Amgen Scholars Canada Program Faculty Profiles

As an Amgen Scholar, you will join the laboratory of one of our excellent biomedical researchers from the University of Toronto Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine. 

Take a look at the research areas of participating faculty mentors. As part of your application, you must select three potential faculty mentors and for each potential mentor describe why you would like to join their laboratory as an Amgen Scholar. 


Mohammad Akbari

My research includes searching for new cancer predisposing genes, investigating the feasibility and cost-benefit of universal population-based cancer genetic tests, evaluating the benefits of targeted treatments in mutation carrier patients and finally, extending genetic knowledge beyond hereditary cancers to all sporadic cancer cases by studying ctDNA and tracing it in blood stream.

Rima Al-awar

My group is focused on small molecule drug discovery. We are a team of chemists and biologists working together to advance cancer focused projects from target validation and screening to lead identification and optimization.

Stephane Angers

My research interests lie in the study of growth factor signalling pathways in development and cancer using stem cells, CRISPR screens, antibody engineering and proteomics

Douglas Chepeha We want to understand the role of peritumoural infiltrate in oncologic outcomes of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma and investigate markers of disease associated with invasiveness and metastasis.
John Dick Dr. Dick's research program aims to understand how normal hematopoietic stem cells function to permanently generate blood and how the leukemic process can transform normal cells into leukemia. 
Jennifer Jones Our clinical research program focuses on examining new approaches to predict, prevent and manage long-term adverse effects of cancer and its treatment and evaluating innovative models of follow-up care and support for the growing number of cancer survivors
Shana Kelley Therapeutic discovery and diagnostic technologies

Joanne Kotsopoulos

Dr. Kotsopoulos directs a wide-range of research initiatives to further our understanding of BRCA-associated breast and ovarian cancer, with the goal of identifying viable strategies that confer substantial risk reduction and improve outcomes.

David Malkin Our lab/research program studies genetic predisposition to cancer - specifically in the context of p53 and the multi-cancer Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) Utilizing a combination of next-generation sequencing, machine learning tools and cellular biology we are exploring: 1) (epi) genetic predictors of tumor onset; 2) prevention of cancer onset; and 3) mapping the genomic landscape of LFS tumors.
Michael Ohh Cancer is a genetic disease caused by alterations in tumour suppressor genes and oncogenes. Our research mission is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms governing the function of two major cancer-associated proteins called von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumour suppressor protein and RAS oncoprotein with the supposition that lessons learned would provide fundamental understanding of cell biology and lay the basic foundation for the development of rational anti-cancer therapeutics
Leonardo Salmena Research in the Salmena lab focuses on investigating cellular and molecular pathways that are perturbed in cancer using cellular and mouse models. Our main research pillars include membrane and intracellular phosphoinositide signalling and microRNA networks in cancer. Our research efforts in cancer pharmacology include the discovery and design of novel strategies to combat or prevent cancer
Daniel Schramek Our research focuses on leveraging functional genomics to make major advances in treating human cancers in a personalized and highly specific manner. Our goal is to find novel therapies to combat the most devastating malignancies by systematically screening for genotype-specific cancer vulnerabilities. We therefore develop direct in vivo gene-editing tools based on different CRISPR/Cas9 technologies to integrate human cancer genomics and mouse modeling to functionally assess the tumorigenic and metastatic capabilities of hundreds of putative cancer genes directly in mice. We specifically focus on breast, brain and Head&Neck cancers and screen for genes that trigger tumorigenesis and metastasis as well as synthetic lethal interactions and novel drug targets. 
Bradly G. Wouters Our lab is investigating the mechanisms and consequences of the unique metabolic micro environment of tumours with a focus on tumour hypoxia. We are investigating the signalling mechanisms that regulate epigentics, gene expression, and protein synthesis and how these changes influence cellular phenotypes important in cancer including stemness, differentiation, immune response, and metastasis. We are particularly interested in how these effects are manifested at the single cell level to drive phenotypic diversity and resistance to treatment. 
Shirley X.Y. Wu Blood-brain-barrier penetrating nanoparticles for delivery of therapeutic agents ranging from small molecules to macromolecules to the brain for the treatment of brain cancer and CNS diseases.for treatment o



Chung-Wai Chow My laboratory conducts research in airway inflammation in the context of airway pollution and graft dysfunction following lung transplant.  We use and develop novel technologies and machine learning to measure lung function in different disease cohorts.

Shaf Keshavjee

My research is in ex vivo repair of donor lungs for transplantation and gene modification to improve the function of organs after transplant. 

