Clinical Trial for Montbretin A (MbA) in Diabetics

Health Research BC is providing match funds for this research project, which is funded by GlycoNet’s Translational Grant


This fully B.C.-based project will undertake a Phase 1 human clinical trial of a promising natural product from plants, Montbretin A (MbA), for control of blood glucose levels in diabetics. The team comprises a chemist (Stephen Withers), a clinician (Robert Petrella), a plant biochemist (Joerg Bohlmann) and a biochemist/coordinator (J.P. Heale). Earlier B.C. work identified MbA as a potent inhibitor of amylase, the principal human enzyme that degrades starch in our guts leading to glucose release into the bloodstream. Subsequent studies in diabetic rats confirmed that orally administered MbA lowers blood glucose levels and is safe, even at very high dosages. On this basis Health Canada approved a Phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety of MbA in humans. This funding will allow us to carry out that trial in a side-by-side evaluation with the drug acarbose that is currently used but causes unpleasant side effects. Due to its different mode of action of MbA should be better tolerated yet highly active.


Key words: diabetes, obesity, blood glucose, amylase, inhibitor

Mind the gap: Hormonal contraceptives and the brain

Hormonal contraceptives (HC) are used by 850 million girls, women and people with uteri — all reflected in the term women+ — , and 16 percent of people (5-49Y) in Canada. In addition to being contraceptives, HCs are prescribed off-label to treat many other conditions. Few studies have examined effects of these hormones on the brain; however, recent work suggests they can increase risk for mood disorders during adolescence and alter brain activation patterns. Yet, how HC use may influence long-term brain health is not known. Understanding brain health, especially through an equity lens, is critical. Women+ experience different brain health symptoms as a result of their unique experience of stress, which is impacted by age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Stress outcomes affect disease risk, which is also influenced by HCs. Collaborations between academics and research users are vital to understanding the unique ways that women+’s lives impact their brain health. This conference will explore how HCs influence women+’s brain health by bringing together researchers, clinicians, community partners, trainees, and policymakers to exchange knowledge and identify new research priorities that fill knowledge gaps and address patient experiences.

Team members: Katherine Moore (Women’s Health Research Cluster); Jesse Lacasse (Concordia University); Bonnie Lee (UBC); Jennifer Williams (McMaster University); Maureen MacDonald (McMaster University); Nafissa Ismail (University of Ottawa); Elizabeth Hampson (University of Western Ontario); Gillian Einstein (University of Toronto); Frances Chen (UBC); Sofia Ahmed (University of Calgary).

Improving access to breastfeeding support in interior British Columbia: A collaborative planning project

While breastfeeding has many health benefits for both infant and mother, many women and birthing people experience breastfeeding challenges. Insufficient supply, poor latch, and pain, as well as stigma and lack of support can impact breastfeeding goals. These challenges can be heavily influenced by social inequities, parental leave, and societal pressures, particularly among disadvantaged populations in Canada. It is important for postpartum people to receive breastfeeding support from healthcare professionals, especially during public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, where in-person contact is limited. Therefore, this C2 project will establish key networks and resources around optimal breastfeeding support in interior BC. Specific objectives are to build partnerships, conduct a needs assessment, and co-create a research agenda to develop and evaluate a virtual breastfeeding intervention study in this region. We expect to identify key aspects of virtual support that will create a thorough and meaningfully designed breastfeeding intervention study, which will ultimately lead to higher rates of breastfeeding rates, as well as improved user satisfaction and self-efficacy among parents and families in BC.

Team members: Elizabeth Keys (UBC – Okanagan); Rishma Chooniedass (UBC – Okanagan); Michele Hopkins (The Bridge Youth & Family Services); Ellen Boelcke (KCR Community Resources); Olivia Andrews (UBC – Okanagan).

