Amgen Scholars 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.
Our scientific interests include investigations of consequences of perturbations in the oncogenic PI3-kinase pathway and general phosphoinositide signalling for cancer. Ongoing projects focus on genetic alterations and molecular mechanisms that underlie the pathogenesis of human leukemias and pancreatic cancers, with the aim of identifying potential targets and novel strategies for therapy.
Moreover we are studying perturbation of miRNA and the networks they control in the context of cancer progression and chemoresistance in AML, prostate cancer and glioblastoma. For this we have developed innovative tools, cell models and novel bioinformatic approaches. Moreover, we have established key clinical collaborations which permit access to primary patient samples for rapid validation of our discoveries, and likewise, rapid clinical translation of clinically relevant findings.
Finally we have a keen and ongoing interest in the generation of innovative genetically modified mouse models. The design of such models is aimed to elucidate and faithfully model the genomic alterations leading to disease and cancer for the purpose of preclinical studies.
Linda Z. Penn
Penn Lab Focus: Exploiting Molecular Oncology to Trigger Tumour Cell Death. Two major areas of research: i) identifying novel strategies to inhibit the MYC oncogene; ii) exploiting tumour metabolism and statin drugs as anti-cancer agents
Wu, Xiao Yu (Shirley)
Our research focuses on the development of drug delivery strategies and drug delivery systems for enhancing treatment outcomes of major diseases including cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.
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.
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.
My work focuses on women at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer due to a genetic predisposition. I am interested in furthering our understanding on which factors influence risk and outcome with the goal of identifying novel targets for prevention.
Since joining OICR, Dr. Al-awar has built a team comprised of researchers whose collective expertise spans the entire drug discovery process from target identification and validation to clinical candidate selection. The group is focused on successfully advancing drug discovery projects.
Mohammad R. 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
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.
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.
My laboratory is working on developing novel wearable technologies and machine learning algorithms to diagnose and treat sleep problems
Cellular & Molecular Structure/Function
In the Palazzo lab we are studying the rules that govern whether an RNA molecule is exported from the nucleus of human cells and subsequently transported to specific subcellular regions, or whether it is retained in the nucleus and degraded. We use a combination of cell biological, biochemical and computational methods in order to gain insight into these fundamental processes.
The laboratory's research is aimed at understanding molecular mechanisms governing programmed cell death in stem cells and under conditions of CNS injury, and development of small molecule therapeutics to PCD.
PCD: During development and following many forms of injury damaged cells are eliminated through a cell autonomous process known as programmed cell death (PCD). Abnormal regulation of PCD is known to occur in a wide variety of cancers and neurodegenerative disorders including Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's chorea. PCD also plays an important role in acute injury states such as spinal cord injury and stroke. Understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating PCD is therefore a critical feature of enhancing functional recovery following injury. The laboratory is investigating molecular interactions which are common to many forms of PCD/apoptosis. Research is aimed at characterizing key protein-protein interactions which control neuronal injury and survival following CNS insults using mice as a model system in conjunction with gene modification techniques such as CRISPR. At present we have identified compounds capable of altering the pattern specific molecular interactions relevant to PCD. We are currently investigating the detailed mechanism of these agents and their ability to alter PCD in vivo.
Our lab focuses on the design, construction and application of novel high-resolution combinatorial imaging platforms for characterizing molecular and cellular dynamics on the single-molecule length scale. These tools are bespoke designs and range from light sheet to single molecule localization, scanning probe, digital holography, and more. The tools often are coupled providing unique capabilities and opportunities for studies of biological and biophysical phenomena. Our work is highly collaborative and students get a chance to work on building their own platforms.
Our lab is interested in the mechanisms that ensure the integrity of chromosome ends, or telomeres, and how alterations in telomere length equilibrium affect normal human cells and cancer cells.
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.
