Fall 2017 Research Profile

Fall is usually a time for transition and an opportunity to take stock of the year’s bounty. Here at the TRF, we are reflecting on a busy and productive spring and summer. Not only did we enjoy the sun and beauty of BC, but we were also busy doing what we do best – funding exciting and novel transplant research projects!

This summer marked the second year for the Astellas-TRFBC Clinical Research Grant.This partnership began in 2015 when Astellas Canada and BC Transplant approached us to work together on a new grant competition, which provides $50,000 each to two transplant research projects in BC each year. Both of this year’s winners are looking at biomarkers, distinct biological indicators (cellular, biochemical or moledular) of a process, event or condition that can be measured reliably in tissues, cells or fluids.

One project, led by BC Children’s Hospital nephrologist Dr. Tom Blydt-Hansen (Enhanced Immune Monitoring in Pediatric Kidney Transplant Recipients), is looking at how to better test for early kidney rejection in pediatric transplant patients. The results of this research will hopefully have a significant impact on patient care. Currently, testing for rejection is invasive and is limited in its effectiveness. Often, the organ is severely damaged and kidney function is already deteriorating by the time a biopsy confirms rejection. The goal of this study is to use biomarkers to monitor the health of the transplanted organ. Not only would this allow a more individualized approach, it would reduce the need for biopsies, which are invasive and emotionally hard on many pediatric patients.

Dr. Tom Blydt-Hansen            Dr. Mark Kearns                  Dr. John Boyd

The second project, led by St. Paul’s Hospital’s Drs. Mark Kearns and John Boyd (Biomarkers of Transplant Viability in Marginal Donor Hearts), is looking at how to best address one of the biggest problems in heart transplantation – the shortage of donor hearts. One way to increase the number of hearts available for transplantation is through donation after circulatory death (DCD donation). However, one problem with these hearts is that they are injured through the donation process. This project aims to study DCD hearts by using biomarkers to determine the
amount and type of injury to DCD hearts before using them for transplantation.


We are also excited to share details of our newest partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Providence Health Care (PHC) to fund solid organ transplant related projects through their Research Challenge programs. These programs are targeted at Point-of-Care Nursing and Allied Health Staff, and provide $5,000 grants to qualified projects.

Unlike most funding programs which target established researchers generally associated with universities, the Research Challenge program is unique. It focuses on research led by nurses, physiotherapists and other caregivers, the people who have the most interaction with transplant patients. This means their project ideas can target ways to improve patient care, which ultimately has the most direct impact for transplant recipients.

Through these partnerships, the TRF has proudly sponsored four projects; one with VCH and three with PHC. These cover a range of topics including: knowledge and attitudes of kidney clinic staff, health literacy on medication adherence, experiences of highly sensitized patients on the heart transplant waitlist and depression in post lung transplant patients. For more information on each project, check out: https://www.trfbc.org/research-in-action/nationalresearch-initiatives/current-grants/


For the past decade, TRF has run our Venture Grant funding program in the fall. However, we have decided to move the deadlines until Spring 2018. This allows us to better align our funding programs with other national programs such as the Canadian Institute of Health Research, thereby facilitating the peer review component, as well as making it easier for applicants. Stay tuned for the final dates, which we will post later in the fall. For more information: https://www.trfbc.org/research-in-action/trf-venture-grants/apply/