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// November 26, 2014

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) is pleased to launch the 2015 Research Trainee Program competition for post-doctoral fellowship awards.

This funding competition is open to applicants who are eligible to hold a post-doctoral fellow position at a BC-based host institution for the duration of the Research Trainee – Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award. Host institutions must have a signed memorandum of understanding with MSFHR.

At the time of application, applicants must commit at least 75 percent time to research training; this commitment does not include holding a full-time paid research position. Health professionals with active clinical service must commit at least 50 percent time to research training.

Competition guidelines are now available on the MSFHR website.

Note: The MSFHR ApplyNet system will open in early February 2015 to accept applications to this competition. Full application instructions and evaluation criteria will be posted at this time.

Letters of intent must be submitted by March 17, 2015. The deadline for receipt of full applications is April 20, 2015.

> Learn more: 2015 MSFHR Trainee Awards

“Our program review, currently underway, has validated the importance of MSFHR trainee awards as one of the cornerstones of building British Columbia’s capacity for world-class research,” said Bev Holmes, MSFHR vice-president, research & impact. “And for this trainee competition, as with our last scholar competition, we have amended the guidelines to also support applications from health professionals.”

MSFHR Trainee awards provide up to three years of salary support to help highly qualified post-doctoral fellows develop their skills. By supporting the training of young investigators, BC is well positioned to retain them as future health research leaders.  Since 2001, MSFHR has more than 1,200 trainee awards worth nearly $39 million.

As in previous years, MSFHR is working with partner organizations to jointly fund some awards. Confirmed partners will have their keywords included in MSFHR ApplyNet and applicants will be able to indicate if they are interested in being considered for a partnered award.  MSFHR will continue to seek out additional partners throughout the competition cycle so check our website regularly for an updated list of confirmed partners and keywords.

For more information on this funding competition, contact Rashmita Salvi at 604.714.2779 or rsalvi@msfhr.org.


// November 26, 2014
Dr. Christopher West (left) and Dr. John Kramer received 2014 Scholar Awards jointly funded by MSFHR and the Rick Hansen Institute.

Spinal cord injury and its accompanying loss of mobility have a devastating impact on the health and well-being of more than 86,000 Canadians.

While paralysis is the most widely recognized symptom, numerous secondary complications such as neuropathic pain, pressure ulcers, bladder infections, and cardiovascular dysfunction present complex care needs for individuals and their families.

Although these conditions remain difficult to treat, advances in research have led to therapeutic breakthroughs that are changing what it means to live with spinal cord injury.

At the leading edge of research into spinal cord injury is the Rick Hansen Institute (RHI). Based at Vancouver’s Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, RHI is committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.

RHI oversees several initiatives that support research collaboration across the spinal cord injury community.

The RHI Global Research Platform currently runs multi-site studies in over 40 locations across Canada and develops collaboration with research groups in the United States, Europe, Australia, China, and Israel. The Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry collects data and experiences from more than 4,000 Canadians, providing an invaluable resource for researchers and clinicians seeking to better understand spinal cord injury. In addition, RHI recently partnered with facilities in China, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel to expand the registry in those locations.

“The Rick Hansen Institute isn’t really an institute – it’s a network,” says Bill Barrable, chief executive officer of RHI. “It’s really about bringing together smart people, aggregating patients, doing clinical trials and best practice implementation with a guided objective of reducing paralysis and its impact.”

“One of the best investments that we could make”

An important part of RHI’s commitment to research has been its ongoing partnership with MSFHR to jointly fund BC researchers studying spinal cord injury and related conditions.

 “I think the Michael Smith awards are one of the best investments that we could make in terms of research in this province,” says Barrable. “To build that career path, to bring young people into science at an early stage and in a directed fashion by leveraging funds – it’s a very smart way to invest in people, in knowledge, in translation which ultimately leads to better outcomes for patients here and elsewhere.”

Since 2006, the organizations have partnered to support five researchers, including 2014 Scholar Award recipients Christopher West and John Kramer.

Kramer and West are focused on understanding specific secondary complications that affect individuals living with spinal cord injury.

West is studying how the heart changes after spinal cord injury and how these changes potentially influence illness and mortality. His research also seeks to understand the role of exercise in offsetting dysfunction of the heart after spinal cord injury.

The support of the Rick Hansen Institute will open the door to opportunities that will enhance the scope and impact of his research.

“If, for example, I wanted to look at a very large clinical trial to look at the effects of a particular type of exercise training, by being partnered with the Rick Hansen Institute, I can access other research centres across the country and really expand the number of participants I can recruit and the impact my research can have,” says West.

