Graduate Information Sessions Oct 17 & Oct 23, 2018

Graduate Information Sessions Oct 17 & Oct 23, 2018

What: Molecular Genetics M.Sc./Ph.D. Graduate Programs and Application Info Sessions

When: WEDS. Oct 17, 5-6:30 pm. , TUES. Oct 23, 5-6:30 pm

The sessions are the same - you only need to attend one!

Where: MoGen Interacthome, Medical Sciences Building #4284, 1 King's College Circle

Come Talk with professors about how to apply and learn about a career in science!

Free pop and pizza!

RSVP required by Oct 15th

Next application deadline is Nov. 15th, 2018

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Congratulations to Dr. Andrew Bognar on his retirement!

Congratulations to Dr. Andrew Bognar on his retirement!

The Department of Molecular Genetics had a retirement celebration in honour of Dr. Andrew Bognar’s service for 33 years (spanning changes from the Department of Microbiology to Medical Genetics & Microbiology to Molecular Genetics) on August 13, 2018 in the InteractHome, MSB. Many of the core faculty members and administrative staff attended, and shared memories and favourite stories with Andy. We also had guests from the Environmental Health & Safety and the Division of Teaching Laboratories to acknowledge Andy’s many years of contributions to lab courses and research biosafety. We wish Andy all the best and a happy retirement.

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Graduate School Fairs

Graduate School Fairs

Come and visit us at one of the many Graduate School fairs we will be attending this year.  Learn more about our programs, talk with some of our students and get the low down on graduate admissions. See you there!

Queen's University Career Fair, Athletic and Recreation Centre - September 25, 2018. 10:30a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

University of Ottawa National and International Studies Fair, Main Campus,- October 10, 2018, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

University of British Columbia Graduate and Professional Schools Fair, UBC Student Life Building - September 28, 2018, 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

University of Toronto, Mississauga, Graduate and Professional Schools Fair, RAWC Gym - September 19, 2018, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

University of Toronto, Scarborough, Graduate & Professional Schools Fair, Science Wing Meeting Place - September 27, 2018, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

University of Calgary Grad School Fair, McEwan Student Centre - October 2, 2018, 10:30 a.m.. - 3:00 p.m.

McMaster University Continuing Education Fair- October 17, 2018, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. (more details to come)

University of Western Ontario Graduate and Professional School Fair, University Community Centre - October 18, 2018, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

York University Graduate and Professional Studies Expo - October 4, 2018, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m. (more details to come)

University of Waterloo Further Education Fair, Student Life Centre Great Hall - October 22, 2018, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. 

Guelph University Beyond Graduation Educational Opportunities Fair, University Centre Courtyard - October 23, 2018, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. 

McGill University Graduate Schools Fair, New Residentce Hall (3625 Parc Ave.) - November 6, 2018, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. 

University of Toronto Graduate and Life Sciences Education Undergraduate Fair, MSB Student Commons - November 1, 2018, 10:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.

 

Course Selections for Fall 2018 Open!

Students, selections for Fall Topic Courses are open from July 23 to August 15, 2018. A registration survey link is found under each topic course offered this fall on the Topic Courses page. You will also receive an email with the survey links. The surveys close on August 15th at 5pm.

Three New & Two Renewed Canada Research Chairs for MoGen Faculty Members

Three New & Two Renewed Canada Research Chairs for MoGen Faculty Members

Congratulations to the new and renewed Canada Research Chairs!

New

 Xi Huang  University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics       

Xi Huang

University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics       

 Leah E. Cowen  University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Disease

Leah E. Cowen

University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Disease

 Laurence Pelletier  University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Centrosome Biogenesis and Function

Laurence Pelletier

University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Centrosome Biogenesis and Function

Renewed

 

 Amy A. Caudy  University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Metabolomics for Functional Enzyme Discovery

Amy A. Caudy

University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Metabolomics for Functional Enzyme Discovery

 Michael D. Wilson  University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Comparative Genomics

Michael D. Wilson

University of Toronto  Canada Research Chair in Comparative Genomics

Medical Genomics Information Session

Medical Genomics Information Session

Genomics, the reading and interpreting of information contained within DNA, is a rapidly growing area with far-reaching implications from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside. To address the evolving implications of genetics and genomics in medicine, the Molecular Genetics Department at The University of Toronto is launching a new professional Master’s program in Medical Genomics in September of 2018. This program is the first of its kind in Canada, and on behalf of the MedGen Program Team, we would like to invite you to join us for an information session and networking event!

