When the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) was inaugurated in 1988, the building foreshadowed the rise of a biomedical engineering field that has since become the next place to look for world-changing advances in medicine.

In the intervening four decades of science and exploration, the BRC has been a focal point for the advancement of Life Science at UBC, and on March 31, 2021, it will be decommissioned as a research centre under the Faculty of Medicine and become a part of the School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME). As we prepare to bring the institute under our umbrella, we want to take a look back on its history at UBC.

BRC founding Director John Schrader had the vision of a multidisciplinary institute where researchers could come together to share ideas and do critical work to advance biomedical knowledge and therapeutics. The building, which stands along Health Sciences Mall, was built through a partnership with the Terry Fox Medical Research Foundation, UBC Hospital, TRIUMF Research Centre, the Imaging Research Centre, and the Wellcome Foundation. It started as a hub for advancing the treatment of cancer, arthritis, allergies, asthma, and other conditions, and has continued this pursuit through every technological and scientific leap ever since.  

Open, inclusive collaboration in interdisciplinary science is key to a future of transformational medicine. In lecture halls, laboratories, and through regular seminars, the launch of a shared incubator space, and many more initiatives both active and in-development, this founding principle is threaded throughout the SBME.  Joint faculty members Drs. Kelly McNagny (the former co-director of the BRC) and Fabio Rossi (current BRC Director, SBME Director of Research and Associate Director for the school) liken the culture to a sandbox; researchers are fortunate to have access to state-of-the-art technology, but without collaboration and sharing, these “toys” are inert. They can’t create breakthroughs that redefine the field and benefit everyone. This mindset is highlighted by the genesis of the BRC’s core research facilities—the Antibody Lab, UBCFLOW, the Sequencing Core, and the Genotyping Facility—that will continue to support both internal and external users under the SBME umbrella.


Dr. Fabio Rossi
Dr. Kelly McNagny

“The BRC has been completely revitalized through the addition of new faculty and expanded capabilities. However, the original flavour of the BRC has not changed. It’s only been augmented to produce an even more capable research and teaching environment.”

— Dr. Michael Underhill (bottom right)
SBME and CPS Professor, BRC Researcher.

Founding Director Dr. john Schrader and former co-Director Dr. Kelly McNagny taking the stage.


For over 40 years, the BRC has executed on its mandate to accelerate medical science and make theory a reality. This is why the SBME is so excited to welcome the BRC’s teams of forward-thinking researchers into the fold.

So here, we say thank you to the BRC, to Dr. John Schrader and to UBC as we continue to search, discover, expand, and go where our will takes us. There’s a lot to be done as we change medicine for the better, and bringing the BRC under our umbrella is a big step toward getting there.

SBME would like to acknowledge that UBC’s Biomedical Research Centre, as well as the future site of the School of Biomedical Engineering, are on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people. It’s so important to remember that we are guests in this land, and what a genuine privilege it is to learn, live and work here, where generations of those who call this place home have passed down their stories and cultures for thousands of years before us.