About Us

The Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre (VDEC) is a research unit of the Department of Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

The Centre was founded in 2012 by Dr. Salah Mahmud, through the joint support of the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Manitoba and the University of Manitoba.

VDEC houses a secure high-performance computing platform to assemble, maintain and analyze massive databases. In addition, VDEC has four remote access arms to provide secure and direct access to clinical and administrative databases housed at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.

Our Team


Dr. Salah Mahmud, MD MSc PhD FRCPC

Salah Mahmud is a clinician, public health physician and epidemiologist with interest in drug and vaccine development and evaluation. He is a Canada Research chair in Pharmaco-epidemiology and Vaccine Evaluation, the founding director of the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre, former and founding director of the Clinical Trials Platform of the Manitoba CIHR SUPPORT Unit, Clinician Researcher, Population & Public Health, Manitoba Health, and a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. He currently holds an appointment as an Professor of Community Health Sciences and Pharmacy in the Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba; serves as the Associate Editor of Preventive Medicine, and as a member of several national and international committees and advisory boards related to vaccine policy and development.


Dr. Christiaan Righolt, PhD

Dr. is a data scientist and epidemiologist. He has an engineering background (PhD, Delft University of Technology; PostDoc, University of Manitoba) and experience in machine learning, statistics, big data and quantitative health research methods. He has worked on computer vision (a rapidly evolving field combining artificial intelligence and machine learning) to process and analyze the morphology of cancer cells. He quantified and classified the progressive change of super-resolution DNA structure in Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells (a method subsequently used to study other cancers and Alzheimer’s) and various other image analysis tools.

At the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre, he has worked on over 20 projects combining advanced epidemiologic methods and machine learning/deep learning to analyze massive, complex, population-based health datasets. He has published 2 book chapters and over 50 peer-reviewed journal publications and made over 30 conference talks/poster presentations to topics ranging from effectiveness of the HPV against cervical dysplasia to the association between perioperative vaccination in cancer patients and metastasis.

Epidemiologist, Data Scientist

Dr. Xibiao Ye, BMed MSc PhD

Dr. Ye’s research on cancer epidemiology focuses on hematological cancers. Currently he is studying the time and spatial trends of lymphomas and the role of common drugs (e.g., NSAIDs, statins, and metformin) in lymphoma and leukemia risk and survivorship, using Manitoba’s administrative data. His previous work has examined single nucleotide polymorphisms related to lymphoma and leukemia risk. He is also interested in early life exposures to environmental pollutants, tobacco, vaccine, and drugs as they relate to childhood hematological cancer risk.

Previously, Dr. Ye studied the impacts of environmental exposures (e.g., lead, mercury, benzene, pesticides, bisphenol A, phthalates, etc.) on child neurodevelopment and cancer risk. As B.C.’s Provincial Epidemiologist, he leads a team of analysts and epidemiologists to support the Provincial Health Officer’s mandate of monitoring, promoting, and protecting population health in B.C.


Dr. Lauren E Kelly, MSc PhD CCRP

Dr. Kelly is a Pharmacologist, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics & Child Health with an adjunct appointment at the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, and Clinical Trialist at the George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation. She is also a steering committee member with KidsCAN Trials and Systematic Reviewer with the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group.

Dr. Kelly’s research focuses on neonatal and pediatric drug development and clinical trial methodology. She has been working in pediatric clinical research for the past decade with a focus on opioid exposure in pregnancy/early childhood and the development of research tools and training materials to design clinical trials that can ethically inform evidence-based clinical care.


Dr. Vanessa Poliquin, MSc MD FRCSC

Dr. Poliquin completed medical school at the University of Western Ontario and residency training at the University of Manitoba and is a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre where her clinical practice focuses on gynecologic infections, perinatal infections, surgical infections as well as women’s health for women living with HIV. Her work at the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre focuses on factors associated with the uptake of the influenza vaccine among pregnant women. Vanessa is also involved in the SOGC’s Immunization in Pregnancy Initiative and the Canadian Association for Immunization Research and Evaluation Antenatal Immunization Research Working Group.


