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MIMM BITES A NEWSLETTER OF McGILL’S MICROBIOLOGY & IMMUNOLOGY DEPARTMENT JUNE 2015 1 FROM THE CHAIR’S DESK Dear MIMMers, With this newsletter we close the 2014-15 academic year and start to prepare the arrival of the summer break! To all, I wish you a relaxing, reinvigorating and inspiring summer break. We saw amazing discoveries during last year: many papers to pick from McGill and beyond. One of my favorites is a paper not exactly in Microbiology and Immunology but full of “life lessons”, from the Romesberg group from the Scripps. In this Nature paper (2014; 509: 385. doi: 10.1038/nature13314), this group reports a semi-synthetic organism incorporating a couple of unnatural base pairs in addition to the traditional A/T/G/C. Practically, they were able to expand the “code of life” on earth from 4 bases to 6 with the implications on new ways for life transmission, resistance to pathogens, etc. As said before, what natural selection was not able to do in 4 billion years, scientists were able to do in 12 years (the time this project went on). That is the other lesson: it took this group 12 years to develop this new life code against all odds and with many difficulties to get funding from NIH and other traditional sources. Peer review may not always identify breakthroughs. But we must always surrender to the data. Excellent science always pays off. I hope that this group is now getting all the funding that they need and did not get before. In line with this story, please enjoy below a feature article on the 4 th MIMM Graduate Research Day written by one of our Work Study Student (Astha Agarwal). Such an event was a great success, portraying the excellent research done in the labs of our department. I encourage you to continue the pursuit of the highest standards of innovation and excellence and work towards your dream discovery! Have a great summer! Quim

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Page 1: MIMM BITES A NEWSLETTER OF McGILL’S … · a newsletter of mcgill’s microbiology & immunology department june ... erica ma, u3 mimm student ... a newsletter of mcgill’s microbiology

MIMM BITES A NEWSLETTER OF McGILL’S MICROBIOLOGY & IMMUNOLOGY DEPARTMENT

JUNE 2015

1

FROM THE CHAIR’S DESK

Dear MIMMers,

With this newsletter we close the 2014-15 academic year

and start to prepare the arrival of the summer break! To

all, I wish you a relaxing, reinvigorating and inspiring

summer break.

We saw amazing discoveries during last year: many

papers to pick from McGill and beyond. One of my

favorites is a paper not exactly in Microbiology and

Immunology but full of “life lessons”, from the

Romesberg group from the Scripps. In this Nature paper

(2014; 509: 385. doi: 10.1038/nature13314), this group

reports a semi-synthetic organism incorporating a couple

of unnatural base pairs in addition to the traditional

A/T/G/C. Practically, they were able to expand the “code

of life” on earth from 4 bases to 6 with the implications

on new ways for life transmission, resistance to

pathogens, etc. As said before, what natural selection

was not able to do in 4 billion years, scientists were able

to do in 12 years (the time this project went on). That is

the other lesson: it took this group 12 years to develop this new life code against all odds and with many

difficulties to get funding from NIH and other traditional sources. Peer review may not always identify

breakthroughs. But we must always surrender to the data. Excellent science always pays off. I hope that

this group is now getting all the funding that they need and did not get before.

In line with this story, please enjoy below a feature article on the 4th MIMM Graduate Research Day

written by one of our Work Study Student (Astha Agarwal). Such an event was a great success, portraying

the excellent research done in the labs of our department. I encourage you to continue the pursuit of the

highest standards of innovation and excellence and work towards your dream discovery!

Have a great summer!

Quim

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MIMM BITES A NEWSLETTER OF McGILL’S MICROBIOLOGY & IMMUNOLOGY DEPARTMENT

JUNE 2015

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RESEARCH

Publications

1. Brannon JR, Burk DL, Leclerc JM, Thomassin JL, Portt A, Berghuis AM, Gruenheid S, Le Moual H. Inhibition of outer membrane proteases of the omptin family by aprotinin. Infect Immun. 2015 Jun;83(6):2300-11. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00136-15. Epub 2015 Mar 30.

