Government of Canada announces leading researcher to fight obesity and related chronic diseases

Université Laval welcomes Vincenzo Di Marzo as its fourth Canada Excellence Research Chair

July 5, 2016—Quebec City, Quebec—Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat

The Government of Canada is committed to improving the health and well-being of Canadians by investing in research that will improve their quality of life. To honour this commitment, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, accompanied by Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, today announced that the Government of Canada will invest $10 million over seven years to fund the research of Vincenzo Di Marzo at Université Laval. A globally renowned biochemist and pharmacologist from Italy, Di Marzo will become a Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) dedicated to studying the relationship between neurochemical signalling and metabolic health.

Vincenzo Di Marzo is an expert in the brain’s endocannabinoid system, a group of chemical signals responsible for physiological processes such as appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. His research will examine the links between this system and the complex community of micro-organisms that live in the digestive tracts; links believed to be responsible for numerous health issues like obesity.

Obesity is one of the most pressing health challenges facing Canadians today as it contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and some cancers. For example, in 2015, the Canadian Diabetes Association estimated that 3.4 million Canadians were living with Type 2 diabetes, a disease that can cause a range of problems including blindness, and has so far cost the country more than $14 billion. Di Marzo aims to develop new therapeutic treatments for these disorders which will deliver significant social and health benefits for Canadians while reducing the strain on Canada’s healthcare system.


“With the arrival of Vincenzo Di Marzo at Université Laval, Canada is gaining a world leader in biomolecular chemistry. The Government of Canada is proud to support his promising research, which may one day relieve those suffering from metabolic disorders, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, in Canada and around the world.”

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“The Canada Excellence Research Chair program brings the world’s most prestigious researchers to Canada. Dr. Di Marzo is the first research chair in the world devoted to studying how micro-organisms in our gut are linked to disease. His research will lead to new discoveries to benefit the people of Quebec and citizens across Canada.”

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

“Dr. Di Marzo brings to Canada a wealth of experience in metabolic disorders and a proven track record in developing therapies from natural sources. His research will contribute to the development of a burgeoning field in Canada, and help researchers understand a little-known, but hugely important, part of the human body.”

Ted Hewitt, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and Chair, CERC Steering Committee

“Over the past five years, enormous advances have been made in our understanding of the connection between gastrointestinal micro-organisms and the brain’s endocannabinoid system. Dr. Di Marzo and his team are working at the cutting edge of this burgeoning area of research and will help to position Canada as a world leader in this field. We are proud to support their efforts, which will ultimately lead to better treatments for a wide range of conditions, including obesity and cardiovascular disease.”

Alain Beaudet, President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

“This fourth Canada Excellence Research Chair to be awarded to Université Laval will establish a one-of-a-kind research program into changes in intestinal microbiota, linking obesity to gastrointestinal function and to cardiometabolic diseases that compromise health. With Vincenzo Di Marzo at the helm, this Chair will also showcase our capacity to address major current social challenges, particularly by developing innovative nutritional and medical strategies.”

Denis Brière, Rector, Université Laval


  • One in four adult Canadians, or about 6.3 million people, were identified as obese in 2011–12. Since 2003, the proportion of obese Canadians has increased 17.5 per cent (Statistics Canada).
  • It is estimated that obesity cost the Canadian economy approximately $4.6 billion in 2008, up $735 million from $3.9 billion in 2000 (Obesity in Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011).
  • The Government of Canada’s Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program awards universities up to $10 million over seven years to support world renowned researchers and their teams to establish ambitious research programs at Canadian universities.
  • In total, Di Marzo’s research will receive support worth of more than $32 million, of which the Government of Canada will provide $10 million over seven years. The balance will be invested by Quebec’s provincial government, Université Laval and the Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec.
  • Di Marzo’s formal title is Canada Excellence Research Chair in the Microbiome-Endocannabinoidome Axis in Metabolic Health.

Additional Links

Biography of Vincenzo Di Marzo    

Spotlight on Vincenzo Di Marzo: New Canada Excellence Research Chair will change the way you think about intestinal flora

Information on obesity: Canadian Obesity Network

Diabetes statistics: Canadian Diabetes Association

Backgrounder on the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program


Follow Minister Duncan on social media.
Twitter: @ScienceMin
Instagram: sciencemin

Follow CERC on social media.
Twitter: @CERC_CERC



Véronique Perron
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Science
Tel.: 343-291-2600

Michael Adams
Communications Advisor
Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program
Tel.: 613-944-1758
Cell: 613-219-7523

Andrée-Anne Stewart    
Media Relations
Communications Department    
Université Laval            
Tel.: 418-656-3952
Cell:  418-254-3141