Acts of kindness as an antidote to social disconnection: Development and dissemination of an online intervention program to increase social engagement in BC neighbourhoods

Loneliness and social isolation have been increasingly recognized as a growing public health priority with extensive evidence that these issues take a significant toll on population health. Despite this escalating urgency, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, effective evidence-based interventions for mitigating social isolation and loneliness are lacking. Based on previous research by UBC researchers, this project proposes “acts of kindness” as an antidote to social disconnection. Our teams at UBC and UWBC will partner to co-develop and test the effects of an online intervention program to promote social connection in lonely BC residents. We expect that this project will provide an accessible, easy-to-implement program that will mitigate the isolation felt by participating BC residents in the periphery of social networks while also reducing the spread of loneliness throughout those BC residents’ social networks. We also expect this project will promote evidence-based approaches to tackle public health issues in the BC community extending beyond the issue of loneliness, so that UWBC (research users) can ensure that effective and high-quality programs reach British Columbians (ultimate research beneficiaries).

Team members: Jasica Grewal (United Way of BC); Tobias Jones (United Way of BC); Yeeun Archer Lee (UBC); Julia Nakamura (UBC); Rachel Hamilton (UBC).

Group sense making and model building for mapping systems for the promotion of population physical activity in British Columbia

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate crises highlighted the need for renewed and strengthened systems to promote population physical activity (PPA) in BC. This need, coupled with calls for using complex systems methods, forms the basis for the proposed activities. Complexity can be seen as the context where numerous interacting elements (i.e. people, entities) in a system make it hard to see, describe, and assess what is happening in the whole. Complex systems methods are a way to gain clarity on complex problems by focusing on the patterns of what the system does or how it behaves. After the completion of a formative scoping review and interviews with stakeholders to assess the current state of systems for PPA in BC, we now plan to invite partners and stakeholders from many sectors and facilitate online group sense making sessions. These sessions will involve participatory processes to develop understanding of the current state of the systems for PPA. A second session will focus on identifying directions for strengthening systems for PPA in terms of policy, practice and research. The project team will provide recommendations for potential roles and responsibilities for the BCCDC to strengthen systems for promoting PPA.

Team members: Drona Rasali (BCCDC); Lori Baugh Littlejohns (BCCDC); Geoff McKee (BCCDC); Daniel Naiman (BC Ministry of Health).

Building partnerships for improving chronic pelvic pain care in gynecology: A needs assessment of health professionals-in-training

Chronic pelvic pain affects ~15 percent of women and an unknown number of gender diverse people. Despite its common and devastating effects, chronic pelvic pain is too often dismissed or mismanaged, which is in part due to physicians’ lack of education on the topic. This study will identify knowledge needs about chronic pelvic pain of BC health professionals-in-training, which will guide the development of a future online resource. To do this, we will 1) Convene a group of experts interested in improving education and care for people with chronic pelvic pain; 2) Assess the knowledge level and attitudes towards chronic pelvic pain in gynecology using a baseline survey completed by medical and nurse practitioner students; and 3) Collaborate with experts to review the needs assessment and co-create a plan for a future resource. We aim to improve the understanding of chronic pelvic pain in health professionals-in-training and ultimately improve care for people with this complex condition by addressing the specific knowledge needs and identifying meaningful information to be included in a future resource to address gaps in medical education.

Team members: Natasha Orr (UBC – School of Nursing); Paul Yong (UBC – Faculty of Medicine); Leanne Currie (UBC – School of Nursing); Karim Qayumi (UBC – Faculty of Medicine); Margaret Carlyle (UBC – Okanagan; Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Department of History and Sociology); Rachel Langer (UBC – Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Laboratory); Lan Randhawa (UBC – Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Laboratory); Helena Daudt (Pain BC); Jennifer Krist (UBC – School of Nursing).

Remission Possible: A knowledge translation project to inform British Columbians with Type 2 diabetes that remission is possible

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is traditionally viewed as a chronic, progressive condition that someone has for life. Our research, and that of others, now shows it is possible to drive T2D into remission through specific diet and lifestyle changes. T2D remission means that blood sugars are back in the normal range with no medications needed; it represents a new way of viewing T2D which provides hope for those affected. Research shows T2D remission is achievable, but now we need a public outreach program to alert as many British Columbians as possible to this news and connect them with helpful resources. We will implement a KT initiative including: 1) Video and graphic media products that we create; 2) Earned mainstream media coverage; and 3) A social media campaign, which amplifies the first two elements and drives viewers to a web platform,, which will connect them with T2D remission resources. Given how broadly T2D affects British Columbians and what a “feel good” story this is, we anticipate significant interest with mainstream and social media. By carefully tracking results (impressions and web traffic), we will improve our reach and learn valuable lessons to inform future KT initiatives.

