The CDPE strives to improve community health and safety by conducting research and outreach on best practices in drug policy. We work collaboratively with governments, affected communities, and civil society to guide effective and evidence-based policy responses to substance use.
The CDPE was founded as the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) in 2010 at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada. The CDPE is now housed within the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, in Toronto, Canada.
The CDPE endeavors to be a primary source for rigorous scientific evidence on the impacts of illegal drug policy on community health and safety. To that end, the CDPE produces research products that adhere to the highest standards of peer-reviewed scientific research. The CDPE also conducts outreach and knowledge translation to inform policymakers, affected communities, key stakeholders, and the general public on pressing current issues surrounding illegal drugs and drug policy. The CDPE also leads innovative primary research, including on drug checking services, supervised injection services, injection drug use prevention, overdose response, and drug policy evaluation.
Dan Werb, PhD, is an epidemiologist and policy analyst with expertise in HIV, addictions, and drug policy. Dr. Werb is a Research Scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and holds a dual appointment as Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases & Global Public Health at the University of California San Diego and in the Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation at the University of Toronto. He is also Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Division of AIDS at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Werb is an inaugural winner of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse Avenir Award (2015) for creative new investigators proposing highly innovative research at the intersection of HIV and substance use. This award supports his work as Principal Investigator of PRIMER: Preventing Injecting by Modifying Existing Responses, a five-year multi-site cohort study tasked with developing interventions to preventing entry into injection drug use.
Dr. Werb is the recipient of a Trailblazer Award (2017) from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He conducts extensive knowledge translation on drug policy and public health, through print and radio journalism, and is the winner of a 2014 Canadian National Magazine Award for his popular science writing. Finally, he was profiled in April 2017 as one of 13 young Canadians making a difference as part of the CBC series ‘We Are Canada’ (http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/925251139650). His general interest non-fiction book about Tijuana’s femicide, City of Omens, will be published in 2019 (Bloomsbury Publishing).
Mohammad Karamouzian is an infectious disease epidemiologist. A former veterinarian (DVM) turned public health researcher, he holds a PhD in Population and Public Health (2021) from the University of British Columbia where he had the Vanier and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation doctoral scholarships. Before joining CDPE, he was a Banting postdoctoral fellow at Brown School of Public Health. He is also affiliated with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and the WHO Collaborating Centre for HIV Surveillance (HIVHUB) in the Middle East and North Africa. Dr. Karamouzian’s research focuses on addressing health inequities faced by marginalized populations, such as female sex workers, people who inject drugs, and people who are incarcerated. He is committed to translating his research into policies that will improve the health of marginalized populations. He has authored/co-authored 120+ peer-reviewed publications in leading international peer-reviewed journals and won 20+ awards and scholarships for his research, leadership, and academic achievements.
Zachary Bouck is a Research Associate at the CDPE, where he assists with study design, data analysis and interpretation of findings. Zach has prior experience working as a biostatistician at Women’s College Hospital, where the majority of his research involved the use of administrative data to study physician and system-level characteristics associated with use of low-value care. His interest at CDPE is studying persons who inject drugs (PWID) within the Ontario integrated Supervised Injection Site (OiSIS) prospective cohort to identify characteristics associated with providing injection initiation assistance to injection-naive individuals. He is currently a PhD in Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of Saskatchewan.
Carman Brown is a Research Coordinator at the CDPE. She is responsible for coordinating the activities of the OiSIS research project, a longitudinal study on people who inject drugs in Toronto. Carman holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Toronto. She has past experience in the social service sector evaluating programs, identifying areas of improvement, and supporting the development of programs to bridge service gaps. She also has frontline experience working with those who are impacted by mental health and substance use.
Zoë Greenwald is a Research Assistant at the CDPE. She is an epidemiologist contributing to diverse projects stemming from a longitudinal cohort of people who use drugs in Toronto, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care utilization among participants. Zoë is currently pursuing her PhD in Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and holds a Master of Science in Epidemiology and a Bachelor of Arts & Sciences from McGill University. Her research interests lie in infectious disease epidemiology (particularly the treatment and prevention of Hepatitis C, HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood borne infections), harm reduction, and health disparities research.