Kramer, who was also co-funded by RHI as a 2008 MSFHR Trainee, is studying neuropathic pain. These severe pain symptoms, which originate in parts of the body affected by paralysis, can be highly debilitating to individuals living with spinal cord injury. Kramer hopes his work to understand the causes of this pain will point the way to better treatments.

He credits the partnership for increasing his access to invaluable research resources such as the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry.

“It’s a fantastic partnership because this is the premier research institute that is reaching the greatest number of Canadians with spinal cord injury, so you immediately have these connections and the resources as well,” says Kramer.

“I think these partnered awards have been how I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten as far as my research goes and the position that I have now.”

Related links:


// November 26, 2014

MSFHR is co-hosting a one-day interactive forum scheduled for February 5, 2015, that will bring together the sectors involved in developing, implementing, and delivering digital health solutions to some of health care’s most pressing challenges for:

  • Youth with mental health conditions (ages 11-25)
  • Supporting seniors with complex care needs in their homes
  • Other areas consistent with health system priorities and the new Directions for Health Research in BC

Attendees will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn more about CIHR’s eHealth Innovations Partnership Program (eHIPP) funding opportunity and how to apply
  • Engage with individuals and organizations from the research, healthcare, education, government and technology sectors
  • Discuss enablers to successful cross-sectoral collaborations and jointly uncover potential solutions to key patient and system challenges. 

We invite interested individuals to learn more and register at www.msfhr.org/digital-health-forum.

Registration is free of charge, but space is limited.

Need more information or have questions? Contact Muneerah Kassam at mkassam@msfhr.org.


// November 25, 2014

BC has taken a significant step towards a more efficient and coordinated research ethics review process.

On December 1, a new model for harmonized ethics review of minimal-risk studies will begin pilot implementation, representing a major milestone in the ongoing BC Ethics Harmonization Initiative (BCEHI). The model has been endorsed by the senior leaders of the partner organizations for a six-month pilot implementation across their research ethics boards (REBs).

BCEHI aims to create streamlined, high-quality processes that encourage multi-jurisdictional human health research and remove impediments to collaborative research studies. The goal is to improve the timeliness and efficiency of ethics review to make BC a more attractive environment for research.

By allowing researchers to submit a single ethics application, regardless of the number of BC jurisdictions involved in a project, the new minimal-risk model will reduce the research team’s administrative workload and allow applications to be more efficiently reviewed and approved.

The minimal-risk model was developed collaboratively by members of the BCEHI Advisory Committee, building on work initiated by research ethics board chairs and administrators at a January 2014 forum. The Advisory Committee developed the criteria for identification of the Board of Record for each minimal-risk, harmonized review. The Board of Record is pivotal to the ethics review process and acts as the central contact for the research team and other REBs. A toolkit with documentation that defines the roles for participating REBs in a harmonized review, and documentation to support harmonized procedures, has also been created to support REB administrators and members and researchers during the pilot implementation.

In addition, work is underway on a harmonized review model for above-minimal-risk studies. Pilot implementation and evaluation of this model is expected to begin in early 2015.

Survey to provide insight into model’s effectiveness

To assess the effectiveness of the minimal-risk model in meeting BCEHI's priority objectives, an evaluation of the model processes will be undertaken throughout the pilot implementation.

An online survey has been developed that measures the minimal-risk ethics review process from beginning to end. Several factors will be measured in evaluating the model’s implementation. These include ease of use of the process for researchers, acceptability of the Board of Record review by other ethics boards, use and effectiveness of communication channels, and the workload associated with the harmonized process.  The data collected through the survey will allow improvement of the model and hopefully demonstrate its effectiveness to the research ethics community.  

Participants in the ethics review process for multi-jurisdictional studies will be invited to take part in the survey. Feedback is critical for gauging the model’s effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement.

Metrics will be gathered over the course of the pilot implementation. A final report will be provided to the Senior Leaders Team with recommendations for full implementation of the minimal-risk ethics review model.


// November 25, 2014

The Scientist Knowledge Translation Training (SKTT™) workshop co-hosted by MSFHR and Genome BC earlier this month was highly successful and drew a great mix of participants across all research pillars.

The two-day workshop, led by Drs. Melanie Barwick and Donna Lockett, was open to 2014 MSFHR Scholar Award holders and their teams, and individuals who are part of research projects funded by Genome BC.

