Portraits of Reina Bendayan and Anna Taddio

Canadian Academy of Health Sciences fellowship recognizes significant research contributions and achievements

By: Eileen Hoftyzer

Two professors at the U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy have been elected as fellows to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). Reina Bendayan and Anna Taddio were officially announced as fellows today, along with more than 70 others from institutions across Canada.

The CAHS was established by the federal government to provide independent and evidence-based guidance to help inform decision-making related to complex health research issues. CAHS fellows, who are nominated and elected to the academy based on their significant research contributions, represent a range of health disciplines and include all types of research, from basic to clinical to population health.

Bendayan is a leading expert in research to study how drugs – particularly antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS – are regulated and transported across blood-tissue barriers, including the blood-brain barrier.

Early research from her group identified that a drug transporter protein called P-glycoprotein played a role restricting anti-HIV drugs from crossing the blood-brain barrier, which keeps the brain vulnerable to HIV infection and can lead to HIV-associated neurological complications. More recent work related to folate transport across the blood-brain barrier has identified a novel route for folate delivery into the brain. This discovery is being exploited in an attempt to provide effective treatment for cerebral folate deficiency, a rare but devastating pediatric disorder.    

“I am honored to be recognized with this prestigious Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Fellowship award,” says Bendayan. “I want to acknowledge all the research trainees, research associates and many national/international collaborators for their contribution to the success of our work.”

Taddio is a recognized expert in improving pain mitigation during medical procedures, particularly in children. She led seminal studies documenting the long-term effects of unmitigated pain in children and the effectiveness of pain-relieving interventions that are now part of routine care. In recent years, she led the development and validation of the CARD (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract) system, a tool that incorporates evidence-based interventions in the delivery of vaccinations at schools, which has been adapted to help manage anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Taddio’s expertise has become even more critical during the pandemic. Her research has helped in the development of communication tools to help reduce vaccine hesitancy, and she has been featured in a number of media stories about vaccine side effects and strategies to mitigate them. In the spring, Taddio’s program received $500,000 in federal funding to design pain mitigation strategies for adults to support the national vaccination campaign.

“I am extremely honoured to be welcomed as a fellow in the CAHS and thank all the individuals that have contributed to our research program, in particular, research participants,” says Taddio. “I will continue to use my expertise and leadership to advocate for quality health care delivery and the mission of the CAHS.”

Bendayan and Taddio join six other faculty members from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy who have previously been elected to the CAHS:

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