Research Program Manager
Layla Jabbour is the Operations Manager at the CDPE. She is a central resource for CDPE programs, projects, and staff. Layla provides strategic leadership to develop, improve, and sustain the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the CDPE. She is accountable for the financial portfolio and programmatic reporting of the organization, as well as representing CDPE at MAP, Research Administration and Hospital meetings related to research operations. Layla brings over diverse experience in research, policy and frontline service delivery with diverse communities and stakeholders. She approaches her work with a passion for justice, anti-racism and harm reduction practices. Layla holds a Master of Social Work from York University and a bachelor in Community Planning from the University of Waterloo.
Anaita Kharwanwala is an Administrative Assistant at the CDPE. Her responsibilities mainly involve supporting the Executive Director and the administrative function of the Centre. She supports the team in their various projects, including the implementation of Toronto’s Drug Checking Service, tracking knowledge translation activities, managing the Centre’s website and social media presence, and other communications activities. Anaita graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ottawa and completed her Post-Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management from Humber College.
Dr. Gillian Kolla is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the CDPE. She uses community-based qualitative and ethnographic research to examine how to make health and social services more accessible to people who use drugs. Dr. Kolla’s doctoral research at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, explored how the criminalization of drug use impedes the ability of public health programs to respond effectively to drug use. She is currently also conducting postdoctoral research at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, and is a member of the coordinating committee for the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, which opened and ran Ontario’s first supervised injection site in Moss Park as a volunteer initiative in 2017-2018 as part of a community-led response to overdose deaths.
Manager, Policy Impact Unit
Nazlee Maghsoudi is the Manager of the Policy Impact Unit at the CDPE, having formerly acted as Knowledge Translation Manager. She has been deeply involved in the development of evidence-based drug policies at the grassroots, local, national, and international levels since 2013. Nazlee is Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the New York NGO Committee on Drugs, a global committee that supports civil society engagement on drug policy at the United Nations and represents 100+ organizations. She is also a Strategic Advisor at Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, having formerly acted as Chair of the Board of Directors. Nazlee is a PhD candidate in Health Services Research at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University and a Master of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto.
Lucas Martignetti is a Research Assistant at the CDPE, where he supports the evaluation of safer opioid supply pilot programs across Canada. He has experience working with people who use drugs as a Harm Reduction Outreach Worker, providing safer drug use and overdose prevention supplies and education. He has research experience related to overdose prevention, and health inequity experienced by people who use drugs, who are experiencing homelessness and poverty, and who are newcomers to Canada. He holds a Masters of Health Science in Community, Public and Population Health from Ontario Tech University, where he is currently pursuing a PhD in the same field.
Lead, Toronto's Drug Checking Service
Karen McDonald is Lead for Toronto’s Drug Checking Service. She is responsible for the design, implementation, and sustainability of the program. She brings over twelve years of public sector experience, where she has contributed to health policy and systems change. Karen holds a Master of Public Policy, Administration and Law from York University and is a certified project management professional.
Heather McLean is a Research Assistant at the CDPE, responsible for community outreach and conducting interviews with a longitudinal cohort of people who use drugs in Toronto. Heather has experience in early phase clinical research with INC Research and Syneos Health, where she specialized in first in human substance use studies as the screening unit administrator and first point of contact for participants. Before Syneos closed their Toronto clinic, Heather was training in their screening results department. She also has extensive experience in telephone research where she most recently was a team leader, which involved training a group of 65 interviewers and editing the collected data to be inputted into the transportation database. Heather graduated from Central Technical School.
Liz McLean is a Research Assistant at the CDPE, responsible for community outreach and conducting interviews with people who use drugs for the Integrated Supervised Injection Services Evaluation. Liz has lived experience and is deeply embedded in Toronto’s harm reduction community. She has extensive experience providing services to people who use drugs and undertaking community-based research through Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre and the University of Toronto.
Sanjana is a Research Coordinator at the CDPE. She possesses abundant experience managing the data-to-day operations of research studies and has successfully supported the acquisition of numerous grants to conduct community-based research in the areas of HIV, harm reduction, and substance use. Sanjana is a skilled quantitative and qualitative researcher, with experience in protocol and research instrument development, data collection, analyses, and knowledge translation. Her work is guided by anti-oppression, anti-racist, and equity-based approaches and informed by her interdisciplinary background. She holds an MPH from the University of Toronto and is currently completing her doctoral training at the University of British Columbia where she aims to advance evidence-based efforts to support the health and wellbeing of communities facing longstanding marginalization. Upon completing her PhD, Sanjana will be transitioning into the role of postdoctoral fellow at CDPE focusing on the centre’s T-DOT cohort.
