2019 Research Innovation Grant

The Addison Fund of the Transplant Research Foundation of BC is pleased to partner with the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program for their 2019 Research Innovation Grant Competition.  Through the power of partnership, the Addison Fund is proud to co-fund this highly rated peer reviewed project. This research has great potential to transform the care of pediatric transplant recipients and lead to new knowledge that can dramatically improve the quality of life for young patients.

In the eyes of nine-year-old Addison, this project could be a game changer:

“A project that could mean less biopsies and medication if it works? Yeah! I hate biopsies!” – Addison McArthur, heart transplant recipient and the inspiration behind the Addison Fund.

Development and validation of a novel assay to quantify alloantigen specific T cells

Team Lead: Megan Levings

Research Team: Dr. Tom Blydt-Hansen (BC) and Dr. Caroline Lamarche (QC)


Following transplantation, immune cells in the recipient recognize the new organ as a foreign invader and subsequently launch an attack to destroy it. To stop this immune response, transplant recipients are placed on immune-suppressing drugs that severely reduce the immune system’s normal ability to fight off infections and cancers. It is therefore critical to prescribe just enough immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection, but not so much that patients suffer from the numerous side effects of these medications. Currently, there are no tools available to measure how well immune suppression is working in each transplant patient. Although tissue biopsies are often performed to assess whether rejection is happening or not, they are often done too late, after immune cells have already caused irreversible transplant damage. We need a way to measure immune responses to transplants so that changes in immune suppression can be made pro-actively, rather than reactively. We propose to develop a new test that will rapidly measure immune responses to a transplant using a small amount of blood. The test is based on a fascinating immunological phenomenon whereby immune cells from the recipient that want to kill the transplanted cells pick up proteins that are exclusively expressed on the very cells they are trying to attack, allowing us to quantify the number of these killer immune cells. We believe that by quantifying these dangerous immune cells, we will be able to determine the risk of transplant rejection and give doctors the information they need to prevent transplant rejection and individualize immune-suppressive drug regimens to enhance transplant and patient health.