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Interdisciplinary research: Polytechnique Montréal professors awarded more than $1.2 million from the Government of Canada

May 1, 2023 - Source : NEWS

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, recently announced more than $200 million in support for Canadian-led interdisciplinary, international, high-risk/high-reward research through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF). A total of $1,245,531 is being awarded to research projects carried out by Polytechnique Montréal professors Géraldine Merle, Marco Bonizzato, Thomas Gervais, Jean Provost and Raphaël Trouillon. In addition, nearly $500,000 is going to a project involving professors Catherine Beaudry, Samira Keivanopour, Fabiano Armellini and Thibaut Vidal.

Fonds Nouvelles frontières en recherche

These projects were selected through three separate NFRF competitions. The government funds will support a total of 195 game-changing research projects in all, thereby cementing Canada’s position as a leader in science and innovation.

"Science and research are essential to solving the greatest challenges facing humanity today and in the future," said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "That’s why our government is committed to continuing support for researchers who are pushing the boundaries of innovation, by investing in transformative, high-risk/high-reward research that will address issues that impact Canadians in all sectors of our economy and society. With our highly educated workforce and world-class research institutions, we are well positioned to meet the needs of the next century and remain a global leader in science and innovation."

"Improving health outcomes in Canada requires innovation, which is why supporting researchers who are taking risks for the betterment of patient outcomes is so important. Through this investment, we are helping researchers create a more equitable, sustainable and resilient post-pandemic reality as they set out to find better treatments, drugs and patient care options," said the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health.

"Through the New Frontiers in Research Fund competitions, we are fostering world-leading discovery and innovation, and encouraging Canadian researchers to take risks, meet new challenges, push disciplinary boundaries and lead transformative projects across the country and abroad,” said Ted Hewitt, Chair, Canada Research Coordinating Committee; and President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


The 2022 Exploration competition is providing funding to 128 research projects—including five at Polytechnique Montréal—that bring together disciplines in non-traditional approaches and foster bold and innovative perspectives. By supporting 1,054 researchers, including 338 in their early careers, the NFRF program highlights the government's commitment to keeping interdisciplinary research at the forefront and building a global brand that will attract talent and capital for years to come.

Project title: Distributed Neuroprosthetics
Principal investigator: Marco Bonizzato, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering

The nervous system communicates through electrical signals. Neuroprostheses are electrical interfaces designed to support nervous system signalling by replacing or helping restore function lost due to injury or disease. More specifically, they help restore motor function using the brain's natural ability to adapt.

Although human movement is controlled by complex nerve networks, current neuroprostheses are simple and target specific areas of the brain, spinal cord or nerves. Their effectiveness could be improved, however, if they acted on several areas at the same time.

project aims to develop a new generation of intelligent neuroprostheses that are distributed throughout the nervous system. Future applications of this technology will involve precise, large-scale interventions that regulate several neural networks at the same time. To make this possible, an algorithmic system is needed to manage the processing effectively. solution consists of autonomous neuroprosthetic artificial intelligence that controls the complex processes involved in stimulating the nervous system.

The researchers hope to establish distributed neuromodulation technology as a standard treatment and to see large-scale automation included in medical devices for the nervous system.

The research will be conducted by Professor Marco Bonizzato in collaboration with Professors Guillaume Lajoie and Numa Dancause of the Université de Montréal. He will receive $248,750 for a two-year period.

Project title: Unveiling metabolic cooperation via glycerol and lactate as the driver of aggressive prostate cancer using microfluidics and mathematical modeling
Principal investigator: Thomas Gervais, Full Professor, Department of Engineering Physics

Prostate cancer affects 1 out of 7 men. Resistance to hormone therapy leads to the most aggressive form of prostate cancer. Identifying the underlying mechanisms of resistance may yield entirely novel treatment strategies. The project team will investigate a metabolic pathway, known as the glycerol shunt, which was recently identified by Mark Prentki and his team at the CHUM Research Centre and is involved in the metabolism of glucose, lipids and energy.