Bijan Rafat is a Research Coordinator at the CDPE. He is responsible for coordinating the activities related to two studies: PRIMER – a multi-national study that aims to identify whether specific interventions and factors influence the risk that individuals begin injecting drugs and national SOS – a study that evaluates the safer opioid supply pilot programs that have been implemented across Canada. Bijan has been involved in research related to opioid use and in cannabis research including a study that focused on the evaluation of the role of cannabis in reducing opioid use in chronic pain patients. His experience includes designing and coordinating randomized-controlled trials and observational studies. He holds a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Toronto.
Indhu Rammohan is a Research Assistant at the CDPE, where she assists the team in interpreting study-related data. Indhu developed an interest in harm reduction and drug policy during her undergraduate training in global health. She co-founded the University of Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research, which aims to promote health equity by facilitating knowledge translation and collaboration between students and researchers in global health. She was also involved in the University of Toronto International Health Program where she played a key role in organizing U of T World AIDS Day 2015 and wrote for the UTIHP Editorial. Indhu is currently pursuing a MSc in Health Services Research, in the Health Policy concentration, at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.
Kristy Scarfone is a Research Assistant with the CDPE where she is supporting the evaluation of Toronto’s Drug Checking Service. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, and has a Bachelor of Science in Biopharmaceutical Sciences with specialization in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Ottawa. She combines her knowledge of analytical and synthetic chemistry with her aim to improve public health through proactive and preventative health care in her work with the CDPE. Kristy’s research interests include harm reduction and health equity surrounding addiction, with specific interest in persons who use drugs in rural communities within Northern Ontario
Dr. Ayden Scheim is an Affiliate Scientist with CDPE and Co-PI of the Ontario Integrated Supervised Injection Services cohort study in Toronto (OiSIS-Toronto). Previously, as a postdoctoral researcher with CDPE, he led a program of systematic reviews on drug policy and harm reduction interventions. Dr. Scheim is currently an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Western University. He holds a PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics (2017) from Western University and was a Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, San Diego.
Project Manager, Toronto’s Drug Checking Service
Hayley Thompson is the Project Manager of Toronto’s Drug Checking Service at the CDPE. She is responsible for managing the day to day operations of the drug checking pilot, including fostering robust relationships with partners and working with the harm reduction community to optimize the service. Hayley’s previous project management experience has focused on implementation and quality improvement for primary, acute, and long-term care organizations nationally. Hayley has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Wilfrid Laurier University, a postgraduate certificate in international business management from Mohawk College, and is currently pursuing a Master of Health Science in Health Administration at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.
Racial Equity Lead
Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, PhD, is a criminologist and sociologist who studies race, inequality and social policy. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and a Senior Fellow at Massey College. He holds Affiliate Scientist status at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and serves as Director of Research for the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty. Dr. Owusu-Bempah began his academic career in the United States at Indiana University, Bloomington. Prior to becoming a professor, he held positions with Canada’s National Judicial Institute, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General. He is frequently sought out to provide commentary and advice to public and private sector agencies, community organizations, and media outlets on a variety of topics. Dr. Owusu-Bempah currently serves as an advisor to Red Light Holland.
The CDPE has collaborated extensively with a wide range of organizational partners working in the drug policy sector.
British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
British Columbia Centre on Substance Use
Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Dapaanz – Addiction Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New Zealand
Drug Policy Alliance
Global Commission on Drug Policy
Global Drug Policy Observatory
Health Canada (Drug Analysis Service)
HIV Legal Network
International Drug Policy Consortium
Mexico Unida Contra la Deliquencia
NZ Drug Foundation
Office of the Chief Coroner
Ontario College of Art and Design University
Ontario Harm Reduction Network
Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
Public Health Ontario
Sandy Hill Community Health Centre
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto
The Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs
Thunderbird Partnership Foundation
Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance
Toronto Paramedic Services
Transform Drug Policy Foundation
University of British Columbia
University of California, San Diego
University of Toronto
Government and Intergovernmental Organizations
Government of Brazil
Government of Canada
Government of Mexico
Government of New Zealand
Government of Switzerland
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Toronto Public Health
United Nations University
The work of the CDPE is funded by a combination of various sources including granting agencies, governments, and public charities. We thank the following agencies for the support of our work.
Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse
Government of Ontario: Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science
MAC AIDS Fund
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Open Society Foundations
St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto
St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation