Brian Kwon

The PROOF Centre is part of a new study bringing together a team of world-class investigators from multiple disciplines to create a better understanding of spinal cord injury (SCI).

The three-year study, “Biomarkers for Crossing the Translational Divide in Acute Spinal Cord Injury,” led by Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute researcher, Dr. Brian Kwon, recently received $3-million in funding from Brain Canada as a Multi-Investigator Research Initiative (MIRI) grant. The study assembles expertise in proteomics, metabolomics, lipidomics, genomics, analytical chemistry, computer science, bioinformatics, biostatistics, and data management. The multi-disciplinary team includes individuals from the University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, University of Alberta, the PROOF Centre of Excellence, the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Rick Hansen Institute, in addition to a team of spine surgeons across Canada.

The study’s objectives are threefold: first, to expand currently limited knowledge of what is actually happening biologically in the spinal cords of human SCI patients; second, to establish biomarkers that identify severity of injury to the spinal cord; and third, to create biomarker linkages with an intermediary model where novel therapies can be developed for eventual human clinical trials.

The PROOF Centre brings its established expertise in biomarker discovery and computational biology to the team, coordinating data management and biostatistics and bioinformatics analyses for the study.

“We have a great team of spine surgeon collaborators at centres across Canada who are collecting extremely valuable samples of spinal fluid and blood from patients who have had an acute SCI,” says Dr. Kwon, an orthopaedic spine surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital and SCI researcher with ICORD (International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries). “To get the most of these samples we will employ very complex analytical platforms, and having world-class expertise at all of those levels is key. Nobody else in the world has this collection of human samples, so we want top-level people doing the analysis.”

(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute)

World-renowned researchers collaborating on spinal cord injury study