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UBC Engineering Students Contributing to Global Health

Surgical Screw cutter a Promising Device for Orthopaedic Care in Developing Countries

Story originally published in VCHRI Enews, May 12, 2015

 Surgical screw cutterReplacing bolt cutters, device offers better patient recovery.
An innovative medical device developed by University of British Columbia (UBC) graduate students in the Engineers in Scrubs (EiS) Program is demonstrating the power of interdisciplinary collaborations. Working out of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, a Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute centre, team members Vivian Chung, Andrew Meyer, Gregory Allan, and Shalaleh Rismani, created a small screw cutter that has the potential to significantly improve surgical care in developing countries.

“When we learned that bolt cutters were being used to cut screws during trauma surgeries in Uganda, we began the process of researching better alternatives for these orthopaedic surgeons,” said Vivian Chung, EiS fellow, co-founder of the screw cutter project, and a licensed professional engineer. “We looked at a variety of solutions but decided on the screw cutter since surgeons were already cutting screws.”

“A better cutting tool was the simplest way to substantially improve surgical care.”

EiS team

EiS project team members Andrew Meyer, Vivian Chung, Gregory Allan, and Shalaleh Rismani have invented a medical screw cutter that has the potential to dramatically improve orthopaedic care in developing countries.

With one sharp slice, the screw cutter will resize a longer surgical screw down to the exact size needed for a patient’s body. It also leaves the screw with a rounded tip, which is safer and easier to insert into bone and can potentially reduce recovery time for patients. The screw cutter is simple to use, easy to clean, and compact. To develop the device, the team collaborated with UBC’s Uganda Sustainable Trauma Orthopaedic Program (USTOP), along with surgeons at the Mulago National Referral Hospital in Uganda.

One of the challenges to surgical care in developing countries is that donated supplies often tend to be those that are less used, such as longer surgical screws. Because their resources are limited, orthopaedic surgeons use bolt cutters to resize these screws to fit their patients. This results in serrated screw tips, which can be problematic for surgery and pose additional risks.

Project co-founder Vivian Chung and the screw cutter team are researching ways to make their medical tool more readily available to orthopaedic surgeons in developing countries.

According to USTOP, Uganda has one of the highest rates of traumatic injuries in the world and only approximately 36 surgeons. Canada, by comparison, has more than 1,100 orthopaedic surgeons serving a population similar in size to Uganda’s.

Working with Canadian and Ugandan surgeons, the team’s current focus is to ensure that screw cutters can be integrated into hospitals with ease. Currently, team member Shalaleh Rismani is on the ground in Uganda gathering feedback and observing surgical protocols both in and outside of operating rooms. The team is also actively researching ways to make their medical tool readily available to surgeons in developing countries.

“Beyond Uganda, we’ve also heard from surgeons in Ethiopia, India and Nepal, who have expressed a great need for the device,” says Chung, whose research focus is improving innovation pipelines and addressing gaps in patient care. “This motivates our team to keep pushing development forward. It is an absolute privilege to help these surgeons challenge the current standard of surgical care.”


Global Health Partners Call on G7 for NTD Action

The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative has joined over ninety other global health groups, institutions and individuals in supporting the elimination of neglected tropical diseases. These diseases most often affect the poorest populations in mostly lower- and middle-income countries and can cause blindness, severe disabilities and even death. Children under five are most at risk. The letter urges the Heads of State of the G7 countries to continue with current funding levels and plans for elimination and creating a collective plan of action in order to meet the goals of the World Health Organization’s 2020 control and elimination targets.

March 4, 2015

To: Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Republic of Germany, President of the 2015 G7
Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Japan
Prime Minister David Cameron, United Kingdom
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada
President François Hollande, Republic of France
President Barack Obama, United States of America
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Republic of Italy

Cc: G7 Foreign Ministers and G7 Sherpas

Your Excellencies:

Ahead of the 2015 G7 Summit, we would like to applaud G7 leaders for putting global health, particularly neglected and poverty-related diseases, at the forefront of the G7’s development agenda this year.

