Category Archives: Faculty

View recent posts and news from our faculty members. For our faculty profiles, read more here: https://www.meakinsmcgill.com/faculty-members/ 

A colorimetric nanosurface fluidic platform for rapid phenotypic antibiotic susceptibility testing. Dao Nguyen received MI4 seed funding

Rapid phenotypic antibiotic susceptibility testing

Dr. Dao Nguyen and Dr. Sara Mahshid receive MI4 Seed Funding to develop an ultrasensitive colorimetric fluidic assay for rapid phenotypic antibiotic susceptibility testing. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are responsible for 700,000 deaths annually, a figure that is projected to rise to 10 million deaths per year by 2050 if no action is taken to halt this global threat. The overuse of antibiotics and the prescription of antibiotics to which bacteria are not susceptible, contribute to the rise of antibiotic resistance. This proposal will develop an ultrasensitive colorimetric fluidic assay for rapid phenotypic antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST). The project is anticipated to reduce the turnaround time of the AST to less than 1 hour compared to 3-4 days using conventional AST methods.

Read more about the project:

MI4 Seed Fund Grants – Round 3: A colorimetric nanosurface fluidic platform for rapid phenotypic antibiotic susceptibility testing (Dr. Dao Nguyen and Dr. Sara Mahshid)

Meakins-Christie Laboratories welcomes Dr. Jun Ding, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Jun Ding joins Meakins-Christie

Meakins-Christie Laboratories welcomes Dr. Jun Ding, Assistant Professor in McGill’s Department of Medicine. Dr. Ding joins us from Carnegie Mellon University, where he completed his postdoctoral studies in computational biology.

Dr. Ding’s lab will focus on studying cell dynamics in various biological processes in many diseases. His research interests include decoding cell dynamics, which are essential for understanding the mechanisms of many diseases, and his primary research is to develop machine learning approaches to jointly analyze, model, and visualize single-cell omics data.

It is time to improve treatment options for rare lung diseases such as progressive fibrosing interstitial lung disease.

Improving Outcomes for ILD Patients

As a specialist in Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) at the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, Ilan Azuelos, MD is an ardent promoter of improving outcomes for ILD patients. Treatment options for people with rare lung diseases, such as progressive fibrosing interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, may portend a life expectancy of between five and six and a half years after onset of symptoms. Dr. Azuelos knows that with research and education of the general public, this life expectancy can be improved.

“Ainsi, les personnes affligées de cette maladie seraient en mesure de passer plus de temps avec leur famille et de profiter au maximum de la vie.”

Ilan Azuelos, MD, MSc

Fortunately, programs have been initiated to address this area of medicine. MEDTEQ+, a pan-Canadian consortium for medical innovation, is bringing together industry leaders such as Boehringer Ingelheim Canada in partnership against PF-ILD. They aim to identify potential solutions to address the gaps in care for patients with IPD-PF, with the goal of accelerating access to treatments that delay the deterioration of lung function.

With the general public more aware of the symptoms of the onset of lung disease, patients could seek out treatment at an earlier stage. Increased funding for research would lead to a better understanding and the development of novel treatment options. Each would play an important role in a better, perhaps longer, life after diagnosis.

Read the following articles to learn more of the importance of improving education and treatment options for patients with ILD:

Dr. Basil Petrof is interviewed about the Montreal Chest Institute on the MUHC Foundation's Health Matters, February 28, 2021

The Historic Montreal Chest Institute

On February 28, 2021 Basil Petrof MD and Director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, was interviewed on Health Matters by Julie Quenneville, President of the MUHC Foundation. With the merger of the Montreal Chest Institute Foundation and the MUHC Foundation fast approaching, Dr. Petrof spoke of the historic Montreal Chest Institute, how it became and continues to be, a world-class institute for respiratory care.

“Every day when I walk into the Chest I feel privileged to work with great colleagues and to be in a world-class institution.”

Basil Petrof, MD

The Montreal Chest Institute is renowned for the first-rate clinical care its patients receive. Top international specialists in the field of respiratory care are drawn to work at the MCI because of its reputation. The MCI’s highly specialized clinics, such as for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and TB, are known to have the best treatment outcomes in the world. The MCI’s prestigious position can also be attributed to the wholistic approach taken to patient care. Multidisciplinary teams collaborate on the development of treatment plans, ensuring the highest quality of care for each patient.

Two world-class research units are associated with the MCI; the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and the Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit. These multidisciplinary units have a mix of MD and PhD scientists who have together made significant contributions to the better understanding of respiratory issues and treatment options.

