News from the Levings Lab

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May 2013: In 2012, Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium banded together to create the 2012 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition in Genomics and Personalized Health. With support from the Canadian government, this competition aims to support projects that link genomics-based research with improving the cost-effectiveness of our current health-care system.

Dr. Levings is part of the team that received one of the 17 grants from this prestigious competition. 
Collaborating with Dr. John Rioux from Montreal Heart Institute and Dr. Alain Bitton from McGill University Health Centre, the team will translate genetic discoveries into prescriptions tailored for individual patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. 

With over 230,000 Canadians affected, IBDs are chronic diseases that are about as common as Type I diabetes or epilepsy. Currently there are several medications used to treat IBD, but physicians are unable to predict which drug would be the most effective for each patient.  

Drs. John Rioux, Alain Bitton, and Megan Levings aim to develop tests that allow doctors to match the appropriate drug to each patient. This improves the quality of patients’ life by preventing the patients from receiving ineffective and even expensive medication. In addition, it is estimated that the total costs from IBD are over $2.8 billion per year; once this project is fully integrated into the health care system, it will save more than $10 million annually by preventing costly hospitalizations and surgeries. 

The results of this project focuses on two specific drugs, but the project also creates an important system in anticipation for the large number of new drugs that are expected to reach the Canadian market soon. 


October 4, 2011: Dr. Levings is one of two scientists who received a seed grant from the prestigious Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation for her innovative research on Crohn’s disease.

Dr. Theodore Steiner, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at UBC, was the other recipient.

Crohn’s disease is one form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that is believed to occur when cells of the immune system mistakenly attack the tissues of the intestinal tract, resulting in severe inflammation. Since there is no cure to date, Crohn’s disease patients suffer from this chronic disease for life.

Treatments currently available to improve or control symptoms of Crohn’s disease broadly suppress the immune system and often have side effects such as increased risk of serious infections.

Results of the research by Dr. Levings and Dr. Steiner could determine the efficacy and delivery of current treatments and lead to new treatments for Crohn’s disease.

They have developed a new, sensitive test for detecting T cells that recognize flagellin, a specific protein in bacteria that lives naturally in the gut. About half of people with Crohn’s disease, but very few healthy people, make antibodies to flagellin. These antibodies are created by the combined activities of two types of flagellin-recognizing white blood cells: T and B cells. This new test overcomes the previous difficulty of detecting T cells.

The test results will provide new knowledge and understanding of the nature and mechanisms of Crohn’s disease. This information could facilitate enhanced testing and treatment opportunities.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation created the Broad Medical Research Program (BMRP) for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Grants in 2001. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, through the BMRP, provides 40 percent of all private funding for IBD research in the United States.

The Broad Foundations were established by entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts. The Broad Foundations, which include The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation, have assets of $2.1 billion.

[from UBC Faculty of Medicine]

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