Strong evidence published by the CHUM shows that the presence of enzymes involved in this cooperation is associated with more aggressive prostate cancer. Microfluidic devices, paired with mass spectrometry imaging, will provide a radically new approach to addressing this problem. The interdisciplinary research team, led by Professor Thomas Gervais and composed of researchers from the Université de Montréal and the CHUM, brings together a unique combination of expertise in metabolism, prostate cancer, 3D mass spectrometry imaging of biological samples and microfluidics.

Ultimately, the project aims to improve the understanding of the fundamental cellular metabolism of prostate cancer and to propose a new therapeutic pathway for treating prostate cancer and most likely many other metabolism-related diseases.

Professor Gervais has been awarded $250,000 to support his research for two years.

Project title: E-filing the synovial cavity of the knee joint in anterior cruciate ligament repair
Principal researcher: Géraldine Merle, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering

Every year, close to a quarter of a million of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries occur in Canada and in the United States. ACL repair is critical, as it is one of the key ligaments that help stabilize the knee joint. ACL tears do not heal without treatment and reconstruction surgery is a major orthopaedic procedure where an orthopaedic surgeon entirely discards the torn ACL and reconstructs the ACL with an autograft. This procedure is generally associated with the morbidity of a graft harvest. Reconstruction surgery with autografts or synthetic grafts is associated with a high failure rate due to a lack of vascularity, loss of blood clot or significant passage of fluid inside the joint, which causes bioactive molecules to be washed out and prevents cell adhesion.

To address this challenge, the project proposes a paradigm shift from the current standard of care. The objective is to combine ligament repair with an electrospun fibrous sponge that can fill the synovial cavity and protect the ACL wound site. To this end, the research team—which is led by Professor Géraldine Merle and involves the collaboration of Full Professor Abdellah Ajji and Associate Professor Bruno Blais from the Department of Chemical Engineering, as well as experts from Sainte-Justine University Hospital and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre—is designing and developing advanced technology that works in combination with a highly functional and adhesive synthetic ligament capable of simply binding the ends of the torn ligament while producing a robust foam network to trap blood and stabilize bioactive compounds in the gap between the torn ligament extremities.

Upon completion, the research team anticipates producing advanced biomaterials, developing innovative processes and achieving a unique approach to tackle failures in soft tissue repair and regeneration. It will be the first biomedical technology capable of healing or restoring a torn ligament or tendon since the standard care procedure was introduced more than 30 years ago. The new treatment will help all individuals with soft-tissue damage that causes chronic pain and significantly impacts their quality of life.

The project has been awarded $249,875 for a two-year period.

Project title: Functional dynamic ultrasound localization microscopy: From the fundamental study of brain hemodynamics to clinical application
Principal investigator: Jean Provost, Associate Professor, Department of Engineering Physics

Imaging brain activity is fundamental in understanding cerebral function and how it is altered by pathologies such as neurodegenerative diseases, stroke or epilepsy. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is the only broadly available approach that can image the whole brain, but it requires that the patient remain immobile while the imaging is done. Recently, a novel imaging method called functional ultrasound imaging (fUS) was shown to provide high sensitivity and can be used in small animals that are awake and moving. However, fUS is ill adapted to transcranial imaging, especially in larger animals and humans.

The team recently developed dynamic ultrasound localization microscopy (dULM), which can map the super-resolved dynamic behaviour of blood flow at the venules and arterioles scale by injecting, localizing, and tracking microbubbles (MB) approved for human use.

The objective of this proposal is to develop, validate and demonstrate initial feasibility of using dULM for the imaging of the brain activity.