Training is also an important component to the success of the MCI. Many alumni have continued on in their career to hold prestigious positions and to become leaders of research in their field. The newly established Dr. Margaret Becklake Fellowship in Respiratory Research, funded by the MCI Foundation in honor of Dr. Margaret Becklake, will be a significant component in the future of training at the MCI.

“…I just want to mention that we are really pleased about the newly established Margaret Becklake Fellowship which will continue this tradition. This Fellowship is in honor of Dr. Becklake, who was a trailblazing female physician hired back in the 50’s, back at a time when there weren’t that many females in medicine and who founded our respiratory epidemiology unit and who was really a giant in the area of respiratory epidemiology.”

Basil Petrof, MD

Listen to Dr. Petrof’s interview with Julie Quenneville here:

Dr.Maziar Divangahi of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories on vaccines and trained immunity

Flu Vaccines and COVID-19

In a recent interview with Radio Canada’s Renaud Manuguerra-Gagné, Dr. Maziar Divangahi of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories explains how the flu vaccine can help our immune system to fight the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Divangahi, having extensively researched the topic of immunity, has explored the subject of flu vaccines and COVID-19. In this interview he explains how the flu vaccine could train the innate immunity of an individual by causing it to increase the number of antiviral molecules, or cytokines, in the body. These cytokines may also help the body fight new, unrelated, infections, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, impeding the spread of the virus in the initial stages of infection. Trained immunity may also reduce the body’s extreme reaction to the virus in the later stages of infection; and it is these extreme reactions that results in the need for hospitalization.

Additional and more extensive research is needed to determine which vaccines will help fight a SARS-CoV-2 virus infection; whether or not a vaccine would be effective depends on what components it is composed of. This is promising news to read and will hopefully lead to exciting new discoveries in the near future.

Read the full article and interview here:

Les vaccins contre la grippe peuvent-ils réduire les symptômes de la COVID-19?, Renaud Manuguerra-Gagné, Radio-Canada, Montreal, February 15, 2021. Photo credit: Radio-Canada / Jeff McIntosh

Montreal-area hospitals have almost reached capacity

COVID-19 situation in the ICU is critical

As the number of hospitalizations with COVID-19 patients increases into January 2021, Dr. Peter Goldberg discusses how the MUHC is planning to operationalize a potential increase in patients. These are some of the logistical and emotional choices Montreal area hospitals may have to face in the coming weeks.

Interviews with Dr. Goldberg on the status of Montreal hospitals, and what happens next:

Who will be most affected by COVID-19?

A related post from November 2020:

We are months into the second wave of COVID-19 yet healthcare workers remain unable to predict who will get sick from the virus and who will not. Neither the severity of a patient’s symptoms, nor their age, forecast the ultimate outcome. Nor does the existence of a pre-existing medical condition dictate how things will end. The truth is, healthcare teams do not know who will be most affected by COVID-19. In a recent interview, Dr. Peter Goldberg, associate member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and researcher in the RESP Program of the RI-MUHC, expresses his frustration at his inability to save someone who is too young, too alive, to die:

“it was like a forest fire, and all I had was a garden hose.”

Dr. Goldberg

Even patients seemingly on the mend can take a sudden turn for the worse and experience a rapid decline. Suddenly their life is in jeopardy. Physicians must be ready to respond quickly when this happens, but when not successful they are left to watch their patients pass on without the support of their family or friends.

“If there is anything more distressing than seeing someone die, it is seeing them die alone, or a nurse holding up a phone on Zoom or Skype so that family members can watch this,”

Dr. Goldberg

Canada’s case fatality rate is high amongst peer countries, but it is suggested that the trend could be due to testing: in Canada, testing has focused on individuals with symptoms and at-risk individuals, rather than the entire population. Regardless of testing, as the number of people with severe symptoms require hospitalization increases, hospitals become overloaded and physicians are faced with difficult decisions. Reflecting back on the spring and how the hospitals quickly filled up, Dr. Goldberg recalls having “very disturbing” conversations with hospital ethicists, and he sincerely hopes not to find himself in a similar position this time around:

“I don’t think the community knows that these conversations are going on. We’re talking about them — we’re not talking about something esoteric about ourselves. We’re talking about how ICUs, if we reach the limitation of our capacity to treat COVID patients, then we’re going to have to make decisions about who gets the bed.”

Dr. Peter Goldberg

Dr. Goldberg speaks of fighting this virus from a physician’s perspective, and the difficulty to predict who will be most affected by COVID-19, in his interview with Sharon Kirkley of the National Post.

