Cross-disciplinary collaborations of LSI PIs meet success at CIHR and NSERC Partnered Collaborative Health Research Projects

Five UBC teams met success for their innovative ideas at the intersection of health sciences and natural sciences and engineering research, in the form of CIHR’s NSERC Partnered Collaborative Health Research Projects ─ Fall 2017 Competition. Four LSI PIs are part of three of these five teams, a testament to the strong tradition of cross-disciplinary collaborations at the LSI.

Dr. David Fedida

Project Title: Novel 3D bioprinted human cardiac tissue models for drug safety and efficacy testing.

Principal Investigators: Fedida, D (Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology, and Therapeutics); Wadsworth, S (Aspect Biosystems); Walus, K (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)

During human clinical trials, a large percentage of candidate drugs fail because they are unsafe or ineffective. Even when pre-clinical cell and animal studies seem positive, problems occur because tests done with drugs on these models are often not predictive of what happens in humans. Much of this is due to significant differences in biology between species. Thus, it is critical to use preclinical models that can closely reproduce what happens in humans to better predict drug safety. This team will develop novel 3D bioprinted human cardiac tissues that closely model the electrophysiological properties of the human heart. Ultimately, these models are expected to replace the use of animals to screen drugs for safety and efficacy, significantly cutting the cost and time of bringing a new drug to market.


Dr. Dieter Brömme

Project Title: Side effect-free cathepsin K targeting drugs for skeletal diseases

Principal Investigators: Brömme, D (Faculty of Dentistry; Centre for Blood Research; Department of Biochemistry); Percival, M D (Inception Sciences Canada); Ciufolini, M A (Department of Chemistry)

Arthritic diseases affect 15 % of the population and bone cancer is a frequent metastatic side effect of the most common breast and prostate cancer. Aside from human suffering enormous financial health care costs are added to the treatment of these diseases. Current treatments have various shortcomings and side effects, which include increased cancer risks, atypical fractures, bone necrosis, infections, and vascular problems. There is clearly a need for more effective and safer treatments. The protease, cathepsin K, is solely responsible for the bone degradation and significantly contributes to joint erosion. Its inhibition has been shown to effectively reduce fracture rates in post-menopausal women. However, this treatment also had severe side effects leading to the termination of the further development of cathepsin K inhibitors. This team has identified and verified a novel type of cathepsin K inhibitors without causing any of the side effects seen in clinical trials. Interestingly, a major source of these compounds are certain Chinese herbs traditionally used in skeletal diseases. Recently, they have also shown the efficacy of one of these compounds in an osteoporosis model without any observable side effects. They will now expand this approach and will generate more potent and druggable derivatives from the herbal compounds, and analyze these in arthritis and bone cancer models. The team anticipates that these compounds will have a superior efficacy with no or fewer side effects than current treatments.


Drs. Ed Conway and Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu

Project title: Platform technology for blood diagnostics integrating microneedle blood sampling and quantum-dot based multiplexed assays

Principal Investigators: Stoeber, B (Department of Mechanical Engineering); Staykov, R (Rapids Solutions Canada); Algar, W R (Department of Chemistry); Conway, E M (Department of Medicine; Centre for Blood Research); Kizhakkedathu, J N (Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Centre for Blood Research)

Blood is the most useful sample fluid for lab medicine and diagnostics. It is most often obtained by inserting a needle in a vein in the arm (venipuncture). In the US, over 2 billion venipunctures are performed annually and is a technique that requires skilled personnel. Venipuncture is often associated with pain, discomfort and bruising, and is most difficult in persons with small, fragile, or “deep” veins (e.g. obesity), in babies, and when repeated sampling is needed. This team proposes an alternative that will minimize discomfort and bruising, will not require highly skilled personnel, and will be safe and easy. This project combines an array of tiny needles (microneedles) that can be placed as a “patch” on the surface of the skin to collect small amounts of blood, with little discomfort, and low risk of causing bruising. As the blood is collected, it will flow into a “lab-on-a-chip-on-a-phone” device, where the blood tests will automatically be performed using new and highly sensitive fluorescent probes. Results from this platform can be immediately and electronically sent to the patient and physician.


For More information on the Collaborative Health Research Projects grants program please visit: