Genome SpecTRA Project

The Genome SpecTRA project is a 4-year, $9.6 million dollar research contract, hosted and co-funded by Island Health and sponsored by Genome BC and Genome Canada. Island Health is collaborating with more than 10 organizations on the project, including the University of Victoria, the University of Calgary, the BC Centre for Disease Control, Stroke Services BC, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The SpecTRA project has two primary goals:

  • develop a quick and inexpensive multi-protein blood test for diagnosing acute cerebrovascular syndrome (ACVS)
  • create a clinical decision support tool for calculating the risk profiles of patients who present to Emergency Departments with stroke-like symptoms

SpecTRA will help clinicians diagnose potential stroke patients in the Emergency Department, and provide guidelines for appropriate and timely medical imaging.  SpecTRA is about precision medicine; it aims to provide the right care at the right time to the right patient, and to reduce the burden of stroke by catching undiagnosed strokes and identifying high-risk patients earlier.

To date, the project has enrolled over 1,800 participants through Emergency departments in Victoria (BC), Nanaimo (BC), and Calgary (AB) and holds one of the largest TIA plasma biobanks in the world. The SpecTRA project is a partner in the International Stroke Biomarker Network, and preliminary TIA biomarker results are expected to be available in fall 2017.

Learn More

Recent Clinical Algorithm Publications

Derivation and Validation of the Clinically Informed Algorithm for the ACVS Assessment Form

Development of a multivariate clinical prediction model for the diagnosis of mild stroke/TIA in physician first-contact patient settings. Bibok MB, Penn AM, Lesperance ML, Votova K, Balshaw R. bioRxiv. 2016. doi:10.1101/089227

Evaluating the potential performance gain end-users could achieve in differentiating transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mild stroke from non-ischemic mimic conditions through use of a clinical decision support rule. Bibok M, Votova K, Sedgwick C, Hammond K, Aberdour S, Morrison J, Penn A. Poster accepted at: Society for Medical Decision Making, 38th Annual Meeting; October 2016; Vancouver, Canada.

The impact of a risk algorithm on time-to-care: targeting triage for acute cerebrovascular syndrome (ACVS) patients in a rapid TIA clinic. Bibok M, Henri-Bhargava AR, Morrison J, Votova K, Penn AM. Poster presented at: Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation 51st Congress; June 2016; Quebec City, Canada. doi:10.1017/cjn.2016.169

Identification of mild acute cerebrovascular syndrome (ACVS) in the emergency department: validation of an ACVS clinical classifier to help distinguish mimics.Votova K, Penn A, Harris DR, Bibok M, Lesperance M, Lu L, Coutts SD, Balshaw R. Abstract presented at: Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians; June 2016; Quebec City, Canada. doi:10.1017/cem.2016.48

Sociotechnical Design of an Electronic Tool for Managing Transient Ischemic Attack in the Emergency Department. Lau F, Partridge C, Penn A, Stanley D, Votova K, Bibok M, Harris D, Lu L.  (2015). Studies of Health Technology Informatics, 208: 242-247. doi:10.3233/978-1-61499-488-6-242

Derivation of a clinical decision rule (CDR) for Acute Cerebrovascular Syndrome (ACVS) in the Emergency Department (ED). Penn AM, Bibok M, Lu L, Votova K, Partridge C, Lau FY, Harris DR,  Balshaw R, Lesperance ML. Poster presented at: Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians; June 2015; Edmonton, Canada. doi:10.1017/cem.2015.50

Genome SpecTRA Contacts

General Office Phone

250-370-8111 ext. 32957

Principal Investigator

Dr. Andrew Penn

Project Director

Kristine Votova

250-370-8111 ext. 32995

Data Manager/Statistician

Max Bibok

Clinical Research Coordinator

Kaitlin Blackwood

250-370.8111 ext. 15260

Stroke Research Nurses

250-370-8111 ext. 16515

Genome SpecTRA Team

Lead Researchers

Dr. Andrew Penn - Principal Investigator & Project Lead

Medical Lead, Stroke Programs, Island HealthMedical Lead, Stroke

Rapid Assessment Unit, Island Health

Dr. Shelagh Coutts - Project Co-Lead

Associate Professor, Stroke Neurology Department of Clinical Neurosciences & Radiology (University of Calgary)

Dr. Christoph Borchers - Project Co-Lead

Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology, University of Victoria


Dr. Robert Balshaw - BC Centre for Disease Control
Dr. Mary Lesperance - Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics (UVic)
Dr. Viera Saly - Neurologist, Island Health
Dr. Devin Harris - Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine (UBC)


Dr. Martin Wale - Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Executive Medical Director, Medical Affairs & Research, Island Health
Dr. Bruce McManus - Director of PROOF Centre of Excellence
Dr. Gordon Hoag - Medical Director of Laboratory Medicine, Pathology and Medical Genetics, Island Health
Dr. Kenneth Moselle - Enterprise Information Architect, Island Health
Dr. Jens Weber - Professor,  Department of Computer Science and Engineering (UVic)
Dr. Alex Thomo - Professor,  Department of Computer Science and Engineering (UVic)

Additional Team Members

Nicole Croteau - Data Analyst
Angela Jackson - Research Associate, UVic Proteomic Centre
Linghong Lu - Data Analyst (on leave) 
Alison Nikolejsin - Stroke Nurse Clinician
Melanie Penn - Lead Stroke Nurse Clinician
Karen Richards - Stroke Nurse Clinician
Derek Smith - Technical Operations Manager, UVic Proteomic Centre