Together, we represent a group of experts, advocates, researchers and implementing partners from public and private sector organizations that share a vision of a world free of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).1 Our work is underpinned by the landmark 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, which captures our commitment to accelerate progress towards the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2020 control and elimination targets. We are writing to urge you to sustain current funding levels for NTD control and elimination efforts, and implement a collective plan of action to fill the remaining gaps to ensure we reach all people at risk from NTDs.
These bacterial, viral and parasitic infections, which affect the health and economic futures of nearly 1.9 billion people across Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, thrive in communities that lack access to health services, adequate sanitation and clean water. These infections can cause blindness, crippling physical disfigurements and increased susceptibility to HIV, exposing people to social stigma and discrimination. Without treatment, children face stunted growth and cognitive delays, posing a serious threat to their education. Moreover, there are approximately 44 million pregnant women infected with hookworms who are more likely to suffer from anemia and deliver low birthweight newborns – putting both mothers and babies at risk of mortality.

These detrimental health consequences have a spillover effect on the economic progress of families and communities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In short, these diseases are inextricably linked to maternal, newborn and child health; poverty; and inequality, requiring a comprehensive, holistic solution.
We enthusiastically welcome the G7’s leadership on NTDs this year, which builds on the G7’s longstanding commitments to tackle this problem, notably the historic Hashimoto Initiative, the first international parasitic disease control initiative, established during the 1998 Birmingham Summit. This paved the way for the G7’s ongoing support for research and diagnostics, in addition to treatment and prevention efforts.

Major pharmaceutical companies have established a superb track record of leadership in the effort to control and eliminate NTDs, donating 2.5 billion treatments in 2012 and 2013 alone. Partners are working tirelessly to make sure that these treatments reach the people who need them, alongside over 70 endemic countries that have demonstrated ownership of this issue by developing dedicated, integrated plans to fight NTDs.

These are all steps in the right direction, however a $220 million global annual funding gap for treatment continues to stand in the way of reaching the WHO 2020 targets. We urge the G7 to scale up investments now to ensure that programs are able to reach all affected populations, while also sustaining progress made thus far. Looking forward, the G7 and partners should ensure universal coverage against these diseases, an effort that will lead to measurable progress towards the elimination of extreme poverty; improved maternal and child health outcomes; and enhanced economic growth. Equally important, prioritizing NTDs will set the stage for success in achieving the proposed 2030 sustainable development goals.

To meet this need, the G7 should sustain current funding levels for neglected tropical disease control and elimination efforts, and implement a collective plan of action to fill the remaining gaps:

Scale up access to existing treatments through mass drug administration and multisectoral approaches: Currently, just over 40 percent of people at risk of NTDs worldwide are being reached by treatment programs. Therefore, additional investment is essential to ensure coverage of those affected. G7 leaders can advance progress towards their 2008 Hokkaido Toyako commitment by reaching 75% of the people affected by NTDs through cost-effective, integrated approaches like mass drug administration – a bundled packet of NTD treatments that can be delivered through community-based platforms, including schools. In addition, the G7 should invest in multisectoral approaches that integrate NTD control and elimination activities alongside efforts to improve maternal and child health, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, reaching more people in need with a greater impact.

Invest in new, innovative technologies and approaches: While we must continue to utilize these cost-effective, high-impact treatments, some NTDs require increased investment in new innovative technologies including drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and pesticides. One possible avenue for research and development support is through product development partnerships that can facilitate exchange of expertise and scientific knowledge to develop products for diseases that disproportionally affect the most vulnerable populations.

Yours respectfully,

To view the signatories please read the full letter here.

NGDI Member Urs Hafeli to Lead International Professorship

UBC and University of Copenhagen share international professorship

Media Release | February 10, 2015

University of Copenhagen Credit: Christoffer Regild

A $1.9 million CAD donation from a Danish foundation will fund a joint professorship for pharmaceutical research at UBC and the University of Copenhagen.

Funding from the Lundbeck Foundation will create a joint five-year professorship in drug delivery and nanomedicine is intended to lead to the creation of new and improved drugs. Associate Professor Urs Häfeli will lead the UBC-University of Copenhagen Lundbeck Foundation professorship. The universities are also collaborating on a joint PhD program.

Univ of Copenhagen

Univ of Copenhagen

Drug delivery and nanomedicine is an emerging area of human health study. Researchers are looking for drug types and administration routes where the individual drug is delivered directly to the disease site. This in turn makes it possible to avoid the adverse effects often associated with the use of medicine.

