P2RISM- Digging deeper into post-partum and neonatal lab tests

Lab physicians, Drs. Vilte Barakauskas and Kate Chipperfield, at BC Children’s and Women’s hospital alongside patient co-leads are spearheading  the P2RISM study (Pregnancy and Pediatric Reference Intervals for Safe Medicine) to help improve care for pregnant women and newborns.

Healthcare relies heavily on the lab and reference intervals (RIs) to guide test interpretation and patient management, but did you ever wonder how we know what is normal or abnormal? RIs should represent the intended population and method of testing. However, current RIs for pregnant women and neonates are poorly characterized owing to their quickly changing physiology and difficulty in obtaining blood samples from babies.

This study aims to recruit healthy pregnant women and newborns to donate blood samples (collected at the same time as routine newborn metabolic screening),1day post-partum, in order to create RIs that lab physicians and clinicians can be confident in. We will also be collecting participant feedback on their overall experience with the study in order to refine and shape future endeavours involving blood collections in healthy populations.

More information can be found at: www.bcchr.ca/prism

Dr. Wendy Norman received a CIHR Spring 2019 Planning and Dissemination Grant

The grant will be used to plan research priorities to support nurses in providing optimal medical abortion care.

Approximately one third of Canadian women experience abortion in their lifetime. Despite its prevalence, access to abortion services is fragmented across Canada, with women from vulnerable groups (teens / low income families) experiencing barriers to access high quality care.

Mifepristone – considered the ‘gold standard’ for medical abortion – became widely available in Canada in 2017. That year, changes to health regulation also extended authority to nurse practitioners to prescribe mifepristone. However, this authority was not extended to registered nurses, “even though this large workforce has been deeply engaged in patient care, diagnosis and medication prescriptions,” says Dr. Norman’s Research Manager, Anita Chiu.

This presents a barrier to equitable access to medical abortion care – one that Dr. Norman hopes to address with this grant. Along with Co-Principal Applicant Ruth Martin-Misener and Principal Knowledge User Josette Roussel, Dr. Norman seeks to identify research priorities that will support the wide range of nursing roles involved in providing medical abortion care, and how that support can be optimized to improve access to and ensure the quality of medical abortion care.

Further, the team hopes to develop strong partnerships among researchers and stakeholders, both provincially and nationally, to address the practicality and outlook of optimizing the scope of practice for nurses to better support medical abortion care in Canada

“This work will make tremendous positive impact on women’s health,” says Chiu. “Exploring ways to optimize the scope of practice of nurses [will help] to better serve Canadian women seeking family planning knowledges and services.”

To learn more about Dr. Norman’s work, visit the Contraception and Abortion Research Team (CART) website.

Read more about the CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant recipients.

Congratulations to the recipients of the MSFHR Health Professional-Investigator Awards

Among this year’s 11 recipients were WHRI members Dr. Janice Kwon and Dr. Katherine Plewes.

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Health Professional-Investigator Program is “designed to develop BC’s research talent and help decrease the gap between health research and its implementation.”

Dr. Janice Kwon

Dr. Kwon received an award for her project, Costs and benefits of tumour testing to improve cancer prevention and survival, a pilot study which will look at the use and cost-effectiveness of tumor testing for BRCA mutations in high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma.


Dr. Katherine Plewes

Dr. Plewes received an award for her project, Evaluating the renoprotective effect of acetaminophen in children with severe falciparum malaria. This randomized controlled trial seeks to assess the role of acetaminophen as a kidney protective therapy in African children with severe malaria.

Read the MSFHR announcement.

Highlights from the 23rd STI & HIV World Congress

The WHRI’s Global Control of HPV Related Diseases Research Program made a significant mark at the 23rd STI & HIV 2019 World Congress held in Vancouver from July 14 – 17. The group led a well-attended pre-conference workshop and were selected for several oral and poster presentations throughout the conference.

The congress, one of the largest on STI research globally, is held every two years by the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research (ISSTDR) and the International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Infections (IUSTI).

Day 1 began with the Pre-Conference STI Vaccine Symposium organized by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Vaccine Consortium or STRIVE-BC.  STIs are a significant global health burden, despite extensive prevention and harm reduction efforts. Work is being conducted around the globe to address this burden, through research towards development of STI vaccines. Leading researchers like Dr. Rino Rappuoli from GlaxoSmithKline shared critical vaccine development updates for pervasive STIs, specifically, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. BC’s very own Dr. Caroline Cameron, one of the world’s leading experts on the basic science of syphilis emphasized the need for a vaccine for any progress to be made toward disease elimination.

Days 2 and 3 saw plenaries advocating for increased engagement of indigenous communities in health programs, progress toward HIV elimination and the impact of the #MeToo movement on sexual health. On Day 4, Dr. Gina Ogilvie moderated a panel on Clinical Issues in Women’s Health and STIs, while several team members presented findings from various studies being led by the group.