Dr. Chandran’s research interests lie in the genetic and molecular epidemiology of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, especially with respect to prognosis. His current research is focused on developing a soluble biomarker-based screening and prognostic tool for psoriatic arthritis, a potentially debilitating inflammatory arthritis, as well as identifying and reducing barriers to multidisciplinary care of patients with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. His bench research aims to identify mechanisms underlying inflammation and joint damage in psoriatic arthritis. His current research is supported by research grants from the National Psoriasis Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Krembil Foundation.
The goal of the Hubbard lab is to develop next-generation therapeutics for the treatment of a wide-variety of age-related (e.g. cancer), genetic, and infectious diseases. Our work is interdisciplinary and incorporates experimental techniques that fuse elements of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, pharmacology, and molecular and synthetic biology. In addition to our applied research aimed at generating new therapeutics, we also engage in basic biology and pharmacology projects that explore poorly understood processes that could lay the foundation for new areas of research and technology development. Research in our lab is grouped into three themes:
1) Gene Editing Tools & Macromolecular Therapeutics
2) Synthetic & Xenobiology
3) Molecular Pharmacology
We are a signal transduction, systems biology and proteomics lab specializing in developing tools to better understand how proteins associate with one another to perform their functions.
We are a mixture of experimental and computational scientists who use comparative genomics to study evolution and human disease.
Pharmacogenomics: BHK Lab researchers actively work in the fields of biomarker discovery and drug repurposing using both preclinical and clinical data. Our research projects are aimed at predicting the trajectory of carcinogenesis and identifying optimal treatment options from high-throughput genomic and pharmacological data.
Radiomics: There is a growing demand for new predictive tools to support clinical decision-making. BHK Lab researchers develop advanced machine learning algorithms that extract high-dimensional features from medical imaging data. Our radiomics team aims to effectively enhance clinical decision-making through the development of diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive radiomic models.
Software Development: The BHK Lab seeks to translate its research outputs into practical solutions. We work tirelessly to create and improve software packages, web-applications and databases for public use by researchers and clinicians. Our tools empower the scientific community in their pharmacogenomic and radiomic analyses of preclinical and clinical data.
We use functional proteomics and genomics methods to study how the human protein interaction network is wired, how it is rewired by disease mutations, pathogens, and evolution, and how we can target the network for therapeutic purposes. We also develop new technologies for genome engineering, transcriptional regulation, and for characterizing protein/protein interactions.
Our research focus is to uncover mechanisms by which nuclear hormone receptors—one of the most common therapeutic drug targets—contribute to metabolic diseases like diabetes and dyslipidemia. Our research interests span many areas of nuclear receptor biology including the identification of new ligands and drugs; the study of signaling pathways upstream and downstream of receptor activation; the characterization of novel co-regulatory proteins; and the influence of nuclear receptor modulation on whole animal physiology.
The major research focus in the Woo laboratory is to elucidate molecular mechanisms that determine pathogenesis of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and related diseases including atherosclerosis and NAFLD. We are interested in many of the fundamental genes involved in cell survival and differentiation such as caspases, tumour suppressors and oncogenes. Many of these fundamental genes have unique physiological roles in metabolic tissues such as liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and the pancreatic islets. Using genetic or pharmacologic approaches, we examine the whole body physiology as well as take biological, biochemical and molecular approaches to define molecular physiological roles in specific tissues, in addition to defining its potential pathogenic roles in diabetes and related diseases.
My lab studies the impact of HIV and HIV antiretrovirals on placenta and fetal development and the mechanisms that underlie adverse birth outcomes and long-term health effects of children born HIV exposed but uninfected. Our goal is to optimize treatment for pregnant women with HIV and ensure the best outcomes for mother and child.
Our interdisciplinary research team is dedicated to connecting community, academic, clinical, and policy partners to develop improved options for the treatment and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
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.
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. Our program aims to identify actionable biomarkers as well as disease trajectories by integrating longitudinal clinical and biomarker data to improve disease outcomes.
Walid A. 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.
