Praxis Commercialization Team

The Praxis Commercialization Team is made up of experts in commercialization, direct SCI consumer engagement, research, and knowledge translation to support startups across the Incubate and Accelerate programs on concept and market validation, prototyping, sales strategy, and more.

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Senior Leadership Team

Bill Barrable

Chief Executive Officer, Praxis

As CEO of Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, Bill Barrable leads a diverse and multi-disciplinary team of experts focused on creating solutions for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Under his collaborative leadership, the Praxis has achieved significant recognition as an outstanding charity, including accreditation through Imagine Canada’s rigorous standards of excellence and being ranked as MoneySense and MacLean’s top-rated charity in Canada for 2019. Prior to Praxis, Bill was Chief Executive of BC Transplant during which time it was honoured with the Canada Award for Excellence from the National Quality Institute. He has been a member of numerous governing boards of various kinds and holds a BA from Queen’s University, and a Master of Health Science from the University of Toronto. He was previously named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40.

Peggy Assinck

Research Advisor, Commercialization, Praxis

Peggy completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Brock University and went on to complete her PhD in Neuroscience from UBC. During her PhD, she worked at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) in the Tetzlaff lab where she conducted and collaborated on a diverse range of basic science and pre-clinical SCI research. Peggy has published 21 peer-reviewed publications focused on animal models of SCI, treatments for SCI (including diets, drugs, and cell transplantation), and myelin regeneration after SCI. In 2018, she moved to the UK to continue her research focused on myelin regeneration as a Postdoctoral. Peggy recently completed a prestigious Marie Curie Individual Fellowship to study myelin at the University of Edinburgh in the ffrench-Constant lab and has just initiated a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge in the Franklin Lab.

Peggy sustained a non-traumatic SCI in her adolescence and therefore has a unique understanding of the priorities of the SCI community. She has subsequently supported a wide range of public engagement and knowledge translation activities geared towards the SCI community and continues to facilitate the goal of increasing dialog between SCI researchers and the people with lived experience for which the research is meant to benefit.

James J. Laskin

Researcher in Residence, Commercialization, Praxis

James brings deep expertise as a clinician, academic and researcher in the area of SCI and mobility. He pairs a research and teaching background with clinical expertise as a physiotherapist. He has overseen, developed and ran a number of clinical trials testing novel technology, protocols and treatments for individuals with disabilities, including in collaboration with Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, SportsUnited, among other organizations. He has held a tenure position at the University of Montana, among other prestigious teaching appointments internationally.

Vanessa Noonan

Director of Research & Best Practice Implementation, Praxis

Dr. Vanessa Noonan is a physical therapist and the focus of her research and clinical practice has been in the area of SCI. Clinically, she has practiced in both the SCI acute and rehabilitation settings. Her research examines processes and outcomes of care following SCI rehabilitation, with the goal of moving research into practice and creating standards of care.  

Vanessa obtained her PhD from the UBC School of Population and Public Health in 2009. Her doctoral thesis examined measures of participation in persons with SCI that are based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model. She later received a post-doctoral fellowship award from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and had the opportunity to work with the NIH-sponsored project PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) at the University of Washington. As Director of Research & Best Practice Implementation, Vanessa is responsible for leading translational research and best practice implementation projects at Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. She has been actively involved with the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry since it started in 2002 and co-led the development of a new community follow-up questionnaire for the Registry. In addition, she is part of the International SCI Data Set Committee, which has overseen the development of 16 data sets that are used internationally.

Consumer Team

John Chernesky

Consumer Engagement Program Manager, Praxis

With over 25 years of lived experience of SCI since being paralyzed, John has participated in dozens of research studies in addition to be a co-investigator on a number of research projects. He works closely with SCI consumers (individuals with lived experience including people with SCI, their family and friends, consumer-focused community organizations and advocacy groups) to ensure research is addressing their priorities. His strong connection to the local SCI community as well as an international network of people living with SCI brings local, national and international consumer perspective to the SCI research field. He is recognized as a leader in engagement and integrated knowledge translation and has advised funding agencies (including CIHR, NIH, PCORI and MSFHR) on their engagement policies and has presented on these subjects to researchers, clinicians and consumers around the world.

