The 5th annual Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) Trainee Day, held at CIBC Hall on October 23rd, 2015, showcased and celebrated the work of the IIDR’s students and postdoctoral fellows. This year’s successful event featured the impressive, Dr. Bob Hancock, who delivered a keynote address on novel approaches to treating infections in the era of antibiotic resistance. In addition to the keynote speech, the talented trainees of the IIDR presented their latest research findings throughout the day via oral and poster presentations.

Sara Dizzell, a Master’s student from Dr. Charu Kaushic’s lab, was awarded with the top poster presentation in the MSc category, for her IIDRwork on establishing a model to better understand the role of sex hormones and microbiota on the regulation of genital epithelial cell barrier function.  

Avee Naidoo, a graduate student from the lab of Dr. Dawn Bow
dish, received an IIDR Award of Excellence for her poster presentation, in the PhD category. Her presentation focused on elucidating the role of the aging microenvironment on pneumonia susceptibility in the elderly.

A second Bowdish lab trainee, Netusha Thevaranjan, received the prestigious Michael Kamin Hart Memorial Scholarship (MSc). The Hart Scholarship is named in honour of a gifted Master’s student of the IIDR who tragically passed in 2011. Every year, this $1,800 scholarship is awarded to a promising Master’s student, associated with the Institute for Infectious Disease Research, who has demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and research scholarship.

Congratulations to all award recipients!
[Photography by Andrea-Annelise Keller]

The Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) Forum is an all-day research event held on October 23rd, 2015 where undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have the opportunity to showcase their research and network with fellow researchers. There will be over 40 poster presentations and 10 scheduled talks by trainees.

This year’s keynote speaker is the highly impressive Dr. Bob Hancock (OC, OBC, FRSC), a professor of Microbiology & Immunology at UBC who has published more than 640 papers and reviews, has 44 patents, and is an ISI highly cited author in Microbiology with more than 57,000 citations and an h-index of 125. Dr. Hancock’s research focuses on small cationic peptides as novel antimicrobials and modulators of innate immunity, the development of novel treatments for antibiotic resistant infections, the systems biology of innate immunity, inflammatory diseases, and antibiotic uptake and resistance.

All trainees and faculty are welcome to attend. Coffee, refreshments and lunch will be provided.

2015-LichtyAs previously reported, Associate professor Brian Lichty has jointly developed an innovative cancer treatment together with Dr. David Stojdl and John Bell of the University of Ottawa. The newly launched clinical trial is the first of its kind combining two viruses, with the potential to deliver improved outcomes and reduced side effects compared to traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherpy.

Dr. Lichty began investigating virus-based cancer therapies nearly 15 years ago, when working alongside Drs. Bell and Stojdl at The Ottawa Hospital. Although the benefit of harnessing viruses in cancer treatment has been discussed for more than a century, therapeutic options have only recently been developed and systematically tested.

The therapy combines the ability of an Adenovirus (AdMA3) to stimulate the immune system to recognize cancer cells, with the killing capability of a Maraba virus (MG1MA3). The Maraba virus replicates within many different types of cancer cells, and also prevents the cancer coming back. Dr. Lichty and collaborators engineered both viruses to stimulate an immune response against cancer cells expressing melanoma antigen family (MAGE)-A3.

Read more: Dr. Lichty Combines Cancer Embattling Viruses in A Clinical Trial

ajrccm.2015.192.issue-4.coverA new study by MIRC researchers and collaborators establishes a critical role for the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17A in the detrimental airway inflammation associated with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The paper by Dr. Abraham Roos and senior author, Professor Martin Stampfli, was published on August 15, 2015 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM), a high-impact publication issued by the American Thoracic Society. The study adopts a translational approach to determine the expression and functional role of IL-17A in COPD exacerbation.

