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Blood test for concussion under collaborative development


Saskatoon , SK – Testing of a protein biomarker that could contribute to a fast, effective and portable test for traumatic brain injuries, commonly known as concussions, is set to commence with funding from the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) Saskatchewan Innovation Fund for research at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

“A meaningful, non-biased, and easy-to-use diagnostic tool is urgently needed,” said Changiz Taghibiglou, the pharmacology researcher in the U of S College of Medicine who is leading the effort, together with collaborators from Harvard University and the University of Toronto. “This is true not only for mild traumatic brain injury, but also to guide treatment strategies in moderate and severe cases where current methods don’t provide the physician with much guidance.”

The test is based on protein biomarkers Taghibiglou’s research team (including PhD student Nathan Pham) has identified as being closely associated with head trauma. Early studies indicate that high levels of one of these biomarkers, cellular prion protein (PrPC), show up in the blood soon after a concussion.

A test based on these biomarkers would detect a concussion early – perhaps even by paramedics at an accident scene or by a team physician on a sports field. This knowledge is critical, since patients can have few symptoms initially but still be at risk of dangerous complications or death if they don’t receive proper treatment, or worse, get hit again before they are fully recovered.

Taghibiglou and his team have partnered with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a national drug development and commercialization centre headquartered in Vancouver. Together, they will put the new blood test through rigorous validation to see if results from the early research can be replicated. This work will build upon results published in the journals PLOS One, Journal of Neurotrauma, and Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Several commercialization options are being explored by the U of S Industry Liaison Office, including licensing to prominent health care companies.

“The prevalence of traumatic brain injury is underestimated in our society, yet generates huge direct costs to our healthcare system and long-term costs to patients and their families,” said Karimah Es Sabar, CDRD president and CEO. “We hope our work on this project will validate and expedite the research and make the blood test commercially available as soon as possible.”

Innovation Saskatchewan, which is associated with Saskatchewan’s provincial government, is part of a consortium of organizations in the province that have partnered with CDRD to create a new $2 million CDRD-Saskatchewan Innovation Fund. Other partners include the U of S College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) and Ag-West Bio Inc.

Taghibiglou’s project, which will receive $43,500, is the first to receive backing through the fund, which supports development of health research innovations to the point where they can better attract investment to bring them to market.