Dr. Brian Kwon

Headshot of Dr. Brian Kwon

Principal Investigator

MD (Queen’s University), FRCSC [Orthopaedic Surgery] (University of British Columbia), PhD [Neuroscience] (University of British Columbia), Spine Fellowship (Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University)

Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury
Professor, Department of Orthopaedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Spine Surgeon, Vancouver Spine Program, Vancouver General Hospital
Dvorak Chair in Spine Trauma
Associate Director, Clinical Research, ICORD
Director, Vancouver Spine Research Program

Research Interests

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Dr. Kwon is a surgeon-scientist with advanced training in spine surgery and also a PhD in neuroscience. He is a Professor in the UBC Department of Orthopaedics. As an attending orthopaedic spine surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital his practice is focused on the management of adult spine trauma, spinal cord injuries, and non-traumatic conditions such as spine infection, deformity, and degeneration. As a neuroscientist and Principal Investigator at ICORD, Dr. Kwon runs an active basic/translational research laboratory. Dr. Kwon is currently also serving as the Associate Director, Clinical Research, for ICORD and is the Director of Research for the Vancouver Spine Research Program.

Dr. Kwon’s primary research interest is in spinal cord injury. During his residency, he met many young patients on the spinal cord unit whose lives had been devastated by SCI; this motivated him to pursue a career in spine surgery and a PhD in neuroscience. Now, as a surgeon-scientist, his research interests in SCI span the translational continuum from basic bench research all the way to clinical trials. His research program is best characterized by “bedside back to bench” and “bench to bedside” bi-directional translation.
Currently, Dr. Kwon is leading a North American clinical trial in acute SCI to improve guidelines for the management of patients in the early stages of their injury and also to establish biomarkers of injury by providing a more complete picture of the pathophysiology of acute human SCI. His interest in the human pathophysiology of SCI has led him to establish the International Spinal Cord Injury Biobank (ISCIB). In the laboratory, he has developed new models to facilitate the preclinical evaluation of novel therapeutic strategies and to also better understand clinical observations from acute SCI patients.

Dr. Kwon loves working with ICORD because of the multidisciplinary interface between science and medicine. He enjoys the ease with which his research can translate from “bench-to-bedside” and “bedside back to bench” with ICORD situated right on the campus of Vancouver General Hospital, the provincial referral centre for all acute spinal cord injuries in British Columbia.

Learn more about Dr. Kwon’s research and the Kwon Lab on their website at kwonlab.ca.


Recent Collaborations:

The interdisciplinary nature of Dr. Kwon’s research program has facilitated the establishment of strong collaborations both within and beyond UBC. Within UBC, he collaborates directly on studies of spinal cord injury with a core group of researchers, which include Dr. Peter Cripton and Dr. Tom Oxland who study injury biomechanics and prevention, Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff who studies neuroregeneration, Dr. Babak Shadgan who studies optical hemodynamic monitoring, Dr. Chris West who studies cardiac function, Dr.John Kramer who studies neuropathic pain, Drs. Cornelia Laule and Piotr Kozlowski who study advanced MRI, Drs. Wayne Moore and Veronica Hirsh-Reinshagen who are neuro-pathology experts, and Drs. Alex Kavanagh and Lynn Stothers who are neuro-urologists.

In addition to this core group, Dr. Kwon collaborates with researchers from numerous disciplines across UBC including Dr. Judy Illes (Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics) to study the ethics of stem cell treatments for SCI. He has also generated research collaborations with Dr. Bruce McManus, the Director of the iCAPTURE Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital and with Dr. Leonard Foster (Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology) at the Centre for High Through-put Biology (ChiBi) to conduct proteomic assessments after acute SCI in human patients and in experimental models.

Beyond UBC, Dr. Kwon has established strategic, project-based collaborations with the clinical community and scholars at other Canadian and international institutions. As the Principal Investigator of the Canadian Multicenter CSF Pressure and Biomarker (CAMPER) study, Dr. Kwon has established direct collaborations with spine surgical colleagues in London (Dr. Chris Bailey), Montreal (Dr. Jean-Marc Mac-Thiong), Toronto (Dr. Jeff Wilson), Halifax (Dr. Sean Christie) and San Francisco (Dr. Sanjay Dhall).
Outside of UBC, Dr. Kwon is working closely with a number of collaborators to study bladder function (Dr. Margot Damaser, Cleveland Clinic) and to study neural regeneration (Dr. Yu-Shang Lee, Cleveland Clinic). He has also been studying an acute neuroprotective strategy utilizing nanoparticles with Dr. Vinod Labhasetwar, also of the Cleveland Clinic.

