Diabetes research in British Columbia got a major boost today with the announcement of a $3.2-million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) at BC Children’s Hospital.

The federal funding will support new state-of-the-art technology for research on the genetic causes of diabetes, preventing diabetes, and developing new therapies, as well as community outreach to vulnerable and underserved populations. The grant will fund:

  • A special van outfitted as a mobile clinical research unit. Researchers will visit children for assessments in their home communities, and safely transport children’s blood samples back to the lab for analysis.
  • High tech DNA sequencing equipment that researchers will use to understand how changes in DNA or genes put children at risk for diabetes, and to discover new genes that increase risk.
  • Technology that will allow researchers to study the function and characteristics of cells, such as immune cells and the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, to understand the specific qualities of cells from children with diabetes. The new knowledge can be used to discover cellular markers for predicting disease, and to develop new treatments.
  • A high-resolution microscope that will enable real-time study of living insulin-producing cells, using digital technology to create 3D cell images. This will help researchers understand the immune system’s attack on the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, which causes Type 1 diabetes, and to study new potential therapies.


  • “This is truly a team grant with many clinicians and scientists working together with the shared goal of improving the lives of children with diabetes. Our work is founded on our partnership with BC Children’s Hospital and the Provincial Health Services Authority, the Canucks for Kids Fund and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the University of British Columbia.” Dr. Bruce Verchere, head of CFRI Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories; Professor, UBC Department of Surgery and UBC Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine; and Irving K. Barber Chair in Diabetes Research.
  • “This is a transformational grant for our diabetes research group and our research institute. The new infrastructure will enable the team to be international leaders in childhood diabetes research.” – Dr. Megan Levings, Childhood Disorders Research Theme Lead at CFRI; Professor, UBC Department of Surgery.
  • “This grant will provide our research team with state-of-the-art infrastructure for cell analysis that will improve the health of children with diabetes in British Columbia.” Dr. Wyeth Wasserman, CFRI Executive Director and UBC Associate Dean for Research, Faculty of Medicine.
  • Diabetes affects thousands of British Columbians and can have a significant impact on children and families. This grant will help to support innovation and quality patient care – core values of the Provincial Health Services Authority.” – Carl Roy, President & CEO, Provincial Health Services Authority.


In Canada, over 2.5 million people have diabetes, costing the Canadian economy upwards of $12 billion a year in direct and indirect costs. Diabetes requires constant daily monitoring, can lead to devastating complications like limb amputations and blindness and may reduce a person’s lifespan by years.
Preventing and treating diabetes in children is particularly important because they face an entire lifetime of chronic illness. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood. In the last decade, rising obesity rates have led the number of children with Type 2 diabetes to increase by 30 per cent.

Quick facts:
  • It’s estimated that 8 per cent of people in British Columbia have diabetes, with 31,000 people living with Type 1 diabetes and 369,000 people living with Type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that typically strikes during childhood and causes cells in the pancreas to stop producing the hormone insulin, leaving an individual dependent on insulin injections for life.
  • In Type 2 diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin, eventually causing insulin-producing cells to die. People who are obese and physically inactive are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

CFRI conducts discovery, translational and clinical research to benefit the health of children and their families. CFRI is supported by BC Children's Hospital Foundation and works in close partnership with BC Children’s Hospital, the Provincial Health Services Authority and its agencies, and the University of British Columbia. For more information, visit www.bcchr.ca

BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides expert care for the province’s most seriously ill or injured children, including newborns and adolescents. It is an academic health centre affiliated with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the Child & Family Research Institute. Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children is the provincial facility that offers specialized child development and rehabilitation services to children and youth.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is one of North America’s largest public research and teaching institutions, and is consistently ranked among the world’s 40 best universities. Surrounded by the beauty of the Canadian West, it is a place that inspires bold, new ways of thinking that have helped make it a national leader in areas as diverse as community service learning, sustainability and research commercialization. UBC offers more than 58,000 students a range of innovative programs and attracts $519 million per year in research funding from government, non-profit organizations and industry through over 8,000 projects and grants.