In Focus

September 2015

Dr. Guy Rouleau recently appointed Dr. Edward Fon as the MNI’s new Scientific Director. Dr. Fon will take the lead on numerous initiatives including strategic and scientific direction, as well as recruitment. Dr. Fon is a Clinician-Scientist with a particular interest in Parkinson’s disease. His research focuses on the molecular events leading to the degeneration of dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease. In the past decade, several genes have been identified that cause forms of the disease. He is particularly interested in one of these genes, parkin, which functions as a key enzyme in the main protein degradation pathway in the cell. This pathway utilizes ubiquitin, a protein that can mark target proteins for degradation. Dr. Fon’s lab has been working on understanding the various functions of ubiquitin in the nervous system and on how defects in parkin could lead to Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Fon’s work in this area could provide important clues about the mechanisms of dopamine neuron death in Parkinson’s disease and potentially lead to innovative new therapeutic strategies. Since becoming a faculty member at the MNI in 1999, Ted has taken on various leadership roles including Director of the McGill Parkinson Program, and MNI Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research. Recently, he has been involved in several key institutional programs including bio-banking and the open science initiative. Dr. Fon takes over as Scientific Director from Dr. Phil Barker.

The Neuro’s Dr. Denise Klein is the new Director of the Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music, effective September 1, 2015. A multi-institutional program with over 60 faculty members, the CRBLM was established in 2011 to foster interdisciplinary research in the social and neurobiological foundations of human communication, within the domains of language and music. Dr. Klein’s research uses positron emission tomography (PET) combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and more recently, functional MRI, to measure regional changes in cerebral blood flow during the performance of various language tasks. Dr Klein’s early work pioneered the use of brain imaging for the study of bilingualism, and provided a spring board for current debates about bilingual brain organization. Dr Klein’s current research program aims to understand how language experience influences and shapes brain organization. Dr. Klein takes over as Director from Dr. Vincent Gracco.

Dr. Ronald Postuma was appointed Chair of the National Research Program Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Parkinson Society of Canada on August 19. Dr. Postuma is a neurologist and assistant professor at McGill University, and author of two booklets on the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, one for physicians and one for people with Parkinson’s. As Chair of the SAB, Dr. Postuma will also serve on the Research Policy Committee to ensure continuity between the two volunteer committees. Dr. Postuma has served as a member of the SAB since May 2012. The SAB is a volunteer panel of respected experts from the Parkinson’s scientific community across Canada and conducts a rigorous peer review process using the Canadian Institutes of Health Research standards to determine scientific excellence and relevance to Parkinson’s disease. This ensures that Parkinson Society Canada funds research that is novel, important and scientifically sound. Dr. Postuma takes over as Chair from The Neuro’s Dr. Edward Fon, who served as chair for the last 12 years.

Dr. Peter McPherson will take on the role of Group Leader for the Neurodegenerative Disease Research Group. Dr. McPherson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a James McGill Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery and of Anatomy and Cell Biology. His laboratory has published pioneering papers using subcellular proteomics to study the molecular make-up of clathrin-coated vesicles. A number of proteins identified in these studies have been linked to neurological diseases, including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and autosomal recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay. Recent studies have forged new links between endocytic trafficking proteins and cancer. Dr. McPherson takes over this position from Dr. Edward Fon who was appointed Scientific Director of the MNI.

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