Dr. Dylan MacKay, MSc PhD CBDT

Dylan MacKay is a nutritional biochemist and an Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences in the Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He is a founding member of The Manitoba Personalized Lifestyle Research (TMPLR) program.

Dylan’s research focuses on clinical trials and inter-individual variability. He is interested in the use of lifestyle interventions for the prevention and treatment of obesity and diabetes. Dylan is also very interested in how to appropriately translate scientific findings to combat misinformation, especially on the internet and social media.


Dr. Songul Bozat-Emre, BSc MSc PhD

Songul Bozat-Emre is a PhD trained pharmaco-epidemiologist with interest in drug and vaccine evaluation using Manitoba’s population-based health administrative databases. She is currently an assistant professor of Community Health Sciences, the Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, and a senior epidemiologist with Manitoba Health. She serves as a member of several provincial and national committees related to drug and vaccine policy.



Geng Zhang, MSc

Geng holds a BSc in Material Physics and an MSc in Physics from the University of Pittsburgh in addition to an MSc in Medical Physics from the University of Manitoba. At CancerCare Manitoba, he developed novel image reconstruction algorithms for Positron Emission Tomography, which reconstruct both anatomical and functional images of patients.

Geng joined the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation team in 2016 utilizing his knowledge of SAS and Stata to analyze epidemiological data and to develop new SAS Macros, which link datasets, analyze data quality and create analytical data for statistical modeling and analysis. Geng uses Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning to develop programs that automatically extract information from medical free text and uses Python and Apache cTAKES for named entity recognition, relationship extraction, and information extraction.

Data Analyst

Gurpreet Pabla, BSc

Gurpreet has over a decade of experience as a data specialist in health and banking data management and analysis. He completed his Bachelor of Computer Science degree from Punjab Technical University in India and is an SAS Certified Base and Advanced Programmer. He joined the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation team in 2016 providing expertise in analytical and data management tools including SAS and SQL. His role is to develop, test and implement computer programs in SAS or Stata for use in complex investigations.

Data Analyst


Andrea Toyne

Office Assistant


Former Trainees


    • Dr. Aleksandra Wierzbowski (2015)
    • Research Assistant, CHI, University of Manitoba
    • Dr. Gambo Aliyu (2015)
    • Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
    • Dr. Luiz Mostaco-Guidolin (2012)
    • Epidemiologist, Manitoba Health
    • Dr. Tufail Malik (2012)
    • Assistant Professor, Dubai University, United Arab Emirates


    • Dr. Krista Wilkinson (2022)
    • Dr. Salme Lavigne (2015)
    • Professor, University of Manitoba
    • Dr. Andrea Trevasan (2012)
    • Research Associate, CRCHUM
    • Dr. Songul Bozat-Emre (2012)
    • Senior Epidemiologist, Manitoba Health; Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba


    • Hatice Guler-Berk (2021)
    • Dr. Vanessa Poliquin (2019)
    • Dr. Emily Rimmer (2018)
    • Hematologist, CancerCare Manitoba; Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba
    • Dr. David Ernest Dawe (2017)
    • Medical Oncologist, CancerCare Manitoba
    • Dr. Karla Willows (2017)
    • Clinical Fellow, Gynecologic Oncology, University of Toronto
    • Hasantha Sinnock (2016)
    • Policy Analyst, Canadian Grain Commission
    • Dr. Kristjan Paulson (2016)
    • Medical Oncologist / Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba
    • Dr. Elizabeth Barrios Munoz (2015)


    • Ayat Mneina (2016)
    • Constituency Assistant, Government of Manitoba
    • Cassy Dolovich (2015)
    • Biostatistical Consultant, University of Manitoba
    • Danika Semchyshyn (2015)
    • Dr. Natalie Casaclang (2015)
    • MD Resident, University of Manitoba
    • Dr. Adrienne J. Morrow (2014)
    • Physician, Northern Medical Unit, University of Manitoba
    • Dr. Eric Lachance (2014)
    • Medical Student, University of Manitoba
    • Erin Schillberg (2013)
    • Operational Research Support, Médecins Sans Frontières Belgium