Connections >> April 2013

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.

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In this issue:

MSFHR News

Research Roundup

MSFHR People


BC Epilepsy Society and MSFHR partner to maximize health research dollars

A strategic partnership between MSFHR and the BC Epilepsy Society has helped give epilepsy researcher Dr. Stuart Cain a vital connection to those directly impacted by his research. As the recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship jointly funded by the two organizations, Cain, a 2011 MSFHR Trainee,  has been able to share his work beyond the research community and engage with the BC Epilepsy Society though a number of channels.


Focusing on health research strategy consultation

March and April have seen the consultation plan for the BC health research strategy move into action. In March, small working groups reviewed the five strategic directions proposed as a framework for the strategy and offered input into the rationale, current status, and potential actions for each. A number of consultation activities will be taking place in the coming weeks, starting with a series of focus sessions being held the last few days of April. The focus sessions will be followed by an online survey in May and regional workshops in June.


Understanding how a SUPPORT Unit can help BC

In a parallel process to the consultation activities underway to support the BC health research strategy, MSFHR is facilitating the development of a support unit in BC — called the Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) Unit — that will make it easier for health-care providers, health-care decision-makers and researchers to conduct patient-oriented research.


Research Roundup

  • Dr. Robert Holt & Dr. Marco Marra
    Dr. Robert Holt (2004 Scholar) and Dr. Marco Marra (2001 and 2006 Scholar) are part of a newly-formed international "pediatric cancer dream team", along with several other BC-based researchers. The team’s objective is to investigate genomic data to discover which proteins are present on the surface of tumour cells but not on normal cells.
     
  • Dr. Michael Law
    Dr. Michael Law (2011 Scholar) recently co-authored a study published in Health Policy that looked at prescription drug coverage for people over the age of 65 in Ontario. The study found that co-payments under the plans of as little as $6 per drug create financial strain for some elderly people, making them more likely to forgo important prescriptions.
     
  • Dr. Babak Shadgan
    Dr. Babak Shadgan (2011 Trainee) and Behnam Molavi, a PhD candidate at the UBC Department of Electrical Engineering, were recently recognized as the winner of 2012 Wearable Technology Innovation World Cup, Safety & Prevention Category. They won for their invention of a smart fire rescue helmet — a non-invasive wireless system capable of monitoring several vital statistics in real time. Mounted in firefighters’ helmets, it can help a central monitoring center to become aware of any carbon monoxide poisoning or critical health conditions.

    >> Read more


MSFHR People

  • Dr. Erica Frank
    Research Advisory Council Chair, Dr. Erica Frank, founder of NextGenU officially launched the free, for-credit online learning project to bring specialized education to low-income countries. NextGenU already has more than 1,000 students from 54 countries in its first courses, which focus on health. NextGenU is supported by donations from charitable foundations, individuals and volunteer efforts from academics around the world.
  • Lynn Cummings
    Congratulations to Lynn Cummings, MSFHR's nursing research facilitator for Vancouver Island Health Authority. She's the recipient of this year's Alumni Award of Excellence from the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria. She will be presented with her award May 10 during National Nursing Week.

    >> Read more

BC Epilepsy Society and MSFHR partner to maximize health research dollars

Epilepsy researcher Dr. Stuart Cain knows that in the pursuit of innovation, it can be easy to overlook the big picture.

"You can get caught up in just doing the research in a small room for long periods of time,” says the 2011 MSFHR Trainee. “You can quite easily work away without knowing any of the impact that your work has on patients.”

A strategic partnership between MSFHR and the BC Epilepsy Society has helped give Cain a vital connection to those directly impacted by his research. As the recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship jointly funded by the two organizations, Cain has been able to share his work beyond the research community and engage with the BC Epilepsy Society though a number of channels.

Over the course of his award term, Cain met with members of the BC Epilepsy Society in his lab, presented at the society’s annual general meeting, and contributed a newsletter article providing updates on his research.

Cain’s work focuses on proteins called calcium ion channels that are involved in nerve cell excitability — a trigger of epileptic seizures — and finding drugs that target those specific proteins. This research has the potential to improve treatment options for those suffering from epilepsy. The feedback Cain received from patients at the BC Epilepsy Society annual general meeting provided a level of insight not typically available in research circles.

“As a researcher, you’re kind of removed from that aspect. It gets you to appreciate a different aspect of how important your work is,” Cain says. “Ultimately, it’s there to help people.”

Recently, Cain was asked to join the BC Epilepsy Society’s professional advisory committee, which provides advice on medical and social services issues relevant to the society and its stakeholders. Shawn Laari, executive director of the BC Epilepsy Society, notes that Cain is the first researcher to serve on this panel.

Through its relationship with Cain, the BC Epilepsy Society has been able to demonstrate the value of its investment in research.

“We’re very proud when we have one of our funded researchers get published, and that shows to our stakeholders that we made a good investment, that it was money smartly spent in this partnership,” Laari says.

MSFHR and the BC Epilepsy Society have partnered since 2005 to fund four researchers working in areas directly relevant to the society’s mandate. Through this strategic partnership, the BC Epilepsy Society has become the only provincial or state epilepsy organization in North America that directly funds medical research.

“Having a partner like the Michael Smith Foundation, where we’re able to get an incredible peer-review process, the panel of experts they bring to the table, and the dollar-for-dollar matching really is just incredible for us to continue our commitment strategically towards research,” says Laari.

MSFHR, BC Epilepsy Society partner for better treatments

More than 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy, including 40,000 British Columbians. A significant number of these individuals may have negative side-effects due to medication, and roughly 30 per cent do not respond to treatment at all, highlighting the need for further research.

Since 2005, MSFHR and the BC Epilepsy Society have partnered to support leading-edge epilepsy research in British Columbia. In 2006, the two organizations funded Dr. Veronica Schiariti to lead the first BC-focused study of epilepsy prevalence in children. The partnership subsequently supported the work of researchers Kirk Mulatz and Dr. Jun Liu.

For the 2010-2011 Research Trainee funding competition, the BC Epilepsy Society fully funded an award for UBC researcher Dr. Stuart Cain. Dr. Cain’s work is focused on developing a genetic model of absence seizures to better understand their causes. The ultimate aim of this research is to facilitate the design of new drug treatments capable of blocking changes in the firing properties of epileptic nerves during seizures.

“By partnering with MSFHR, we have been able to support some of BC’s best and brightest researchers to undertake projects with the potential to improve the health and quality of life for all individuals living with epilepsy,” said Shawn Laari, Executive Director of the BC Epilepsy Society.