Brett Finlay

Distinguished Professor




Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Department of Microbiology and Immunology





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Brett Finlay

Dr. B. Brett Finlay, OC, OBC, FRSC, FCAHS, is a UBC Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and a Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories, Microbiolgy and Immunology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Co-director and Senior Fellow for the CIFAR Humans and Microbes program. He is also co-author of the book Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World. Finlay is the author of over 500 publications in peer-reviewed journals and served as editor of several professional publications for many years.

He obtained a B.Sc. (Honors) in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta, where he also did his Ph.D. (1986) in Biochemistry under Dr. William Paranchych, studying F-like plasmid conjugation. His post-doctoral studies were performed with Dr. Stanley Falkow at the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he studied Salmonella invasion into host cells. In 1989, he joined UBC as an Assistant Professor in the Biotechnology Laboratory. 

Dr. Finlay is well known for his contributions to understanding how microbes cause disease in people and developing new tools for fighting infections, as well as the role the microbiota plays in human health and disease. describes him as one of the world’s foremost experts on the molecular understanding of the ways bacteria infect their hosts. He also led the SARS Accelerated Vaccine Initiative (SAVI) and developed vaccines to SARS and a bovine vaccine to E. coli O157:H7. His current research interests focus on pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella pathogenicity, and the role of the microbiota in infections, asthma, and malnutrition. Dr. Finlay’s research interests are focussed on host-microbe interactions, at the molecular level. By combining cell biology with microbiology, he has been at the forefront of the field called Cellular Microbiology, making several fundamental discoveries in this area, and publishing over 460 papers (h index=110). His laboratory studies several pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli, and more recently microbiota.


Dr. Finlay’s lab is based in the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia, and involves a multidisciplinary research program exploring how microbes contribute to both human health and disease. The lab specifically focuses on type III secreted virulence factors from Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli, how microbiota influence infectious diarrhea outcomes, and the role of the microbiota in asthma, malnutrition, and environmental enteropathy.


Prix Galien 2014
Carnegie Fellowship 2015
CIFAR Senior Fellow 2014
German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina Foreign Member 2012
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012
Chair d’Etat College de France 2012
Order of BC 2007
Flavelle Medal Royal Society of Canada 2006
Officer, Order of Canada 2006
Killam Prize for Health Sciences 2006
Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Sciences 2005
Squibb Award, Infectious Diseases Society of America 2004
CIHR Michael Smith Prize of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research 2004
Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology 2003
UBC Peter Wall Distinguished Professor 2002
Howard Hughes International Research Scholar 1991, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada 2001
CIHR Distinguished Investigator 2001
EWR Steacie Prize 1998
Fisher Prize 1991

Selected publications

More publications may be accessed at PubMed

Diet and specific microbial exposure trigger features of environmental enteropathy in a novel murine model. Brown EM, Finlay BB, et al. Nat Commun. 2015 Aug 4;6:7806.
Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma. Arrieta MC, Stiemsma LT, Dimitriu PA,; CHILD Study Investigators, Mohn WW, Turvey SE, Finlay BB, et al. Sci Transl Med. 2015 Sep 30;7(307):307ra152. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab2271
Common themes in microbial pathogenicity revisited. BB Finlay, S Falkow. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 61 (2), 136-169
Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) transfers its receptor for intimate adherence into mammalian cells. B Kenny, R DeVinney, M Stein, DJ Reinscheid, EA Frey, BB Finlay. Cell 91 (4), 511-520
Exploitation of mammalian host cell functions by bacterial pathogens. BB Finlay, P Cossart. Science 276 (5313), 718-725
Molecular mechanisms of Escherichia coli pathogenicity. MA Croxen, BB Finlay. Nature Reviews Microbiology 8 (1), 26-38
Manipulation of host-cell pathways by bacterial pathogens. AP Bhavsar, JA Guttman, BB Finlay. Nature 449 (7164), 827-834


Dr. Finlay has established the following companies:

