Congratulations to the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute investigators who have been given Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Scholar and Research Trainee awards! Dr. Jessica Dennis, Dr. Ramon Klein Geltink and Dr. Marianne Vidler have each received a Scholar award. Dr. Anne-Sophie Archambault, Dr. Michael Asamoah-Boaheng, Dr. Alberto Delaidelli, Dr. Olivia De-Jongh González, Dr. Raghu Sundaresan Nagalingam, and Dr. Yashodani Pillay have received Research Trainee awards.
The Michael Smith Health Research BC Scholar Program supports early career health researchers, helping them form their own research teams, train the next generation of scientists and develop world-leading research programs. Its Research Trainee Program supports the best and brightest health researchers in training to enable career development and support world-class health research in B.C.
Dr. Jessica Dennis — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Scholar award
Dr. Dennis’ project will look at genomic mechanisms underlying the prenatal and early childhood origins of mental illness in children, which is the first step towards improving patient care. One of her primary goals is to learn about the genes associated with disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The last decade has seen an explosion of genomic and health-related data. These data can advance precision medicine, but only if the right analyses are applied. Dr. Dennis uses statistical methods that link many different types of large genomic and health datasets.
We already know that genes are important to ADHD risk, and that babies born small have an increased chance of having ADHD. We also know the placenta influences a baby’s growth in the womb. However, we don’t know how genes that are important to placenta function also affect a baby’s risk of ADHD. Answers to this question will help us understand ADHD biology so that we can develop better prevention and treatment strategies and give all children the best start in life.
Read more about Dr. Dennis’ work in this previous story.
Dr. Ramon Klein Geltink — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Scholar award
Dr. Klein Geltink’s project will examine the links between nutrient sensing, cell intrinsic metabolism and T cell function in immune-related diseases. He will focus on the cellular fuels and building blocks that change immune cell functions.
Our immune system normally defends us against infections. In a healthy person, T cells — which are a type of immune cell — recognize infected or cancerous cells and remove them from the body. Immune cells can normally tell the difference between healthy tissues and infected or cancerous tissues. But when this recognition is lost, it can lead to immune cells attacking healthy cells (autoimmunity), the growth of cancer, or persistent infections. This results in devastating diseases in children.
Dr. Klein Geltink is working to better understand how this happens and ultimately define the cellular pathways that maintain health or cause disease. He is comparing the way biological fuels, such as sugars, fats and other building blocks, are used by immune cells from healthy people with patients who have immune-system-associated diseases. This will allow us to target and “dial down” pathways that are driving cells to attack healthy tissues, or “dial up” these pathways to help immune cells fight persistent infections and cancerous cells. The end goal is to develop new and better treatments.
Read more about Dr. Klein Geltink’s work in this previous story.
Dr. Marianne Vidler — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Scholar award
Dr. Vidler's project will examine the diversity of patient partners in pregnancy and postpartum-related research. She hopes to promote equitable representation of pregnant and postpartum individuals in research, leading to better understanding of their health and health concerns, and that of their newborns.
After childbirth, mothers and their babies are at risk of death and disease. While patient engagement can improve the relevance and impact of research in this area, patient partners often do not reflect the diversity of the community. This limits the research and its results, especially in B.C., which is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada.
Dr. Vidler aims to answer the following three questions: 1) How can we improve the diversity of patient partners in pregnancy and postpartum-related research? 2) Is a mobile application appropriate and acceptable for self-screening of postpartum complications? 3) What is the frequency, timing, and factors associated with postpartum complications and hospital readmissions in B.C.?
Dr. Anne-Sophie Archambault — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Research Trainee award
Dr. Archambault, supervised by Dr. Ramon Klein Geltink, is studying how certain immune cells use nutrients to either kill or aid cancer cells.
Dr. Michael Asamoah-Boaheng — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Research Trainee award
Dr. Asamoah-Boaheng, co-supervised by Dr. David Goldfarb, is hoping to answer critical questions regarding the optimal vaccination strategies to achieve a robust long-lasting immune response to COVID-19.
Dr. Alberto Delaidelli — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Research Trainee award
Dr. Dealidelli, supervised by Dr. Poul Sorenson, is focused on immunotherapeutic approaches to target solid childhood cancers.
Dr. Olivia De-Jongh González — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Research Trainee award
Dr. Dr-Jongh González, supervised by Dr. Louise C. Mâsse, is examining how families can support their child's healthy transition from elementary to secondary school as many obesity-related behaviours tend to worsen in this period.
Dr. Raghu Sundaresan Nagalingam — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Research Trainee award
Dr. Nagalingam, supervised by Dr. Glen Tibbits, is studying hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited heart disease. He will test gene mutations with different physiological and pathological stress conditions on heart muscle cells grown in a petri dish.
Dr. Yashodani Pillay — Michael Smith Health Research BC 2022 Research Trainee award
Dr. Pillay, supervised by Dr. Matthew Wiens, is focused on saving mothers’ and newborns’ lives by developing a tool to determine post-discharge risk.
Read more about Dr. Pillay’s work on the related Smart Triage project here.