“Participants in this workshop were a wonderful blend of new and seasoned researchers,” said Lockett. “For some, the workshop provided a new set of skills and perspective. For others, it offered an expansion and refinement of existing skills. The enthusiastic engagement that participants displayed, right to the very end of two long days, was an indicator of the most appropriate audience for our SKTT workshop.”

The workshop allowed participants to develop a fundamental skill set and competencies around creating and implementing a KT plan that can help generate research impact, promote research utilization, and ensure that research findings reach the appropriate audiences.

“I was pleased to hear that several participants reported they would be able to use a lot of what they learned during the workshop to strengthen the KT plans they were currently developing for grant applications,” said Jessica Collins, MSFHR knowledge translation coordinator.

If you are interested in future KT training opportunities, sign up for our e-newsletter Connections to stay up to date on the latest MSFHR news and program announcements.


// November 21, 2014
 MSFHR is proud to partner with Brain Canada, Genome BC, and the Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation on a $7.5M fund to seek solutions to Alzheimer’s disease.

Vancouver, BC – The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects men and women of all races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds.

Alzheimer's disease is a fatal, progressive and degenerative disease that destroys brain cells: it is not a normal part of aging and no one is immune. Alzheimer’s accounts for 64 per cent of all dementias in Canada and in BC affects up to 70,000 people.

In December 2013 four organizations came together to develop the British Columbia Alzheimer's Research Award Program. Brain Canada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), Genome British Columbia (Genome BC), and The Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation (PARF) put together a $7.5 million fund to seek solutions to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Today the collaborators of the program are pleased to announce five awardees from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU):

  • Mirza Faisal Beg (SFU) – Novel Retinal Biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease: Dr. Beg and his team aim to develop a new retina imaging device using laser light that could lead to an inexpensive, non-invasive and widely deployable retina exam that could be used to screen individuals on a regular basis for the earliest signs of amyloid in the retina indicative of Alzheimer’s. (Award: $1.5 million)
  • Neil Cashman (UBC) – Structures, Immunology in Alzheimer’s disease: Dr. Cashman’s team will further his lab’s recent discoveries in targeting toxic Abeta oligomers for diagnostics and therapeutics in Alzheimer’s disease. (Award: $1.5 million)
  • James Johnson (UBC) – Does reduced brain insulin production underlie common forms of Alzheimer's disease?: Dr. Johnson and his team will test the hypothesis that insulin produced in the brain is a critical factor for the survival and function of brain cells in the context of both a genetic change that increases Alzheimer’s risk and a diet that increases Alzheimer’s risk. (Award: $1.05 million)
  • Christian Naus (UBC) – Improving the neighbourhood for brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease: Dr. Naus’s team aims to identify unique new drugs which will not only directly target neurons but also enhance the astrocytes’ abilities to protect neurons that are vulnerable to degeneration in Alzheimer’s. (Award: $1.5 million)
  • David Vocadlo (SFU) - Moving Alzheimer’s therapeutic strategy to the clinic: Dr. Vocadlo and his team aim to address the key challenges that would clear the way for a promising new therapeutic target to enable the rapid advance of optimized molecules into formal toxicology studies and downstream trials. (Award: $1.5 million)

The creativity and vision of these teams offers hope for patients suffering from this incredibly devastating disease.

> Backgrounder: Project Details (PDF)


“Government is committed to supporting those living with dementia and recognizes the importance of research and working collaboratively in finding a cure. I congratulate the award program recipients and know their contributions will help make a difference in the lives of people with the disease as well as their family and friends.”

  • Terry Lake, BC Health Minister

“Alzheimer’s disease has a very real impact on families here in British Columbia and throughout Canada – from those who suffer from it, to those who support loved ones with the disease. Our Government is proud to support research projects that will improve our knowledge of neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s. I would like to congratulate today’s B.C. research award recipients for taking a lead on this important research.”

  • Honourable James Moore, Minister Responsible for British Columbia, on behalf of the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, Government of Canada

“As someone who is living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease my passion is advocating for myself and others while shattering stereotypes around the disease. These research projects are key to advancing therapies and diagnostic tools for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia: investment into research is critical to our struggle and offers us greater hope than before."

  • Jim Mann, Alzheimer Advocate

“Further to our announcement with the Hon. Rona Ambrose on September 12th, the funding we are announcing today showcases British Columbia’s important contributions to the Canadian and global effort to understand the brain and brain diseases. Brain Canada thanks Genome BC, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation, whose support is being matched by the Government of Canada. This significant investment in Alzheimer research in BC is a testament to the success of the Canada Brain Research Fund public-private partnership model. The investment will bring hope to the nearly 15% of Canadians over the age of 65—or about 750,000—who are living with cognitive impairment including dementia, as well as to families and caregivers, who are devoting about 444 million unpaid hours per year.”

