Congratulations to Dr. Jassem, Dr. Gilbert, Dr. Purssell, Dr. Tyndall, Dr. Kent and their research teams who have recently been awarded BCCDC Foundation grants through the Open Awards Program. We have awarded four Blue Sky grants and one Workshop and Team-Building grant.

Dr. Agatha Jassem and her team will be working on the Genomic Analysis of Influenza A Viruses by Target-Capture Sequencing project. This project will compare the performance of a novel next generation sequencing (NGS) technology for influenza subtyping to the current PCR subtyping method and Sanger sequencing that is practiced at BCCDC. NGS can be combined with a target-capture method for sequencing that produces more sensitive, accurate and comprehensive results to influenza detection and characterization. The research aims to improve assay technologies and as a result, advance influenza surveillance and diagnostics.

Dr. Mark Gilbert and his team will be working on formative research for a BC-specific STI and HIV personalized risk self-assessment (PRS) tool. The project recognizes the recent shift to online self-care in healthcare and the variety of existing PRS tools available.  Dr. Gilbert and his team will perform the groundwork research on the usability and acceptability of a PRS tool prototype designed using clinical predictive rules (CPRs) created by BCCDC and UBC researchers. The CPRs target individuals at high risk for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STIBBI).  The aim of the project is to improve the current PRS tool to maximize its acceptability and effectiveness at promoting the uptake of STIBBI prevention strategies.

Dr. Roy Purssell and his team will be working on the Opioid Prescribing Evaluation and Research Activities (OPERA) project. In response to the recent public health emergency alert that was announced in February 2016 regarding the increase in illicit drug overdose deaths, the need for an evaluation of the current prevention and treatment for illicit drug users is apparent.  Dr. Purssell and his team will evaluate the association between the “supply side” interventions to decrease adverse drug events due to prescription opioids and accidental illicit drug overdose deaths. The aim of the project is to determine if the increase in illicit drug deaths is related to physicians prescribing smaller amounts of strong pain relievers (opioids).

Dr. Mark Tyndall and his team are working on developing a mobile application for data collection targeted for young adults. This project recognizes the gaps in research and surveillance data for young adults in BC and Canada due to changing patterns of technology and environment. As young adults are at a critical period to target for disease prevention and health promotion, Dr. Tyndall and his team are developing a novel engagement and data collection tool in the form of a mobile phone application that could help address a key national and provincial gap in research and surveillance for this demographic.  The project aims to develop and test feasibility, relevance and acceptability of a multi-platform mobile application for data collection from young adults that will work towards bridging this gap in research and surveillance.

Dr. Debra Kent and her team are working on a project integrating wildlife and environmental data for public health purposes. Due to reports of high levels of toxins in BC shellfish last summer, there is a concern for populations in BC that engage in self-harvesting of wild shellfish or consume large quantities of shellfish are at high risk of serious toxic exposures.  Dr. Kent and her team are developing a way to evaluate data collected on environmental factors, wildlife mortality events or unusual findings to use as indicators for potential public health risks.  The project includes a one-day workshop that brings together marine scientists, First Nation representatives, public health, provincial and federal stakeholders to explore the available sources of data and the most effective way to identify risks using the information available.

The BCCDC Foundation is proud to help BCCDC researchers through small grants that support projects advancing Public Health in BC. It is our goal at the BCCDC Foundation to enable researchers to obtain further support from other agencies. Congratulations once again to the researchers and their teams, we are looking forward to seeing the outcomes of these innovative projects!

Stay tuned for the next BCCDC Foundation Open Awards Program, to be launched in August and with a deadline of October 1st, 2016.

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