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// 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.


// October 23, 2014

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) is pleased to announce that a funding competition for trainee awards is scheduled to launch Friday, November 28.

Trainee awards are one of the cornerstones of MSFHR’s investment in building British Columbia’s capacity for world-class research. These 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.

The 2015 trainee award 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.

Competition guidelines will be posted to MSFHR's website on November 28. Applicants will be able to access the MSFHR ApplyNet system in early 2015. Applicants are required to have an MSFHR ApplyNet account to manage all aspects of their submission. Application deadlines will be communicated as soon as they are confirmed.

A formal announcement of the competition’s launch will be circulated on November 28. To ensure you receive this notification, subscribe to MSFHR’s mailing list.

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.


// October 16, 2014

By pointing the way to better diagnosis and treatment – and hopefully an eventual cure – research is vitally important to improving the lives of the more than 40,000 British Columbians living with schizophrenia.

“The only way schizophrenia is going to be ‘beat’ – if you will – in the long term is through more understanding, ranging from basic chemistry up to helping people cope in their day-to-day life,” says Gerhart Pahl, chair of the BC Schizophrenia Society Foundation*.

“We believe heavily in research, and for those of us who have the illness in our family, we are looking to research to someday beat this disease.”

Funding research is one of four areas of focus for the society and its foundation – along with education, advocacy, and support for families. This investment in research, which makes important contributions to the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of schizophrenia, is supported in part through a strategic partnership with MSFHR.

Since 2013, the two organizations have jointly funded three BC researchers whose work is helping to reveal the underlying mechanisms of schizophrenia and enhance the treatment of this devastating illness. The shared goal is ultimately to mitigate schizophrenia’s human and economic toll.

University of Victoria neuroscientist Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne, a 2014 MSFHR Scholar, is the latest beneficiary of this partnership.

Swayne’s research is focused on two main areas. The first is the role that complex proteins called ion channels play in brain development, injury, and repair. The second is how these same ion channels transmit the electrical signals that underlie the beating of the heart and how mutations in the proteins in the ion channel can lead to certain heart conditions.

“Increasing our understanding of the roles of ion channels in the developing brain might give us further insights into neuro-developmental diseases such as schizophrenia and autism,” Swayne says.

“I’m very excited about this award, most importantly the positive impact it will have on my research program.”

“We essentially double what we can do”

For the BC Schizophrenia Society and its supporting foundation, the partnership helps stretch donor contributions even further through the availability of matching funds.

“If there was a project that needed a hundred thousand dollars, we would have to come up with a hundred thousand dollars,” says Pahl. “But now, with our relationship, we would perhaps pay fifty thousand dollars, and the Michael Smith Foundation would fund the other fifty.

“We essentially double what we can do, so this is a very enticing and important part for us.”

Pahl also notes that partnering with MSFHR allows the society to support research without having to organize a peer-reviewed competition and coordinate award administration, both of which can be nearly impossible for small organizations with limited resources to conduct effectively.

“We don’t have this expertise and capability, but we still wish to continue funding research. It is important to us,” Pahl says. He adds that the partnership with MSFHR, which provides this expertise, provides assurance that these critical components of the research funding process will be carried out in a thorough and professional manner.

The BC Schizophrenia Society was founded in 1982 by families and friends of people with schizophrenia. Since then, the society has grown into a province-wide family support system with 24 branches and more than 2,800 members.

In addition to supporting research through partnership with MSFHR, the society has also raised the funds to endow the schizophrenia research chair at UBC.

Related links

* Note: The BC Schizophrenia Society Foundation raises funds for schizophrenia-related research and the programs and services offered by the BC Schizophrenia Society.


// October 16, 2014

Blog post by Sherel Loo; video by Chelsea Noel

This summer marked MSFHR’s fifth consecutive year of supporting Shad Valley’s annual enrichment program, designed for students in grades 10, 11, and 12 with an interest in science, technology, engineering, math and entrepreneurship.

Students who are accepted into the program spend four weeks living on campus at one of 12 leading Canadian universities. During that time, they participate in workshops and lectures that are academically stimulating, as well as team-building exercises and recreational activities to ensure a balanced experience. In short, it’s a fantastic combination of hard work and play.

Not just anyone can participate in the program. A typical student demonstrates high academic achievement, exceptional drive, initiative, creativity, and entrepreneurial flair.

