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/ 

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.

Dr. Carolyn Baglole ensures that cannabis-related research continues during the pandemic

Cannabis-related research continues

Since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Carolyn Baglole, member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and Director of the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis, has ensured that cannabis-related research continues. Although research has been considerably ramped down, Dr. Baglole asserts:

“We still have so much to learn about cannabis,” “We need to keep this research on track so we can further the science and better inform policymakers and the public.”

Dr. Carolyn Baglole

Although Dr. Baglole did not begin her scientific career with cannabis-related research in mind, the legalization of cannabis in Canada and other countries around the world has led to a growing interest in and use of the product for medical purposes. Recognizing the need for more information, researchers like Dr. Baglole are focusing on the potentially positive effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on the human body. CBD is the compound found in cannabis that has medicinal uses as it does not have psychotropic side effects. Early research suggests it may have an effect on the immune system and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Association québécoise de l’industrie du cannabis (AQIC) has launched the CBD Research Partnership Fund, which Dr. Baglole hopes will help to increase interest and support for this field of research into CBD and its yet-to-be discovered medicinal benefits. Partnerships such as this one will ensure that cannabis-related research continues far into the future.

“I hope that the CBD Research Partnership Fund has a feed-forward effect for CBD research at McGill,” Baglole says. “I hope it shows the high-quality work that can come out of this kind of research partnership and attracts additional funding so that we’re able to support more cutting-edge research projects.”

Read the interview with Dr. Carolyn Baglole here:

Dr. Dao Nguyen dreams of creating the Antimicrobial Resistance Centre to research a world without effective antibiotics

Preventing a post-antibiotic world

It is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week and Dr. Dao Nguyen, a researcher at MI4 and clinician-scientist at the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and the RI-MUHC, dreams of applying her knowledge and skills to preventing a post-antibiotic world. We have all read about the increasing strength of bacteria and hear how our present-day antibiotics are becoming ineffective. In fact, it is estimated that 20-30% of currently existing bacteria are resistant to available drugs. The WHO estimates that by 2050 drug-resistant organisms will surpass cancer as the primary cause of death. This is the problem Dr. Nguyen would like to take on.

She would like to create an interdisciplinary Antimicrobial Resistance Centre where members of the scientific community can combine their knowledge and work towards preventing a post-antibiotic world. Thanks to the MUHC Foundation’s fundraising efforts, Dr. Nguyen’s dream of an Antimicrobial Resistance Centre will likely come to fruition – something we should each be thankful for. Dr. Nguyen explains:

“Let’s say you accidentally cut yourself. Right now, you can get treatment from a topical cream or take antibiotic pills to cure the infection in a few days,” says Dr. Nguyen. “With antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it wouldn’t be treated as easily and the infection could spread requiring an amputation.”

An amputation would be an extreme result from a simple cut on the finger, yet an all too possible outcome if research is not carried out and solutions are not found.

Read the interview with Dr. Dao Nguyen here:

Julia Chronopoulos of the Martin Lab was awarded 2nd prize for her presentation at the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Days 2020 2020

Quebec Respiratory Health Research Day

Congratulations to Julia Chronopoulos of the Martin Lab in the Meakins-Christie Laboratories! Julia was awarded 2nd prize for her presentation Immunity to Influenza A Virus Infection during Pregnancy. The presentation was given during the first virtual edition of the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Days, held from November 9-11, 2020.

Congratulations as well goes to Julien Karim Malet of the Nguyen Lab for his active participation during this event.

Dr. Bruce Mazer, Associate Scientific Director of the COVID-19 Immunity Taskforce, on understanding COVID-19 immunity.

Decoding Immunity to COVID-19

This week on Health Matters, Centre universitaire de santé McGill – McGill University Health Centre physician and researcher, Dr. Bruce Mazer discusses findings and unanswered questions about decoding immunity to COVID-19 and his role in the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

Dr. Mazer, Associate Scientific Director of the Taskforce, sums up the goal of their work as: to understand the prevalence of the virus in the community at large, and to learn about how the body responds to the virus. Completed studies in this area have revealed the following:

“We know that the prevalence of the antibodies in the population of healthy blood donors is between 0.7% and 1.0% of the population, as high as 2.9% in certain areas of Quebec and Ontario.”

Dr. Bruce Mazer

Although these numbers indicate a lack of herd immunity, he feels it is more important to understand how to treat individuals who are most at risk, to develop a vaccine, and to find answers to some of their yet-to-be-answered questions. Finding answers to questions such as why some people are more affected by this virus than others, why some people are more affected by previous viruses but not this one, and how long the antibodies created by vaccination will last in the body, would go a long way in decoding immunity to COVID-19.

Listen to Dr. Mazer’s interview by Julie Quenneville on: