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New research partnership will focus on health priorities for complex diseases in Newfoundland

Chris Halyk, Janssen Inc.’s president (far left), was on hand Wednesday morning to announce a partnership between Janssen Inc. and the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Innovation Partnership (JANL-HIP). Chatting about the project following the announcement are (from left) Halyk, rheumatologist Dr. Proton Rahman, Memorial University faculty of medicine dean Dr. Margaret Steele, Health Minister John Haggie and psoriatic arthritis sufferer Steven Duffy.
Chris Halyk, Janssen Inc.’s president (far left), was on hand Wednesday morning to announce a partnership between Janssen Inc. and the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Innovation Partnership (JANL-HIP). Chatting about the project following the announcement are (from left) Halyk, rheumatologist Dr. Proton Rahman, Memorial University faculty of medicine dean Dr. Margaret Steele, Health Minister John Haggie and psoriatic arthritis sufferer Steven Duffy.

What we take for granted every day caused excruciating and debilitating pain for Steven Duffy.

A paramedic with Eastern Health, Duffy was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis 10 years ago and has since undergone a variety of treatments to help end his pain and anguish.

“Just getting dressed, brushing my teeth and showering were all so painful,” Duffy said while addressing a group of health professionals and dignitaries gathered for the announcement of a partnership between Janssen Inc. and the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Innovation Partnership (JANL-HIP).

The partnership will focus on identifying priorities and undertaking research projects in complex diseases that are highly prevalent in Newfoundland and Labrador’s population — the results of which will have a direct impact on the health of the province.

JANL-HIP will be responsible for determining the priority projects, research projects that have been identified by clinicians working in the field.

“It got so bad, I was lying in bed wondering how I was going to get up,” Duffy said.

His pain started in one knee and then spread to his other knee. Before he knew it, all of his joints and virtually his entire body were affected. He suffered from immense pain, stiffness and swelling in all his joints.

In addition to his physical pain, the mental pain caused by the thought of how he was going to provide for his family was prevalent.

To try to get a prognosis, and relief, Duffy was pointed in the direction of rheumatologist Dr. Proton Rahman.

“With Steven, I failed him on three previous courses of treatment. Thankfully, on the fourth, it is working,” Rahman said.

Rahman, associate dean of clinical research and a professor of medicine (rheumatology) in the faculty of medicine, will be one of the researchers working on the JANL-HIP project to study psoriatic disease.

“About six per cent of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador suffer from (psoriasis), more than double that of normal society in this country,” Rahman said.

Duffy hasn’t had any flare-ups in the past 15-months and his lifestyle has improved despite dealing with the chronic disease in that period.

He said several of his family members suffer from other genetic issues, and this may have led to his own issues.

“Memorial is an ideal research facility. What better place to study these issues than right here,” he said.

“I hope one day to avail of the new research developed right here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he added.

Enter Janssen Canada and a host of doctors, researchers and partners all hoping to find a means to making life better for the residents who suffer from psoriatic disease, which includes psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

“There is a strong and vibrant life sciences community here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Chris Halyk, Janssen Canada’s president.

“Memorial has a wonderful capability of taking a look at patients in real-world studies. This partnership will be a group effort in finding solutions,” he added.

Clinicians working in the field will identify research projects and JANL-HIP will be responsible for determining the priority projects.

Janssen has been an innovator in the Canadian health-care industry for more than 50 years. JANL-HIP is a collaboration, which also includes representation from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Ministry of Health and Community Services, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, Eastern Health, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information.

“It has been a good week for the clinical world in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Health Minister John Haggie said.

“We have a jewel in Memorial (to carry out these projects). As government, we encourage partnerships that have tangible benefits for the people of this province. The winners in this partnership will be the people of this province when they seek better outcomes.”

Memorial University faculty of medicine dean Dr. Margaret Steele said it is part of the faculty’s mandate to help make health care better for everyone.

Searching for a new means to deal with psoriatic disease is a step in that direction, she said.

“Our goal is for the right patient to get the right intervention at the right time,” Steele said.

“Partnerships like JANL-HIP provide an opportunity to conduct research that, while helping a patient, can improve efficiencies in our health system.”

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