2. Monat C, Quiroga C, Laroche-Johnston F, Cousineau B. The Ll.LtrB intron from Lactococcus lactis excises as circles in vivo: insights into the group II intron circularization pathway. RNA. 2015 May 8.

3. Richard J, Veillette M, Brassard N, Iyer SS, Roger M, Martin L, Pazgier M, Schön A, Freire E, Routy JP, Smith AB 3rd, Park J, Jones DM, Courter JR, Melillo BN, Kaufmann DE, Hahn BH, Permar SR, Haynes BF, Madani N, Sodroski JG12, Finzi A. CD4 mimetics sensitize HIV-1-infected cells to ADCC. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 4. pii: 201506755.

4. Xia J, Gill EE, Hancock RE. NetworkAnalyst for statistical, visual and network-based meta-analysis of gene expression data. Nat Protoc. 2015 Jun;10(6):823-44. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2015.052. Epub 2015 May 7. This article is featured on the cover of the June 2015 issue of Nature Protocols:

(http://www.nature.com/nprot/journal/v10/n6/covers/index.html)

FACES OF EXCELLENCE

Dr. Robert Murgita Professor

How long have you been with the Department?

A lot longer than originally expected when I arrived here full-time in 1979/80 from the Wigzell lab at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

What is your job description?

In the past, I have assumed administrative roles of the Department Vice-Chair (1983), acting Chair (1984), and Chairman (1984-94). As CP Chair of Biotech and Director of McGill’s Office of Biotech (1989-92), I established the Sheldon Biotech Center.

I have always been interested in scientific entrepreneurship, which I promote actively. In collaboration with McGill, I started a small spin-off company to commercialize a therapeutic drug candidate (1991). It has now evolved into Merrimack Pharmaceuticals that trades on Nasdaq with a market cap exceeding $1bn.

My research focuses on the use of artificial intelligence to design software that will predict new small molecule drug candidates.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

What do you look forward to when you come to work every day?

Exposing students both in the classroom and in the laboratory to the excitement of good science and its real-world applications. Engaging in intellectual discussions with bright and enthusiastic students (and a lot of coffee!).

Winners of the SWI Art Contest! Congratulations to MIMM Students, did AMAZING in the Small World Initiative cover design contest, winning first and second places and one of the honorable mentions! To see the McGill designs, click here.

Congratulations to Dr Mark Wainberg as his candidature for the Canadian Society for Microbiologists Murray Award has been selected unanimously by the members of the evaluation committee. As the recipient of this award, Dr Wainberg will present a 40 minute talk at the CSM Annual General Meeting at the University of Regina from June 15 to June 18, 2015.

Erica Ma, U3 MIMM student, received a CIHR Summer Studentship Award to work in Dr King’s lab this summer. The title of her project is “Identification of novel cytokine-producing leukocytes using multidimensional flow cytometric analysis”.

Alexandre Meli, PhD candidate, received a 3 year FRQS Doctoral Award to complete his PhD in Dr King’s lab. The title of his project is “Integrin mediated induction and maintenance of T follicular helper cells”.

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Congratulations to Isabelle Desloges (cosupervised by Le Moual and Gruenheid) on winning the Wilfred Yaphe Award for best M.Sc. Graduate student seminar for 2014/2015!

Congratulations to Alessandra Ricciardi (supervised by Dr. Ndao) on winning the

Wilfred Yaphe Award for best Ph.D. Graduate student seminar for 2014/2015!

Deeva Uthayakumar, who will be working on a project assessing the biological role

of bacterial group II introns in Dr Cousineau’s lab, won the Ralph Steinman SURA.

Congratulations Deeva!

Dr Gruenheid was selected to receive the 2015 recipient of the SALTISE

Best Practices & Pedagogical Innovators Award – University level. The

SALTISE Best Practices & Pedagogical Innovators Award recognizes

educators who stand out as leaders in the promotion of academic

excellence, use of innovative pedagogies, and support of their academic

communities. Congratulations Dr. Gruenheid!

