Dr. Tara L. Klassen received her bachelor of science specialist degree in zoology in 2002 from Brandon University in her home town of Brandon, MB. She then completed her doctor of philosophy in biological sciences in 2007 from the University of Alberta where she was a member of the physiology, development and cell biology research interest group. Dr. Klassen was an Epilepsy Foundation postdoctoral research associate at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX prior to joining the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC as an assistant professor in 2013.
Dr. Klassen is responsible for the coordination and teaching of the pathophysiology content for the BSc curriculum in the Faculty. She is an award-winning instructor who employs a dynamic teaching style to engage her students in defining, achieving, and surpassing their own expectations. Dr. Klassen is active in public outreach and education and currently serves as genetics chair of the Student and Resident Education Committee of the American Epilepsy Society.
The focus of Dr. Klassen’s research is the personal channotype comprised of variants in the >400 ion channel genes in the human genome. These genes encode proteins that form macromolecular complexes which regulate membrane excitability in all cells of the body where dysfunction is causative for diseases of the neurological, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems. Inheritance of identical ion channel mutations can be both dominant and recessive and causative mutations are found in asymptomatic individuals indicating genetic background has an essential role in variant penetrance. Dr. Klassen’s work profiling the genetic landscape of the ion channel genes revealed that a channotype is a complex personal portfolio of common and rare variants which confounds personal risk prediction inchannelopathies including sporadic idiopathic (genetic) epilepsy and cardiac mediated Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). The presence of multiple variants in known disease genes in a channotype implicates a genetic basis for pharmaco-resistant epilepsies where poly-therapy is only moderately effective.
The overarching goal of Dr. Klassen’s research program is to develop physiologically accurate in silicodiagnostic tools for clinical genetic screening for variants which underlie risk and protection in excitability disorders. These computational models will greatly accelerate the translation of personalgenetic variation into clinically relevant markers for use in 1) the design and efficacy of pharmacophores for personalized treatment, 2) the adverse risk prediction via pharmacogenomic profiling, and 3) understanding the pathophysiological basis of pharmacoresistance.
"Epilepsy Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship." Klassen TL. Epilepsy Foundation of America. 2012.
"AES Young Investigator Travel Award." Klassen TL. American Epilepsy Society. 2011.
"Inaugural Outstanding Young Alumni Award." Klassen TL. Brandon University Alumni Association. 2010.
"Excellence in Teaching Award." Klassen TL. University of Alberta. 2007.
"Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award." Klassen TL. University of Alberta. 2007.