For the second time, I had the pleasure of attending UBC’s open house in July. The open house is held on the last day of the Shad program and includes a project showcase, luncheon, and variety show. Students were tasked with designing a new product or service in line with this year’s theme: "Living Large with a Small Footprint".

Shad students were asked to consider how changing values and dwindling resources are changing what "the good life" looks like. Their creative projects were showcased on this day to their peers, visiting parents and friends, and supporters of Shad.

While most students return home to enjoy the rest of summer, a select few get the additional opportunity to complete an internship. This year, my colleagues Rashmita Salvi and Michelle Ng paired Amy Han and Robyn Lee with two MSFHR Scholars.

Upon getting to know Robyn and Amy, I quickly saw the value of these internships. Both students were exposed to new experiences outside classroom walls, and it was clear they were intrigued by health research. A seed has been planted in these bright, young students, and they may eventually pursue a career in science or health research.

Below is a brief summary of their internship experiences.

Amy Han

Amy HanHigh school: West Vancouver Secondary School
Internship supervisor: Dr. Amori Mikami, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia


Amy was thrilled when she learned about her internship. Having gone through what she considered a transformational experience at Shad Waterloo, she was keen to continue that momentum. Amy always had an interest in the human mind and mental health, so this internship was a good fit. She was also hoping to get exposure on how research is done in a university lab setting.

Amori’s current study involves helping parents of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) make friends. Children with ADHD have a particularly challenging time making good, close friendships. Because the interactions between Amori and her participants (parents, kids and teachers) happen during the school year, the summer months are spent processing the data. Amy was therefore instrumental in helping Amori process the data collected from the first cohort of families. This included observing and recording the parents’ behaviours towards their kids, their interactions with each other, what the kids said about themselves, and what their teachers said about them.

Because this is a new study, Amy had an opportunity to provide input on how best to capture and categorize the data. The summarized results then helped illustrate similarities and differences between parents and their kids, giving Amori’s team a better understanding of the data.

This internship exceeded Amy’s expectations. She saw firsthand how much data can be required for a research study, how the data is processed, and what programs and methods are used. She also got the chance to experience everything behind-the-scenes and gained insights into what a health research career could look like — something you don’t get a flavour of in a high school classroom setting.

“I've never seen kids with ADHD firsthand, so it was really eye-opening being able to watch them interact with their parents. I would then code their behaviours, tones, and approaches accordingly. What I found even more interesting was seeing parents teach their kids strategies on how to make friends as well as how to maintain those relationships."

>> Amy Han

Robyn Lee

Robyn LeeHigh school: Burnaby Mountain Secondary School
Internship supervisor: Dr. Jodi Viljoen, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University
 

Lab coats and pipettes. That’s what came to Robyn’s mind when she found out she landed an internship in a health research lab. Little did she know, her time with Jodi would be far from that.

During her stint in Jodi’s lab, Robyn was exposed to many new things. For starters, Jodi introduced her to the clinical tools and measures her team uses in their research to examine mental disorders in adolescents and health-related outcomes such as violence, victimization and self-harm. While these tools typically take Jodi’s undergrads a couple of months to learn, she was impressed with Robyn’s ability to grasp key concepts in one day. As part of the practical component, Robyn used these tools to perform some of the mental health screening inventories — a comprehensive measure of mental health and personality, a violence risk assessment tool for adolescents, and an adolescent treatment guide.

In addition to learning the clinical tools and measures, and developing research questions, Robyn job shadowed Jodi and her grad students, giving her the opportunity to learn more about research methodology, data analysis, and what drew the various team members to health research. Robyn prepared a conference poster based on some of her data analysis and returned to SFU last month to present the results of her project to the team.

“As part of Robyn’s mini research project, I had her develop her own research questions. I was particularly impressed with her ideas because she was able to provide an adolescent lens to our research. I thought this was a good way to expose Robyn to our research and to teach her what research methodology in health sciences is all about.”

>> Jodi Viljoen


// October 15, 2014

A new report examines the implementation of clinical care management (CCM) guidelines as a case study for understanding how to achieve large-scale change within British Columbia’s health system.