COPD is a severe disease affecting up to 2.6 million Canadians. Disease progression is escalated by acute exacerbation. While respiratory pathogens such as nontypable Haemophilus influenzae have been shown to cause COPD flare-ups, the precise mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis have not been fully characterized. As a consequence, the currently available treatment options that effectively target the inflammation, and prevent the onset of exacerbation, are limited.  Roos et al. found a significantly increased expression of IL-17A during NTHi-associated exacerbation, compared to stable COPD. Roos and collegues furthermore demonstrate that IL-17A is required for NTHi-exacerbated neutrophil recruitment in an experimental model of cigarette smoke-induced inflammation. Targeting IL-17A , however, did not influence the bacterial load, suggesting that neutralizing anti-IL-17A antibodies may be clinically relevant in reducing the severity of COPD flare-ups without impairing host defenses.

The study was conducted by an international team of scientists and clinicians, and is part of a research effort characterizing the multi-faceted role of IL-17A in COPD.

The article is available online at the AJRCCM website

040-chris vershoor-2011The frailty and susceptibility of the elderly population is often accepted as a sad but inevitable fact. The processes and mechanisms underlying this phenomenon is, however, relatively unexplored and currently unknown. A new study by Dr. Chis Verschoor and colleagues establish a potential role for TNFα in compromising immune functions by affecting neutrophil maturation. 

The study, published in Molecular Immunology, reveals an increased frequency of circulating neutrophils in advanced-age frail elderly individuals compared to young or community-dwelling elderly individuals. The neutrophils isolated from advanced-age frail elderly individuals are furthermore immature, with increased expression of the maturation markers cd11b and HLA-DR. The frequency of cd11b positive neutrophils was associated with higher plasma concentration of TNFα, and using experimental models, the authors demonstrate a critical role for TNFα in neutrophil expression of cd11b. The studies provide important clues to the mechanisms underlying increased susceptibility and frailty of advanced-aged individuals.

Dr. Verschoor has been working with Associate Professor Dawn Bowdish for his research fellowship and has published 14 papers in the past year, including five first author publications. By adopting innovative research strategies to address pressing scientific issues, Dr. Verschoor has elevated the research on immune functions in the frail elderly considerably. The dedicated Dr. Verschoor is a critical member of the Bowdish lab, and highly appreciated at MIRC. Dr. Verschoor has trained a number of students at MIRC, and helped them achieve scientific excellence.

Skärmavbild 2015-08-12 kl. 09.31.10MIRC’s Assistant Professor Matthew Miller was featured in the latest installment of Science Faction, a podcast series dedicated to highlighting groundbreaking discoveries. The Science Faction writers and hosts, biology students Andrea Jane Reid and Dalal Hanna use a vocabulary consisting of only a thousand words, along with sound bytes and popular cultural references, to explain cutting-edge science. In the episode, entitled “The End”, podcasters interview frontline scientists and speculate on the gloomy subject of the demise of human civilization. The podcast focuses on likely ways the world could end, and how scientific discoveries can avert it.

Read more: Canadian Podcast Science Faction Features Assistant Professor Matthew Miller

Bowdish R2RSick of getting older? Associate Professor Dawn Bowdish might not be able to slow down the passing of time, but her research is advancing our understanding of immune aging, knowledge that can be used to prevent and better treat illness among the elderly. Dr. Bowdish’s research is now featured in a video produced by Research2Reality. This  ground-breaking initiative brings attention to innovative and leading edge research in Canada, and the world-class scientists engaged in it. The video series is continually updated to share the impact of recent discoveries, and to celebrate the success of researchers that establish the new frontiers of science.

Dr. Bowdish is determined to understand increased susceptibility to infection in the elderly, and has built a strong case for an involvement of age related changes to immunity. The research is largely focused on the role of macrophages in host defenses against pathogens, but as any successful researcher, Dr. Bowdish casts a wide net. The research is additionally aimed at developing novel immunomodulatory therapies to treat infectious disease, and prevent early demise in a frail population.

Watch the video on the Research2Reality website.

