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CFRI Researchers leading key projects for new national transplant research program

April 22, 2013
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CFRI researchers are leading key projects for a new Canadian National Transplant Research Program that aims to improve long-term survival and quality of life for transplant patients. 

In April 2013, the Government of Canada announced $13.85 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and other partners to the new program. Of this, $4 million will be directed towards the BC-led projects, including $1 million in funding from Genome British Columbia. The program involves 105 researchers and 86 collaborators at 13 centres and universities across Canada.

For the program, CFRI scientist Dr. Megan Levings is co-leading clinical trials to reduce immune rejection of transplanted tissues. Currently, most transplant recipients have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, and often with significant side effects such as graft-versus-host disease, heart problems, or cancer. The team is taking a technology developed in Montreal to improve stem cell transplantation and applying it to kidney transplants to reduce the need for patients to take immune-suppressant drugs. 

The team is also doing basic research to develop a new cell-based therapy to prevent graft rejection for both stem cell and solid organ transplantation. Clinical trials for this research project will be managed through the transplant programs at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital.

CFRI clinician scientist Dr. Kirk Schultz is leading a national core platform to support clinical trials, a national transplant registry effort and a national effort to link biological samples with patient outcomes. The registry data will enable researchers to develop better tests to identify the risk of rejection and infection, among other clinical applications.

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