Vedanta Biosciences
Microbiome Insights


1992-1999 Trends in Microbiology: Infection, Virulence, and Pathogenesis
1993-97 Editor, Infection and Immunity section, Canadian Journal of Microbiology
1994-02 Editorial Board, Infection and Immunity
1997-2005 Editorial Board, Molecular Microbiology
1997–present Editorial Board, Current Opinion in Microbiology
1997-2010 Editorial Board, Traffic
1998–present Editorial Board, Microbes and Infection
1999–present Editorial Board, Cellular Microbiology
1999–present Advisory Board, International Journal of Medical Microbiology
2000-2003 Editor, Infection and Immunity (20 manuscripts/month)
2000–present Editorial Board, Current Drug Targets – Infectious Disorders
2001–present Section Head (Cellular Microbiology and Pathogenesis) for Faculty 1000, an online service to organize and evaluate the life sciences literature
2001–present Editorial Board, Current Biology
2003 Section Editor (Cytology), American Society for Microbiology book, “E. coli and Salmonella”
2005-2008 Reviews Editor, PLoS (Public Library of Science) Pathogens
2005–present Editorial Advisory Panel, Future Microbiology
2006–present Editorial Board, Cell Host & Microbe
2007–present Editorial Board, PNAS
2009–present Associate Editor, Gut Microbes
2009–present Editorial Board, mBio, American Society for Microbiology
2009 Editor, Future Microbiology Special Focus Issue: The molecular basis of pathogenesis: proteomics and beyond.
2010–present Editorial Advisory Panel (inaugural), Nature Communications, on-line multidisciplinary journal, Nature Publishing Group.
2010–present Section Head, F1000
February 2011 Section Editor, Current Opinion in Microbiology, Section: Host-microbe interactions: Bacteria.
2011–present Member, Senior Medical Expert Panel, Nature Index
2013–present Senior Editor, Future Microbiology
2013–present Associate Editor, Gut Microbes
2014–present Trends in Microbiology

Primary Recipient Awards

Brett Finlay – Wall Colloquia Abroad – 2014

Microbiota, Nutrition and Metabolism: « les trois âges de la vie »
Principal Investigator(s): Brett Finlay, Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, UBC; Philippe Sansonetti, Professor and Chair, Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Collège de France, Professor, Pasteur Institute.
This colloquium was held on June 2-3, 2014. The aim of the symposium was to review the most recent and significant advances at the interface between the intestinal microbiota and nutrition and metabolism. The symposium has been structured according to three sessions: role of the microbiota in the growth and development of the child, role of the microbiota in health and metabolic diseases in adults, and role of perturbations of the microbiota (dysbiosis) in elderly people, particularly in senescence and cancer. Thus the subtitle: « les trois âges de la vie » (“the three ages of life”).

Brett Finlay – Wall Colloquia Abroad – 2013

Zoonosis – Biology Meets Anthropology
Principal Investigator: Brett Finlay, Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, UBC; Philippe Sansonetti, Professor and Chair, Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Collège de France, Professor, Pasteur Institute.
This international colloquium was held on June 10-11, 2013. It focused on the interface between known emerging infectious diseases and anthropology studies. Experts in both these areas and especially those that span these areas took part in the discussions. The main topics of discussion included defining potential animal reservoirs, how pathogens move between species and generally how a species barrier actually exists and is broken to yield new infectious diseases. In addition, transmission mechanisms and potential ways of controlling such infections were examined.

Brett Finlay – International Exchanges – 2011
Brett Finlay – Wall Colloquia Abroad – 2011

Commensal Microbiota: From Homeostasis to Disease
Principal Investigator: Brett Finlay, Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, UBC; Philippe Sansonetti, Professor and Chair, Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Collège de France, Professor, Pasteur Institute.
The Institute held its first Colloquium Abroad at its partner institute, the Collège de France, Paris, 23-24 May 2011. A one-day closed-door session for key speakers followed the public meeting. This international colloquium took place during Professor Finlay’s appointment at the Collège de France as a Wall Institute-nominated State Chair. The meeting detailed recent advances as well as background information in the fast moving field of the study of microbiota to significantly advance science in this area of research.

Brett Finlay – Theme Development Workshop – 2003

Co-Principal Investigator Awards

Philippe Sansonetti – Distinguished Visiting Professor – 2018

Infectious Diseases of the Future: no crystal ball, just watching and thinking

How typhoid vaccination saved WW1

Elizabeth Hartland – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2017
Judith Hall – International Research Roundtables – 2015

Public Policy Development as Related to Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Judith Hall, Department of Medical Genetics, UBC; Dr. Brett Finlay, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, Michael Smith Laboratories, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, UBC.

Philippe Sansonetti – Distinguished Visiting Professor – 2011

Blowing Hot and Cold on the Gut Epithelium: A Successful Strategy for Shigella
Developing vaccines against pediatric bacterial diarrhea: why is the path so difficult?