Tania Bubela combines her legal and life sciences training to study the impact and regulation of health biotechnology innovations.

FHS dean named to Royal Society of Canada

September 10, 2019

Tania Bubela, professor and dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences, is one of seven SFU faculty members elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) for 2019. Attaining fellowship in the RSC is Canada’s highest academic honour.  

As an internationally recognized expert in intellectual property and health law, she works to understand the legal, social and ethical challenges of bringing new health biotechnologies to the clinic.

“The focus of my research is open science,” says Bubela. “How can we better generate, share and use data and research tools to develop new therapies and diagnostics.”

By improving the efficiency of research practices, she hopes to make drugs more affordable and ensure equity of access to new therapies and diagnostics, especially for genetic diseases, which include cancer.

In particular, Bubela is interested in how genomic and health information can be combined into a seamless feedback loop that informs patient care and enables treatments to be tested for safety and efficacy in the real world.

“I’m passionate about ensuring that our health care system is sustainable in the long term, especially with costly gene and cell therapies in the pipeline.” says Bubela.

One of her current research projects examines the challenges of developing and adopting costly cancer immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibitors, oncolytic viruses and CAR-T therapies, into our publicly funded health care systems.

For Bubela, the most fascinating aspect of her work is its interdisciplinary nature. With a combination of legal training, a PhD in biology, and expertise in genetics and molecular biology, she is able to integrate her legal expertise with her science training to approach health care problems from a unique perspective.

“My legal education has provided a strong grounding in good governance and background in property, contract and regulatory law,” she notes. “Combined with my scientific training, it has allowed me to think apply diverse methods to get the root of an issue and suggest pragmatic solutions.”

Bubela credits her mentor Timothy Caulfield (who is also a RSC fellow) at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law with piquing her interest in health law and policy. Coincidentally, Caulfield will receive a honourary doctorate from SFU next month, during the Faculty of Health Sciences’ convocation ceremony.

Established in 1883 as Canada’s national academy, the RSC promotes research and learning in the arts, humanities and sciences. Fellowships are awarded to peer-elected and distinguished individuals who have made significant contributions in these fields.

Bubela’s research goals mirror the RSC’s mandate to build a better future for Canada and the world.

“My research tries to ensure that we have laws, regulations and policies in place that enable development of and access to cost effective treatments that make meaningful differences in patients' lives.”