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. 
 

CANCER

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.

Reto Baertschiger
Our laboratory (started in 2019) focuses on the biology of hepatoblastoma, the most common liver tumor in children, and we focus on the analysis of the tumor micro-environment as well as the analysis of extra-cellular vesicles secreted by these tumors, to allow to identify future therapeutic targets and markers for liquid biopsies.

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. 

Keith Jarvi
Identifying novel semen protein and mRNA biomarkers for diseases of the prostate including prostate cancer, prostatitis and male infertility.

Thomas Kislinger
Clinical proteomics, biomarkers and cell surface targets

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.

Steven A Narod
The Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, led by Tier 1 Canada Research Chair Dr. Steven Narod, is a world leader in the study of inherited cancers. With a particular focus on breast and ovarian cancers, Dr. Narod leads this WCRI team in the study of genetic mutations that are known to increase the risk of many cancers – most notably the BRCA1and BRCA2 mutations. Through its extensive research, publications, data collection, genetic testing programs and collaborations, the team has become an internationally renowned leader in identifying and developing effective strategies to prevent and manage these cancers women and families with a high inherited risk.

Raymond Reilly
Research in Prof. Reilly's laboratory at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy is aimed at the development of radiopharmaceuticals for molecular imaging of cancer by SPECT or PET or for targeted radionuclide therapy of tumours. Radiopharmaceuticals are currently being developed for imaging or treating breast cancer, head and neck cancer, and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a lethal brain tumour. The radiopharmaceuticals consist of radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies (radioimmunotheranostics) or radiolabeled gold nanoparticles (radiation nanomedicines). Our research is translational and we formulate clinical quality radiopharmaceuticals under GMP conditions for advancement to first-in-human clinical trials of imaging or treatment of cancer.

Bradly G. Wouters
The microenvironment of human tumors is unlike that of any normal tissue, characterized by extreme heterogeneities in nutrient supply, pH, and oxygenation. These features develop as a consequence of alterations in the metabolic and proliferative status of tumor cells together with a highly irregular vascular supply. Our group is investigating the tumor microenvironment with a primary interest in understanding the cellular and molecular responses to deficiencies in oxygenation (hypoxia) and their influence on the biological behavior of tumors.

CARDIOVASCULAR/RESPIRATORY/REPRODUCTIVE

Kenneth Chapman
Our laboratory explores heatlh care delivery strategies for common and uncommon respiratory diseases - asthma, COPD and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.  Our work covers various assessment and monitoring strategies including special emphasis (during and post-pandemic) on remote monitoring.

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.

Paul Delgado Olguin
We investigate the epigenetic mechanisms controlling development of the cardiovascular system and the initiation and progression of disease.

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.

Azadeh Yadollahi
My laboratory is working on developing novel wearable technologies and machine learning algorithms to diagnose and treat sleep problems

CELLULAR & MOLECULAR STRUCTURE/FUNCTION

Vinod Chandran
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.  

Julie Claycomb
We use the nematode C. elegans to understand how small RNA mediated gene regulation influences development, fertility, behaviour, fertility, and epigenetic inheritance.

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.

Mathieu Lemaire
Our lab has two main "arms". First, we have expertise in doing gene discovery using whole-exome sequencing with a focus on patients with rare pediatric kidney disease. Second, we then perform functional analyses in cell and animal models to figure out how/why the novel genes identified through our genomic studies cause disease. Right now, our efforts are focused on delineating the pathophysiological processes that lead to the formation of blood clots in small vessels of the kidneys of infants that have mutations in a gene named DGKE. This condition, atypical hemolytic-uremic syndrome, is serious for patients because most develop renal failure. A better understanding of the disease should help identify potential treatments - currently, there are none. We are also working on other novel rare forms of thrombotic diseases that affect the kidneys of children that we have recently discovered.

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.

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.

Andrew Wilde
Cell division is the process where one cell divides to become two cells. It is the most visually exciting function the cell carries out. During cell division it is crucial that the genome in the original, mother cell is divided equally between the 2 new daughter cells. Any failure in this process can result in genome instability and aneuploidy, hallmarks of tumor cells.

Our goal is to understand the molecular details of cell division in normal cells and tumor cells in order to understand how cancers form.

COMPUTATIONAL/SYSTEMS BIOLOGY

Charlie Boone
The Boone Lab looks over downtown Toronto from the 13th floor of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, a multidisciplinary research institute involving several different faculties within the University of Toronto.

Dr Boone's lab is focused on the development and application of functional genomics techniques to a number of biological problems.