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Dr. Donald C. Vinh was the recipient in December 2014 of the 2013-2014 NIAID

Merit Group Award as a member of the GATA2 Discovery Group (for outstanding

clinical and basic research leading to the discovery and characterization of

GATA2 Deficiency). Congratulations!

Tyler Cannon, U3 MIMM student, has been awarded a CSM

undergraduate award. This award is to "recognize outstanding

promise in an undergraduate student for early career contributions

to microbiology and to encourage continued interest in

microbiology." He will accept the award at the awards ceremony at

the CSM meeting in Regina in June. Congratulations Tyler!

Francois Coulombe (PhD graduate) was awarded two Convocation Prizes:

- Governor General’s Gold Medal, conferred upon the most outstanding

McGill graduate receiving a Doctoral degree in 2014-2015 in any

discipline.

- Gordon A. Maclachlan Prize, conferred an outstanding McGill graduate

receiving a Doctoral degree in 2012-2013 in any discipline of the

Biological and Health Sciences.

The prizes were announced at the Spring Convocation held on May 29th.

Congratulations Francois for such an achievement!

Congratulations to Drs Jim Gleason, Masad Damha and Andrew Mouland for their FQRNT Team Grant

for “Développement des hybrides bifonctionnels pour le traitement du VIH latent”.

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Graduate Research Day

Giustino Carnevale Jonathan Dunn Alessandra Ricciardi Oral Presentation – 1st Prize Oral Presentation – 2nd Prize Oral Presentation – 3rd Prize

Marija Landekic Kaitlin Anstett Poster Presentation – PhD Category Poster Presentation – PhD Category

1st Prize 2nd Prize

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Isabelle Desloges Emily MacLean Poster Presentation – MSc Category Poster Presentation – MSc Category 1st Prize 2nd Prize Special Coverage: MIMM Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows Unite In Fourth Annual

Graduate Research Day

Story and Photos by Astha Agarwal

Masters and Ph.D. students, and postdoctoral fellows presented their research through poster

and oral presentations during the fourth annual MIMM Graduate Student Research Day on Friday, May

29.

Students were judged by postdoctoral fellows in three categories: M.Sc. Poster, Ph.D. Poster, and

Orals. They received points for organization, quality of research, quality of text and visuals, and quality of

their oral presentation. Top students in each category were recognized at the evening reception held at

Thomson House.

University of Toronto professor John Brummel, who is also co-

director of the Sick Kids Hospital, gave the keynote speech. Brummel

discussed his research on host-pathogen interactions throughout his

career and his efforts to study how exactly pathogens infect host cells.

Brummel, who majored in biochemistry at the University of

Western Ontario, recalls that towards the end of his PhD and postdoc he

was studying bacterial infections and was intrigued by how some

specialized bacteria can take over a macrophage’s signaling network

originally meant to destroy them. As a co-director of the SickKids

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Hospital, he now focuses on studying how genes in bacterial infection are altered in humans to

cause inflammatory disorders.

Brummel encouraged students interested in Microbiology and Immunology to become involved

in research as soon as possible in their academic careers.

“The most important thing for undergrad students is to get exposure in a lab as soon as possible,”

Brummel said. “I think once students see the discovery process and actually find something no one else

has found, [they]’ll know if you have the taste for it. And if you do, it’s really an inspiring and motivating

thing to lead you down this career.”

M.Sc. student Jasmin Chahal couldn’t agree more. Chahal finished her undergraduate degree in

MIMM at McGill last April and is now in her first year of the graduate program, striving towards a Ph.D. in

the same department.

Chahal is studying the structural changes in

the genomic RNA of the HCV virus at each stage of

its replication cycle. Ultimately, she said the goal of

her research is to find out if there are inhibitors for

the RNA structure at any stage, so that the whole

cycle of replication can be stopped.

For Chahal, Graduate Student Research

Day is the first of many times she will present her

research.

“This is my first ever conference. It’s a really good idea to do it here because I pretty much know

everyone in the department,” she said. “It’s nice to present to your friends first and get their feedback so

you can improve for other conferences.”

In July, Chahal will be presenting her research at a conference for the American Society of Virology

in London, Ontario.