Hafeli, Urs 2015

Associate Professor Urs Häfeli will lead the UBC-University of Copenhagen Lundbeck Foundation professorship.

“The joint professorship cements the good collaboration between UCPH and UBC and enables us to conduct joint projects that allow us to draw on each other’s competencies to an even higher degree. In the short or longer term, the shared professorship will mean results that will be translated into specific drugs,” says Associate Dean Sven Frøkjær from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Michael Coughtrie, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences says the collaboration has tremendous global potential to improve health.

“Partnerships are essential for the delivery of research that has real impact. The UBC-University of Copenhagen Lundbeck Foundation professorship will pave the way for leading-edge drug discovery and ensure continued fruitful collaborations with our colleagues at the University of Copenhagen,” says Coughtrie.

“We hope this research project can create new knowledge in the drug delivery field, and we look forward to following its progress. The grant brings together two of the main objectives of the research funding we grant, which, on the one hand, are to promote and further enhance the qualifications of the excellent Danish health science research environments and, on the other hand, are to strengthen the internationalisation of Danish health science research,” says Anne-Marie Engel, director of research, Lundbeck Foundation.

UBC’s Ebola Action Fund supports Engineering Student Project

The UBC Ebola Action Network Fund coordinated by the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative has provide seed funding to a student-led communications project called “Just Meshin’ Around”.

The Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST) has been busy working on a project to develop through contacts they made in the UBC Ebola Action Network.  They have been in contact  with several healthcare workers, including physicians, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) personnel, involved on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali and Liberia. Through their contact’s first-­hand experiences, the group was able to identify several areas that need attention in the response to Ebola, and provide a proof-of-principal, tangible solution to one of them. They have proposed a mesh-based electronic medical reporting system to allow the digital collection, and storing of patient  progress without the need for complex infrastructure, cellular network, or internet/Wi‐Fi access.

Rich answers a question after presenting a cheque to the BEST students.

The UBC Ebola Action Network Fund provided start-up funds of $1,000.00 for this project. This will provide an earlier starting date for the project as needs in the Ebola endemic countries are still strong. While this proof-of-principal project may not reach the field in time for this outbreak, this is a network that can be utilized for many other purposes in developing countries. Several BEST students were on hand to accept the cheque and the proposal was written by: Marcus Cheung, Marysia Gryzbowski, Tricia Jose, Riley Marsh, Andrea Marshall, Tina Saad, and Elizabeth Wicks.

The NGDI has a strong track record of mobilizing knowledge to help effective disease interventions reach the field, and acting as an information resource for the UBC community and beyond. The lessons learned from Ebola will help the NGDI respond to future epidemics. The information gathered by the Ebola Action Network will be an invaluable research tool to help our future planning.2015.01.09 2

The presentation occurred during a shared Open House on Friday, January 9, 2015 at the VCH Research Pavilion. Dr. Richard Lester has completed the set up his global health research program on the fifth floor. Three offices including the one large student office pictured below are part of the group.  Richard has also taken on the Directorship of the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative and the office for Coordinator, Jocelyn Conway has a separate office (room 564) on the same floor.

Cdn Gov’t to send Military Medical Personnel to West Africa

Announcement includes Call to Action for recruitment of Canadian medical personnel for 8 week deployment with Canadian Red Cross.

Minister of Health Rona Ambrose announcement comes with and additional $20.9 million funding.

Full CBC story below.

Ebola outbreak: Canada sending 40 military medical personnel to Africa

Canada gives $20.9M in additional funding to bring total commitment to $113.5M

By Hannah Thibdeau, CBC News Posted: Nov 27, 2014 12:40 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 27, 2014 1:49 PM ET

Related Stories

Canada is offering 40 military personnel and an additional $20.9 million to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, while calling for health care workers willing to “join the fight” against the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Libera, the three most-affected countries.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced the new measures at a press conference in Ottawa Thursday.

Ambrose pledged the government would support Canadians willing to undertake an eight-week commitment in Africa, including maintaining full pay and benefits for federal workers who volunteer.

