The creativity needed to innovate

Foundation, in collaboration with Dr. Marie-Pierre Dubé, Director of the MHI’s Beaulieu-Saucier Pharmacogenomics Centre

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This article is adapted from the Foundation’s magazine

When you look at it in detail, human life has an almost mathematical structure. The more we study it, the better we grasp its complexity and the closer we come to making discoveries that could save lives.

Fascinated by the possibilities offered by medical genetics, Dr. Marie-Pierre Dubé has devoted her career to this branch of medicine.

As Director of the Université de Montréal’s Beaulieu-Saucier Pharmacogenomics Centre at the Montreal Heart Institute for nearly 10 years now, she oversees a team of some 20 experts and wears several hats, including researcher, associate professor and scientific author. She loves her work and enjoys sharing that passion with others.

What is precision medicine, exactly?

At the Beaulieu-Saucier Centre, Dr. Dubé focuses her efforts on precision medicine. This innovative vision of medicine involves tailoring therapies and drugs to the genes that make a person unique.

Even when a drug that’s being developed is found to be ineffective in a given segment of the population, it may still be beneficial for people in certain subgroups. Dr. Dubé’s research helps identify these distinctions so that the development of new medications can be optimized.

The COLCORONA clinical trial, led by Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, is a prime example. Whereas the clinical trial aimed to determine the impact of colchicine on complications associated with COVID-19, Dr. Dubé’s genetics study explores patients’ response to the drug based on their DNA. Together, experts are increasing the chances of finding a solution that can save lives.

Coming up with new recipes

But innovation comes at a price. While the road to progress has its share of obstacles, Dr. Dubé is categorical—you’ve got to get creative. “Research involves demonstrating plenty of ingenuity fuelled by a thirst for discovery, a desire to understand how things work,” she explained.

To the public, research seems orderly, methodical. Like following a recipe. Dr. Dubé understands this perception, but makes a distinction. “Sure, you have to start with a base. But research means coming up with a new recipe.” To innovate, you have to break it down, see things from a different angle, be able to navigate uncertainty.

Her creativity has served her well this past year, when she was required to build a comprehensive logistics system to safely ship DNA samples from the homes of patients with COVID-19 to the laboratory at the Beaulieu- Saucier Centre—a difficult task that she and her team managed with great success.

Funding, a fundamental issue

Creativity comes in handy when facing other obstacles, too. In innovative research, one of the biggest is funding. Government grant applications take up a lot of a geneticist’s time, and every year the competition only gets fiercer.

As director, Dr. Dubé must confront this issue, which has a direct impact on the projects she leads. She explains that you have to show some ingenuity to stand out from the crowd and secure the financial support to move forward.

She highlights the generous and muchneeded contribution from the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation that’s vital to the researchers’ achieving their vision. The donation will make it possible to purchase a NovaSeq 6000 DNA sequencer, which will allow the Centre’s team to expand the scope of its study of human DNA.

The Montreal Heart Institute brings together world-renowned experts who are dedicated to heart health. The way Dr. Dubé sees it, her researchers share the same sense of curiosity and the same genuine desire to improve the lives of those who are vulnerable. She’s a part of this highly devoted community, and her mission is ongoing.

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