We have an open concept lab that is shared with Brenda Andrews and Tim Hughes; this format allows us to work efficiently on a number of collaborative projects.

In particular, our project for global mapping of genetic interactions in yeast. We are developing and applying functional genomics approaches for mapping genetic, chemical-genetic, protein-protein interactions using a yeast model system. The ultimate goal is to place all yeast genes and their corresponding products on a functional network.

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.

Benjamin Haibe-Kains
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.

Jason Moffat
My group develops CRISPR genetic screening technology and uses it to map genetic interactions in human cancer cells and identify targets for disease.

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.

Pascal Tyrrell
The purpose of my research is to create a methodological framework for problem solving in medical research by leveraging analytical and technological innovation. My research focuses on introducing statistically sound and innovative AI/ML approaches to the study of medical images in health-related outcomes research. I have focused on dimension reduction and other true multivariate techniques and machine learning approaches. I endeavor to establish useful guidelines for the quantity and quality of input data for machine learning in medical imaging research by investigating current methods as well as developing new ones. My research is continuously advancing knowledge translation and knowledge to action as innovation is only an idea until it is implemented.

ENDOCRINE/GASTROENTEROLOGY

Istvan Mucsi
We are building an electronic toolkit to assess physical and emotional  symptoms in patients with kidney-pancreas transplant and an online resource hub   to support self-management

INFECTION/IMMUNITY

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

John Brumell
Dr. Brumell’s research examines the host-pathogen interface and employs genetic and cell biological approaches to understand these infections and their outcomes. This research focuses primarily on Salmonella and Listeria, which are common pathogens and powerful model organisms for the study of infection. In addition to this basic research, Dr. Brumell’s lab also examines how host-pathogen interactions can impact the development of chronic diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Arthritis.

Donald R. Branch
We are studying autoimmune diseases and immunotherapies.  We use in vitro methods to examine various cellular killing mechanisms in instances of unexplained hemolytic anemia in patients.  We also are exploring small molecules and recombinant proteins for use as potential therapeutics in autoimmune diseases such as immune thrombocytopenia and rheumatoid arthritis; for these we also use in vivo mouse models of these human diseases. Finally, we are looking at a role for ABO isoagglutinins as inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 infection using a surrogate virus that allows work to be done in biological containment 2 level laboratory.

Alan Cochrane
Research in the lab focuses on the role of RNA processing in the control of virus replication and the exploration of various strategies to manipulate these processes to impair the growth of multiple different viruses including HIV-1 and coronaviruses.

Walid Houry
My group is 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.

Lori Frappier
My lab studies Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common herpesvirus that causes several kinds of cancer. We determine the functions of the viral proteins in manipulating cellular processes and how this promotes infection and oncogenesis.

Stephen Juvet
Using cutting-edge techniques and models, we study immunological mechanisms of chronic rejection in lung transplantation, and are engaged in engineering cellular therapies for use in transplantation.

Micheline Piquette-Miller
Research in my laboratory focuses on examining  disease and environmental-mediated dysregulation of drug transport proteins,  the molecular mechanisms involved  and the resulting impact on drug  response. The influence of disease as well as endogenous and environmental factors on the  expression and functionality of transport proteins is examined using a combination of in vivo, in vitro, in situ and molecular biology techniques. The combination of these methods allows us to assess clinical relevance as well as to ascertain the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms involved.

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.

John Marshall
My laboratory studies the maladaptive host response that is responsible for the clinical syndrome of sepsis.  Our focus is the persistence of activated neutrophils in the tissues and the circulation, a consequence of the expression of a survival program that blocks the neutrophil's capacity to undergo spontaneous apoptosis.  Our objective is to understand the cellular mechanisms that support this anti-apoptotic program.  Current work, using neutrophils from critically ill patients, cell lines, and genetically modified mice, focuses on two themes.  We have shown that tyrosine phosphorylation of neutrophil caspase-8 activates PI3 kinase and enables the transcription of survival genes.  We have also found that a highly conserved gene, Nampt/PBEF/visfatin, supports sustained neutrophil survival through its role in NAD biosynthesis, and that this effect is dependent upon its interactions with the insulin receptor.  Both mechanisms are amenable to in vivo manipulation.  We are using animal models of sepsis in mice with selective deletion of myeloid cell caspase-8 to understand the consequences of such interventions on organ injury and antimicrobial immunity.

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
Investigating the impact of microbiota regulated gut-tissue axes on host physiology and autoimmunity. 

