MSFHR funds 19 innovators to advance made-in-BC health research and discoveries for improved patient care

21 January 2021

The 2020 Innovation to Commercialization and Health Professional-Investigator awardees are advancing health research towards practical applications, improving patient care, and developing made-in-BC technologies.

We are British Columbia’s health research funding agency. Our programs are designed to develop, retain, and attract the people whose research improves the health of British Columbians, addresses health system priorities, creates jobs, and adds to the knowledge economy.

Innovation to Commercialization

The Innovation to Commercialization (I2C) Program supports researchers to advance their discoveries towards practical application, resulting in products or technologies that improve health outcomes and enrich BC’s health innovation ecosystem.

The nine 2020 I2C awardees are developing made-in-BC cutting-edge technologies that have the potential to improve patient care around the world, including a breast positioning device to reduce radiation therapy side effects, 3D printed medical tubing to replace single-use plastic, an automated body composition analysis for use in precision medicine, and oral cancer screening using DNA measurement.

Dr. Lori Brotto pursued an I2C award to develop (and eventually commercialize) eSense, a psychological intervention tool to improve sexual health and, ultimately, quality of life for women. MSFHR’s support for Dr. Brotto began in 2004, when she received a Scholar award for her research on cervical cancer and sexuality.

“The I2C award is intended to provide support for scientific discoveries so that they can be translated to real world applications and this is what drew me to the competition,” says Dr. Brotto. “This award will support our team to take a web-enabled program for women’s sexual health, which we have been developing for the past three years, and scale it up for widespread clinical and public dissemination. This will overcome longstanding barriers that prevent the 30 percent of women who suffer from sexual difficulties from accessing an evidence-based intervention.”

Health Professional-Investigator

The 2020 Health Professional-Investigator awardees are examining diverse areas including treatments for pediatric mental health problems, improving rehabilitation care for hip and knee replacements, patient-oriented mental health recovery, and diagnosing infectious diseases through novel metabolomics approaches.

Designed to help close the gap between health research and its implementation, the HP-I Program supports physicians and allied health professionals who are actively involved in patient care to not only conduct, but apply research relevant to health.

This is the first cohort of HP-I awardees with two separate applicant streams, a physician stream and an allied health professional stream, which were evaluated independently to allow for more equitable comparison.

Three of the 10 HP-I awards have co-funding partners, who have enabled MSFHR to fund additional researchers while building research capacity in areas of importance to partners.

One of the co-funding partners is Plantiga, a Vancouver-based AI-powered health monitoring company, who is supporting Dr. Christopher Napier’s HP-I award. Dr. Napier, a practicing physiotherapist, is using the Plantiga platform to test a wearable gait analysis tool for patients with running injuries. The tool could eventually allow clinicians and physiotherapists to assess and diagnose running injuries remotely, which is increasingly important in a world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having an HP-I award has given me the flexibility and stability to launch my own independent research program, says Dr. Napier. “I can now dedicate time away from my clinical responsibilities to conduct research on the use of wearable tools to monitor and rehabilitate patients with musculoskeletal injuries.”

This month also marks the launch of our suite of 2021 funding competitions, reflecting extensive evaluation and stakeholder feedback to meet the needs of BC’s health research community. By investing in and supporting health research, we are continuing to support British Columbians through the pandemic and the province’s economic recovery. Learn more about our 2021 lineup of funding opportunities.