Clinical care management is an area of focus in the BC Ministry of Health’s Innovation and Change Agenda. Its goal is to implement a guideline-driven, evidence-informed system that will improve the quality, safety, and consistency of key clinical services and improve patient experiences of care.

To date, 11 clinical care areas have been identified for guideline implementation in BC; however, the approach to implementation varies within each health authority, depending on the local context.

The report outlines factors that help or hinder province-wide implementation of CCM guidelines in different contexts. It is informed by focus group sessions and interviews with CCM implementation experience, including clinicians, administrators, senior executives, and board members from every health authority in the province.

Initial findings of these sessions were validated through an online survey distributed to individuals with CCM implementation experience.

Based on this consultation process, two sets of recommendations were developed. The first provides action-oriented strategies for improving the success of future CCM initiatives. The second outlines a series of six broad guidelines and supporting strategies for managing large-scale transformation within BC’s health system.

The study was conducted by InSource Research Group following a competitive call for applications facilitated by MSFHR. Funding was provided by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council and administered by MSFHR.

> Download the report (PDF)


// October 9, 2014

More than ever, health researchers are being called upon to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. In an era of constrained resources and increasingly complex problems, it is important that research efforts be coordinated for maximum impact in addressing the challenges facing our health system.

Over the past two years, a concerted effort has been underway to develop a provincial strategy that will support greater coherence and a common understanding of priorities among BC’s health research community.

A new summary document published this month — Directions for Health Research in BC — represents the culmination of the first stage of this process.

The document provides insight into BC’s health research landscape and sets out a vision, strategic directions, and actions that are vital to establishing a strong, coherent, and effective research enterprise. It aims to create a road map for building on BC’s accomplishments over the past decade while anticipating changes to the evolving health and research landscapes.

The document outlines three strategic directions for health research in BC:

  • develop and enhance key foundations that support the creation and use of knowledge;
  • create a culture of inquiry and innovation across sectors that encourages health research and its use; and
  • make BC a hub for world-class research that makes a difference.

These strategies and their supporting actions will reduce unnecessary duplication of services, encourage collaboration between researchers, patients, health providers, and decision-makers, and enhance BC’s ability to attract investments in health research.

From strategy to action

Progress has been made on several initiatives that will advance actions outlined in the strategy document.

In June, the provincial government announced that it is working on a data resource centre that will pull from the many existing government data sources to serve as an invaluable tool for health researchers. This centre supports one of the document’s main actions, focused on creating a common data platform for BC.

In July, BC’s business case for a provincial support unit under CIHR’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research was submitted for approval. Once established, the support unit will be a driver of several of the actions outlined in the provincial health research strategy.

Currently, the BC Ethics Harmonization Initiative is proceeding with plans for a harmonized ethics review model that will support elements of the strategy. Work is also underway within the BC Ministry of Health to develop an academic health sciences network that will bring research closer to patient care.

Creating the road map

The process of developing a provincial health research strategy began in April 2012 with a meeting of BC’s health research and health care leaders. At this meeting, MSFHR was endorsed to consult with the community and facilitate the strategy’s development.

A planning team led by MSFHR undertook extensive environmental scanning, supplemented by a consultation process that included regional workshops, key informant interviews, focus sessions, and an online survey.

Throughout the project, an advisory board of senior health system and health research leaders provided advice and direction to the planning team.

To learn more about the consultation process and the strategy’s evolution, visit www.bchealthresearchstrategy.ca

> Download "Directions for Health Research in BC"


// October 1, 2014

MSFHR and Genome BC are partnering to bring the highly regarded Scientist Knowledge Translation Training (SKTT™) workshop back to Vancouver.

The two-day course, scheduled for November 6 and 7, is open to individuals who have received a 2014 MSFHR Scholar Award or are part of a research project funded by Genome BC. Participants will develop the skills required to create a knowledge translation (KT) plan that can help generate research impact, promote the use of research results, and ensure that research findings reach the appropriate audiences.

The workshop is an important part of MSFHR’s commitment to enhancing the KT skills of its funded researchers.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Foundation, as it represents the first time we’ve offered knowledge translation training specifically for our Scholar Award recipients,” said Gayle Scarrow, MSFHR’s knowledge translation manager. “Helping our researchers build these skills will increase both the potential impact of their work and KT capacity in the province.”