Blayne Amir Sayed
We are investigating the contribution of inflammatory cell death pathways to cell injury and death during liver transplantation.

Raphael Schneider
We study the immune mechanisms underlying multiple sclerosis (MS). We use cutting-edge technologies such as single-cell RNA sequencing and mass cytometry to characterize immune cells in people with MS and people at risk of developing MS to identify novel biomarkers for clinic use.

NEUROSCIENCE/BRAIN HEALTH/NEUROGENETICS

Jean Martin Beaulieu
My research involves the characterization of cell signaling pathways that are affected by lithium and antipsychotics. Our main objectives is to identify nodes at which these pathways intersect with the functions of risk genes for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This research as allowed identifying protein complexes and regulators of mRNA translation that could be good candidates for the development of new drugs for the treatment of mental illnesses.

Eleftherios P. Diamandis
Our work deals with discovery of biomarkers of early neurodegeneration by using mass spectrometry and proteomics.

James Dowling
My lab is focused on therapy development for a group of childhood genetic conditions called congenital myopathies. We use multiple strategies and models to accomplish this.

Daniel Felsky
We use computational methods to study the causes and consequences of mental illness in population-based and clinical datasets, integrating biological, psychological, and environmental measurements.

Sanjeev Kumar
We conduct studies to advance understanding of neurophysiology and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, using Electroencephalography, brain imaging, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).

Julie Lefebvre
My lab investigates how nerve cells form specific patterns of connections that are essential for proper development and function of the nervous system. Our work combines microscopy, mouse models, and molecular-genetic tools to identify developmental and molecular mechanisms of brain circuit formation. We focus on the development of inhibitory interneurons and in circuit formation in the mouse retina, cortex and cerebellum.

Hsiang-Yuan Lin
Focusing on using multimodal neuroimaging and computational methods to characterize atypical neurodevelopment, and developing next-generation therapies for neurodevelopmental disabilities/disorders.

Yuliya Nikolova
Our work combines tools from experimental psychology, cognitive science, neuroimaging and genetics to study mechanisms of risk for mental illness. We have a strong focus on translation and integration across multiple levels of investigation and work closely with preclinical teams to bridge basic science approaches with clinical research.

Michael Salter
My research group is studying neuroplasticity in pain and in learning and memory. We are focusing on NMDA receptors and on neuron-glia interactions.

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.

Gwyneth Zai
Dr. Zai’s research interests include using multi-modal approaches — genetics, epigenetics, pharmacogenomics, neuroimaging, and cognitive neuroscience — to develop treatment supports for depressive, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. A major focus of Dr. Zai’s current research includes the identification of predictive biomarkers underlying treatment response and expression of key symptoms of these illnesses.

REGENERATIVE MEDICINE/DEVELOPMENT

Moumita Barua
The mission of the Barua lab is to improve diagnostics and clinical outcomes in adult patients with kidney  diseases. The starting point of our work is to identify genetic causes which are pursued using in vitro and in vivo models to define mechanisms. Three projects have been prioritized based on our human genetic studies, all of which are funded, including support from 2 CIHR project grants and an international award from the Alport Syndrome Foundation (most competitive year per their press release: https://www.alportsyndrome.org/2020_research_program_awardees/).

1. Defining intrinsic kidney repair mechanisms (CIHR Project Grant Fall 2020 cycle)

2. Defining mechanism in Alport syndrome (Alport Syndrome Foundation or ASF 2020 funded)

3. Genome-wide association study in FSGS (CIHR Project Grant Spring 2020 cycle)

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.

Michael Fehlings
The Fehlings lab utilizes molecular and genetic techniques to develop neural stem cell-based strategies to repair and regenerate the injured spinal cord in preclinical models.

Tae-Hee Kim
Employing organoid culture and mouse genetics, our laboratory investigates the mechanisms of the gut stem cell microenvironment in homeostasis and disease (cancer and inflammation), and aims to develop stem cells-based therapies.

Yun Li
The Li Lab is interested in understanding how the human brain forms, what makes it unique from that of other species, and how disorders like autism impact its development and function. We use pluripotent stem cell, genome editing, and 3-dimensional organoid technologies to study brain development in a dish.

Cristina Nostro
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.

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.

Molly Shoichet
The Shoichet Lab solves important problems together. We are particularly interested in regenerative medicine - that is regenerating the brain, spinal cord or retina after traumatic injury or disease using innovative strategies in chemistry and engineering. We are designing biomimetic hydrogels for 3D culture of cancer cells for drug testing and discovery.