Investigators 2019-04-18T22:28:53+00:00

Principal Investigators & Young Investigators

Principal Investigators

Dr. Rae Yeung

Rae S. M. Yeung, MD, PhD, FRCPC

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and University of Toronto
Toronto, ON, Canada

Dr. Rae Yeung is a Professor of Paediatrics, Immunology, and Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. At the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Dr. Yeung holds the Hak-Ming and Deborah Chiu Chair in Translational Paediatric Research and is a Senior Scientist in Cell Biology and Scientific Director of its Biobank. Dr. Yeung’s research aims to understand the mechanisms governing autoimmunity, specifically the mechanisms involved in initiating and sustaining the immune response. Dr. Yeung is leading both national and international efforts to understand the biologic basis for heterogeneity in childhood arthritis and rheumatic diseases towards personalized treatment decisions for affected children. She is the founding chair of CAPRI (Canadian Alliance of Paediatric Rheumatology Investigators) and UCAN (Understanding Childhood Arthritis Network), a translational research network collectively representing over 300 sites from 50 countries.

Committees: 

  • Co-chair: Executive Committee
  • Co-chair: Research Operations Committee
  • Co-chair: Data Access Advisory Committee
  • Commercialization Advisory Committee

Working Groups:

  • Co-chair: Discovery Phase Working Group
  • Co-chair: Budget Working Group
  • Validation Phase Working Group – Biobank Data
  • Analytical Framework Working Group

Nico Wulffraat, MD, PhD

Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and University Medical Center Utrecht
Utrecht, Netherlands

Dr. Nico Wulffraat is the Director of Paediatric Rheumatology, Immunology, Hematology and Infectious Diseases at Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, as well as the Supervisor of the Paediatric Rheumatology Postgraduate Clinical Fellowship at University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU). He supports the Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) Patient Council in setting the research agenda at UMCU for childhood inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Wulffraat also serves as the Project Coordinator of the European initiative of SHARE (Single Hub and Access point for Paediatric Rheumatology in Europe), which aims to document standards of care and treatment recommendations for paediatric rheumatic diseases throughout Europe. He is also the Coordinator of PHARMAChild, a pharmacovigilance project belonging to Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PRES) and Paediatric Rheumatology International Trials Organization (PRINTO), which observes children with JIA undergoing treatment with methotrexate or biologic agents for three to ten years to collect adverse events.

Dr. Wulffraat is the Principal Investigator for a number of studies, including those evaluating immunizations in children with rheumatic diseases, the use of mesenchymal stem cells in refractory juvenile rheumatic diseases and a collaborative Canadian-Dutch project on precision medicine in JIA (UCAN CAN-DU). He also started the use of autologous stem-cell transplantation in autoimmune diseases. Dr. Wulffraat has served on a number of national and international scientific boards, including the Board of the Dutch Paediatric Rheumatology Society, the Scientific Advisory Council of the Dutch League for Rheumatology, various Program Committees of the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) – such as those for Translational Adult Cell Research and Priority Medicines for Children – and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) expert group for Paediatric Rheumatology.

Committees: 

  • Co-chair: Executive Committee
  • Co-chair: Research Operations Committee
  • Co-chair: Data Access Advisory Committee

Working Group:

  • Co-chair: Budget Working Group

Susa Benseler, MD, PhD

Alberta Children’s Hospital and Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Calgary, AB, Canada

Dr. Susa Benseler is a paediatric rheumatologist and a clinician investigator at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. She serves as the current Section Chief of Rheumatology and Deputy Head Research in the Department of Paediatrics. In addition, Dr. Benseler is a Professor of Paediatrics at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. She obtained her MD from the University of Freiburg and the University of Berlin, a PhD in Immunology from the University of Innsbruck and the University of Freiburg, and a Masters in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Toronto.

Her research focuses on improving outcomes of children living with inflammatory diseases. Dr. Benseler has built an international researcher and care provider partnership for children with central nervous system (CNS) inflammation.  She established the first childhood CNS vasculitis and inflammatory brain disease clinic and research program and built BrainWorks, an international childhood CNS vasculitis investigator research and education framework. She currently serves as the Chair of the Canadian Paediatric Rheumatology Investigator (CAPRI) Network.