PostdocfotoDr. Abraham Roos has been awarded a fellowship to continue his studies on the immunological mechanisms contributing to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Dr. Roos earned his Ph.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and joined Professor Martin Stampfli’s lab in 2012. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Roos successfully secured a post-doctoral fellowship funded by the Swedish Research Council. The new stipend is awarded by the Swedish Society for Medical Research, and is made possible by a foundation started in memory of Olle Engqvist, a prominent Swedish 1900th century developer. The prestigious fellowship will enable Dr. Roos to further investigate the molecular basis of COPD pathogenesis. Drs. Roos and Stampfli with collaborators have recently published two seminal papers documenting a critical role for IL-17A in COPD flare-ups and disease progression. The ongoing research efforts explore these findings further, and investigate novel signaling pathways in obstructive lung disease. 

ajrccm.2015.191.issue-11.coverA paper by Drs. Martin Stampfli and Abraham Roos is featured in an editorial piece, as well as on the cover of the latest issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM). The paper by Roos et al. demonstrates increased expression of IL-17A in advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and furthermore provides evidence of a functional role for IL-17A in cigarette smoke-induced lymphoid follicle neogenesis. IL-17A plays a multifaceted role in COPD, and has previously been linked to airway neutrophilia and host defenses in experimental models relevant to COPD. Drs. Bozinovski and Vlahos, the authors of the editorial, point out that IL-17A represents a molecular marker associated with the persistence of cigarette smoke-induced inflammation following smoking cessation. Targeting IL-17A may thus be beneficial to reduce chronic and persistent inflammation, without compromising lung host defenses.  The authors of the editorial note that distinct cellular subsets expressing IL-17A may play different roles in airway inflammation and host defenses. Additional studies further defining and investigating the cellular sources of IL-17A in end-stage COPD are thus warranted to determine the contribution of different IL-17A+ subsets in the disease. In light of this, the localization of IL-17A to mast cells, demonstrated by Roos et al., is a finding of particular importance to the field.

Read the editorial in the June issue of AJRCCM.


PereyThe 2nd Annual Perey Symposium was held at the McMaster Innovation Park on June 17th, 2015. This year’s program was organized by the MIRC trainees Sara Dizzell, Rocky Lai, Amanda Lee, Talveer Mandur, and Kyle Novakowski, and featured the 2015 Perey keynote lecturers of Dr. Ronald Germain and Dr. Filip Swirski, and a great number of student presentations.  

Associate Professor Filip Swirski of Harvard University, a past graduate student of Professor Martin Stampfli, spoke of fondness of the Hamilton area, as well as McMaster University. His highly appreciated presentation focused on his research, with emphasis on the spatial and functional relationships between leukocytes at homeostasis, as well as different disease states.

This year’s Perey lecturer, Dr. Ronald Germain of NIH, astounded the audience with the cutting edge multiplex imaging techiques and systems-level analysis of immune cell signaling. The Perey lecture has been organized for 30 years, in memory of the late Dr. Daniel D.Y. Perey.

In addition to the invited lecturers, many of the trainees presented their work within the oral or poster sessions. Mira Shenouda in Dr. Ali Ashkar’s group was awarded twice for her poster, with both the scientific, as well as the lay person award. In addition, Nicholas Yap in the Bowdish lab was recognized for his 3 minute speed talk.

The successful event ended with a reception where the trainees were presented with their awards.

Brian LichtyProfessor Brian Lichty of MIRC has teamed up with long-term collaborators Dr. John Bell (the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa), and Dr. David Stojdl (the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of Ottawa) to create Turnstone Biologics Inc. The startup biotech company will focus on developing new cancer therapies that harness the immune system, including a oncolytic virus- and vaccine-based treatment. The investigators have already demonstated unprecedented tumor fighting capabilities of the Maraba virus in experimental models, and expect to translate their findings into improved outcomes for cancer patients. The therapy represents the first tumor-targeted oncolytic vaccine that includes a sustained anti-cancer immune response. The founding partners’ goal to accelerate commercialization and clinical translation of immune-based cancer treatments is funded by both academic and public institutions, as well as charitable foundations. Read more about Dr. Lichty and Turnstone Biologics at the McMaster Faculty of Health Science and the Hamilton Spectator

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