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Kirshenbaum receives $10,000 Dr. R.E. Beamish Memorial Award

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, the Manitoba researcher who discovered a gene that could save the lives of heart patients, is winner of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Dr. R.E. Beamish Memorial Award. 

Kirshenbaum will receive the $10,000 award at the Foundation’s annual research reception in Winnipeg on June 12, 2012.

Although this is the third R.E. Beamish Memorial Award Kirshenbaum will receive from the Foundation, he said it still has very special meaning for him.

 “Dr. Robert E. Beamish and his wife were dear friends, they were almost like grandparents to me, and to receive this award in the Beamish name is always a huge honour.”

The Beamish award is given to the Manitoba researcher with the highest provincial ranking among research grant applicants.

Dr. Kirshenbaum was recognized by the Foundation for his breakthrough study of a gene that may be able to stop occurrences of heart failure in patients following a heart attack. It also has the potential to help cancer patients.

 “Dr. Kirshenbaum is an outstanding researcher and the Foundation is immensely proud to support his work, which may not only lead to a cure for heart failure, but may also stop certain types of cancer as well,” said Debbie Brown, CEO for HSF in Manitoba. “No other research like this is taking place anywhere in the world and it is happening right here in our province.”

After 12 years of searching, Dr. Kirshenbaum has unlocked a gene which gets switched on in heart cells during a heart attack, stopping them from dividing and repairing themselves, diminishing the heart’s ability to pump blood. This may lead to eventual heart failure in some patients.

This gene has become a target in his work to develop new treatments or therapies that could help prevent this gene from being switched on, reducing the impact heart disease has on patients.

“With what we’ve learned, we can now look at ways to prevent heart cells from dying or to generate new ones. It’s exciting because it points to new avenues for treatment,” he said.

Kirshenbaum discovered that this same gene also plays a role in certain types of cancer cells. “We’ve been able to switch this gene on in several tumours and stop them from growing,” said Kirshenbaum, whose genetic research could lead to the development of life-saving drugs for both heart attack survivors and cancer patients.

Kirshenbaum’s research is currently conducting animal studies and could be ready for human trials in as little as three years.

Educated with undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Manitoba, and a Research fellowship in cardiology from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, Kirshenbaum has been a well-established principal investigator in Manitoba for over 17 years.

The St. Boniface Hospital researcher currently serves as Director of Research Development at the University of Manitoba and as Canada Research Chair in Molecular Cardiology. He is a recognized Fellow of the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR) and the American Heart Association (AHA) and has received numerous awards and grants, including the Young Investigators Award from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the Distinguished Chemist Award from the Chemical Institute of Canada.

Having lost family and friends to heart disease, Kirshenbaum said seeing it at close-hand has been an inspiration for him in his work.

“It’s important to remember the people that passed away and keep that perspective on why we are doing the work that we do.”

Pictured Above (L to R): HSF in Manitoba CEO Debbie Brown; Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum; HSF in Manitoba Vice-Chair Mark Torchia.

Posted June 2012.


$10,000 Beamish Award granted to research childhood stroke