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A wow-worthy year of research province-wide

B.C.’s health system can’t deliver great health care without great research, and PHSA-affiliated researchers made major contributions over the last year. Read how researchers from across PHSA made a difference for patients in B.C., Canada and worldwide.
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Cutting-edge research improves health care across the province by enabling people at PHSA to deliver better patient care and optimize our provincial health systems in partnership with B.C.'s health authorities. 

Research insights support policy and care decisions, and ongoing research remains critical to B.C.'s COVID-19 response as we continually learn more about the disease. 

Research is at the core of PHSA's impact

With $146 million in research funding last year (up $11 million from 2018-19), PHSA is one of Canada's largest academic health science organizations - institutions that have a three-part mandate to integrate patient care with student training and research.  

Throughout 2020, PHSA had 833 researchers and more than 2300 research trainees as part of our province-wide research enterprise. PHSA's Research and Academic Services team supports this thriving research community, and provides strategic leadership of student practice education at PHSA.

15 breakthrough discoveries by PHSA-linked researchers 

The pandemic slowed non-essential research activities across PHSA in March 2020, but PHSA researchers still made major discoveries and contributions this year. 

Here are just a few of the many inspiring research accomplishments from people across PHSA in the last 12 months.

  1. Rapidly developed a new COVID-19 diagnostic test that enabled BC to detect its first case in January. 

  2. Discovered that prescribing antibiotics for infants in their first year of life almost doubles their risk of being diagnosed with asthma by age five. We learned asthma rates are falling thanks to efforts by physicians to avoid prescribing antibiotics to young children, except when necessary. 

  3. Created the first-in-Canada child-friendly gargle COVID-19 test.

  4. Explored the experiences of British Columbians during the pandemic. Almost 400,000 British Columbians shared their experience of living through the early parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with results displayed in an interactive dashboard.

  5. Participated in a cross-county network called CANCOVID-Preg, a national Canadian surveillance program of COVID-19 in pregnancy

  6. Investigated leading-edge heart rhythm treatments and recommending the most effective path forward. 

  7. Developed and validated a new, one-step lab process to test for hepatitis C

  8. Created an innovative blood test to reveal whether select prostate cancer patients will respond well to treatment .The test may also reveal genetic details identifying cancer risk for patient's children. 

  9. Initiated the COVID-19 RESPONSE Study to gather real-time, comprehensive, population-level data on COVID-19, particularly on past and asymptomatic infections anchored through a sex and gender lens.

  10. Investigated and confirmed that the influenza vaccine does not increase the risk of coronavirus, using historical data involving coronaviruses.

  11. Launched a new production method for the world's most commonly used medical isotope, ensuring a stable supply chain and securing access to life-saving medical scans for cancer patients in B.C. and around the world.

  12. Discovered a liquid biopsy biomarker that could revolutionize bladder cancer diagnostics and treatment. 

  13. Found that oral immunotherapy significantly lowers risk of life-threatening peanut allergy reactions in preschoolers. 

  14. Refined treatments that prevent transplant rejection in kids and adults without leaving them vulnerable to infection.

  15. Found that breast milk is a major driver of infant gut microbiota development and that breastfeeding directly at the breast best supports this process.

PHSA Research activities reflect ongoing partnerships between PHSA, our programs and our academic partners. As an academic health organization, we work closely with the University of British Columbia and other academic institutions, including Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and the University of Northern British Columbia, to support health researchers and their work. 

Also through these academic partnerships, PHSA helps develop the research talent of the future, providing on-the-job learning opportunities for thousands of students and research trainees. Our research studies take place in a variety of PHSA locations including laboratories, patient care settings and in the community. We're committed to using what we learn from research and translating this knowledge into improved approaches to patient care, disease prevention and health system efficiency.

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