New research centre coming to Prince George

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – A new research centre is being launched in Prince George for clinical and biomedical research in Northern B.C. and to improve healthcare for northerners.

According to a joint release from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and the University of British Columbia, this centre will build on existing infrastructure and partnerships.

The new Northern Centre for Clinical Research (NCCR) is a collaboration between UNBC, UBC Faculty of Medicine and Northern Health.

The centre will be at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, with potential satellite centres across Northern B.C.

The NCCR will focus on clinical trials, research, and biomedical science relevant to the region’s populations.

“This new centre will help foster collaborative clinical and medical life sciences research across the north,” said Fraser Bell, vice president of planning and quality for Northern Health, “which we hope will lead to innovations in technologies, processes and practices that reflect rural and Indigenous geographical, social and cultural contexts.”

“The NCCR will also provide more opportunities for northerners to participate in critical health studies such as clinical trials, enhancing health equity for those in the north and firmly embedding research in northern healthcare delivery.”

According to the release, clinical research, including clinical trials and observational studies, helps find new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose and treat disease by involving volunteer participants in health research.

Clinical trials help find the best options for patient care by studying the safety and effectiveness of new medical interventions, like a drug or medical device.

The release also explains observational studies, where researchers study participants receiving routine medical care to deepen their understanding of health and disease and identify opportunities to improve health delivery.

“Clinical research is an important and potentially life-saving care option for many patients,” said Dr. Robert McMaster, vice-dean of research at UBC Faculty of Medicine.

“This partnership will help bridge the gap between research and care, creating a much-needed home and support system for clinical research in the north. By bringing more clinical research to northern and Indigenous communities, the NCCR will improve access to innovative medical treatments and accelerate the development of new medical interventions that have tremendous potential to improve health and quality of life.”

The NCCR will reportedly provide regional clinicians, academic faculty and other health stakeholders, both from the north and other parts of B.C., with various supports, such as assistance with research design, regulatory approval and project administration.

The centre will also host a Rural Coordination Centre of BC research associate focused on research and evaluating real-time virtual support for clinicians in rural communities.

“We have a small but well-established group of health researchers in the north who are connected by rural interest and context, and this new centre will provide immeasurable opportunities for collaboration, networking and idea development,” said Dr. Kathy Lewis, interim Vice-President of Research and Innovation at UNBC.

“The possibilities for dedicated northern clinical research are numerous and exciting. The NCCR will be responsive to emerging needs and available resources, and will hopefully evolve and grow over time.”

The release says the new centre will also offer research and training opportunities and mentoring for students, healthcare workers and health investigators.

“The Northern Centre for Clinical Research will enable us to answer clinical research questions from a northern, rural and Indigenous context,” said Dr. Paul Winwood, Associate VP of the Division of Medical Sciences at UNBC and Regional Associate Dean at Northern BC UBC Faculty of Medicine.

“There has been very little clinical research done from this point of view. Through this initiative, the people of northern B.C. will have access to state-of-the-art research in terms of new therapies, investigations, and approaches to health care, including enhanced virtual care.”

The NCCR has been developed as an equal partnership and will also engage with healthcare stakeholders, Indigenous communities and patient partners across the northern B.C. region.

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