UBC-based MEDIC foundation supports research into chronic conditions

A UBC-based nonprofit is advancing research into chronic illnesses to provide hope to those that need it most.

Co-founders and fourth-year biomedical engineering students Anjali Menon and Madhini Vigneswaran launched the MEDIC Foundation in April 2020.

Hosting a mix of student-led and laboratory-based projects, the foundation provides infrastructure to empower student-led research. The organization has made strides in the research areas of Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and depression.

Both founders have witnessed the impact of chronic conditions within their families. Menon has seen shortcomings in the Canadian health care system after serving as a caretaker for both her grandmother and mother. Vigneswaran’s dedication toward chronic conditions was ignited after losing numerous relatives to cancer in Sri Lanka.

“Our end goal is to make lives easier for patients with chronic conditions. [We want to] bring more smiles to patients’ faces,” said Menon.

Since their inception, the MEDIC team has worked diligently to achieve that mission, in collaboration with a variety of BC-based organizations.

Alongside the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Institute and the McKeown Lab at UBC, the MEDIC team is conducting research into a non-invasive brain stimulation technique to improve motor performance for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The project earned the People’s Choice award at the Canadian Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Conference in 2021 and is set for in-person trials starting this fall.

The team has also been working on a wristband that leverages deep pressure stimulation to reduce anxiety and stress. To date, the project has earned a variety of accolades and is supported by Open-Source Medical Supplies BC.

This year, the foundation is adding two projects on cancer and diabetes. The expansion is also geographical, as the end-goal for the diabetes project is to develop a portable insulin pump for patients in Sri Lanka. For its cancer research, the team aims to identify biological patterns between patients with varying forms of cancer, alongside the AIM Lab at UBC.

Recruitment for this year’s projects began on September 5 and will be open until September 16. The roles available span research, engineering and administration. Students from all faculties are encouraged to apply. Menon and Vigneswaran emphasized a focus on finding students who align with MEDIC’s mission.

With each new project undertaken, it is the human impact that continues to drive innovation within the MEDIC Foundation.For these student innovators, accolades pale in comparison to seeing the impact of their research.

“We’re working with patients directly that can see hope at the end of the tunnel,” said Madhini. “That’s something we’re really proud of as a team, that we’re making this possible for them.”