The team also shared influential data on the feasibility of HPV self-collection programs in under-screened communities. Several other students and staff could be found guiding delegates to the correct rooms and fixing AV issues as devoted volunteers of the conference!

As evidenced at this international congress, the Global Control of HPV Related Diseases team continues to make significant contributions in the field of sexual and reproductive health. It’s an exciting time to be an STI researcher!

Members of the Global Control of HPV Related Diseases Research team.

Call For Proposals: Gynecologic Cancer Initiative-Clinical Trials Group (GCI-CTG)

As part of its commitment to enhancing clinical trials capacity, the GCI-CTG is pleased to launch a round of funding applications to support clinical research on gynecologic cancers.

Accelerating Grants for Clinical Studies:
2019-2020 Applications

The BC Gynecologic Cancer Initiative (GCI) is a partnership amongst research institutions, scientists, and clinicians aimed at accelerating transformative research to reduce death and suffering from gynecologic cancers in BC by 50% by 2034.

One of the goals of the GCI is to strengthen the environment for clinical trials in BC, including enhancing clinical trials capacity and strengthening organizational, regulatory and financial support for clinical studies.

For more details, please click on “More Info” link.

Proposal is for Members of BC Gyne Cancer Tumour Group or Investigators with an interest in Gyne cancer research looking for collaborations. Looking for collaborators? Email us at communications@gynecancerinitiative.ca

Rosé with Researchers – A Recap

On Thursday July 25th the BC Women’s Health Foundation (BCWHF) hosted the inaugural “Rosé with Researchers” event.  This unique event connected BCWHF community members with Women’s Health Researchers and Research Facilitators of the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI).  BC Women’s Health Foundation recently expanded their mandate to improve healthcare, access and research for women’s health across BC.

“Rosé with Researchers” was a true example of Knowledge Translation excellence.

The event featured short, plain language presentations by previous WHRI Catalyst Grant awardees which spoke to both their personal and professional drivers to conduct research.  Researchers highlighted the critical impact of BCWHF funding WHRI Catalyst Grants in propelling pilot and feasibility studies to be true competitors in tri-council funding bids.

Thank you to the BCWHF and the WHRI Researchers, Staff, and Collaborators who made this event possible.  We look forward to 2020!

Check out more photos from the event on the BC Women’s Health Foundation Facebook page!

Speakers’ Twitter handles:

Research Spotlight: Dr. Pascal Lavoie receives a CIHR 2019 Spring Project Grant

Why are some newborns more susceptible to infection? Dr. Pascal Lavoie and the team at his lab are working to find out in their latest project, Metabolic regulation of immune defenses in newborns.

Close to eight percent of babies born each year in Canada are born prematurely, with immune systems vulnerable to infection. As a clinician-scientist, Dr. Lavoie encounters and provides care for these babies all the time, placing him in the unique position to link infections he treats with molecules he studies in the lab.

Using resources available at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the newly opened BC Women’s Hospital Preemie Biobank (funded in part by a WHRI 2018 Catalyst Grant), Dr. Lavoie and his lab have made strides in their ability to study immune cells from premature babies.

“When I did my science training twenty-five years ago, you could interrogate one or a few of [the genes or proteins expressed in a cell] at a time,” Dr. Lavoie explains.

Now, using a series of technologies known as omics, Dr. Lavoie can study how tens of thousands of genes and proteins work within each individual cell in a single experiment. Further, he is now able to run these experiments using as little as half a millilitre of cord blood originating from babies who sometimes weigh less than 400 grams.

This new research project, funded by a CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant, builds off his team’s recent discovery that the first-line immune pathways meant to detect harmful microbes in premature babies are ‘turned off’ due to a lack of cellular energy.

In most babies, there are cues that turn these immune pathways on, like consuming breast milk or being exposed to beneficial microbes. Dr. Lavoie will test some of these cues in his lab, in vitro, to investigate how the pathways are triggered to generate an immune response.

In the future, Dr. Lavoie believes his team will be well-positioned to take their findings and develop an intervention that will allow them to safely turn these immune pathways on – a feat that will help prevent infections in premature babies.

Learn more about the BC Women’s Hospital Preemie Biobank in recent coverage by the CBC, Vancouver Sun, and CTV.

Read more about the CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant recipients.

Research Spotlight: Multi-drug resistant bugs and antibiotic use in infants in Canada

Dr. Joseph Ting, Staff Neonatologist at BC Women’s Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, was recently awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Spring 2019 Project Grant which will provide nearly half a million dollars in support over the next five years to research the starters of antibiotic resistance in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) throughout the country – beginning here, at BC Women’s Hospital.

Vulnerable babies in NICUs are developing increasing levels of antibiotic resistance worldwide. Neonates are frequently prescribed antibiotics to combat infections, a common threat to their immature immune systems.