From left, Judith Bossé, assistant deputy minister of health, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor watch a health-care worker demonstrate the use of protective equipment to prevent infection from the Ebola virus, at an Ottawa hospital Thursday. (Catherine Cullen/CBC)

From left, Judith Bossé, assistant deputy minister of health, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor watch a health-care worker demonstrate the use of protective equipment to prevent infection from the Ebola virus, at an Ottawa hospital Thursday. (Catherine Cullen/CBC)

The eight weeks include one week of training, four weeks in the field and three weeks recovery, Ambrose said.

The Department of National Defence will send Canadian Forces health-care and support staff to Sierra Leone for up to six months. The Canadian military doctors, nurses and medics will be stationed with personnel from the United Kingdom at the Kerry Town Treatment Unit, treating health-care workers who have been exposed to the deadly virus.

“Our uniformed health professionals and support staff will be highly trained and well supported as they join their British military medical counterparts,” Nicholson said in a statement.

The $20.9 million will be given to 10 humanitarian organizations:

  • For treatment and psychological support.
  • To help local communities cope with the outbreak.
  • To train medical personnel and emergency experts who will be deployed to the region.

The Red Cross says it has 17 people currently on the ground, and the additional money for urgent training needs will help fill the demand for health-care workers in Ebola treatment centres in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“Since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak in March 2014, recruiting doctors, nurses and support staff has been our greatest challenge,” said Conrad Sauvé, secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross.

With the announcement Thursday, Canada has committed $113.5 million to help in the fight against Ebola.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 15,351 reported cases and 5,459 deaths worldwide.

Canada came under fire from the WHO earlier this month for announcing it was suspending new travel visas for residents from “high-risk” countries in the Ebola-affected areas of West Africa. Canada also halted processing permanent residence visas for people from those countries.

Two weeks ago, Canada also announced it was imposing new self-quarantine measures for “high-risk” travellers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, three of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

Canadian Researchers Come Together to Combat the Ebola Outbreak

The Plight of Ebola: Canadian Researchers Come Together to Combat the Outbreak

Thursday, November 20, 2014 — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Last week, UBC’s Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC (NGDI-UBC) in partnership with the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), Canada’s national not-for-profit drug development and commercialization centre, brought together leading researchers from across the country to discuss Ebola Treatment and Action.  The meeting focused on Canada’s current contributions to potential therapeutics in response to the 2014 West African outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and the opinions of Canadian Public Health officials and researchers for the prevention, and control of infection domestically.

NGDI logo2Dr. Richard Lester, Director of NGDI-UBC and Assistant Professor in Infectious Diseases and Global Health in the Department of Medicine states, “In this time of a health crisis in West Africa, we were really privileged to hear the scientific stories behind the development of these hopeful treatments for Ebola. There is still urgent work to be done on this crisis, and these Canadian scientists and practitioners are inspiring examples of how local expertise can contribute in the global context. We hope to encourage even more contributions, like those from CDRD, to close the gap in access to expert care and medicines for the world’s most vulnerable, remote, or underserved populations.”

NGDI-UBC is currently working closely with CDRD to identify how best to use the extensive capabilities of its biologics platform to employ a novel approach to developing the next generation of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies for the prevention and treatment of Ebola; bringing its industry partners, and combined 40-plus years of therapeutic antibody development experience in rapidly developing candidate antibodies with enhanced effector functions to the table.

CDRD newCDRD President and CEO, Karimah Es Sabar commented, “This timely symposium has focused the mindset of an expert panel of immunologists, public health clinicians, officials and drug developers to work collaboratively through NGDI to accelerate the development of safe, efficacious and affordable treatments for Ebola. It is a neglected disease which affects the most vulnerable people in the poorest communities on this planet. CDRD is committed to working with UBC’s NGDI, and leveraging our vast network of industry and academic collaborators to determine how we can best contribute to developing the next generation of biologics treatments for this devastating disease.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, Deputy Provincial Health Officer, BC Ministry of Health and Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine UBC opened the symposium with a detailed overview of the symptoms, transmission and mortality of EVD.  To-date, 14,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the current outbreak which came to light in March 2014, but is thought to have originated in late 2013.  From a public health perspective, Canada is well prepared to deal with patients who may present with symptoms and subsequently test positive for EVD.  A Special Advisory Committee is in place, consisting of Public Health Experts from across the nation in addition to a BC Provincial Task Force on-hand to advise best practices if and when suspected cases arise.