Major Findings:

Biomarkers are important for clinically validating new therapies. Dr. Kwon has found biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which indicate the pathophysiology of SCI.

CSF pressure is an important factor in secondary damage after traumatic SCI. Lowering pressure by draining CSF is a common technique for treating certain aortic aneurysms, but has not been evaluated for treatment of SCI. Dr. Kwon found that CSF drainage was not associated with negative effects when used to treat acute traumatic SCI.

For more of Dr. Kwon’s major findings, please see the selected publications below, as well as his recent publications listed at the bottom of the page:

Techniques employed in the lab:

  • Behavioural assessments
  • Biochemistry proteomics
  • Clinical trails
  • Histology
  • Microdialysis
  • Surgery

Affiliations with organizations and societies:

  • Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, University of British Columbia
  • North American Spine Society
  • Society for Neuroscience (SFN)
  • Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI)
  • Vancouver General Hospital (VGH)


Some of Dr. Kwon’s recent major awards and accomplishments include:

  • Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize, 2020
  • Tator-Turnbull Award for SCI and TBI Research, 2019 (Barbara Turnbull Foundation and Brain Canada Foundation)
  • Apple Award, 2018 (American Spinal Injury Association)
  • Best Paper Award (Canadian Spine Society Annual Meeting, 2016)Best Paper Award (Canadian Spine Society Annual Meeting, 2016)
  • Top Basic Science Poster Award (Cervical Spine Research Society Annual Meeting, 2015)
  • Cure Advisory Committee Chair (Rick Hansen Institute, 2014)
  • J. Eduoard Samson Award (Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation, 2014)
  • Canada Research Chair Tier 2 in Spinal Cord Injury (2012)
  • Bringing Clinical Renown to Vancouver General Hospital (Vancouver Coastal Health Awards of Excellence, 2011)
  • 2nd Place, Best Paper Presentation for “Development of a Novel Porcine Model of Spinal Cord Injury” (International Conference on Spinal Cord Medicine and Rehabilitation [Combined ASIA-ISCOS Meeting], 2011)
  • American-British-Canadian Travelling Fellow (Canadian Orthopaedic Association, 2011)
  • Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award (AAOS/Orthopaedic Research Society, 2010)
  • Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 under 40 (2009)
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar Award (MSFHR, 2007)
  • Hibbs Award in Top Basic Science Research Paper (Scoliosis Research Society Annual Meeting, 2006)
  • Whitecloud Award in Clinical Research (IMAST, 2005)

Current lab members

Undergraduate Students Medical Residents Graduate Students Research Staff
Aysha Allard Brown Michael Rizzuto Seth Tigchelaar* Dr. Femke Streijger
Lorna Tu Adam Doelman Kitty So
Amanda Cheung Neda Manouchehri
Martin Keung Shera Fisk
Sigrun Jarlsdottir Kevin Dong
Farnaz Sahragard Megan Webster
Shahriar J Mazlouman
Alex Munro
Avril Billingsley
Shenani Basnayake
Sid Gunamalai
Jay Ethridge
Daniel Rogers
Julia Hill

