Professor 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.
Dr. Charu Kaushic - has been awarded a CIHR Mucosal Team Grant to study whether alterations to female sex hormones and vaginal microbiota affect the inflammatory processes responsible for increased HIV susceptibility. Female sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, are known to have a role in determining the susceptibility of the vaginal tract to HIV infection. These hormones also maintain reproductive health by controlling the local colonization of beneficial microbiota. An altered microbiota may lead to inflammation, which increases the risk of HIV infection.
The CIHR Mucosal Team, which includes Drs. Kaushic, Ashkar and Bowdish from MIRC and other Faculty of Health Science researchers including Drs. Mike Surette, Fiona Smaill and Paul Forsythe will try two innovative hormone-based approaches for HIV prevention. The first approach will utilize a combination of clinical studies and experimental models to determine whether progesterone based contraceptives enhance inflammation by disrupting the beneficial flora of microorganisms. The second approach will explore whether delivering small amounts of probiotics, or estrogen, can help in colonization by healthy vaginal microbiota and reduce the risk of contracting HIV. Unlike most existing HIV prevention techniques that utilize anti-retroviral approaches, these approaches are more natural and based on improving reproductive health.
Director’s note March 7, 2018:
Recent success over the last two grant competitions within the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) clearly reflect superb research capability in the labs of principal investigators (PIs) of MIRC. McMaster's success as a whole at CIHR was generated in good part by successful MIRC PIs (4 of the 22 McMaster awards)in the latest Project grant competition. The CIHR successes by MIRC PIs in the last 2 competitions include - Ali Ashkar, Dawn Bowdish, Karen Mossman, Carl Richards, Zhou Xing (a Foundation grant!), as well as Jeremy Hirota as an associate member of MIRC. Collectively, this totaled over $6.6 million of new funds for fundamental and translational research.
Participation by MIRC PIs in undergraduate, graduate and PDF training attracts excellent personnel to an inspirational and diversified environment in immunology. Over 50% of currently active graduate students under MIRC PIs have obtained external scholarships. They are enrolled in the Medical Science Graduate Program (80% of MIRC students) and the Biochemistry Graduate Program.
In context of the current harsh competition for research and scholarship funds, MIRC stands out again as an outstanding model centre for research and training.
Congratulations to all recently successful applicants!
MIRC's newest faculty member is already making headlines. Assistant professor Matthew Miller is featured in this weeks FHS newsletter, in response to his latest research findings and interviews in The Hamilton Spectator, CBC Hamilton and CHML radio.
Read the full news article below.
One punch to knock out flu
The fact that this year’s flu shot is not a good match against this year’s influenza strain is well known, and has happened before. But now researchers at MIRC and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York say that a universal flu vaccine may be on the horizon, thanks to the recent discovery of a new class of antibodies that are capable of neutralizing a wide range of influenza A viruses.
“Unlike seasonal vaccines, which must be given annually, this type of vaccine would only be given once, and would have the ability to protect against all strains of flu, even when the virus mutates,” said Matthew Miller, an assistant professor in McMaster’s Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. “This would prevent the occurrence of flu pandemics and poor vaccine efficiency in the case of mismatches, which actually occurred this year.”
In the study, published today in the Journal of Virology, senior author Miller and his colleagues show that when comparing the potency of an isolated strain-specific flu antibody (the type that current vaccines generate) with an isolated broadly-neutralizing flu antibody (the type generated by universal vaccines) in a lab setting, the latter have much weaker neutralization activity than the strain-specific antibodies.
IL-4 has long been known to be a driver of intestinal Th2 priming in food allergy, however the source and control of this cytokine during initiation of type 2 immunity remains unclear. This month, work done by the research group of Professor Manel Jordana at MIRC in collaboration with members of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute and the Department of Respiratory Inflammation and Autoimmunity at Medimmune was published in Mucosal Immunology. The paper by Chu et al. narrows down the key players in initiation and regulation of the allergic Th2 response. The researchers show that IL-4 required for oral sensitization to peanuts is CD4+ T cell-intrinsic, driven by OX40L co-stimulation. The autocrine/paracrine IL-4 signaling leads to stabilization of the Th2 state and is independent of innate lymphocytes including ILCs, as well as NKT and γδ T cells. We look forward to future work from the Jordana lab helping to solve the puzzle of oral sensitization and food allergy!
By Dessi Loukov
Congratulations to Dr. Charu Kaushic, the new Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity
Dr. Charu Kaushic, a long-standing member of MIRC, was recently appointed as the Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity (CIHR-III). Dr. Kaushic is the first women to hold the title, and this is the first time a CIHR Institute will be located at McMaster University. Within this leadership role, Dr. Kaushic will focus on identifying research priorities in the areas of infection and immunity, generating funding opportunities, developing partnerships and working towards translating research evidence into policy to help improve the health of both Canadians and individuals worldwide. Additionally, Dr. Kaushic will be heavily involved in setting and implementing CIHR’s strategic direction, further establishing both McMaster University and Canada as global leaders in health research. On behalf of the faculty, students and staff at MIRC, we would like to congratulate Dr. Kaushic on this outstanding achievement and we are confident there is no one better suited for this position.