Sam Douglas

Research, BC Program Support, Praxis

Sam Douglas is the Global Research Platform (GRP) & BC Programs Support at the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria and is currently pursuing his PMP designation from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Although recently injured, Sam has played a key role in a number of research projects and initiatives. In his spare time he enjoys travelling and going for walks with his girlfriend.

James Hektner

Regional Community Liaison, Praxis

James’ passion truly lies with peer support and assisting others to improve their quality of life and participation in an active and thriving community of opportunities. With 20+ years under his belt living with an SCI, working at Praxis Spinal Cord Institute and volunteering as President of Accessible Okanagan, strengthens a collaboration between community, research and education for SCI and healthcare supports. James has a T6/T7, AIS-A injury since 1997.

Chris Marks

Vancouver Island Community Liaison, Praxis

Chris Marks is the Vancouver Island Regional Community Liason at the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. With over 14 years of lived experience of SCI since being paralyzed as a passenger in a single vehicle incident.

Chris has over a decade of volunteering in advocacy ranging from BC Transit, City of Victoria, and student issues. He brings a wide swath of experience from multiple Boards to arts communities, Tetra, and a BBA in Marketing. Pre-injury, Chris has experience from marine construction/fabrication to deep sea fishing to culinary school. Chris has a C5, AIS-B injury since 2005.

Richard Peter

Indigenous Peoples’ Liaison, Praxis

With over 40 years of lived experience with an SCI, Richard is the Indigenous Peoples Liaison for the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, a proud member of the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island and looks forward to collaborating with individuals, communities & organizations to improve quality of life for the SCI consumers. Richard has a T10, AIS-B incomplete injury since 1977.

Commercialization Team

Arushi Raina

Director of Commercialization, Praxis

Arushi is an experienced healthcare strategy consultant, focusing on healthcare innovation, strategic planning and execution. She has completed complex engagements at Providence Health Care, BC Children’s Hospital and the Ministry of Alberta, among a number of other clients, which she pairs with hands-on experience. She also has experience in setting up a local health-tech pre-seed start up in the neuroscience space. She led the design and execution of Praxis SCI Accelerate, Praxis’ inaugural program, and building key partnerships for commercialization in the organization. She is passionate about the social determinants of health, health access and equity issues, and currently serves as a board member at Portland Hotel Society in BC. She brings a background of management consulting with KPMG, holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and an Economics degree from Vassar College in NY. She was recognized as part of BC Business Magazine’s Top 30 under 30 in 2020.

Andrew Forshner

Manager, Commercialization & Partnerships, Praxis

Andrew is a fundraiser and non-profit strategist, focusing on developing partnerships between the private sector, benefactors, universities and non-profits. He has led fundraising teams with several non-profits including the Vancouver Writers Fest, Variety – the Children’s Charity and Canadian Bipolar Association. Andrew has dedicated his career to ensuring that organizations fill the social, economic and health needs of our communities and develop operational resiliency to ensure the prolonged benefit to society. He currently serves as a board member to the Granville Island Theatre District Society, Vancouver Curling Club and Rumble Productions. Andrew brings a wealth of complex partnership development knowledge. He holds an MBA from the SFU Beedie School of Business and Political Science and a degree in History from the University of British Columbia.

Evan Macdonald

Program Coordinator, Commercialization, Praxis

As the Program Coordinator for the Commercialization team, Evan is in charge of many moving parts to ensure the Incubate and Accelerate programs run smoothly. She brings several years’ experience working in logistics and marketing from her time at STEMCELL Technologies Inc. and the Vancouver Opera. She has worked in providing services and developing partnerships with a variety of groups, from startups to global distributors. Evan has developed projects locally and internationally and has experience executing programs from start to finish.