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I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Canadian Pharmacogenomics Network for Drug Safety, University of British Columbia, where he is currently supervised by Michael Hayden and Colin Ross. My work has recently been supported by both the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship as well as the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Cross-Disciplinary Training Program.

I completed my PhD in Louise Warnich’s research group at the Department of Genetics at Stellenbosch University in 2012. My doctoral research involved characterizing specific genes with regards to schizophrenia-susceptibility as well as antipsychotic treatment response in African populations. I subsequently received additional training in computational biology at the South African National Bioinformatics Institute, before moving to the University of British Columbia.

My current research interests include:

1) The identification of pharmacogenomic markers associated with severe adverse drug reactions

Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) have been ranked as high as the fourth leading cause of death and present a significant healthcare burden to society. Genetic factors play a significant role in contributing towards why certain patients are at risk for developing these debilitating reactions.

We are currently applying high throughput genomic technologies such as genome-wide association studies and next generation sequencing to identify novel pharmacogenomic variants associated with various severe ADRs.

I am currently focusing on investigating the genetic causes of severe drug hypersensitivity reactions (cutaneous reactions and drug induced liver injury) and toxicities related to cancer treatment (vincristine-induced neuropathy).

2) Population pharmacogenomics and rare genomic variation

Pharmacogenomic variants to display differences in frequencies across the populations and many world regions have been underrepresented in past research. These differences and disparities have important clinical implications.

By studying the full spectrum of diversity in drug-related genes in representative cohorts, we have highlighted the importance of rare functional variation in pharmacogenomics. Further, we have shown that globally 97% of individuals carry clinically-meaningful pharmacogenomic markers related to drug safety.

Ongoing studies include the analysis of large numbers of exomes from patients who have experienced rare adverse drug reactions.

3) Knowledge translation and molecular therapeutics

The integration of precision medicine-related findings into the clinic is essential if field is to succeed. I am currently working on the development of clinical practice guidelines in pharmacogenomics to help achieve this goal. I have also been involved in the development of a pharmacogenomics testing panel that will be available throughout Canada with the support of a $3 million grant.

Further, I am currently engaged in activities related to molecular therapeutics in Huntington disease, by refining antisense molecules to silence mutant protein by incorporating the use of population genetics data.