There is growing recognition that dedicated resources and expertise are needed to increase the use of health research evidence in practice and policy. In response, research funders and the users of research evidence are placing greater emphasis on helping researchers develop the skills and networks required for effective knowledge translation.

The Scientist Knowledge Translation Training (SKTT™) Workshop is led by Drs. Melanie Barwick and Donna Lockett of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The course was initially developed to help SickKids scientists develop their knowledge translation skills, but is equally suited to other practitioners, educators, and decision-makers in community-based organizations and government. Learn more about the course and its instructors.


// September 30, 2014
New MSFHR board members Suromitra Sanatani (left) and Joan Young (right).

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is pleased to announce the appointment of Suromitra Sanatani and Joan Young to its board of directors.

The incoming directors bring with them a wealth of experience from across the health, business, and government sectors.

Sanatani is current Chair of the Royal BC Museum and a director with Canadian Blood Services and the Victoria Airport Authority. She has previously served on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the federal Advisory Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research, and the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Institute board of directors. Sanatani also played a pivotal role in establishing Partnerships BC and served as Vice-President, Corporate and Government Relations for this crown corporation specializing in public-private partnerships.

Young is a partner and senior litigator at McMillan, LLP, one of Canada’s largest law firms. As a former Legal Advisor to the Office of the Premier and Special Assistant to the Attorney General, she has significant public sector experience serving on both the policy and legal sides of the Ministry of Attorney General for eight years. Young previously held appointments as a director of the Victoria Airport Authority, the Food Innovation Centre of BC, and the Vancouver Island Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The new directors’ appointments were approved by the MSFHR board at its September 26 annual general meeting.

The meeting also marked the retirement of Dr. Martin Taylor from the MSFHR board of directors. Over the course of nine years, Taylor served terms as chair, vice-chair, and past-chair, in addition to chairing the board’s finance committee and nominating and governance committee. His considerable efforts have made a lasting impact on MSFHR, and the Foundation thanks him for his many contributions.


// September 26, 2014

Bev Holmes, MSFHR’s Vice-President, Research & Impact, was one of the speakers at the fifth annual InspireNet conference, Connect 2014, held in Vancouver on Sept. 22. The theme of this year’s conference was "Using Research to Improve Health Care - Change, Challenge and Opportunity in Knowledge Translation (KT)".

InspireNet is an MSFHR-funded network of over 3,300 researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, educators and students working together to improve health services in British Columbia, Canada.


Organizers of this year’s InspireNet conference posed a challenging question to the closing panel as my colleagues and I wrapped up the day’s events on September 22.

With researchers Drs. Sharon Straus (Professor, University of Toronto Department of Medicine) and Anne Sales (Professor, University of Michigan School of Nursing), I was asked to reflect on:

  • How can we improve integrated and end-of-grant knowledge translation (KT) in health care?

The question is challenging for a couple of reasons: first, there’s almost no end of answers. And second, it sounds straightforward, but it’s not. From the perspective of a funder, I spoke about what this question raised for me…which was more questions!

Who is the “we” that should be improving KT? The research community? Policy-makers? British Columbians? There doesn’t seem to be enough thinking about who is responsible for what in KT. Even if “we” meant everyone in the audience that day, we all wear many hats: student, care-provider or clinician, patient, members of organizations, and more.

Does everyone have to be good at KT?  Researchers and their health care partners, for all their expertise and experience, are not necessarily the people who should be developing and implementing communications plans, talking to politicians, or taking a product to market. Nor do they have the “levers” that may be needed to change rules and regulations so their findings can be applied.

Many funders emphasize the full continuum of research-to-practice in competitions, but perhaps we’re encouraging simplistic thinking about what it takes to move evidence into practice.

As I thought about these points more, it made me question whether the distinction between end-of-grant and integrated KT always helpful.

Regardless of what KT they’re doing, research teams need to think about engaging their stakeholders audiences from the beginning. A focus on the end-of-grant KT concept may lead to overuse of resources on communications products at the study’s close – not the most strategic way to get a message across and effect change.

At the other end of the spectrum, the concept of integrated KT – working with “knowledge users” throughout the study – makes it sound like implementation is covered. Working with knowledge users makes research more relevant, but it doesn’t guarantee uptake. Perhaps a better approach is to ask “who needs to do what KT, when and how, in order for this project to meet its objectives?"