However, there is a lack of clinical guidance available to assist healthcare providers in ruling out non-infectious conditions in this population, which means that antibiotics are prescribed at greatly varied rates throughout the country.

Overuse of antibiotics in infants can lead to drug resistance and other adverse health outcomes, and there is little known about the number of NICU babies who have developed multi-drug resistant bacteria and their outcomes. Dr. Ting emphasizes that this is a serious problem, as prolonged use of antibiotics without evidence of infection can lead to adverse outcomes in neonates.

With the support of Canadian Neonatal Network and engagement of a multidisciplinary team of experts from epidemiology, microbiology, paediatric infectious disease, and pharmacy, Dr. Ting is gathering expertise from throughout the country to begin surveillance in NICUs. The first phase of this work will focus on understanding the extent of the problem – that is, the amount of babies who have developed multidrug-resistant bacteria, and how hospitals are prescribing them antibiotics.

With the knowledge gained throughout this research, Dr. Ting and his team will develop a NICU-specific antimicrobial stewardship scheme. They will tap into the existing infrastructure of the Canadian Neonatal Network and adopt the scientific process they developed known as “EPIQ” (or Evidence-based Practice for Improving Quality) to translate their findings and work toward national implementation of their best practices.

Dr. Ting hopes the research will lead to improved neonatal outcomes, and a decrease in drug resistance in Canadian NICUs in long run.

Dr. Ting is a BCCHR/WHRI joint-researcher.

Read more about the CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant recipients.

Results of the MSFHR 2019 Scholar Competition

Congratulations to Drs. Sarah Munro, Aline Talhouk, Michael Anglesio, and Crystal Karakochuk, whose projects have been selected for funding by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MFHR) Scholar Program!

The MSFHR Scholar Program allows early-career researchers to establish an independent research career, build a leading research program, and expand their potential to make significant contributions to their field.

Sarah Munro     

Implementation of Shared Decision Making to Improve Person- and Family-Centred Care

Co-funded with CHÉOS - Providence Health Care Research Institute

Aline Talhouk    

Precision medicine to drive prevention and management strategies for women with endometrial cancer

Michael Anglesio              

Rethink Endometriosis: Genomics and Microenvironment Influence on Biology and Malignant Potential

Crystal Karakochuk         

Advancing nutritional hematology to reduce the burden of anemia and inform nutrition policy

Spring 2019 CIHR Project Grant recipients announced

Congratulations to the recipients of the CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grants! This year nine WHRI members received a total of ten awards, including two planning and dissemination grants.

Project Grant recipients, who are members of the WHRI, included Drs. Joseph Ting, Erin Michalak, Davina Banner-Lukaris, Shirin Goldenberg (awarded for two projects), Crystal Karakochuk, Pascal Lavoie, and Alexander Scott, while Planning and Dissemination Grants were awarded to Drs. Wendy Norman and Mel Krajden.

This page will be updated with information about each project shortly – stay tuned!

Project Grant Recipients


Dr. Joseph Ting
Using Antibiotics Wisely – Development of National Neonatal Intensive Care Unit-specific Antimicrobial Stewardship Plan

Joseph Ting**; Prakeshkumar Shah


5 years

Dr. Erin Michalek
Bipolar Bridges: A Digital Health Innovation Targeting Quality of Life in Bipolar Disorder

Erin Michalak*; Steven Barnes


1 year

Dr. Davina Banner-Lukaris
Organizational Factors that Foster Engagement-Capable Environments: A Study of Health Research Networks

Davina Banner-Lukaris*; Audrey L’Esperance


3 years

Dr. Shira Goldenberg
Evaluating Impacts of Structural and Community-Led Interventions on STBBI Risk Environments for Street and Off-Street Sex Workers

Shira Goldenberg*


5 years

Evaluating Inequities in Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Access (IRIS): A Mixed-Methods Population-Based Study in British Columbia

Shira Goldenberg*; Miriam Lavergne


5 years

Dr. Crystal Karakochuk
Folic acid supplementation in children with sickle cell disease: A double-blind randomized crossover trial

Crystal Karakochuk**


3 years


Dr. Pascal Lavoie
Metabolic regulation of immune defenses in newborns

Pascal Lavoie**


5 years

Dr. Alexander Scott
Tendon impairment in people with familal hypercholesterolemia: clinical and laboratory studies

Alexander Scott*


5 years


Planning and Dissemination Grants Recipients

Dr. Wendy Norman
Planning research priorities to support the role of nurses in providing optimal medical abortion care

Wendy Norman*; Josette Roussel; Ruth Martin-Misener


1 year

Dr. Mel Krajden
Technology, Policy and Implementation: a cross-disciplinary workshop to generate innovative solutions for data sharing in public health genomic epidemiology practice

William Hsiao; Mel Krajden*; Gary Van Domselaar


1 year

*WHRI member

**BCCHR/WHRI member