Category Archives: Faculty

View recent posts and news from our faculty members. For our faculty profiles, read more here: 

Congratulations to Sabah Hussain, Kevin Schwartzman, and Jean Bourbeau on their Spring 2020 CIHR Project Grants

Three CIHR Project Grants Awarded!

Congratulations to all Meakins and RECRU members who were funded in the Spring 2020 Project Grant Competition! Congratulations to ALL!

Sabah Hussain. Co-investigators: Gilles Gouspillou, Marco Sandri. Title: MYTHO: An uncharacterized FoxO-dependent gene that controls autophagy and skeletal muscle mass.

Jean Bourbeau, Sébastien Gagnon. Co-investigators: Rebecca Colman, James Downar, Dennis Jensen, Hayley Lewthwaite, Bryan Ross. Title: Sublingual Fentanyl for acute relief of breathlessness in patients with advanced COPD : A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design trial.

Kevin Schwartzman, James Johnston. Title: Tuberculosis in Canada: Modeling to Inform Elimination. Ranked 2nd in the Public, Community & Population Health.

The Royal Society of Canada announced Dr. Maziar Divangahi as one of McGill's newest members to the College of New Scholars

Royal Society of Canada Class of 2020

Congratulations Dr. Maziar Divangahi! Dr. Maziar Divangahi is among the 50 new Members of the College, and among the ten McGill researchers honored by the Royal Society of Canada. The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) and its Members have elected this year’s new Fellows and named the incoming class of The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. This year’s cohort includes some of McGill’s most accomplished researchers and scholars. For the Class of 2020, 87 new Fellows and 50 new members to The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists were announced.

“I am very proud to become a member of the RSC. This achievement reflects the amazing family, friends, colleagues, and McGill community that have supported me along the way,”

– Maziar Divangahi

New Members to the College are Canadians who, at an early stage in their career, have demonstrated a high level of achievement. Fifty-one Canadian universities and the National Research Council nominate members to the College, which is the first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for Canadian intellectual leadership. Each new cohort represents an emerging generation of scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership from coast-to-coast. Recognition by the RSC is the highest honour an individual can achieve in the Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences. The College provides the Royal Society of Canada with a multigenerational capacity to help Canada and the world address major challenges and seize new opportunities including those identified in emerging fields.

“The Royal Society of Canada is delighted to recognise this year’s exceptional cohort of inductees, as the contributions of these outstanding artists, scholars and scientists have significantly impacted their respective disciplines at both national and international levels.” 

RSC President Jeremy McNeil.

Read More

About Dr. Maziar Divangahi:

Maziar Divangahi is an internationally renowned pulmonary immunologist who has made major contributions to our understanding of both innate and adaptive immunity to pulmonary infectious diseases. His pioneer work on innate immune memory has identified hematopoietic stem cells as potential target for the development of novel vaccine against pulmonary infections, such as tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis), influenza (H1N1), and coronaviruses (SARS-CoV2). He is currently holding the Strauss Chair in Respiratory Diseases (McGill University).

Dr. Irah King sheds some light about disease tolerance in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. - read about disease tolerance

COVID-19 and Disease Tolerance

There is much to be learned still as to why some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic while others develop symptoms, sometimes severe. The prevailing theory is that their immune systems fight off the virus so efficiently that they never get sick. But some scientists are confident that the immune system’s aggressive response, the churning out of antibodies and other molecules to eliminate an infection, is only part of the story.

Our knowledge of how our immune system fights off a virus is constantly evolving and involves both disease tolerance and resistance. The phenomenon of disease tolerance, which is an inherent component of immunity, is defined as the ability of a host to limit the impact of pathogens. In other words, it is the mechanism that limits tissue damage independent of changes to pathogen burden. This is different from disease resistance, in which the host is able to prevent infection or reduce the number of pathogens. Disease tolerance is well-known in plants but has only been documented in animals within the last 15 years. Disease tolerance may at least partially explain why some infected people have mild symptoms or none at all.

