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 is located on the third floor of the Apotex Centre (750 McDermot Ave. W) and 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, the 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 Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences and Pharmacy in the Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba; Adjunct Professor, Division of Cancer Epidemiology, McGill University; and 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. 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. 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.


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. 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. Christiaan Righolt, PhD

Dr. Righolt leads the Analytics team at VDEC. He has extensive experience in quantitative data analysis, both within and outside the realm of epidemiology. He received his doctorate from the Delft University of Technology (Delft, Netherlands) where his thesis focused on analysis of the nuclear architecture of cancer cells.

Christiaan joined VDEC in the spring of 2016 and has worked on several of the tools developed at VDEC, including both pharmacoepidemiology-specific as well as general tools that make data analysis and data interpretation easier in SAS and Stata. Christiaan’s domain-specific work includes research in the areas of HPV vaccines in relation to HPV-related diseases, cancer chemoprevention, influenza vaccines as well as various other vaccines and their related diseases. Christiaan’s work has led to over 20 publications.


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

Micheal Sobhy, MSc

Micheal holds a BSc in Biomedical and Systems Engineering and an MSc in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Manitoba. At the Integrated Computational Optical Imaging lab, he worked on Optical Coherence Tomography. Micheal joined the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation team in 2019.

Data Analyst


Andrea Toyne

Office Assistant


Dr. Alex Aregbesola, MBChB MScPH PhD

Dr. Aregbesola earned his medical degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria in 2005. He completed an MSc in Public Health in 2012 and obtained a PhD in Epidemiology in 2016 from the University of Eastern Finland, Finland where he also did his initial postdoctoral training.

Alex has supervised several masters’ degree theses, assisted in a few PhD projects, and was involved in the teaching of Epidemiology and Public Health courses. His primary research interest is in clinical epidemiology, using different study designs to investigate chronic diseases and health-related events.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Krista Wilkinson, MSc

Krista is an epidemiologist with extensive experience in infectious disease surveillance and applied epidemiology. She obtained her MSc from the University of Calgary and is a graduate of the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program.

Krista is a PhD candidate at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Community Health Sciences with Dr. Mahmud as her advisor. Her research is focused on pertussis vaccine effectiveness.

PhD Candidate

Dr. Vanessa Poliquin, BHSc 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.

Vanessa is currently training as a Clinician Investigator through the University of Manitoba and, in conjunction, studying toward an MSc in Epidemiology at VDEC under the supervision of Dr. Salah Mahmud. Her thesis work focuses on a retrospective cohort study of over 200,000 pregnancies in Manitoba looking at 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.

MSc Candidate

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. 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


    • 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