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If you are an enthusiastic and engaged student with a clinical or B.Sc. background, and you're interested in pursuing a career in medical genomics, please join us on April 17th, 2018 from 5PM-6PM to learn more about this Master's program. You will have the opportunity to meet and ask questions to the core teaching faculty in this program and key departmental leaders, and to find out if UofT's Medical Genomics program is a good fit for you.

Register for the Event
Date: April 17th, 2018
Time: 5PM-6PM
Location: Donnelly Centre Red Room, 160 College Street, Toronto
Refreshments provided

Space is limited, so please register in advance: RSVP
More information about the program here.

We hope to see you there!

Serge Gueroussov Wins Best Thesis Award in Molecular Genetics

Serge Gueroussov Wins Best Thesis Award in Molecular Genetics

Author: 

Jovana Drinjakovic

 Professors Ben Blencowe and Leah Cowen with Serge Gueroussov and Mrs. Barbara Vivash (from left to right).

Professors Ben Blencowe and Leah Cowen with Serge Gueroussov and Mrs. Barbara Vivash (from left to right).

To Serge Gueroussov, it all felt “surreal”. As many times before, he was in the usual lecture room, in which the newly awarded top graduate of the year was about to deliver a lecture about their PhD research. Only this time, it was Gueroussov who was on the podium.

Gueroussov is the latest recipient of the Barbara Vivash Award in Molecular Genetics for the most outstanding PhD thesis in the University of Toronto’s Department of Molecular Genetics (MoGen).

“During my time as a graduate student, some of the people that I looked up to the most went on to win this award, so to get it myself is very humbling,” says Gueroussov who came to the award ceremony from Cambridge, MA, where he moved to for postdoctoral training.

Established in 2009, the Barbara Vivash Award in Molecular Genetics recognizes PhD research that has significantly advanced our understanding of how biological processes operate on a molecular level. Past awardees went on to have successful research careers at top universities, including University of California San Francisco, Princeton University and U of T.

The Barbara Vivash Award in Molecular Genetics was borne out of the family’s long-standing commitment to the field of genetic medicine, going back four decades to when Mrs. Barbara Vivash was involved with establishing the first clinics for genetic counselling in northern Ontario communities so their residents no longer had to travel far for expert advice.

“That early introduction to genetics certainly helped to sustain my interest in this ever expanding field of medicine,” says Mrs. Vivash. “So when my husband John and I discussed setting up an award, there was no doubt in our minds about where we wanted it to go.”

“We tremendously appreciate the support from the Vivash family with this gift, which provides important recognition of scientific excellence and promotes the success of the next generation of scientific leaders” said Professor Leah Cowen, Chair of Mogen.

Gueroussov has already been successful at every stage of his career, publishing original research from when he worked as an undergraduate in Professor Alexander Palazzo’s lab at the Department of Biochemistry. But it was his PhD work in Professor Ben Blencowe’s group in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research that revealed groundbreaking new insights about the evolution of cellular complexity. During this time, Gueroussov published seven papers including first author studies in top journals Cell and Science. “These were absolutely stunning, really original, landmarks studies,” said Cowen.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to do my thesis work with Ben in the collaborative environment of the Donnelly Centre”, says Gueroussov. “Ben was tremendously supportive throughout my time there and had a great sense of when I needed his mentorship and when to let me explore on my own.”

The field of medical genetics has been transformed from its fledgling roots in the last century in part due to rapid advances in DNA sequencing and data analysis. Researchers today have an unprecedented view of how cells operate on a molecular level, revealing clues about what causes disease and how best to treat them. These advances are also shedding light on the age-old question of how we as humans evolved with our advanced tool making, language, problem solving and social skills.

“Ben was tremendously supportive and had a great sense of when I needed his mentorship and when to let me explore on my own” - Serge Gueroussov

During his PhD, Gueroussov revealed one piece of this puzzle. Building up on previous work in the lab, he uncovered how a cellular process known as alternative splicing could have driven brain evolution in mammals. Alternative splicing enables cells to produce a far greater variety of proteins—the cell’s workhorses— than there are genes encoding them. Gueroussov found a molecular switch in this process that only works in the mammalian brain and which has contributed to tissue complexity and possibly also the evolution of advanced cognitive functions.

