Brett Finlay

PhD, University of Alberta
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Department of Microbiology and Immunology

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
  • Commense
  • 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

Wall Colloquia Abroad, Brett Finlay, 2014

Brett Finlay
Philippe Sansonetti

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").

Wall Colloquia Abroad, Brett Finlay, 2013

Brett Finlay
Philippe Sansonetti

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.

Wall Colloquia Abroad, Brett Finlay, 2011

Brett Finlay
Philippe Sansonetti

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.

International Exchanges, Brett Finlay, 2011

Brett Finlay

Brett Finlay, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, UBC; Conférencier Invité, Collège de France, May 2011

Professor Finlay gave four lectures in English during his stay:

  1. Combating the Microbial Menace: Battling the Bugs
  2. The interdisciplinarity of Enteric Infectious Diseases
  3. The Role of the Microbiota in Enteric Infectious Diseases
  4. Salmonella: From Diarrhea to Typhoid Fever

Co-principal Investigator Awards

International Visiting Research Scholars, Elizabeth Hartland, 2017

Elizabeth Hartland
Brett Finlay

Wall Colloquia Abroad, Philippe Sansonetti, 2016

Philippe Sansonetti
Brett Finlay

Communication among complex microbial populations and their host

Principal Investigators: Philippe Sansonetti, Institut Pasteur and College de France; Brett Finlay, Michael Smith Laboratories, Peter Wall Institute Distinguished Professor, UBC

The Institute will co-host the Colloquium Abroad at the Collège de France in Paris, France, on May 30-31, 2016. The microbiota are the microbes found in and on a host, including the human body. It is receiving increased attention, especially given its role in both human health and disease. However, most of the focus is on microbiota-host interactions, and there is little known about how these complex microbial communities interact and communicate. There is more known about other complex microbial communities found in different environments. The major goal of this colloquium is to bring together experts studying microbial communication in different areas together with those studying microbiota, and explore how we might further our understanding of microbial communication that occurs in the microbiota.

International Research Roundtables, Judith Hall, 2015

Judith Hall
Brett Finlay

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.

International Visiting Research Scholars, Bonnie Bassler, 2014

Bonnie Bassler
Brett Finlay


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