The Graduate Student Research Day has been planned by students every year for the last four

years. This year the planning was led by third year Ph.D. student Adam Peres, one of five students from

the Microbiology and Immunology Graduate Students Association who were responsible for organizing

the event.

“It’s a good opportunity for all of us graduate students to get together, hear what each other are

doing, enjoy each other’s company and share ideas amongst each other,” Peres said. “It’s really a

celebration of the work we’re doing.”

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“The fact that students are organizing it is impressive and also very important because if students

organize it, students will come. I’m glad that you’re doing it and I’d encourage you to keep doing it,”

Brummel said to students.

Department Chair Dr. Joaquin Madrenas agreed. “It basically gives students an opportunity to

start engaging researchers from outside McGill and take responsibility for the organization of the event,

as a preamble for what they will do down the road as faculty members or

researchers on other settings.”

Peres said he found organizing the event to be a rewarding experience.

“I’m really interested in not only doing the lab work, but also the

services associated with academia, so it’s a really cool experience [for me],

learning to coordinate speakers for different events, learning to lead a team of

people, interacting with the guest speaker and all the suppliers. So it’s more

[out of] personal interest, in addition to the lab work I do,” Peres said.

Each poster was judged by a group of three postdoctoral fellows, in

which the department tried to include a microbiologist, an immunologist, and a parasitologist, said

postdoctoral fellow Jenny-Lee Thomassin, who was a judge at the event.

Judge and postdoctoral fellow Thomas Rolain said

that the judging experience exposed him to research in areas

outside of his expertise.

“It was interesting because we have to focus on

[students’] work and try to be interested in what they are

doing even if it’s not [our] field,” Rolain said.

Rolain said that the hardest part of being a judge was to

disregard the fact that he might have known some of the presenters from before. While the department

ensured that the postdocs were not judging anyone who they worked with, they could have been assigned

to a presenter who worked in a lab near them.

“You have to judge them without keeping in mind the fact that you know them outside,” Rolain

said.

Thomassin said that the overall judging experience was challenging. “It was harder to pick a

winner because a lot of the presentations were very good.”

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UPCOMING

“[This] is a day to portray the excellent research that is being done by our trainees,” Madrenas

said. “I have been saying all along that the best indicator of how lively a department is, is to look at the

research that is being done by graduate students.”

“If they are engaged in research programs that are exciting and cutting edge, you can rest assured

that the department is doing well. That is the beauty of this day. It shows that we are doing very well in

the department.”

His words rang true at Spring Convocation last Friday, where the Governor General’s Gold Medal,

given to the top graduating Ph.D. student in any discipline, was given to Dr. Francois Coulombe from the

MIMM department.

PhD student Marija Landekic and postdoctoral fellow Mitra Yousefi presenting their research during a

poster session.

CANADIAN SOCIETY OF IMMUNOLOGY To register for the 28th Annual CSI Conference (June 4th to 7th, 2015 in Winnipeg), click here. CANADIAN SOCIETY OF MICROBIOLOGY To register for the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Microbiology, click here. The meeting is June 15-18 at the University of Regina.

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INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON HUMAN IMMUNITY AND THE MICROBIOME COMING TO MONTREAL IN 2015. As a result of a partnership between Cell Press (Elsevier) and the CIHR Human Immunology, we are proud to announce the celebration of an International Symposium on Human Immunity and the Microbiome in Health and Disease coming up in September 27-29, 2015. For further information, click here.

SERVICES

Duff Biobar Updates

BioBar Hours The operating hours for the BioBar are the following: between 8-12 and 1-4. Don’t forget the Biobar Stocks Useful Lab Supplies such as: Kleenex; Bleach; Gloves; Paper Towels; Etc.

At competitive price! Please visit our website for the Biobar list of company. For more information, please visit Tom (RM-514, 514-398-3920). If you would like to get a list of products available at the BioBar, please contact Tom Ringer at [email protected].

You are all encouraged to submit any news, grants, papers, awards, pictures, or items that you want to include to our monthly newsletter. We will be happy to share them with the rest of the department. You can email them to Mr Patrick Ritchie.

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