Dr. Irah King sheds some light about disease tolerance in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full article here:

Why Do Some People Weather Coronavirus Infection Unscathed? Some scientists are confident that the immune system’s aggressive response to infection is only part of the story.

by Emily Laber-Warren

Drs. Irah King and Maziar Divangahi have also co-authored an editorial on the subject in Frontiers in Immunology:

Editorial: Evolving Mechanisms of Disease Tolerance. King IL, Divangahi M. Front Immunol. 2019 Dec 20;10:2974.

In this editorial, Divangahi and King discuss the history of disease tolerance. The concept of disease tolerance was first introduced following observations in plants in the late 19th century. It was only more than a century later that similar observations were seen in animals following infection. This then opened up a whole new field of immunology that started to tease out the cellular and molecular mechanisms of this concept.

A deeper understanding of disease tolerance could lead to “a new golden age of infectious disease research and discovery,”

Irah King and Maziar Divangahi

A series of reviews are featured in this issue that detail how this defense strategy is conserved from plants to humans against diverse forms of infection. Reviews by Meakins members are prominently featured, including:

Code Life Ventilator Challenge Peter Goldberg

COVID-19 Code Life Ventilator Challenge

Dr. Peter Goldberg is a COVID-19 Innovation Grant recipient for the Code Life Ventilator Challenge. The pandemic has exposed the critical shortage of ventilators in a number of health care settings. Ventilators are expensive — low-cost models range between $5,000-$10,000 — and are unavailable in many care settings. Dr. Peter Goldberg and his team launched the SubK Sprint to build a clinical-grade ventilator that can be produced cheaply and easily, anywhere in the world. 

Read more about the award: Code Life Ventilator Challenge – Made For All, McGill University.

About the Joule COVID-19 Innovation grant program:

Dr. Peter Goldberg is a member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, Associate Member of the RI-MUHC RESP program, leader of the SubK Sprint, and is the Director of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre.

Dr. Carolyn Baglole received a CIHR catalyst grant: Health Effects of Vaping for her grant entitled: Utility of a Preclinical Model to Study the Impact of Vaping Products on Cardiopulmonary Outcomes.

Impact of Vaping on Cardiopulmonary Outcomes

Dr. Carolyn Baglole, with Dr. Koren Kathleen Mann, received a CIHR Catalyst Grant: Health Effects of Vaping. The title of the grant is: “Utility of a Preclinical Model to Study the Impact of Vaping Products on Cardiopulmonary Outcomes.”.

The objective of the grant is to investigate the effects of vaping products on cardiopulmonary outcomes, alone and in conjunction with SARS-CoV-2 infection. They propose to develop a mouse model of vaping to understand the effects on the lung, as well as the heart, vessels, and immune system. They will further use a mouse model to test whether vaping can alter that infection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. This model could then be used to test new vaping products as they enter the market for toxicity and/or to test therapies to counter act the severe toxicities of vaping.

Congrats Carolyn and the rest of the team!

Read more about the project on the CIHR Funding Decision database and in the August 31, 2020 edition of Med e-News.

Graphical abstract: Targeting the OXE receptor as a potential novel therapy for asthma. William Powell

Promising treatment option for eosinophilic-driven disorders

Liminal BioSciences, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, has acquired a preclinical research program of small OXE molecule antagonists. This program is based on the research of Dr. William Powell, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Medicine at McGill University, working in collaboration with Dr. Joshua Rokach of the Florida Institute of Technology.

Investigational therapies developed in this program target a key chemoattractant and activator of eosinophils, which play a key role in Type 2 inflammation-driven diseases through tissue repair and resolution of inflammation. Drs. Powell and Rokach developed a series of potentially first-in-class, oral, selective OXE receptor antagonists against 5-oxo-ETE, one of the most potent human eosinophil chemoattractants. Migration of eosinophils to body sites including the lungs and intestines is mediated by eosinophil chemoattractants such as 5-oxo-ETE. Eosinophils play a key role in Type 2 inflammation-driven diseases, including certain respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases. Dr. Powell will serve as an advisor to Liminal BioSciences on the Fairhaven R&D Program.

