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Dr. Suraj Unniappan. Photo: Debra Marshall for SHRF.

WCVM scientist receives top researcher award

A Western College of Veterinary Medicine scientist who is investigating the hormonal basis of obesity and diabetes is the recipient of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation's (SHRF) 2012 Top Researcher Award for Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Suraj Unniappan, an associate professor in the WCVM's Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, will receive $120,000 over three years. His research focuses on the role that appetite and glucose-regulating hormones play in the regulation of feeding, body weight and blood sugar levels as well as the prospect of using naturally occurring hormones to develop therapies for diabetes and obesity.

The award was announced on December 7, 2012, at the SHRF's annual Santé! Awards Evening — an event that recognizes the excellence of Saskatchewan researchers such as Unniappan who are in the early stages of their careers. The SHRF funds and facilitates health research in Saskatchewan by working in partnership with local, provincial and national organizations to foster leading-edge research.

Unniappan is studying the therapeutic potential of novel proteins such as nesfatin-1, a naturally occurring protein molecule in mammals that is responsible for regulating appetite and body fat production.

"New hormone-based treatments that would suppress body weight and blood sugar would be very desirable," says Unniappan. "Our current research focuses on exploring the therapeutic potential of nesfatin-1 for metabolic diseases with debilitating complications."

Unniappan joined the WCVM faculty in 2012 after spending five years as an associate professor of biology at Toronto's York University. He obtained his PhD (cell biology and physiology) from the University of Alberta in 2004 and completed his post-doctoral training in biomedical research from the University of British Columbia in 2006.

In May 2012, he was also awarded the Bob Boutilier New Investigator Award which is aimed at encouraging and honouring young members of the Canadian Society of Zoologists who have made significant contributions to zoology and are considered rising stars in their field.
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