in the clinical studies and aspects of integration of TM into diabetes care.
Brian Foster, Ph.D.
(University of Ottawa) is Canada’s leading scientific authority on NHP-drug interactions. He will work closely with Drs. Arnason, Chiasson and Yale as well as with Cree health officials to help assess the in vitro and in vivo safety of plant preparations and their potential interactions with therapeutic drugs.
Pierre S. Haddad, Ph.D.
(Université de Montréal) is a National Research Scientist of the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ), and a seasoned pharmacologist. Dr. Haddad has led the NET team since April 2003 and will continue to act as team leader. Dr. Haddad’s laboratory provides the evaluation of the insulin-sensitizing action of plant extracts using bioassays of muscle, fat and liver tissues. In vivo animal studies are also carried out in his laboratory. Dr. Haddad has also been intimately involved in other aspects of the project, such as those pertaining to intellectual property rights, and access to and benefit sharing of traditional knowledge, in accordance with the Convention on Biodiversity. Experienced researchers Drs. Cuerrier, Johns and Arnason, as well as members of the team from Cree institutions (Reid, Torrie, Dannenbaum, Linton, Awashish, Blacksmith) and representatives of individual Cree First Nations have supported and will continue to support Dr. Haddad in these initiatives.
Tim Johns, Ph.D.
is a member of the Centre for Indigenous peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University’s Macdonald Campus, which he led until recently. Together with the CBHSSJB, Elders and Healers, and Drs. Cuerrier and Arnason, he will be responsible for carrying out nutritional surveys and focus groups with Cree community members to determine appropriate dosages and preparations of the standardized plants to be used in clinical studies, further enhancing the interface between the project’s basic and applied aspects. In close collaboration with Dr. Haddad, his laboratory will also study the anti-oxidant activity of the plant extracts, and the pharmacological evaluation of their activity on bioassays of vascular endothelium.
Paul Linton
is the Director of Adults and Elders programs at the Public Health Department (PHD) of the CBHSSJB. He is in charge of developing and implementing interventions to prevent chronic diseases. He is also the Director of the Regional Diabetes Initiative at the PHD of the CBHSSJB. He will play a key role in the clinical studies and in integrating TM into existing diabetes care initiatives.
Lina Musallam
is a young pharmacologist responsible for coordinating the rigorous pharmacological in vitro and in vivo evaluation of the plant extracts in Dr Haddad's laboratory. She is also in charge of coordinating studies among all academic laboratories.
Emily Rabbitskin
Is from MistissiniShe graduated in Nursing in 1995 and worked under the Cree Nation of Mistissini for the Building Healthy Communities project. She continued her career at the Mistissini Elders Home as an Activity Coordinator and recently as a Disability Employment Program Coordinator.  Emily loves working with the Elders. She has coordinated many special events such as Journey of Wellness, Elders Banquets, and Traditional Gatherings.  Recently appointed as the new Field Supervisor, Emily is happy to have joined the Team and keeping her ties with the Elders. Her main responsibility will be to coordinate team activities with the communities.
Marc Prentki, Ph.D.
(Université de Montréal) is a world-renowned diabetes researcher. He directs the Montreal Diabetes Research Centre (MDRC) funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). He is also Co-Director of the McGill and Université de Montréal Diabetes Centre for Beta-cell Replacement funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He has successfully led two multi-million dollar Hospital CFI grant proposals to provide the equipment infrastructure for the MDRC. Together with Dr. Haddad, he will oversee the evaluation of plant preparations on the secretion of insulin by pancreatic ß-cells, and provide his extensive experience with the pathophysiology of diabetes.
Jill Torrie
is the director responsible for specialized services, including research, the permanent secretary of the Research and Ethics Committees of the CBHSSJB, as well as a member of the Aboriginal Diabetes Working Group of the National Diabetes Surveillance System and the Comité d’éthique en santé publique of the Minister of Health and Social Services of Quebec. As such, she brings her experienced expertise with aspects of the project dealing with intellectual property, research ethics and knowledge transfer; notably, the development of culturally relevant consent and confidentiality forms. She will organize and oversee the participatory evaluation of the RDI Pilot Project. Together with Paul Linton, she will also develop the networks to transfer the findings of this research from the CBHSSJB to other aboriginal diabetes programs across Canada.
Jean-François Yale, M.D.
is the Director of the University Clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). He has been actively involved in numerous clinical trials in diabetes prevention and treatment (notably, DREAM, NAVIGATOR, EXUBERA and ACCORD). He is a key player in a new diabetes care initiative called PRIISME aimed at developing better tools and procedures in an integrated approach to diabetes care and education, with particular emphasis on adapting programs to multicultural settings. He will work with Dr. Chiasson to oversee the clinical studies of the Team and help with integrating TM into Cree diabetes care programs.

Cree Translation of Team Members (with audio)


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