Investigating the impact of microbiota regulated gut-tissue axes on host physiology and autoimmunity.
We study how the intestinal microbiota and the immune system influence each other, in the context of intestinal inflammation. We focus primarily on T lymphocytes and use mouse models ranging from germ-free to “dirty” pet store mice.
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
Discovering new functions of Epstein-Barr virus proteins in manipulating cellular processes
Lab is a hub for Canadian Biomarker Integration Network in Depression (CAN-BIND). Most studies are linked to functional MRI on CAN-BIND data. Anhedonia is a focus in depression. We are also engaged in Depression clinical trials.
Investigating the Molecular Bases of Psychiatric Disorders and Develop Novel Therapeutic Avenues
The goals of my research program are to (1) discover and investigate biological mechanisms underlying major depression, life-long maturation or aging of the brain, and their respective interactions, (2) to develop hypothesis-driven assays and biomarkers for use in human subjects, (3) to test mechanisms in rodent models and cell-based systems, and (4) to use this knowledge to develop strategies for novel disease-monitoring and therapeutic approaches.
The research focus of the Lefebvre lab is on developmental neurobiology and neural circuit formation. We investigate how neurons develop and wire up into neural circuits, and seek to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms that guide the formation of these specific connectivity patterns. We also aim to link alterations in neuronal development to abnormal circuit function and behaviour, to better understand how these alterations lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. We use mouse models, molecular-genetic tools to label and manipulate neurons at the population or single-cell level, gene expression profiling, and microscopy.
The focus of my research is on CNS development and on the application of this knowledge to the development of neural regenerative strategies for the brain and retina to drive functional repair.
Dr. Touma’s research is focused on patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and measurement science with a particular interest in the assessment of disease activity, patient reported outcomes and cognitive function.
The goal of the NeuroLupus Program is to improve methods of identifying cognitive impairment in SLE and understanding its course over time and impact on health-related quality of life and productivity.
My lab studies how information is acquired, stored and used in the brain. We study memory in mice at the molecular, cellular, circuit and behavioural levels using a variety of cutting-edge tools.
Dr. Andreazza is a Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology & Toxicology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Molecular Pharmacology of Mood Disorders and the Thomas C. Zachos Chiar in Mitochondrial Reserach. She is the Founder and Scientific Director of the Mitochondrial Innovation Innitiative (https://www.mito2i.ca - a strategic initiative at the University of Toronto), an Advisor for the Dauten Family Center for Bipolar Treatment Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital, a member of Bipolar Scientific Steering Committee for the BD2: Breakthrough Discoveries for thriving with Bipolar Disorder and also served in international boards of directors, such as International Society for Bipolar Disorder.
Her research focuses on understanding the role of mitochondrial function in mental illness, especially mood disorders. Because neurons depend on mitochondrial function, mitochondrial dysfunction during neurodevelopment is expected to impact neurotransmission with potentially crucial implications for mood disorders. Currently, Dr. Andreazza is evaluating the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction on neurotransmission using 3D brain organoids generated from induced pluripotent stem cells from patients with bipolar disorder and/or mitochondrial disease, which is expected to lead to identification of novel targets that are personalized and more precise. Ultimately, my research program will provide better insight into mood disorder brain pathophysiology and whether mitochondrial dysfunction plays a key role in dysregulated neurotransmission. Beyond this, there is potential for discovery of novel drug targets aimed at restoring both mitochondrial function and neurotransmission, which will substantially improve the lives of Canadians affected by either mood disorders or mitochondrial disease.
Epidemiological data suggests that some Canadians do drive under the influence of cannabis. This includes young people. Using driving simulation technology we study the effects of smoked cannabis and edible cannabis on driving performance, cognition, subjective effects, physiological parameters. These human experimental studies have been expanded to investigate the co-use of alcohol. Our findings seek to inform on the harms of cannabis and alcohol use in terms of public safety while driving.