  • Inez Jabalpurwala, President and CEO, Brain Canada

“We are proud to have spearheaded the creation of this partnership with $1.5 million from the Government of British Columbia targeted to advance research into biological causes and therapeutic treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The five teams that have been funded by this award represent the best researchers in this field in BC and their research projects hold the promise of great advances in our ability to understand and treat this devastating disease.”

  • Diane Finegood, President and CEO, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

“Genome BC is investing in research that matters to British Columbians. With our aging population and the burden of dementia on the healthcare system this research is of vital importance with genomics playing a key role in discovery and management of the disease: the range of potential applications from these research projects covers the spectrum from diagnostic tools to disease triggers and treatments.”

  • Alan Winter, President and CEO, Genome BC

“This opportunity to invest in Alzheimer's disease research is extremely welcome particularly with the strong partnerships involved from British Columbia and Brain Canada. The application of research to making a difference to persons affected by this insidiously progressive neurodegenerative disorder is imperative and BC researchers will have an impact.”

  • B. Lynn Beattie, President, The Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation

About Brain Canada

Brain Canada is a national non-profit organization that enables and supports excellent, innovative, paradigm-changing brain research in Canada.  For more than one decade, Brain Canada has made the case for the brain as a single, complex system with commonalities across the range of neurological disorders, mental illnesses and addictions, brain and spinal cord injuries.  Looking at the brain as one system has underscored the need for increased collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and a smarter way to invest in brain research that is focused on outcomes that will benefit patients and families. www.braincanada.ca

The Canada Brain Research Fund is a public-private partnership designed to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research, and maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments. Brain Canada has committed to raising $100 million from private and non-governmental sources, which will be matched by government on a 1:1 basis. The Fund was announced in federal budget 2011, which proposed to “allocate up to $100 million to establish the Canada Brain Research Fund, which will support the very best Canadian neuroscience, fostering collaborative research and accelerating the pace of discovery, in order to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.”

About Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research empowers British Columbia’s (BC) best and brightest health researchers to pursue world-class innovation and stretch the bounds of what health research can achieve. Since its inception in 2001, MSFHR has received over $392 million from government to bolster BC’s capacity to develop new treatments and cures; help BC’s health system be more effective and responsive to emerging health threats; and keep BC’s health research sector globally competitive. The Foundation helps BC’s health research community discover solutions to our greatest health challenges; connect knowledge and action; and engage partners to address provincial priorities. Learn more at www.msfhr.org.

About Genome British Columbia

Genome British Columbia is a catalyst for the life sciences cluster on Canada’s West Coast, and manages a cumulative portfolio of over $660M in 211 research projects and science and technology platforms. Working with governments, academia and industry across sectors such as forestry, fisheries, agriculture, environment, bioenergy, mining and human health, the goal of the organization is to generate social and economic benefits for British Columbia and Canada. Genome BC is supported by the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada and more than 300 international public and private co-funding partners.  www.genomebc.ca

About The Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation

The mission of The Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation (PARF) is to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  PARF is endeavoring to do this as the result of a grant from the Government of British Columbia and donations from private individuals.  PARF will support scientists whose aim is to achieve this objective. PARF will assist universities, hospitals and other qualified British Columbia institutions to recruit investigators who will devote their efforts to eradicating Alzheimer disease and related dementias. www.parf.ca


Media Contact:
Jennifer Boon
Communications Specialist, Genome BC
Phone: 778-327-8374
Email: jboon@genomebc.ca


// November 14, 2014

There’s no doubt about it – patient engagement is hot. It’s the focus of conferences, reports, websites, and entire organizations. But how do we maximize its potential? Patient representative Colleen McGavin and MSFHR Vice-President, Research & Impact, Bev Holmes spoke at Northern Health Research Days earlier this month on how research can support increased patient engagement.


Patient engagement is happening all over in BC – in our health authorities and non-profit organizations, as well as through the ImpactBC-led Patient Voices Network and other programs funded by the Ministry of Health’s Patients as Partners initiative.

But even those most involved agree there’s a lot to learn.

Fortunately, there is increasing convergence on some important issues related to patient engagement. There seems to be wide support for the notion of “patient” as broader than someone experiencing illness at any given moment; family members as caregivers and the public as health system users are included in the definition.