Learn more about Gueroussov’s work about how mammalian brain complexity evolved

In another study, Gueroussov revealed a tantalizing possibility that one of the roles for alternative splicing in the brain might be to ward off sticky proteins that form large aggregates and are a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“If you have too much protein aggregation, that’s linked to neurodegenerative disorders,” Gueroussov said during the lecture. “So we could speculate that one purpose for the evolution of this splicing was to limit the extent of aggregation that was taking place.”

“Serge has made valuable contributions to our understanding of the regulation, function and evolution of alternative splicing,” says Blencowe. “He is a remarkably ambitious and gifted young scientist and I fully expect him to continue publishing groundbreaking research in the future.”

Since last September, Gueroussov has been living in Boston, where he is working as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Professor Feng Zhang, a celebrated researcher who was one of the first to use the gene editing tool CRISPR to edit genes in human cells, at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

“I was very excited to come here and see what my ultimate potential is as a scientist,” Gueroussov says. “So far, I am enjoying it.”

At the Broad, Gueroussov is investigating new strategies for editing not the genes, but the genes’ messages, or RNA molecules that act as protein templates. These new technologies open exciting possibilities as research tools to study RNA biology, he said.

New Cancer Immunotherapy in the Making Thanks to Antibody Engineering Technology Developed at Donnelly Centre

New Cancer Immunotherapy in the Making Thanks to Antibody Engineering Technology Developed at Donnelly Centre

Author: Jovana Drinjakovic

A new therapy that enhances the body’s ability to fight cancer has received a $62-million (USD) boost thanks to Donnelly Centre's antibody engineering technology.

Called Myeloid Tuning™, the therapy is designed to boost the body’s anti-tumour immunity by removing the cells that normally put brakes on the immune system using engineered antibodies from U of T’s Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC).

“Instead of turning on the immune cells directly, you get rid of the cells that are inhibiting the immune cells,” says Professor Sachdev Sidhu, who co-founded TRAC with Professor Jason Moffat as a state-of-the-art antibody engineering platform at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, where both are faculty members.

Unlike natural antibodies produced by the immune system to fight disease, engineered antibodies can be designed to target any molecule or cell type and are becoming increasingly used in medicine as a new generation of drugs.

The work that led to myeloid tuning started five years ago as a research collaboration between Sidhu and Moffat, both also professors in U of T’s Department of Molecular Genetics, and Professor Max Krummel at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Krummel co-invented the first engineered immunotherapy approved in 2011 against skin cancer. Three years later, Sidhu and Krummel co-founded Pionyr Immunotherapeutics in San Francisco to turn their research idea into reality.

 Antibody engineering technology developed by Donnelly Centre professors Sachdev sidhu (left) and Jason Moffat (right) is being used in myeloid tuning, a new form of immunotherapy that aims to enhance the body's ability to fight cancer.

Antibody engineering technology developed by Donnelly Centre professors Sachdev sidhu (left) and Jason Moffat (right) is being used in myeloid tuning, a new form of immunotherapy that aims to enhance the body's ability to fight cancer.

“It’s an example of how you can go very quickly, within a few years, from basic research to potential clinical applications,” says Sidhu.

In recent years, immunotherapy, in which the body’s immune system is awakened to destroy tumour cells, has emerged as a highly promising treatment against a range of cancers.

Last month, Pionyr announced it raised $62 million (USD) from investors bringing its total funding to $72 million (USD) raised in two years to develop myeloid tuning into a form in which it can be tested on patients. The funding boost came on the back of promising proprietary data obtained with antibodies created in Toronto. So far, myeloid tuning has been shown to be effective in multiple mouse tumour models.

Three forms of immunotherapy have been approved for use in patients to date. Checkpoint inhibitors and bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTEs) work by making cancer cells more visible to the immune system and have been approved for the treatment of skin, lung, and bladder cancer, among others. In chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell technology, which received its first approval in the US three months ago against a form of leukemia, the immune T-cells are engineered to recognize and attack cancer more effectively.

Myeloid tuning is different in that it does not act directly either to target the cancer cells or to activate the immune T-cells. Instead, engineered antibodies are designed to attack the immunosuppressive cells in the tumour microenvironment to help the immune system sweep cancer cells more effectively.

