How risky is taking medications during pregnancy?

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

With a new, $2.4-million federal grant, UdeM pharmacy professor Anick Bérard and her clinical team will develop a cross-Canada training platform for students and young researchers to study the issue.

Canadian university students and young researchers will have new tools to investigate the effects of taking medications during pregnancy thanks to a new $2.4-million federal grant to Université de Montréal pharmacy professor Anick Bérard and her team at UdeM-affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre.

The funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will support the Canadian Mother-Child Collaborative Training Platform - CAMCCO-L, for short - a transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral training platform to better identify the risks and benefits of prescription drug use during pregnancy.

Announced by Canadian health minister Jean-Yves Duclos and mental-health and addictions minister Carolyn Bennett, the grant is part of $31.1-million in new federal funding to develop 13 health-research training platforms across the country over the next six years.

Some 75 per cent of Canadian women take some form of medication during pregnancy. But there is little data on the associated risks and benefits for the mother and the unborn child, as pregnant women are often excluded from clinical trials of prescription drugs.

"To be able to effectively measure the risks and benefits for the mother and the fetus of taking medications during pregnancy requires a knowledge of epidemiology, genetics and toxicology, and putting into practice the use of causal analysis methods and artificial intelligence," said Bérard, holder of the Medication and Pregnancy Chair of the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé.

"Right now, however, training is based on courses designed for individual academic disciplines. The CAMCCO-L program offers the next generation of scientists something different and innovative: a new set of tools to study medications and pregnancy."

Schools, a symposium and internships

The new program will:

  • establish a virtual school offering perinatal-related courses in toxicology, pharmacogenomics, pharmacoepidemiology and artificial intelligence;
  • establish a summer school on drug development and knowledge transfer;
  • fund an annual symposium for the next generation of independent Canadian researchers in perinatality;
  • and provide an opportunity for participants to complete four-month internships in research environments in addtion to their university training.

As well as teaching graduate students and early-career researchers practical skills such as project management and grant-writing, the platform also emphasizes the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion, including offering scholarships for students and researchers from First Nations communities.

Who is involved in CAMCCO-L?

The Canadian Mother-Child Collaborative Training Platform involves many institutional collaborators and partners. Among Canadian universities, they include McGill, Queen’s Dalhousie and Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, as well as the universities of Ottawa, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Colombia. Foreign academic partners include Australian National University and the universities of Barcelona, São Paulo and Paul-Sabatier de Toulouse. CAMCCO-L’s non-university collaborators include Health Canada, the Maternal Infant Child and Youth Research Network (MICYRN), the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), the Maternal-Fetal Specialists of Quebec, Médicament Québec, Mitacs and the U.S. health-technology giant IQVIA.

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 200 research investigators, including over 90 clinicians, as well as 350 graduate and post-graduate students focused on finding innovative means of prevention, faster and less invasive treatments, and personalized approaches to medicine. The Centre is part of CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child hospital in Canada and second most important pediatric hospital in North America.

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