Mingyao Liu Our research is focused on ischemia-reperfusion induced lung injury in lung transplantation, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms of acute lung injury. We have developed gold nano-particle based peptide drug, testing it in pig lung transplant and ex vivo lung perfusion systems. We are also working on bioinformatics studies for drug screening for ischemia-reperfusion induced lung injury. We also use cell culture model to screening and testing potential drugs and optimize the solutions used for lung preservation and perfusion.
Istvan Mucsi Dr. Mucsi`s group if focusing on identifying and validating Patient Reported Outcome Measures  to build an electronic PROM toolkit for solid organ (kidney, liver, heart, kidney-pancreas and lung) transplant recipients .  


Cellular & Molecular Structure/Function

Cheryl Arrowsmith We are an interdisciplinary lab studying the structure, function and chemical modulation of proteins involved in epigenetics and nuclear signalling – cellular mechanisms that are disrupted in cancer and other diseases. We are developing new chemical genetic tools to define, perturb and manipulate essential functions of proteins involved in methylation dependent signalling. We are using these "chemical probes" to study the roles of their target proteins in normal biology and to assess their therapeutic potential in human disease, including cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

Ben Blencowe

Systematic investigation of RNA regulatory networks with critical roles in development and disease

Julie Brill My lab uses Drosophila molecular genetics and advanced microscopy to study the cellular mechanisms of phosphatidylinositol lipid signaling during development and RNA regulation in spermatogenesis

Grant Brown

We use functional genomics approaches to understand how cells respond to and repair DNA damage to maintain a stable genome

Cordula Enenkel Proteasomes are the key proteases in the degradation of toxic proteins. We study the dynamics of proteasomes in yeast and mammalian cells to interfere with the formation of toxic protein aggregates leading to neurological disorders.
Avi Chakrabartty Protein folding is the mechanism by which proteins fold into 3D structures with biological function. Our research focuses on protein misfolding diseases and involves development of monoclonal therapeutics for treating mistakes in folding

Julie Claycomb

We use tiny worms as a simplified model system and work to understand how genes are switched on and off by small noncoding RNAs, enabling organisms to generate healthy sperm and eggs and ensuring the survival of species

Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez We use time-lapse microscopy, quantitative image analysis, and genetic, pharmacological, and biophysical manipulations to investigate collective cell movements during embryonic development and wound repair

Walid Houry

My research aims at understanding the role of molecular chaperones and ATP-dependent proteases in maintaining protein homeostasis in the cell

Thomas Hurd

The Hurd lab uses an integrated genetic, cell biological and imaging approach to understand how mitochondria influence development, differentiation and inheritance

Julie Forman-Kay My lab studies how intrinsically disordered protein regions regulate function using NMR, biophysics and biochemistry, and develops computational tools for disorder, including for analysis of disease mutations in disordered regions. 
Hyun (kate) Lee The Lee lab uses quantitative live imaging and biochemical approaches in purified proteins, human stem cells and neurons to gain insight into how stress-induced membrane-less organelles are regulated in cells and how their dysregulation impacts cellular health and function.
Christoph Licht Translational research on complement-mediated renal diseases including aHUS and C3G. My lab focusses on the pathomechanisms of complement-mediated TMA, in particular the consequences of complement dysregulation on endothelial cells. New research directions include a role for complement in organ repair and regeneration.
Robert Macgregor My lab works on the physical chemistry of the stabilization of secondary structures formed by nucleic acids.  Specifically, we are interested in multi-stranded structures and their interactions with small molecules (drugs).
Keith Pardee The Pardee Lab is part of the Graduate Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Toronto .  The lab seeks to impact human health by developing portable, affordable tools using the principles of synthetic biology.  We have recently developed two exciting new biotechnologies that aim to enable low cost and distributed healthcare.  The first is a portable platform for low cost molecular diagnostics and the second is a system for the portable manufacture of therapeutics outside of the laboratory.  Both systems are based on freeze-dried, cell-free biochemical reactions that are activated by simply adding water. 
We see cell-free technologies as important tools in meeting challenges that face health care systems at home and abroad.  As we have demonstrated, cell-free hosting of diagnostics and drug manufacturing offers a paradigm shift in how health care systems can adapt rapidly to public health needs, provide emergency response and extend lab-grade molecular capabilities into virtually any environment.  Such applications are enabled by freeze-dried cell-free (FD-CF) enzymes that are sterile yet retain the properties of cellular transcription and translation for deploying poised molecular components to the field. 
Frederick Roth We are systematically measuring the impact of sequence variants in human disease genes, and generating global maps of protein interaction under different cellular conditions
Peter Roy We use the nematode C. elegans as a model to develop and understand potential new drugs, focused on anthelmintics, liver disease and pesticide poisoning.
Craig Smibert We use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to study the molecular mechanisms that underlie the control of gene expression. We use a combination of genome-wide, biochemical, genetic and cell biological approaches in our work.


