Dr. Kelly Brown leads evaluation of the utility of adult-defined biomarkers in pediatric vasculitis with CIHR Fall 2021 Project Grant

Sarah BowersCecilia smiling at the camera, with a light blue background behind her.


Written by: Cecilia Haymin-Kim, CBR Summer Student alum (left)

Edited by: Sarah Bowers, PhD Student, Brown Lab (right)

UBC Centre for Blood Research (CBR) researcher Dr. Kelly Brown, PhD, was recently awarded funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in the Fall 2021 Project Grant competition. The following is a piece written by CBR Knowledge Translation (KT) Committee author Cecilia, who sat down with Dr. Brown to learn a little more about the funded project and research in the Brown Lab.


Dr. Kelly Brown, who is leading a study on vasculitis in children, with funding from a CIHR Fall 2021 Project Grant

Dr. Kelly Brown

Vasculitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of blood vessels which carry oxygen to critical organs of the body. While treatment of vasculitis with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and corticosteroids can be lifesaving, finding a drug regimen that reduces unwanted side effects is a difficult process. This is particularly true in children, since vasculitis is rarer in children, and most of the knowledge on vasculitis in children – and how to best treat it – stems from studies in adults.

Towards finding the right drug and dosage to use for treatment, researchers that study vasculitis in adults have found a few biomarkers in the blood and/or urine that can help predict which patients are at higher risk of developing severe disease. Funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was awarded to CBR researcher Dr. Kelly Brown in the Fall 2021 Project Grant competition to evaluate whether the prognostic biomarkers identified for vasculitis in adults can also be used to help inform treatment decisions for children with vasculitis.

Dr. Brown is a Principal Investigator at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and an Assistant Professor in the Division of Rheumatology within the UBC Department of Pediatrics. As the Division’s first full-time basic scientist, work in Dr. Brown’s lab on the campus of BC Children’s Hospital focuses on addressing questions derived from clinical problems encountered by children with rheumatic disease and aims to help bridge the bench-to-bedside gap.

Child looking through a microscope.

Image from MS PowerPoint stock images.

The CIHR funding is “really rewarding,” said Dr. Brown, “as it gives us the opportunity to work with a rare but important disease in children.”

The importance of the project is highlighted by the numerous collaborators that Dr. Brown and co-Principal Investigator in the Division of Rheumatology, Dr. David Cabral (MBBS), are working with in Canada, the USA, and various countries across the globe. Dr. Brown explained a clinical registry of children with vasculitis was established by Dr. Cabral (2007), which established a foundation for a previous (2012) CIHR grant and led to the creation of “the largest international network of doctors and scientists in the world studying vasculitis in children.” Dr. Brown emphasized that since vasculitis is rare in children, these collaborations help provide more data for the project, which can grow the studies so that there is more confidence and power in the results.


“[We] are excited to use science to advance our understanding of diseases, while working in the translational blended laboratory setting.”

— Dr. Kelly Brown
Dropper with green liquid over a row of open test tubes.

Image from MS PowerPoint stock images.


Dr. Brown says that working closely with clinicians is key to doing research that contributes to better care for patients. “[We] are excited to use science to advance our understanding of diseases, while working in the translational blended laboratory setting.”

The Center for Blood Research (CBR) wishes to congratulate Dr. Brown and her team on the grant and is excited for the meaningful research that is in the works!


The Brown Lab studies markers and mechanisms of inflammation for improved therapeutic management of rheumatic diseases in children. Learn more about the Brown Lab and their research.