*graduated this past year

Trainee Awards

Year Trainee Award
2021 Amanda Cheung UBC Neuroscience Conference Award (UBC Neuroscience)
2021 Amanda Cheung UBC Neuroscience Publication of the Year (UBC Neuroscience)
2021 Amanda Cheung 1st Place Biomedical Presentation (UBC Science Communication Conference)
2020 Amanda Cheung 2nd Place Podium Presentation (UBC, Future of Health Research Day)
2020 Amanda Cheung 3rd Place Poster Presentation (ICORD, Trainee Symposium)
2020 Amanda Cheung Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CIHR)
2020 Amanda Cheung Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship (SPIE)
2020 Amanda Cheung President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award (UBC)
2020 Aysha Allard Brown Faculty of Medicine Summer Student Research Program (SSRP) Award (UBC)
2020 Aysha Allard Brown Faculty of Medicine Graduate Award (UBC)
2020 Adam Doelman President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award (UBC)
2020 Adam Doelman 1st Place Oral Presentation (UBC, FoM Research Trainee Day and Lecture Series)
2020 Farnaz Sahragard Faculty of Medicine Graduate Award (UBC)
2020 Martin Keung People’s Choice Winner (UBC, Future of Health Research Day)
2020 Tolu Malomo President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award (UBC)
2020 Tolu Malomo Faculty of Medicine Graduate Award (UBC)
2020 Sigrún Jarlsdóttir President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award (UBC)
2020 Sigrún Jarlsdóttir Faculty of Medicine Graduate Award (UBC)
2020 Sigrún Jarlsdóttir International Tuition Award (UBC)
2018 Seth Tigchelaar Honourable mention in the PhD category – poster presentation (ICORD, Annual Research Meeting)
2018 Seth Tigchelaar VCHR – 1st place 3-min thesis presentation (VCHR, 3-Minute Thesis Competition)
2018 Seth Tigchelaar 1st place poster presentation (Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference)
2018 Amanda Cheung Top Trainee Poster Presentation (UBC, Faculty of Medicine)
2018 Kevin Dong 2nd place poster presentation in the Staff category (ICORD, Annual Research Meeting)
2018 Rishab Gupta Poster presentation (Undergraduate Neuroscience conference)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 1st place poster presentation-W.L. McLeod Award (ICORD, Annual Research Meeting)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 1st place Poster presentation (Vancouver University Women’s Club: The Power of Future Minds)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 3rd place 3-minute thesis presentation (3-minute Thesis competition, International Universitas-21, University of Queensland)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 1st place Overall Poster presentation (ICORD, trainee symposium)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 1st place Overall Poster presentation (GF Strong Research Day)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar Most new & Exciting Research – Poster Award (ICORD SCI Symposium)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 2nd Place 3-Minute Thesis Finals (UBC)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 3rd Place 3-Minute Thesis Semi-Finals (UBC)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar 2nd Place 3-Minute Thesis VCHRI Heat (UBC)
2017 Seth Tigchelaar People’s Choice Award, 3-Minute Thesis VCHRI Heat (UBC)
2016 Seth Tigchelaar 1st Place Poster Presentation (Neuroscience Extravaganza, UBC – DMCBH)
2016 Seth Tigchelaar 1st Place Poster Presentation (ICORD – Trainee Symposium)
2016 Seth Tigchelaar 2nd Place Poster Presentation (GenomeBC Research Day)
2016 Seth Tigchelaar University Washington Summer Statistics Course Scholarship (University of Washington)
2016 Seth Tigchelaar ICORD Trainee Travel Award (ICORD)
2016 Ana Gheorghe 2nd place poster in the Masters category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
Neda Manouchehri 1st place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
Femke Streijger Staff Award of Excellence in Research (ICORD)
Seth Tigchelaar Honorable Mention in the PhD Category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
2015 Elena Okon 1st place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
Kitty So 2nd place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
2014 Neda Manouchehri 1st place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
Elena Okon Staff Excellence Award (ICORD)
Kitty So 3rd place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
Femke Streijger 2nd place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
2013 Femke Streijger 1st place poster in the Staff category at the Annual Research Meeting (ICORD)
2012 Jae Lee President’s Staff Award for Emerging Leadership (UBC)
2011 Claire F. Jones Medtronic Spinal Research Award for Best Paper (Spine Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting)
2010 Emily R. Dodwell
  • Frank B. Smith Resident Research Award for Best Paper (North Pacific Orthopaedic Society, 85th Annual Meeting)
  • 2nd Place Poster Award (Canadian Association of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Annual Meeting)
Claire F. Jones Margaret H. Hines Award for Top Podium Presentation (Ohio Injury Biomechanics Symposium)

Current Opportunities in the Lab

Dr. Kwon is currently seeking a PhD student to join his research team. This position will be jointly supervised by Dr. Kwon and Dr. Femke Streijger, Research Associate, ICORD. Starting salary is $21,000 per year. You will be expected to apply for competitive external funding. Other funding opportunities (Teaching Assistant or Work Learn positions) may also be possible. To be eligible for this position, you should have an M.Sc. from a recognized university and be accepted by the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia. Your verbal and written English communication skills must be excellent. Competitive candidates will have extensive experience with in-vivo micro-dialysis, ELISA and multiplex analysis, immunohistochemistry, microscopy, FACS and animal behavioral testing. Preference will be given to applicants with published scientific manuscripts and at least one first-author publication in the field.

To apply, please send a cover letter outlining your research interests, a CV, and the names and contact information of 3 references to Dr. Femke Streijger by email or post (click for mailing address).

Recent publications

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