Team members: Damien Gillis; Barbara Oliveira (UBC Okanagan); Tom Elliot (UBC); Sean McKelvey (Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition, not-for-profit); Marc Pelletier (Institute for Health Systems Transformation and Sustainability, not-for-profit); Deanne Taylor (Interior Health); Kathleen Martin Ginis (UBC Okanagan and Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management); Krista Lamb; JJ Belanger; Chris Xi.

Knowledge translation and mobilization to support exercise recommendations for people with bone metastases

The objective is to develop a knowledge translation and mobilization plan for exercise recommendations for people with bone metastases. In advanced cancer, cancer can spread to bone, called ‘bone metastases’. This makes bones weaker and more likely to break, leading to pain and disability. Physical activity can help people living with bone metastases to maintain their independence and engage in more activities they enjoy. However, health care professionals, exercise professionals and people living with bone metastases (user groups) are uncertain about how to safely engage in physical activity. In 2022, expert recommendations were published on physical activity specifically for people with bone metastases. Without specific tools for user groups and communication plans, it could take years for these recommendations to be taken up into practice. We will bring together people who are part of the intended user groups across British Columbia to “co-design” the best way to get information about the recommendations to people who need it, in the most useful way possible. This project aims to raise awareness about the recommendations and start the process to increase use of the recommendations for people living in British Columbia.

Team members: Christine Simmons (BC Cancer Agency); Alan Bates (BC Cancer); Cathy Clelland (BC Cancer); Sian Shuel (BC Cancer); Leah Lambert (BC Cancer); Sarah Budding Smith (BC Cancer); Chiara Singh (Fraser Health & Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia); Hardip Jhaj (British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists); Rebecca Tunnacliffe (BC Recreation and Parks Association); Tracy Torchetti (Canadian Cancer Society); Sarah Weller (BC Cancer); Stephanie Skourtes (Women’s Health Research Institute); Kirstin Lane (Exercise Science, Physical & Health Education University of Victoria); Sarah Neil-Sztramko (National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools); David Langelier (University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre); Michelle Nadler (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre); Samantha Myers (UBC – Rehabilitation Sciences).

Scaling-up a community-based diabetes prevention program: A longitudinal matrixed multiple case study to examine implementation context

One in three Canadians are affected by diabetes. Diabetes prevention programs can help people considerably lower their risk for Type 2 diabetes. Yet, research understanding how to put programs in place (implement) in community settings is low. Site-specific context is often ignored, limiting program success. This means very few Canadians have access to effective diabetes prevention programs. Small Steps for Big Changes (SSBC) is a program for individuals at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This effective program was successfully implemented within two community sites. The program is ready to be implemented across Canada. This project will examine the implementation of SSBC in 10 unique community sites. Each site will be a case study to discover factors that affect implementation. A matrix will organize all the cases to compare results within and between sites. This method will reveal how context impacts implementation (what works, where and why). Results will offer lessons learned on how to successfully implement diabetes prevention programs across different contexts. Ultimately, this project will increase access to an effective diabetes prevention program across Canada.

Multimodal characterization and classification of bio-signals to predict cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), due to abrupt disruption of cardiac function, is a major health problem globally. SCA can happen to anyone at any age who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease. SCA has a poor survival rate of about 10 percent, with an estimated 35,000 deaths in Canada annually. With an increasing rate of cases (16 percent from 2017 to 2020), SCA remains a major public health issue in British Columbia. The most effective strategy to improve survival is to achieve rapid SCA recognition, given that for every minute without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) survival rates drop by 10 percent. Wearable devices may play a major role in decreasing SCA mortality, providing real-time cardiac information for early SCA detection. My aim is to develop a wearable SCA device with embedded sensors, and use their real-time physiological data combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, to make an accurate SCA detection system. This SCA detection system will be designed to identify SCA and alert Emergency Medical Services with the individual’s location (via GPS), enabling them to provide life-saving interventions in a timely manner.