From a treatment perspective, there are three Canadian contributions that are being fast-tracked through clinical trials but the challenge remains to find companies and researchers willing to translate their EVD research from bench to bedside. The keynote speakers focused on two of these contributions; the National Microbiology Laboratory’s therapeutic monoclonal antibody, ZMapp and Tekmira Pharmaceutical’s TKM-Ebola lipid nanoparticle (LNP) therapeutic.  Dr. Xiangguo Qiu of the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML), Public Health Agency of Canada said that the challenges associated with controlling the spread of the current outbreak are multi-factorial.  Firstly, this outbreak occurred outside the traditional “hotspot” of Eastern Africa and therefore, local communities were poorly prepared for this event.  This lack of preparedness and understanding has culminated in community resistance to foreign health workers and a local underestimation of the problem.  Additionally, there is increased travel by West Africans and a greater number of inexperienced medical staff combating this outbreak.

Ebola Audience 2The NML is responding in a three-pronged approach; they have set up a mobile diagnostic lab which has been based in Sierra Leone since June 2014; they have produced a vaccine with the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vector and they have developed a monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutic. The VSV vaccine induces strong B- and T-cell responses. This vaccine has been tested as a post-exposure therapeutic and has been shown to provide 100% protection 28 days post-immunization. This vaccine is currently in Phase I trials and 1,000 doses have been donated for use in the current outbreak.  Over the past 10 years, the NML has also been developing a mAb which targets Ebola virus glycoprotein (EBOV GP 1.2).  This is the primary protein involved in the pathogenesis of EVD.  It is produced using a hybridoma model followed by humanization of purified mAbs. ZMAb is a cocktail of these mAbs which was observed to be 100% efficacious in a study using rhesus monkeys. ZMapp; the chimeric combination of ZMAb also showed very high survival rates in in vivo models. Both have been used in the treatment of 9 Ebola patients during the current outbreak.  Five out of 7 patients treated with ZMapp survived while both patients treated with ZMAb survived.

Dr. Ian MacLachlan, Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Vancouver-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals spoke about their siRNA-based LNP therapeutic targeting the Kikwit strain of Ebola. These LNP formulations are highly uniform and highly stable. The siRNA targets V24, VP35 and LPol genes on the Ebola virus.  The lyophilized formulation has shown increased potency and increased therapeutic index and appears to ameliorate pathology due to EVD such as coagulopathy. The Tekmira product has been used to treat an undisclosed number of patients in the current outbreak. There is ongoing development of this product to account for mismatched sequences between LPol and VP35 in the current strain.  However, the LNP platform has allowed Tekmira to rapidly adjust the product configuration in response to the emergent virus.

By bringing Canada’s vast health research resources to bear, we as a nation are already making a major global impact on this devastating disease, and by further fostering dialogue and collaboration, and sharing knowledge and resources, we now aim to amplify both our national efforts and impact.

For additional information, contact:

Jocelyn Conway

UBC Neglected Global Diseases Initiative
Tel: 604 218 4849
Email: jocelyn.conway@ubc.ca

Barry Gee
Director, Communications
The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD)
Tel: 604-827-1223
Email: bgee@cdrd.ca


About the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC:

The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC brings together the technical expertise and perspectives of a variety of disciplines at UBC – including bench science, pharmaceutical and health research, business, social policy, and law – to develop interventions for neglected global diseases and ensure their delivery to those in need. For more information, visit www.ngdi.ubc.ca.

 About CDRD:

The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) is Canada’s fully-integrated national drug development and commercialization centre, providing expertise and infrastructure to enable researchers from leading health research institutions to advance promising early-stage drug candidates. Our mandate is to de-risk discoveries stemming from publicly-funded health research and transform them into viable investment opportunities for the private sector — thus successfully bridging the commercialization gap between academia and industry, and translating research discoveries into new therapies for patients. Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence Program has recognized CDRD as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR). www.cdrd.ca



Dr. Kelly Chibale, Director, Drug Development and Discovery Centre, Univ of Capetown Seminar


Free registration is available here.
The seminar is also available live and will be archived at this link.

CDRD NGDI Univ of CP Oct 31, 2014

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