Computational/Systems Biology

Philip Awadalla We are the Medical and Population Genomics Laboratory at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Toronto. Working with genomic data and through the development of computational tools and models, the laboratory addresses questions relevant to how genetics and the environment influences the frequency and severity of diseases, including cancers, in human populations. Our lab environment is very academic however the energy is social, lively, passionate, innovative, and extremely collaborative. Our team represents a variety of bioinformatic and genetic disciplines, but what makes our lab unique is that we have the freedom to apply our skills to a wide range of projects and interests in the space of genomics and population health. While our teams are based in Toronto and Montreal, we recruit trainees and researchers from around the world and currently have many international collaborators.

Gary Bader 

The Bader Computational Biology lab uses molecular interaction, pathway and ‘omics data to gain a causal mechanistic understanding of normal and disease phenotypes and improve human health outcomes.

Brian Cox Our research focus is developmental biology, where we apply cellular, molecular and bioinformatic methods to cell fate decisions and placenta organogenesis and pathology. Backgrounds in computer programing and math are welcome.
Andrea S. Doria

Research Interests
    Musculoskeletal imaging (focus: cancer and arthritis): Translation of innovative experimental MRI and ultrasound research methods into clinical practice
    Radiogenomics: Development of novel integrative clinical-imaging-biochemical paradigms of patients’ outcomes.
    Data analytics, Artificial Intelligence: Use of machine learning tools to optimize classification of findings, augmentation of data and prediction of disease progression.
    Technology, Processes and Operations’ Innovation: Using technology for prioritization of activities, forecast of flow of patients throughout the organization and effectiveness maximization at minimum costs and at optimal patients’ satisfaction.

Ongoing Projects/Initiatives
    Use of novel MRI and ultrasound techniques to investigate potential imaging markers that test measurement properties (reliability, validity, responsiveness, sensitivity, specificity). These properties provide a means to track angiogenesis-related factors (cause) and early cartilage degeneration (effect) in musculoskeletal disorders in kids. 
    Develops and tests scales for measurement of osteoarticular changes in children both at national and international (collaborative research) levels.
    Research program translates innovative experimental and novel MRI and ultrasound techniques into human clinical research.

Anne-Claude Gingras Dr. Gingras specializes in the study of cellular signalling, protein complexes and subcellular proteome organization, combining cutting edge mass spectrometry-based approaches with modern cell and molecular biology techniques. 

Michael Hoffman

We develop machine learning techniques to better understand chromatin biology, transforming high-dimensional functional genomics data into interpretable patterns and leading to new biological insight.

Sharmistha Mishra We develop mathematical models of disease transmission, and use techniques like casual inference and systems dynamics to explore how, and the conditions under which, infections spread in a population; and how interventions might be deployed to reduce transmission.
Mikko Taipale We use functional proteomics and genomics methods to study how the human protein homeostasis network is wired and how it contributes to rare diseases. We also develop new technologies for genome engineering, transcriptional regulation and for characterizing protein/protein interactions.



Denise Belsham

Dr. Denise Belsham studies how the brain controls and receives signals for many of our basic physiological processes, such as feeding behaviour, circadian rhythms, and reproduction, using unique neuronal cell models and molecular/cellular technologies.

James Scholey

The national CanSOLVE Chronic Kidney Disease Research Program is part of the CIHR Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR). The aim of our specific projects within CanSOLVE CKD is to define kidney disease risk in Canadian youth with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Minna Woo The major research focus in the Woo laboratory is to elucidate molecular mechanisms that determine the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and related diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. We focus on major signal transduction pathways including PI3K and JAK-STAT in metabolic tissues that contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes using tissue specific genetic engineering techniques in mice for in vivo studies and also in cell-based systems in vitro. We investigate many of the fundamental genes that are involved in cell survival and apoptosis, as well as tumour suppressors and oncogenes, including caspases, PTEN, DJ-1 and JAK/STAT. We examine the fundamental physiological roles of these genes and pathways in metabolic tissues including the liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and the immune system to uncover the highly context dependent and tissue-specific functions. Whole body metabolism as well as biological and molecular approaches are used in primary tissues and cell lines to define mechanistic physiological and pathogenic roles. We also study the role of metabolism in cancer and cardiovascular disease, and collaborate widely both locally and internationally.



Reina Bendayan

Drug transport and therapeutics with an emphasis on HIV infection pharmacotherapy and antiretroviral drug transport at sanctuary sites of HIV infection.