Similarly, “engagement” is seen as broad – and active. It happens at an individual level, with people engaged in their own care, and at the organization and system levels, with people engaged in developing and improving services, programs, policies and funding decisions.

Finally, we seem to agree that not all engagement is equal. Consultation (giving input); involvement (rolling up your sleeves); and shared leadership (an equal say in decisions) are all valid but very different forms of engagement.

As well as this convergence, there’s a growing evidence base on what works in patient engagement, and an emerging sense of what we don’t yet know. Drawing on the literature – and specifically three recent examples of patient engagement research (lead authors Ross Baker, Antoine Boivin and Kathy Kovacs Burns) – we offer a few more thoughts on both these areas.

What do we know?

Engaging the right people for the right reasons is crucial. What is the goal of the engagement, who should be at the table, and what knowledge and experience are participants expected to contribute?

Patient engagement needs resources: time, money, infrastructure, skills. If we’re serious about patient engagement, we have to invest in it and support all participants – including health professionals and leaders – to play their part.   

There are some good models for patient engagement – BC is a leader through Patients as Partners – so we probably don’t need to develop more. Similarly, we know a lot about the barriers, and can now focus on overcoming them.

We’re starting to understand the benefits, albeit mostly through isolated case studies.  As far as evaluation, indicators of success are emerging (see for example the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement’s measurement framework).

And of course there’s the small matter of a culture shift. People agree with patient engagement in principle, but it will need changes in attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and behaviour, as well as infrastructure support, to be successful. 

What do we need to know?

We need a better understanding of the connection between patient engagement and outcomes. What are the mechanisms by which engagement translates into better decisions, services or care?  How do we set realistic goals for patient engagement?

How best can we recruit and support people? Statistical representativeness is important, but with smaller initiatives, people need to be able to speak on behalf of others. Once recruited and involved, how should we reward patients for service?

Researchers and practitioners emphasize the need to study how patient engagement unfolds in ‘real time.’ We have good theoretical models on the one hand, and good practical patient engagement on the other, but theory and practice could be better linked.

We’re learning about patient engagement at a project and organizational level, but what about the broader social context? What are some of the attitudes and beliefs – as well as system level structures and policies – that may influence success?

Opportunity knocks?

BC has an opportunity to develop a patient engagement research agenda – a concerted, collective effort to answer questions of importance to all of us – as part of two provincial initiatives. First, through Directions for Health Research, the provincial health research strategy facilitated by MSFHR, which includes a number of actions on the theme of patient engagement.  And second, through BC’s SUPPORT Unit, part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR).

Further reading:


// November 7, 2014
An illustration from E. Paul Zehr's new book, "Project Superhero" (illustration by Kris Pearn)

Our guest blogger this week is 2003 MSFHR Scholar E. Paul Zehr. As a professor of neuroscience at the University of Victoria, Zehr uses topics related to pop culture (such as Batman and Iron Man) to engage the public and communicate complex scientific concepts about the human body.

More blog posts: Spark >> A BC Health Research Blog


As someone who is passionate about translating scientific knowledge for a wider audience, I use superheroes as tools to explain scientific concepts.

In my pop-sci writing, mainly for Scientific American and Psychology Today magazines, and in my earlier books Becoming Batman and Inventing Iron Man, I was trying to reach a general public audience anywhere from 18 to 80+ years of age (see my earlier Spark blog post).  

Since publishing Becoming Batman in 2008, I’ve been invited to speak in schools across Canada. I’ve spoken with thousands of kids covering the entire K-12 range, but mostly clustered around middle school grades 6 to 8. During those talks, I paid very careful attention to the kinds of questions I was asked and who was asking them.

It turns out that a lot of the questions were coming from girls. Many wanted to know if I’d ever write something specifically for “them”. Them, in this context, meant girls aged 10-15, a group who often begin to drift away from science and mathematics. In response, I wrote my latest book called Project Superhero.

Published in fall 2014, Project Superhero is a “hybrid” fiction/non-fiction book written in diary style and specifically aimed at tween girls. Facts about human physiology, exercise training, and nutrition are combined with the fictional story of my protagonist Jessie and her friends during her grade 8 year.

In Project Superhero, Jessie is working on a year-long school assignment where each student chooses a superhero to explore. She chooses Batgirl and finds many of the compelling issues found in Batman. That is, the concept of hard work and extremely dedicated training taking human ability to the maximum — regardless of gender. She goes beyond just the theoretical understanding of Batgirl’s physical capacity and begins to learn about martial arts and good nutrition. She realizes she’s not really going to become an actual superhero, but discovers that her potential greatly exceeds any limitations she ever imagined constraining her.

