The Laboratory Program is both a research endeavor and clinical service, conducting research in molecular genetics for the benefit of patients infected with HIV. The BCCfE laboratory has developed tests that provide guidance for physicians when choosing the optimal anti-HIV drug therapy for each individual patient. Personalized medicine has been shown to give patients better treatment outcomes than generalized therapy.
Some of the testing is designed to monitor genetic changes in a patient’s virus that may affect how well the therapy works. Other testing focuses on the patient’s genetic make-up, which can influence whether drug side-effects may occur. A third area of testing (Research Use Only) is therapeutic drug level monitoring, an important tool for investigating drug absorption, treatment adherence, toxicities, and side-effects. The results are used by physicians to understand why some patients may not be responding well to particular anti-HIV drugs.
The BCCfE Laboratory is an accredited clinical laboratory offering testing for more than 20 approved anti-HIV drugs used across Canada, and continues to develop tests as new drugs come on the scene. It performs approximately two-thirds of Canada’s clinical HIV drug resistance testing, HLA-B*57:01 screening for abacavir hypersensitivity, and genotypic testing for HIV CCR5 tropism – these tests are important in determining whether certain drugs are appropriate for use.
The laboratory’s director, Dr. Richard Harrigan, currently holds both the Glen Hillson Professorship in Clinical Virology and the CIHR/GSK Research Chair in HIV/AIDS at the University of British Columbia.