Fiona Brinkman (center) with her children, who do not have asthma, Ewan Brinkman (left) and Elise Brinkman (right).

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SFU researchers’ new database to help eradicate asthma in children

January 23, 2018
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By Justin Wong

Imagine a world where allergies, asthma and related chronic diseases are rare. Better yet, imagine a world where these conditions can be prevented before they develop.

A powerful new database being created by SFU genomics and bioinformatics researcher Fiona Brinkman and her team will help Canadian researchers make that world a reality.

In the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study, researchers will use the database, called CHILDdb, to examine in depth how genes and the environment interact to cause chronic diseases in children, in particular allergic disease like asthma.

The database will comprise genetic, socioeconomic, environmental and other diverse data from more than 3,500 Canadian children who are being tracked from birth to age eight. CHILD researchers, including SFU health sciences professor Tim Takaro, will use this rich data to develop new methods for diagnosing and preventing allergic and chronic diseases, in particular asthma, in children. These could include precision medicine, which tailors treatments based on genes, environment and lifestyle.

“Treating disease very early, even before clinical symptoms develop, is key to avoiding costly disease management, including hospital visits,” says Brinkman. “Canada is poised to provide real leadership in this area, translating this research into a significant reduction in health-care costs.”

Today, asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting one in seven Canadian children. It is the number-one reason for children to be admitted to hospital, and the most common reason for children to miss school. The total cost of asthma in Canada is estimated at more than $2 billion annually.

This powerful new bioinformatics database was funded with $9.1 million in support from Genome Canada for the CHILD study, and with support from SFU’s new Data Hub, a centrally managed source for SFU's public application programming interfaces.