Committees: 

  • Executive Committee
  • Research Operations Committee
  • End User Advisory Committee
  • Co-chair: eHealth Platform Committee
  • Commercialization Advisory Committee

Working Groups:

  • Budget Working Group
  • Co-chair: Validation Phase Working Group 1, 2 and 3
  • Co-chair: Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Working Group

Joost Swart, MD

Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and University Medical Center Utrecht
Utrecht, Netherlands

Dr. Joost Swart is a board-certified paediatrician immunologist & rheumatologist since 2008. He works in the largest Dutch group of Paediatric Rheumatology and Immunology.

He is a member of the Paediatric Educational Committee and educates students in both the and Summa medical curricula in Utrecht and is a certified instructor for the Advanced Paediatric Life Support (APLS) course from the Advance Life Support Group. Dr. Swart trains interns, residents, and fellows in paediatrics and rheumatology at the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU).

His research focuses on the comparative effectiveness and safety of drugs and treatment strategies in juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). He has also analyzed the effects of mesenchymal stem cells in JIA patients. Furthermore, he is a researcher and a member of the Steering Committee of PHARMAchild – an international pharmacovigiliance database with clinical data from over 9,000 JIA patients and blood and synovial samples from over 1,700 JIA patients – and UCAN CAN-DU.

He is a member of the Dutch Rheumatology Association, Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PRES), and the Dutch Association Against Quackery. He is a council member of the Dutch Association for Paediatric Rheumatology and the Paediatric Rheumatology International Trial Organization (PRINTO).

Committees: 

  • Executive Committee
  • Research Operations Committee
  • End User Advisory Committee
  • eHealth Platform Committee

Working Groups:

  • Budget Working Group
  • Co-chair: Validation Phase Working Group 1, 2 and 3
  • Co-chair: Analytical Framework Working Group

Young Investigators

Marinka Twilt, MD, MSCE, PhD

Alberta Children’s Hospital and Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Calgary, AB, Canada

Dr. Marinka Twilt is a clinician-scientist at Alberta Children’s Hospital. She was born and raised in the Netherlands. Dr. Twilt graduated from medical school at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where she subsequently successfully defended her PhD and completed an MSc in Clinical Epidemiology. She enrolled in the paediatric core residency at Leiden University Medical Center before moving to Toronto for her rheumatology fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children. After the core rheumatology fellowship, she became the first vasculitis fellow. Before joining the team in Calgary, she worked as a consultant paediatric and adolescent rheumatology at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in the UK and as an associate professor at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

Committees:

  • Co-chair: eCommunications Network Committee
  • Executive Committee
  • Research Operations Committee
  • Data Access Advisory Committee
  • eHealth Platform Committee

Working Groups:

  • Discovery Phase Working Group
  • Validation Phase Working Group – Clinical Data
  • Analytical Framework Working Group
  • Health Economics Working Group

Bas Vastert, MD, PhD

Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and University Medical Center Utrecht
Utrecht, Netherlands

Dr. Bas Vastert is a paediatric rheumatologist at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital. Dr. Vastert obtained his PhD on the mechanisms of disease and therapy in severe juvenile idiopathic arthritis in 2013. From 2017, he is Co-Lead for the Loosdregt-Vastert group in the Laboratory of Translational Immunology at the University Medical Centre Utrecht, focusing on novel therapeutic strategies in juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) through the translation of cutting-edge basic science into clinical benefit.

He is currently leading a multi-centre prospective trial implementing a biomarker-driven stop strategy for recombinant IL-1RA therapy in systemic JIA in the Netherlands and setting up a clinical trial studying the potential of Nicotinamide (vitamin B3) in therapeutic strategies for non-systemic JIA.

In 2016, he organized, together with Klaus Tenbrock (Aachen, Germany), a fundraising cycling tour from Utrecht, the Netherlands to Genoa, Italy. The UCAN Ride for Arthritis has boosted international research collaboration and received major media attention in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

Committees:

  • Co-chair: eCommunications Network Committee
  • Executive Committee
  • Research Operations Committee
  • Data Access Advisory Committee
  • eHealth Platform Committee

Working Groups:

  • Discovery Phase Working Group
  • Validation Phase Working Group – Clinical Data
  • Analytical Framework Working Group
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