The interview with Dr. Goldberg can be read here:

Preliminary findings of Dr. Benjamin Smith's study suggest a shorter COVID-19 quarantine period may be possible for the future.

A shorter COVID-19 quarantine period

A RI-MUHC study led by Dr. Benjamin Smith suggests appropriate testing could bring the COVID-19 quarantine period down from 14 to 7 days. Healthcare workers who developed COVID-19 after they were advised to self-isolate following a high-risk SARS-CoV-2 exposure, were all detected by day 7. This means that a simple testing strategy may allow for the early detection of healthcare workers who will develop COVID-19 after a high-risk exposure.

Read More:

COVID-19 testing: Timing may be everything

The original post appeared November 2020:

It seems that a shorter COVID-19 quarantine period may be possible, thanks to the work of Dr. Benjamin Smith, MI4 scientist and member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories. Dr. Smith was primarily looking to ease the burden of this virus on the healthcare system. Healthcare workers are at the greatest risk of exposure while at work and yet their presence at work is crucial to handle an ever-increasing influx of COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Smith began by questioning the duration of the isolation period after exposure, 14 days, and looked to reduce that window. He developed a study, and is using healthcare workers exposed to the virus as his test subjects. Testing them using a variety of methods at varying time intervals throughout their isolation has given positive results.

“Our study suggests that a simple infection control strategy consisting of symptom-triggered testing from day 0 to 7, followed by a standard home-based test on day 7, detects all or nearly all healthcare workers who develop COVID-19 after high-risk exposure. It’s a promising result. If these findings are confirmed as we test a larger number of people, this testing strategy could significantly shorten the self-isolation duration required for healthcare workers,”

Dr. Benjamin Smith

The initial findings of his study indicate that the results of a nasopharyngeal swab and saliva test on the 7th day of quarantine will predict fairly accurately the likelihood of developing the virus in day 8-14. Continued positive results in this ongoing study will bring a great sense of relief to many. A shorter COVID-19 quarantine period will benefit more than just the intended healthcare workers. Other patients looking to access the healthcare system, travellers, society as a whole will feel a burden lifting in light of this news.

Read More:

  • The full article about Dr. Benjamin Smith’s study and the encouraging results can be read in the article COVID-19 testing: Timing may be everything, appearing in the November 18, 2020 edition of Health e-News. Photo credit: Owen Egan / Joni Dufour.
Dr. Simon Rousseau and Dr. Jean Bourbeau of the RESP Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC are recipients of QRHN 2020-2021 Project Grants

RESP researchers receive QRHN funding

Congratulations to the following RESP researchers for receiving 2020-2021 grants from the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Network.

  • Dr. Simon Rousseau – awarded a Team Projects grant for his project: “Impact of prior coticosteroids therapy for airway diseases on COVID-19 clinical trajectory”.
  • Dr. Jean Bourbeau – awarded a Priority Projects grant for his project: “Impact of the environment on the development and aggravation of obstructive and remodelling lung diseases”.

More about the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Network (QRHN).

Larry Lands and Laurent Pharmaceuticles to begin a clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus

LAU-7b clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment

The RI-MUHC is currently enrolling patients in RESOLUTION, a clinical trial of LAU-7b for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug acts on lung inflammation and showed potent antiviral effects in-vitro against SARS-CoV-2. Results from previous studies in adult CF patients showed an important reduction of key pro-inflammatory biomarkers at the onset of a pulmonary exacerbation episodes, suggestive of a protective effect of the drug on the lungs.

Read more here:

Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b

An original post from April 2020 described the start of the clinical trial:

Laurent Pharmaceuticals, a McGill spinoff, will run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus.

Larry Lands is the Chief Medical Advisor for Laurent Pharmaceuticals. Laurent Pharmaceuticals Inc. is planning to test its lead drug LAU-7b in patients with COVID-19 disease. LAU-7b was recently identified as a potential anti-viral therapeutic option for COVID-19 during a drug-library screening effort.

The Research Institute of the MUHC is presently enrolling participants in the study, called RESOLUTION. LAU-7b is a novel oral form of a drug called fenretinide, which inhibits the inflammatory reaction of the body to the virus. This study could lead to improved treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are at higher risk of developing complications.

“Thanks to its inflammation-controlling properties, low-dose fenretinide triggers a natural mechanism – the body’s own resolution of the inflammation process – which keeps the inflammatory response under control without suppressing its protective immune role.”

Dr. Larry Lands

Read more here:

McGill spinoff Laurent Pharmaceuticals to begin clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment. Company to run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus. By Junji Nishihata. McGill Reporter. April 11, 2020.