Peter Wall Distinguished Professor to lead new CIFAR research program

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Dr. B. Brett Finlay, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, and Dr. Janet Rossant, Chief of Research at The Hospital for Sick Children and Professor, University of Toronto, will lead a new Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) program, which will explore the role that microbial organisms have in human development and behaviour.

The research program was recently approved by the CIFAR Board of Directors after a Global Call for Ideas was issued in April 2013. Leading researchers from across Canada and around the world were invited to submit proposals to create research networks that would tackle complex questions of global significance.

The program, Microbes & Humans, aims to develop a deeper understanding of how human microbiota effect human health, development and evolution. It will explore the role that the microbial organisms that reside within us (microbiota) have in human development and behaviour, and how the microbiota has impacted evolution and the dynamics of society and culture – new thinking in this emerging field will improve our understanding of personal and global health.

Dr. Finlay's areas of research interest and accomplishment include host-parasite interactions of pathogenic bacteria, especially enteric bacteria, and pioneering the use of polarized epithelial cells as models to study pathogenic bacteria penetrating through epithelial barriers. Research in his lab is focused on understanding bacterial pathogenesis from the perspective of both pathogen and host. Dr. Finlay holds appointments as UBC Professor in the Michael Smith Labs and in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Microbiology & Immunology.

The start-up phase of the program is expected to begin in 2015.