Jessie learns about the wondrous science of the human body but in a subtle way. More importantly, though, what began as a book trying to frame science in more engaging way morphed into a book with lots of themes about female empowerment. Jessie finds that many of the limitations society places on us are false limits that can — by diligent effort — be overcome.

The roadmap for a healthy future needs explicit efforts aimed at encouraging young girls to maintain and explore fully their early interests in science. This group in particular needs the reinforced message that, as 13-year-old Jessie concludes in Project Superhero, “there really is a superhero in me.”


// October 30, 2014

As we head into November, men everywhere are bracing themselves (and their upper lips) for another season of “Movember”. 

An annual campaign that began in Australia in 2003, Movember is a movement to raise awareness of men’s health issues. Men are encouraged to raise funds from their family and friends by growing moustaches during the month. All proceeds raised by the Movember Foundation benefit men’s health research programs, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health.

As lead investigator of the Men’s Health Research Program at the University of British Columbia and an Australian himself, it seems fitting that Dr. John Oliffe is a huge supporter of Movember. Since receiving a scholar award from MSFHR in 2006, he has made great strides in his efforts to improve the mental health of men living with depression.

The funding Oliffe has received from MSFHR has enabled him (and his co-PI John Ogrodniczuk, a UBC professor in Psychiatry) to attract funding from Movember to establish the Men’s Depression and Suicide Network, comprising of five projects dedicated to reducing men’s depression and male suicide. Oliffe contends that depression is often overlooked by clinicians in men’s health. “There are many stigmas that exist against men and depression,” Oliffe says. His network intends to raise awareness and remove some of those stigmas.

Oliffe states that his award from MSFHR has tremendously impacted the scope and quality of his research.

“Without the award from the Michael Smith Foundation, I would not have had the ability to focus on this research in the last eight years,” says Oliffe.

Within the same year, he also received a New Investigator award from CIHR. Oliffe says that both awards enabled him to stay in Canada and research in British Columbia and helped him leverage further funds; last year, wherein the network received $3 million in funding from the Movember Foundation.

Oliffe is encouraging men to help raise awareness for men’s mental health issues by participating in Movember. When asked if he is planning on sporting a moustache this November, Oliffe simply says he will try. His preferred moustache style? A visible one.  

To read more about Dr. Oliffe’s MSFHR-funded research: www.msfhr.org/john-oliffe or visit www.menshealthresearch.ubc.ca


// October 27, 2014

Breast cancer researcher Dr. Samuel Aparicio has been named the winner of the fifth annual Aubrey J. Tingle Prize.

Created in honour of MSFHR’s founding president & CEO, this award is given to a British Columbia researcher whose work in health research is internationally recognized and has significant impact on advancing clinical or health services and policy research.

“Dr. Aparicio is an internationally recognized breast cancer and genomics scholar who has led landmark studies that have revolutionized the field of molecular oncology,” says Dr. Diane Finegood, MSFHR president & CEO. “His research projects, including the world’s largest global study of breast cancer tissue, have had far-reaching impacts on diagnosing and treating breast cancer.”

Dr. Aparicio’s research program encompasses the fields of cancer genomics, mouse genetic models, high-throughput screens, and translational breast cancer research.

His most recent work on the molecular taxonomy of breast cancer led to identification of new genes that could change the way breast cancer is diagnosed, and form the basis of next-generation treatments. This discovery was preceded by another breakthrough in decoding the genetic makeup of the most-deadly form of breast cancer, known as triple-negative subtype.

Dr. Aparicio is also interested in tumour heterogeneity, and is involved in developing genomically and clonally characterised xenograft models of breast cancer. He collaborates widely with other groups, with current projects including the genomic and biochemical analysis of lymphoma, ovarian cancer, and several rare pediatric cancers.

His contributions to academic research have been widely published in scientific and clinical journals such as Nature, Science, Cell and the New England Journal of Medicine. He is the recipient of numerous awards from academic as well as industrial institutions.

He is the Nan & Lorraine Robertson Chair in Breast Cancer Research and a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Oncology at the University of British Columbia and the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada. He is also Head of the BCCA’s Department of Breast and Molecular Oncology, and a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC.

Dr. Aparicio will receive the $10,000 award at an MSFHR event to be scheduled in the coming weeks.