My research focus is the huntingtin protein, mutated in people with Huntington’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative illness. My team studies the structure of this molecule to understand the mechanisms of disease and to try and develop new therapies.
Dr. Isabelle Boileau’s research focuses on the use of brain imaging techniques (PET with MRI) and psychopharmacology to investigate different aspects of the brain dopamine and endocannabinoid system and its role in addictive behaviors in clinical populations with substance use problems, impulse control disorder. The long-term goal of Dr. Boileau’s research is to increase understanding and improve treatment of addiction.
My research includes understanding the composition of the genome for studies of genetic disease built upon three themes: (1) gene copy number- and structural- variation (CNV or SV) in the human genome, (2) determining the genetic architecture underlying autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and (3) developing technology, infrastructure, and capacity for translational genomic research.
The focus of research in the Salahpour lab is to understand dopamine transmission such that it can be modulated by pharmacology for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric conditions. Some of the specific proteins that we work with are the dopamine transporter (DAT), vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2), tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and trace amine associated receptor 1 (TAAR1).
Amy J. Ramsey
Our laboratory is working to help patients by developing genetically-modified mice that have disease-causing variants in their Grin1 gene. These mice can then be used to test dietary regimens, drugs, and adenoviral gene therapies for their ability to improve specific symptoms. The Ramsey lab uses a combination of biochemical and behavioural approaches to understand the many roles of NMDA receptors and to find treatments for debilitating brain disorders.
Dr Banasr’s research relies on highly translational topics and approaches and combines postmortem studies and chronic stress models to validate the relevance of specific cellular changes in the etiology and for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Her primary interest resides in the investigation of the key molecules, cells and pathways implicated in the expression of the symptoms of depression. Her work focuses on the most consistent findings from human post-mortem studies in depression, the GABAergic, synaptic and astroglial dysfunctions associated with this disorder, and their involvement in the expression of depressive-like behaviors and cognitive impairment. She anticipates that this approach will provide new therapeutic leads for the development of more selective and efficient drugs for the treatment of depression, specifically that targeting these cellular pathologies is a promising new avenue for the development of antidepressant treatments.
We are combining human stem cells with decellularized mouse and pig pancreas to create a 3D organ derived from human stem cells. Our goal is to make an organoid like tissue that is vascularized and therefore has better survival and function.
By utilizing mouse models and organoid culture, and performing epigenomics and single cell analyses, we investigate the mechanisms of the gut stem cell microenvironment in development and disease such as cancer and inflammation.
The Shoichet lab is engaged in discovery to translational research. We are working at the intersection of biology, chemistry and engineering related to applications in regenerative medicine and cancer, including cell and therapeutic delivery and drug screening.
Our lab is interested in discovering unknown, biophysical mechanisms that form and shape organ primordia such as limb buds and craniofacial structures in the mammalian embryo.
We study post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in development and disease. The focus is on the role of RNA-binding proteins in controlling mRNA stability, translation and subcellular localization in the fruit fly, Drosophila, as well as in autism spectrum disorder.
My lab is interested in how signalling pathways regulate development and how their disruption contributes to disease. Most recently, we are focusing in two general directions. 1. Exploring how disruption of the Hippo pathway promotes cancer and fibrosis. 2. Establishing and using human stem-cell derived organoids (cerebral and lung) to model human development and disease.
The focus of the Nostro lab is to elucidate the signaling pathways governing the formation, expansion and maturation of pancreatic cells using human pluripotent stem cell directed differentiation. Through this in vitro approach we aim to understand the genetic and epigenetic program that dictates pancreatic development and beta cell maturation. Due to the very limited accessibility of the human embryo, this represents a powerful and unparalleled system to understand key human developmental processes.
Our long-term goal is to translate the results of our studies to the clinic for the treatment of diabetes and to establish in vitro culture systems for disease modeling, drug toxicity and discovery assays.
The Hurd lab uses an integrated genetic, cell biological and imaging approach to understand how mitochondria influence development, differentiation and inheritance.