Behind the scenes of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, is a strong and dedicated team of passionate individuals who are committed to supporting and improving the lives of people impacted by cystic fibrosis (CF), coast to coast.
To help you get to know some of the faces and stories behind our Cystic Fibrosis Canada team, we’re starting a new “Meet the Team” series, that aims to introduce the people who are focused on pushing further for those living with cystic fibrosis
Kicking off our series is CF Canada’s newest team member, Dr. Paul Eckford who recently joined in the position of Program Director, Research. He’s had a long history in cystic fibrosis research and hopes to continue making a difference for people impacted by this disease across the country.
- What would you like the Cystic Fibrosis Canada community to know about you?
I am excited to be part of Cystic Fibrosis Canada in the role of Research, Program Director. I have a PhD in Biochemistry and have been studying CF for over 12 years, so I am quite familiar with the CF research field in Canada. I believe I can use my knowledge to help CF Canada continue to support world-class research that focuses on the priorities of the Canadian CF community and will have near term benefits for those with cystic fibrosis.
- You’ve been working in the cystic fibrosis field for awhile, can you tell us your connection to the disease?
We have a family connection to cystic fibrosis – an adopted cousin passed away at a very young age many years ago. Not only is the CF field a fascinating area from a scientific perspective, but the knowledge that the work will ultimately help people with this difficult disease is very important to me. I joined the laboratory of Christine Bear at SickKids as a postdoctoral fellow in 2009, where my research involved studying the interaction of CF modulators like ivacaftor and lumacaftor with the CFTR protein, to better understand how these molecules work. In 2015 when we launched the CFIT Program (jointly supported by CF Canada and the SickKids Foundation), I became its Program Manager, working with an amazing team of clinicians and scientists to develop resources and assays towards the goal of Personalized Medicine in CF. It is an important goal that the team is continuing to work towards today.
- Can you tell us a bit about your role at CF Canada?
I support Dr. John Wallenburg, Chief Scientific Officer, in matters related to our research grants and awards programs. This includes the development of new funding strategies, enhancement of the research programs, and managing and developing partnerships with other organizations to increase the available opportunities for CF research support. Importantly, one of the first major projects I worked on was to solicit feedback from the CF community for the development of CF Canada’s new research strategy. We want to ensure the new strategy is responsive to the needs of the CF research community and aligns with the priorities and needs of the CF patient community.
Finally in the role of Program Director, I will act as an ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Canada with researchers, stakeholders, national and international partner organizations, and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
- What does going further for cystic fibrosis mean to you?
It means working my hardest every day to make a difference in the lives of everyone with CF and their families. As we look forward to achieving coverage of Trikafta by the provinces, which is anticipated to dramatically improve the lives of most with CF, #GoingFurther for cystic fibrosis means working even harder for two more groups of CF patients:
1) to bring these medications to those with mutations other than F508del that we believe will benefit but are not approved and 2) to focus research efforts on new types of therapies for the individuals with mutations that won’t benefit from these drugs. We have to go further and work harder than ever before, so that all individuals with CF can lead healthy, full lives.
- What motivates you at work?
Knowing that my work will make a difference in the lives of people across Canada. I work hard every day knowing that there are thousands of Canadians as well as tens of thousands of their family members and friends counting on me, the team here at CF Canada and CF researchers across the country.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
I really enjoy spending time with my dogs. Outside of work I am passionate about purebred dogs and developing the tools to help breeders breed healthier dogs. I am a show breeder of Pomeranians. I’m also a past member of the board of directors for the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). Currently, I am the Chair of the CKC Genetics & Medical Committee, a CKC liaison to the International Partnership for Dogs, as well as a board member for the International Collaborative on Extreme Conformations in Dogs (ICECDogs).
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