Finally, should funders be more realistic about the outcomes we expect from researchers?  

Competition for funding leads to claims about how crucial a project is, and what great things it will accomplish – quickly. There’s also pressure to publicize findings widely, usually in isolation of other studies. It’s all but impossible to learn from mistakes when all everyone wants to hear about is success.

By reflecting on these issues more deeply, all of us who are involved in health research can do our part to improve integrated and end-of-grant KT in health care.


// September 17, 2014
Connections >> An MSFHR Update - September 2014

Connections is MSFHR's monthly e-newsletter. Each issue highlights the top MSFHR news from the past month and showcases the impact of research we've funded.


In this issue:

Feature

MSFHR News

Career Opportunities


B.C. government provides $11 million for health research

Patients and researchers will benefit from a new $11-million grant from the provincial government to the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR).

"This funding will help the Foundation maintain the global competitiveness of B.C.'s health research sector," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research helps support solutions to our more pressing health problems by funding the best and brightest researchers and spearheading significant projects to address health system priorities."

In July, the Foundation awarded 32 leaders in health research with MSFHR Scholar Awards totalling up to $11.2 million over five years. These awards, a flagship program for MSFHR, have a proven impact on health research in B.C. Since 2001, MSFHR Scholars have attracted more than $1.1 billion in additional investments to B.C.'s research community and trained more than 4,700 apprentices.

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MSFHR partners on $31.5M national dementia research initiative

MSFHR is proud to partner on a new national initiative that will tackle the growing prevalence of dementia and related illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease.

The Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), announced September 10 by federal health minister Rona Ambrose, brings together 20 research teams and experts from across Canada to focus on preventing and delaying the onset of dementia as well as improving the quality of life for Canadians affected by these illnesses.

The initiative is supported by a national partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and 13 organizations from the public and private sectors, including MSFHR. Total funding of $31.5 million over five years has been committed by the Government of Canada and the partner organizations.

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Report highlights best practices in seniors' home care

Evidence-based lessons and objectives for improving B.C. seniors' home care are outlined in a new report that summarizes best practices from around the world.

The report synthesizes findings from an international forum on home care convened in January by MSFHR and the B.C. Ministry of Health. Six international experts were invited to Vancouver to speak about home care practice in their respective countries, offering an important opportunity for BC policy-makers and researchers to learn how other jurisdictions are providing sustainable home care for seniors.

All presentations and subsequent discussions are summarized in the report, which is available for download.

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New website supports ethics harmonization

A new website that will act as the primary portal for news, resources, and information about the BC Ethics Harmonization Initiative is now available at www.bcethics.ca.

The launch of this website is an important step for BCEHI. It will support public communication about the initiative and provide resources to help researchers, research ethics board administrators, and reviewers understand and implement harmonized approaches to ethics review.

MSFHR is actively working with BCEHI's partner organizations to facilitate the development and implementation of harmonized ethics review models for research involving human subjects. A harmonized ethics review model for minimal-risk studies has been endorsed by the partner organizations' senior leadership for pilot implementation and evaluation over six months, starting in October.

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MSFHR supports upcoming conferences

MSFHR is pleased to support two events in September that will advance dialogue on health and health research.

  • Connect 2014
    September 22
    Coast Plaza Hotel & Suites, Vancouver

    InspireNet's fifth annual fall conference is focused on the challenges and opportunities in using research to improve health care. All researchers, clinicians, policy-makers, students/trainees, and individuals with an interest in health services research are encouraged to attend. Speakers include MSFHR's Diane Finegood (president & CEO), Bev Holmes (vice-president, research & impact), and Lori Last (director, communications).
  • Interface 2014
    September 29-30
    Vancouver Convention Centre West

    Interface is the only digital health international summit in Canada that brings together health, technology, design, social media, and business. Speakers will include leading experts, innovators, and creative thinkers on the future of health, including MSFHR President & CEO Diane Finegood. Connections readers can save $100 by using the code MSFHR14 before September 26.

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Career opportunities

Evaluation Lead

MSFHR is seeking an Evaluation Lead (permanent, full-time) to join our Impact Analysis team.

You are passionate about the value and power of evaluation. Reporting to the Director, Impact Analysis, your primary responsibility is to implement the new organizational evaluation strategy.

Deadline: September 28, 2014

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