Alan Cochrane HIV-1 replication is critically dependent upon tight control of the processing of its RNA from a single 9 kb transcript into over 69 mRNAs. Research by my group is exploring the control of this process with a focus on developing novel approaches to disrupt it.
Alan Davidson The Davidson Lab investigates the functional mechanisms of phages (the viruses that infect bacteria) and phage-related entities, and uses this knowledge to design tools to improve human health.
Walid Houry My groupis interested in the general area of cellular stress responses and the role of molecular chaperones and ATP-dependent proteases in these responses. To this end, my group utilizes various structural, biophysical, biochemical, proteomic, and cell biological approaches to understand the mechanism of function of these chaperones and proteases. My group is also interested in the development of novel antibiotics by identifying compounds that target these chaperones and proteases and result in the dysregulation of protein homeostasis in the cell.

Leah Cowen

We are focused on the overarching goals of understanding what allows some microbes to exploit the host and cause disease, and developing new strategies to thwart drug resistance and treat life-threatening infections.

Alex Ensminger

The Ensminger lab uses systems biology approaches to mechanistically determine how bacterial pathogens cause disease.

Lori Frappier

Discovering new functions of Epstein-Barr virus proteins in manipulating cellular processes.

Thierry Mallevaey

We study the reciprocal relationship between the intestinal microbiota and the immune system, in health and disease, focusing primarily on unconventional T lymphocytes.

Karen Maxwell

Research in the Maxwell lab is focused on how the the CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune system protects bacteria from the viruses that infect and kill them, and how these viruses overpower CRISPR-Cas using anti-CRISPR proteins.

Arthur Mortha

The Mortha lab studies the biology of innate lymphoid cells and macrophages in the context of altered intestinal microbial communities. We are investigating the changes in the immune landscape following microbial alterations and analyze the beneficial or disease promoting consequences of these processes.

William Navarre Research in the Navarre lab is aimed at understanding how bacteria co-exist with animals and each other to affect health and disease.
Lena Serghides HIV antiretroviral safety in pregnancy and understanding the impact of in utero antiretroviral exposure on fetal development and long-term health
Rae Yeung Precision medicine and translational research in childhood arthritis and rheumatic diseases.  Wide range of projects in a large research group ranging from basic mechanistic studies in immunology and cell biology, to translational studies in pre-clinical disease models and biomarkers in corresponding human disease populations to genomic studies, new gene discovery and functional correlates, computational biology and bioinformatics. 


Neuroscience/Brain Health/Neurogenetics

Denise Belsham

Dr. Denise Belsham studies how the brain controls and receives signals for many of our basic physiological processes, such as feeding behaviour, circadian rhythms, and reproduction, using unique neuronal cell models and molecular/cellular technologies.

Anne Wheeler

We use brain-wide structural and functional MRI in patients and in animal models with traumatic brain injury to understand mechanisms of brain injury that are important for impairment and recovery.

Mei Zhen  


Regenerative Medicine/Development

Vinod Chandran My translational research program focuses on understanding psoriatic disease aetiology and progression, with a particular emphasis on untargeted, global discovery of novel biomarkers using high throughput technologies, especially proteomics and metabolomics.
Ronald Cohn My laboratory focuses on developing genome editing technologies for a variety of genetic disorders with a special focus on neuromuscular diseases.
Julien Muffat My lab applies novel tissue-engineering and genome editing tools to patient-derived pluripotent stem cells, aiming to understand the role of microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain, in the etiology of various nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis.
Keith Pardee Our lab works in the field of synthetic biology, specifically we are pioneering in vitro devices to host cell-free synthetic gene networks for broad applications in sensing and human health.
Ian Rogers My lab is focused on engineering organs for transplantation and drug screening. This is accomplished by combining stem cells (iPSC) with decellularized mouse and porcine kidneys and growing the organs in bioreactors designed by us for this purpose.
Miguel Ramalho-Santos My research is organized around 3 principal avenues of inquiry, each of which has several points of synergy with the other avenues:  1) How is the transcriptionally permissive chromatin state of pluripotent stem cells regulated, and how does it contribute to hypertranscription and the coordination of developmental progression vs pausing? 2) What is the role of transposable elements, generally neglected “dark matter” of the genome, in the regulation of development and stem cell biology? 3) How to does the environment impact the epigenetic state and function of pluripotent stem cells?
Molly Shoichet The Shoichet lab invents new materials to answer questions in biology.  Working at the interface of chemistry, biology and engineering, we are focused on both regenerative medicine and cancer.  We design new strategies to promote tissue and functional repair in the central nervous system – that is in stroke, spinal cord injury and blindness – and new approaches to understand cancer and screen drugs through the design of hydrogels for 3D cell culture.