Built from the ground up in 2010, TRAC has grown into a sought-after technology platform with more than 50 ongoing collaborations worldwide. Besides Pionyr, there’s also Saksin LifeSciences in India, a startup that is turning TRAC antibodies into new medicines for blindness.

“The TRAC has established itself as a premier protein engineering platform attracting partnerships and significant research funding from industry,” says Moffat.

Moffat and Sidhu want to see more new drugs developed in Toronto. That is being made possible thanks to additional support from the visionary philanthropist Terrence Donnelly, whose gift 13 years ago helped found the interdisciplinary biomedical research institute that now bears his name. In October, Donnelly announced a new $10-million gift to support research and innovation. That will enable the Donnelly Centre to soon launch a new hub for biotechnology startups that will accelerate translation of its research discoveries into new therapies.

“Pionyr came out of a similar biotech incubator at UCSF. Imagine what we could do if we had one here. We have thousands of high-quality antibodies that are just sitting there waiting to be turned into new drugs,” said Sidhu.

Joint PhD Program

Joint PhD Program

PhD Student Recruitment

Applications are encouraged from highly motivated students to participate in a joint PhD program in the Zhejiang University – University of Toronto (ZJU–UofT) Joint Institute of Genetics and Genomic Medicine, which was recently established between the two universities. Each student will be jointly supervised by a faculty member from ZJU and a faculty member from UofT, and will conduct approximately half of the research in Toronto and half in Hangzhou.

PhD Projects Currently Available:

  • Biomolecular analysis of lung cancer
  • Neural circuits and brain disorders
  • Molecular genetics of neurodegenerative diseases
  • Pathophysiology of mitochondrial disorders
  • Role of RNA binding proteins in neural stem cells

Interested applicants contact Dr. Chi-chung Hui or Dr. Xin Chen.

Closing Date: April 16, 2018

MoGeNews Issue 10 is now available

MoGeNews Issue 10 is now available

Molecular Genetics eNewsletter - MoGeNews - Issue 10

Empowering trainees. Engaging alumni. The 3rd Annual MoGen Career Development Symposium was held on June 9th, 2017 at the Chestnut Conference Centre in downtown Toronto. Dr. Leah Cowen and Dr. Barbara Funnell organized this year's event, designed to promote interactions between trainees and our many extraordinary alumni from the Department of Molecular Genetics.

Dr. John Roder, 1950-2018

Dr. John Roder, 1950-2018

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Dr. John Carlin Roder, FRSC, passed away on Saturday, January 6, 2018.
 
John held an appointment in Molecular Genetics from 1987, until his retirement. He was one of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute's first scientists, recruited by Lou Siminovitch in 1985 from Queens University, and he spent over 30 years at LTRI as a Senior Scientist.

John was an amazing scientist and truly caring person. In mid-career, he decided to switch his entire scientific focus from natural killer cells and immunology to the genetics of neuroscience, and went on to become a world leader in this field.
 
Our deepest condolences to John’s wife, Mary-Lou, and to John's family. Canada has lost a giant in neuroscience, they have lost a most wonderful man.

- Dr. Leah Cowen, Professor & Chair
 
See Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute announcement

See The Toronto Star obituary

Medical Genomics Information Session November 30, 2017

Medical Genomics Information Session November 30, 2017

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Thursday, 30 November 2017, 5-6pm
Red Room, Donnelly Centre
160 College Street
Toronto, ON M5S 1A8

Are you interested in a career in genomics? Would you like to strengthen your professional profile with solid knowledge and skills in modern genetics? In this info session we will present the new Master's program, answer your questions, and you can meet students and faculty from the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto.

We are looking for enthusiastic and engaged students who have either a clinical or a B.Sc. background, and who are interested in pursuing a career in medical genomics. This is a full time course-based Master’s program which takes place over 20 months. Students will become well-versed in different aspects of genomics, and will engage with renowned faculty and clinicians who are at the cutting edge of biomedical research, pharmacogenomics, and human genetics to recognize and address pressing questions in the field of medical genomics.

If you plan to attend the info event, please RSVP.

Dr. Janet Rossant honoured by UNESCO-L'Oreal

Dr. Janet Rossant honoured by UNESCO-L'Oreal

"By showcasing the achievements of top female scientists, the annual awards may encourage more women and girls to consider a career in science. Women remain underrepresented in the field, with fewer than three per cent of Nobel prizes given to women since the award’s inception."

See full article