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The Beat Must Go On: Can Personalized Medicine Intervene in Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

October 2, 2019, 2019

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The Beat Must Go On

Data is changing how we view and approach healthcare by enabling better patient care through precision health and healthcare analytics. This fall, Simon Fraser University explores the opportunities and risks of big data approaches in the healthcare industry and its impact on health care providers and users’ privacy.

Numerous inherited cardiac arrhythmias, when triggered, can result in chaotic electrical activity in the heart causing ventricular fibrillation (VF). Without intervention such as defibrillation with an Automated External Defibrillator, the body can only survive a few minutes of VF before death ensues. The development of new technologies in the last decade give hope that these conditions can be detected early and perhaps prevented. The transformative technology of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in which one can take adult cells from an individual (e.g. blood, skin) and reprogram them into pluripotent (ability to be converted to any cell in the body) stem cells won Shinya Yamanaka the Nobel Prize in 2012. This advancement coupled with genome editing techniques (e.g. CRISPR) are enabling incredible advances in personalized medicine that will be discussed in detail in this talk.

Glen Tibbits: professor of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University.
Canada Research Chair in Molecular Cardiac Physiology. Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital

Moderator: Fred Popowich, scientific director, SFU’s Big Data Initiative


Glen Tibbits competed his bachelor’s degree at McGill University. With a strong interest in biological research and an incurable curiosity about the world, he pursued graduate studies at UCLA. During these studies, he developed a profound curiosity about the electrical and contractile properties of the heart and completed his MSc and PhD at the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. Being awarded an American Heart Association Post-Doctoral Fellowship (PDF), he studied cardiac pharmacology in Niigata, Japan in year one and cardiac biophysics at the UCLA School of Medicine in year two. He subsequently was appointed an Assistant Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at UCLA and then Assistant Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. When a Faculty position opened at Simon Fraser University, he chose to return to Canada after an absence of 15 years. At SFU he was appointed as full Professor in 1992 and a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Cardiac Physiology from 2004-2018 which allowed him to build a research program incorporating the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) in understanding inherited cardiac arrhythmias.


Fred Popowich is the scientific director of SFU’s Big Data Initiative, which is a university-wide initiative that empowers people to unlock data for research, education and community impact. His work connects industry and communities with SFU partners and experts to address challenges and opportunities around data. He was the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association (CAIAC), recognizing his outstanding service to the artificial intelligence (AI) community in Canada. He regularly talks about the role of AI in society, most recently in a Business in Vancouver Op-Ed entitled, “The importance of the ‘human factor’ in relation to smart-city data”.


SFU Applied Science Building 10900
8888 University Dr
Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6 Canada
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SFU’s Big Data Initiative