From Grant Recipient to Game Changer – Branavan’s Story

  October 21, 2020

Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge and a lot of curiosity to change the world.

For Branavan Manoranjan, an unexpected co-op placement in high school led him down the path of medicine. In 2013, a studentship grant from Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada helped fund his research into pediatric medulloblastoma.

His research has recently earned him accolades, and is a great example of how enabling young minds can produce tremendous results.

You can read all about Branavan’s research and Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada studentship grant here.

His inquisitiveness led him to the WNT pathway – something that normally accelerates cancer in adults but has shown to reduce childhood medulloblastoma. While he says it was “serendipity in a petri dish,” none of it would have happened without Branavan’s curiosity and tenacity.

“You have to have your eyes open and your ear to the ground and just pay attention.”

Branavan’s road to research began in his Grade 12 year, when he took part in a co-op program that took students who weren’t necessarily interested in medicine and academics, and paired them up with workplaces that introduced them to the world.

As a result, he spent his entire second semester doing research and attending medical clinics.

“As a high school kid, watching brain surgery is neat,” he says. “Especially when my other friends are sitting in class doing calculus.”

Branavan is a bit of a double threat, medically speaking. He has both the science and the medical background needed to not only understand the research, but its practical applications as well.

“It goes against dogma,” Branavan said of his unusual finding. But, because he now had the means to pursue his research, he could ask those deeper questions about the WNT pathway and why it had a positive effect on medulloblastoma.

Because of his high school placement, Branavan learned of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada early on through the patients he saw. When the Studentship grants became available in 2013, he was excited for the opportunity.

Branavan Manoranjan - Studentship - 2013
Branavan back in 2013.

“It wasn’t available when I was in undergrad,” he said. “As a med student it was a great opportunity.”

Luckily, the announcement of the grant was timed perfectly with the start of his grad school work.

“Being part of the combined degree – med school and grad school – gave me the opportunity to do the research and still participate,” he said.

The project started off as part of his fourth-year thesis. Along with the funding he received, advances in technology allowed him to get the most of his research.

One of the most beneficial tools for this study was using single-cell RNA sequencing. Had he started this project 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have happened. Part of the reason is cost.

Whereas before this type of high-level experimenting would be limited to a few select medical schools, its accessibility has enabled researchers like Branavan to explore things that had been previously impossible or at lease inaccessible.

Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada is extremely proud of Branavan for his work, and so glad to have been able to be a part of it from the beginning.

Congratulations, Branavan! Your future is only going to get brighter.

It’s because of our community’s generous donations that we are able to support and help start the careers of researchers like Branavan. The value of research dollars cannot be overstated, and have the potential to change lives and improve quality of life for all Canadians affected by a brain tumour.