Alumnus creates award to foster excellence in research

New Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Excellence Award in Honour of Dr. Alan G. Mitchell and Dr. Rewa Prasad Dwivedi supports graduate students who show inventiveness and initiative in their work

UBC Pharm Sci alumnus Sarvajna Dwivedi, MSc’88, PhD’92, co-founder and chief scientific officer, Pearl Therapeutics Inc., together with his wife, Seema Dwivedi, PhD, have established a new endowed award to support outstanding pharmaceutical sciences graduate students. The endowment, which will provide one award of $10,000, or two awards of $5,000 each annually, was created in joint honour of Dr. Dwivedi’s graduate supervisor at UBC, Dr. Alan G. Mitchell, professor emeritus of pharmaceutics, and of his father, Dr. Rewa Prasad Dwivedi, professor emeritus of Sanskrit, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India.

Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi is a pharmaceutical scientist and entrepreneur involved in inhaled product development, from discovery to commercialization. His research focus is on treating respiratory illness, specifically asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), two major causes of breathing impairment in hundreds of million patients worldwide. Dr. Dwivedi’s work culminated in his co-founding of Pearl Therapeutics Inc. in 2006, which is now a group company of AstraZeneca.

In creating the Mitchell-Dwivedi Award, Dr. Dwivedi hopes to encourage research that is targeted to understanding diseases and improving patient care. The Award will support graduate students who demonstrate research excellence and impact.

“Perseverance, inventiveness and initiative are essential traits for a researcher,” says Dr. Dwivedi. “Seema and I wish to support those students who take a deeply scientific approach in understanding and solving the world’s medical problems, and those who set high goals for themselves. We wish to use this award to encourage a culture of excellence in graduate research at the Faculty.”

In 2015, the first Mitchell-Dwivedi Award was presented to two PhD candidates: José Carlos De La Vega and Natalie McCormick.

José’s research aims to clarify the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of the element rhenium. To accomplish this, he is working on the production of rhenium-doped biodegradable and uniformly sized microspheres to be used as a novel contrast agent for X-ray diagnostic imaging. Additionally, José is developing microspheres labelled with radioactive rhenium for use as a radioembolic agent in the treatment of liver cancer.

“The impact of using these microspheres is that they target a much smaller area within the body, which in turn reduces unnecessary exposure to unaffected areas,” he explains.

Natalie’s research project reviewed the accuracy of heart failure diagnoses in administrative health databases. Heart failure affects 26 million people worldwide, with a morbidity rate of 50% within the first five years of diagnosis.

“My findings revealed that there are many people whose diagnosis doesn’t appear in the databases, because they suffer from other chronic and cardiovascular diseases that mask the heart failure diagnosis,” she says. “By evaluating this data, we can help improve research on healthcare delivery for heart failure patients with multiple diagnoses.”