“Compared to biologics, small molecule OXE receptor antagonists offer a promising and potentially more cost-effective treatment option for eosinophilic-driven disorders. I am looking forward to working with Liminal BioSciences to continue development on this exciting R&D program initiated by work carried out at McGill University and FIT.”

Dr. Powell

Read the entire press release by Liminal BioSciences here

SARS-CoV-2 How do we eliminate this virus?

Defeating SARS-CoV-2: A Team Effort

In his opinion piece appearing in the July 13, 2020 edition of The Gazette, Dr. Maziar Divangahi of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories addresses the question: “How can we eliminate this virus?” Dr. Divangahi speaks to the growth of the knowledge base about this virus to date and some of the many remaining questions to be answered.

The complete article can be read by clicking here.

Adamo Donovan, PhD student with Dr. Benjamin Smith, assists the Royal Victoria Hospital ICU staff and patients through the ICU Bridge Program

Royal Vic ICU: the faces behind the PPE

Thanks to the initiative of Adamo Donovan, PhD student with Dr. Benjamin Smith, the staff of the MUHC Royal Victoria Hospital ICU Department are now sharing their identity with colleagues and patients despite their PPE. With a photo of their face pinned to the outside of their PPE, staff are now able to clearly identify each other beyond their eye color. Here is an excerpt from the CBC article of July 4, 2020: Faces hidden due to PPE, Royal Victoria ICU nurses don portraits of themselves:

“The nurses of the MUHC’s Royal Victoria Hospital intensive-care unit are now wearing pictures of themselves so that patients and colleagues can recognize them through their face masks, shields and hospital gowns. They took inspiration from American artist Mary Beth Heffernan, who during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia spearheaded the PPE Portrait Project there. The driving force behind the McGill University Health Centre initiative was Adamo Donovan, a PhD student and the co-founder of the ICU Bridge Program, which helps university students volunteer in intensive care.”

To read the article and watch the associated video, click here

Dr. James Martin, recipient of the 2020 ATS Assembly on Respiratory Structure & Function Joseph R. Rodarte Award.

James Martin Receives ATS Award

Dr. James Martin is this year’s recipient of the ATS Assembly on Respiratory Structure & Function Joseph R. Rodarte Award. Dr. Martin was nominated for this award by Dr. Basil Petrof, Director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

This award is given in recognition of outstanding scientific achievement as a tribute to the outstanding attributes of the late Joseph R. Rodarte, who was an international leader in the fields of respiratory physiology and pulmonary medicine.

The award was presented at the RSF Assembly Virtual Membership Meeting held on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Congratulations Dr. Martin!

‘Contain COVID-19’ – in its earliest phases

Dr. Nicole Ezer, Dr. James Martin, Dr. Andrea Benedetti and Dr. Ben Smith, all members of the RI-MUHC’s RESP Program, have recently announced their new COVID-19 study. This study is designed to test the efficacy of ciclesonide, a steroid currently on the market, to inhibit the spread of the COVID virus in its early stages. This new trial builds on the knowledge gained from a recent study using dexamethasone on advanced cases of COVID-19.

This new study, called Contain COVID-19, which will soon be in the recruiting stage, is aimed at decreasing the severity of shortness of breath among patients who have not yet been hospitalized. Dr. Ezer states in her recent interview with Mathieu Perreault of La Presse:

« Nous espérons que ça va diminuer la gêne respiratoire et éviter l’hospitalisation en stoppant la réplication virale et en diminuant la progression de l’inflammation dans les voies respiratoires inférieures. »

Eligible participants of the study will receive the medication (or placebo) in inhaler and nasal spray form at their residence, to be used for a period of 14 days. Ciclesonide was approved by Health Canada in 2008, and side effects are fairly uncommon, mild and cease when the medication is stopped.

Dr. Ezer’s interview with Mathieu Perreault of La Presse can be read here.

Detailed information on the clinical trial as well as registration information, can be found here.