By Dr. Ed Conway, Director, Centre for Blood Research
The Faculty of Medicine recently published the Strategic Plan which underlines the critical value of building upon foundational strengths, remaining agile in the face of change, promoting and facilitating collaboration, and securing additional funds for strategic priorities – all aimed at promoting excellence in training of our next generation of health professionals, and toward solving urgent biomedical and medical problems. These are simple yet wise precepts, ones to which the CBR adheres…. indeed, it has positioned us well, even through a climate of unprecedented fiscal challenge.
Throughout 2016, CBR research teams have continued to build on foundational strengths, yielding major breakthroughs, many of which hold promise of positively impacting on patient care. To name but a few, these include gaining novel insights for treating inflammatory bowel disease, identification of potential new therapeutic targets for obesity and diabetes, generation of defense peptides to treat inflammatory and infectious diseases, development of anti-osteoporosis drugs, high-resolution imaging of components of infectious organisms toward generation of novel antibiotics, creation of safer and more effective clot dissolving agents, optimizing drug protocols to treat thrombosis, gaining perspectives on personalized approaches to improve the care of patients with hemophilia, creative uses of polymers to reverse bleeding, new technologies to detect cancer risk, advances in polymer-mediated immunocamouflage for safer blood transfusion, devising new techniques for pathogen inactivation of platelets, and the list goes on. These advances come from strong collaborative efforts, and the leadership of our world-class basic and clinical investigative teams.
“CBR research teams have continued to build on foundational strengths, yielding major breakthroughs, many of which hold promise of positively impacting on patient care.”
Although research funding rates underwent major dips nationally, CBR investigators largely skirted the devastation by garnering support through excellence, innovation, creativity and quality output. From the undergrad through to the PI and professor, all ranks of CBR members have received prestigious support from the CIHR, the CRC, the CFI and other major granting agencies. Our infrastructure continues to improve, highlighted by Dr. Strynadka’s efforts to bring cryo-EM to the CBR and LSI. Still partly in boxes, this initiative has everyone excited, with the promise of gaining new insights that will impact on many diseases and therapeutic strategies. Other awards include Banting postdoctoral fellowships, Vanier Awards, a Governor General’s Gold Medal, Banting and Best Graduate Scholarships, 3M National Student Fellowships, ACS Chemistry Championships, a Killam Research Prize, and numerous travel awards.
“Partnerships with industry have flourished, and we are deeply appreciative of their investments and their trust.”
Beyond the traditional funding agencies, the CBR has been agile at seeking alternative sources of support. Partnerships with industry have flourished, and we are deeply appreciative of their investments and their trust. These have not only yielded excellent and highly productive research opportunities, but also led to reliable participation of pharma in CBR educational programs and symposia. A prime example is the Bayer-sponsored UBC Bleeding Disorders Collaboratory, a CBR initiative that is positively influencing hemophilia research and patient care throughout the province. These relationships also allowed us to further improve the quality of our internationally recognized Earl Davie Symposium, the Norman Bethune Symposium, and the Annual CBR Research Day, increasing attendance to record numbers, and even attracting the attention of UBC’s new bow tie-sporting President Ono! Our long-term partner, the Canadian Blood Services (CBS), remains a key player in supporting the CBR’s infrastructure and education and training programs, and has also fostered wonderful research collaborations in transfusion medicine-related research. We have many friends!
As the CBR gains wider recognition locally and nationally, our individual donor base is also expanding. 2016 was the year we lost Dr. Shelly Naiman, a dear friend of the CBR and a longtime colleague in hematology. But he and his late wife, Dr. Linda Vickars, devotees of the CBR, left a legacy that will be felt for generations to come. Through their generosity, a substantial endowment fund was established that will build on their investment, ensuring that the CBR will flourish with world-class research, education and training in non-malignant hematology.
“With the future of the CBR resting in the hands of our students, we continue to emphasize programs that will nourish the aspirations and career-developing needs of this next generation of scientists and clinicians.”
With the future of the CBR resting in the hands of our students, we continue to emphasize programs that will nourish the aspirations and career-developing needs of this next generation of scientists and clinicians. Indeed, the CBR works hard to remain an attractive destination for the best and the brightest students. In the past year, Education Program Manager, Anna Sinova and her assistant, Amarpreet Grewal, ably expanded the CBR’s innovative enrichment program that is helping undergraduate, graduate, medical and postdoctoral students develop skills necessary to achieve their potential within and beyond academia: the Knowledge Translation committee, a Career Development program, the Blood Labs Outreach program, the Graduate Award program, and many more. These initiatives were strategically designed to build proficiencies in science communication, mixed media, program development, teaching and mentoring, event planning, fundraising, and networking. They provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their diverse and extraordinary talents.
Where to go in 2017? The CBR looks to further reach out to the community, increasing awareness of the valuable work that is being done, and learning from those whom we aim to serve. This will be achieved by organizing more public events such as World Thrombosis Day, hosting lunch-and-learn sessions with members of the community, partnering with relevant advocacy groups, and further engaging patients and the public in our academic symposia. Our experiments in social media are also paying off – we are no longer just followers, but are now the followed!
“In 2017, the CBR looks to further reach out to the community, increasing awareness of the valuable work that is being done, and learning from those whom we aim to serve.”
A priority in 2017 will be to facilitate stronger translational links between the lab and the clinic by reaching out to physicians and physician-scientists throughout UBC, and by forging associations with similar-minded research groups at UBC, in Canada and the US. 2017 will see some CBR PIs “wind down” their labs. We need to engage those PIs with important roles at the CBR, while filling vacant lab space through meaningful partnerships that will bring new and valuable technologies and expertise – whether that be in genomics, biomedical engineering, chemical biology, or diabetes – wherever and however our core strengths will benefit.
For our successes in 2016, you are all to be congratulated, with special thanks extended to our CBR Office Manager, Hana Kim, without whom we could not function. And for 2017? President Ono often speaks of working together to move from “excellence to eminence”….. For the CBR, that seems like a reasonably achievable goal.