If successful, this proposal would yield a unique functional dULM imaging method that could be used to reveal, for the first time at the smallest scale at depth, the complex and challenging spatial-temporal relationship between neuronal activity and blood flow in small animals and the brain function of large animals and potentially humans while they operate in natural environments. Functional dULM would significantly advance current knowledge of brain function by allowing its imaging in new settings and at a smaller scale, which could lead to new impactful discoveries in the management of brain pathologies such as neurodegeneration and stroke.

The project will be led by Professor Provost, draw on the expertise of Professors Ravi Rungta (co-principal investigator) and Numa Dancause (co-applicant) of the Université de Montréal, and involve Professor Michèle Desjardins of Université Laval. The government has awarded $246,906 to support the project for two years.

Project title: GHz-through-THz broadband electromagnetic analysis of tissue models on paper chips
Principal investigator: Raphaël Trouillon, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering

Biological phenomena are complex and hard to elucidate. Bioanalytical strategies can show limitations, such as cost, use of potentially harmful reactants, or high processing times. Innovative modalities are also likely to bring new perspectives. In this context, low-power radio frequency (RF) techniques offer non-ionizing, fast and low-cost alternatives. However, the electromagnetic signature of biological materials is largely unexplored, especially in the THz domain. The wave-matter interaction is complicated by the difficulty to isolate homogenous tissue samples.

This research aims to develop a new way of studying living matter by gaining new insights and providing a more comprehensive picture of life. This project offers unique opportunities to design and use a new technique that gives access to physical and biological parameters not routinely considered in biomedicine. To achieve these results, a non-ionizing bioanalytical system will be built. This unique approach will be used to complement standard methods of studying tissue, which are primarily based on routine biochemical methods, by describing biological parameters that have not been considered until now.

The project will to combine state-of-the-art radio frequency and biochip technologies. The multidisciplinary team will be led by Professor Trouillon, who will work in collaboration with Full Professor Ke Wu of the Department of Electrical Engineering, and involve two teams of experts. The government is providing $250,000 over two years to support the research.


The 2022 Special Call – Research for Post-Pandemic Recovery competition has awarded funding to 61 research teams in support of a more equitable, sustainable and resilient post-pandemic reality by addressing the priorities identified in the United Nations Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery. Science is a worldwide endeavour and this call is part of an international effort to address the global socioeconomic inequities that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project title: Responsible and Open Supply Chains for Agri-Food Ecosystem Transformation and Traceability (CARROT AA)

The recent global pandemic revealed the vulnerabilities of Canada's strategic supply chains. Due to widespread disruptions and crises, the situation is expected to remain concerning for several years to come. Investing in a new supply chain model—one that is local, sustainable and open—is therefore crucial for reducing Canada's reliance on foreign supply while supporting a more sustainable model for development. Transforming the innovation and business ecosystem is necessary to protect the country's long-term resilience, security and prosperity.

The study aims to rethink Canada's agri-food supply chains and make them more local, more eco-friendly and more sustainable by focusing on collaboration and open innovation between stakeholders, from producers to end consumers.

The idea is to develop new responsible supply chains that are aligned with Pillar 3 of the UN Research Roadmap, which calls for supply chain optimization as part of the economic recovery.

The project is receiving $496,581 in funding for two years. It is being led by Professor Carène Tchuinou of UQAM, and will draw on the expertise of Full Professor Catherine Beaudry (the researcher in charge of Polytechnique's contributions), Assistant Professor Samira Keivanopour and Associate Professors Fabiano Armellini and Thibaut Vidal, from the Department of Mathematical and Industrial Engineering, as well as experts from UQAM and Université de Laval.

Congratulations to these accomplished professors!

Learn more

Professor Catherine Beaudry's expertise
Professor Marco Bonizzato's expertise
Professor Thomas Gervais' expertise
Professor Géraldine Merle's expertise
Professor Jean Provost's expertise
Professor Raphaël Trouillon's expertise
Department of Electrical Engineering website (in French)
Department of Chemical Engineering website
Department of Mathematical and Industrial Engineering website (in French)
Department of Engineering Physics website

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