Advancing Schizophrenia Research
In 1994, BC Schizophrenia Society members raised the $1 million necessary to establish a Chair in Schizophrenia Research at UBC. The Chair was named in honour of philanthropist Jack Bell, whose generous donation provided half the necessary funding at the time. The position of Chair is currently held by well-known schizophrenia researcher, Dr. Bill Honer, who is also now Head of UBC Psychiatry.

The Society and its Foundation vigorously promote schizophrenia research, and encourage funders in their support for young scientists who want to study schizophrenia here in British Columbia. This is an important and much-needed contribution to the field. Together we have raised over $2.2 million dollars for research projects to date - the value of which is doubled through matching grants from other sources to individual researchers.

We are proud to present the young researchers profiled here, and extremely grateful to all whose generous gifts of time and money allow us to continue this important work.

Dr. Alfredo Ramos-Miguel
Dr. Ramos-Miguel studies the impact of three brain proteins (known as SNARE proteins) on cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. These proteins can form tight, stable structures called SNARE complexes, which have been found to be related to cognitive decline. His team is working to identify drug compounds that can disrupt SNARE complexes, and potentially relieve the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. This ongoing research has already identified some promising candidates in vitro among the 100,000 molecules that have been tested. However, a great effort is still needed to translate their potential effects into benefits for patients and their families.

Katie M. Lavigne
Katie Lavigne’s PHD research examines brain activity associated with changes in symptoms, cognition, and social functioning in schizophrenia patients undergoing either cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) or metacognitive training (MCT). This will be the first direct comparison of brain changes underlying these two popular cognitive therapies for schizophrenia, and could lead to more individualized treatment options by determining which features of schizophrenia are impacted most through CRT vs. MCT. Future research combining CRT and MCT would serve as the first steps in the development of a comprehensive treatment program involving medications and cognitive training. Katie is currently recruiting and running treatment groups at one inpatient site (BC Psychosis Program, UBC Hospital). She is also recruiting and running treatment groups with Vancouver Coastal’s Outpatient Mental Health teams, and will have completed assessments and treatment for her first group by fall 2014.

Dr. Anita Cote
Dr. Anita Cote is at UBC researching cardiovascular impacts, including metabolic syndrome, arising from the use of anti-psychotic medications in children. The goal is to identify genetic markers of which children will develop risk factors for heart disease and stroke when treated with second generation antipsychotics (SGA)—so that appropriate prevention strategies can be implemented. During her research Dr. Cote identified an association between the Val158Met (rs4680) variant in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene and blood pressure in SGA-treated children. This work was recently published in the Pharmacogenomics Journal, and is the first study to report the interaction of this gene and SGA use. Dr. Cote is now investigating changes in the functioning of the COMT gene in SGA-treated children.