November winner of the Relève étoile Jacques-Genest award


John Morris, a PhD student in Human Genetics at McGill University, is the award winner of the Relève étoile Jacques-Genest award of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS). His Award-winning publication: Assessment of the genetic and clinical determinants of fracture risk: genome wide association and mendelian randomisation study is published in The British Medical Journal.

Osteoporosis is a common and debilitating disease associated with age that causes bones to thin and become more porous, leading to an increased risk of fracture. To study the genetic aspects of fracture risk, John Morris led a genetic association study to identify the genes that influence the risk of osteoporotic fracture.

Read the full abstract here.

The Relève étoile award (new name for the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles award) is awarded to student-researchers by each of the three Fonds de recherche du Québec.

The FRQS Relève étoile award is now named after Jacques Genest as a tribute to this great researcher and builder.

To learn more about the awards, click here.

Montreal-based investigator receives funding to study metastatic sarcomas, similar to the type discovered in Terry Fox

Thanks to a New Investigator award from the Terry Fox Research Institute, McGill’s Dr. Livia Garzia, is studying how and why certain sarcomas metastasize. Her hope is that by identifying early signs of metastatic dissemination she will be able to know what tumours are more at risk of becoming metastatic and find new treatments for children and young adults with these cancers. Read more.

Predicting the transmission of rare, genetically based diseases

Researchers have traced the origins of a rare genetic disease to two Quebec founding families in the 17th century

There are only 25 people in the whole of Quebec at the moment who have a rare recessive genetic disease called chronic atrial and intestinal dysrhythmia (CAID). It is a serious disease that affects both heart rate and intestinal movements. A McGill-led research team has been able to trace the gene mutations underlying the disease back to two European founding families who arrived in the province in the 17th century. To track the transmission histories of these rare mutations, the researchers developed a sophisticated computational process, which took two weeks to run, that should help them and others trace a range of other genetically based rare diseases. They hope to extend their search techniques to tracing the transmission histories of more common genetically based diseases in the future and to identify new genetic variants responsible for rare diseases.

Q+ A with lead researchers, Simon Gravel and Dominic Nelson. Read more

Complex Traits celebrates 10 years of discovery in the Life Sciences Complex

Professor of Human Genetics and Theme Lead for the McGill University Research Centre on Complex Traits (MRCCT), Silvia Vidal was recruited to the LSC in 2003 while it was still in the planning stages. When the doors opened in 2008, she immediately launched an ambitious collaboration that took full advantage of the new facilities. Clinician-scientists, infectious disease specialists and computer scientists from the LSC, the McGill University Health Centre, the Faculty of Science, the McGill Genome Centre, and the University of British Columbia were enlisted and the resulting project led to the discovery of a host of new mutations in mouse genes that are now being used to develop molecules to treat diseases like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, malaria, and other infectious and inflammatory diseases. It was an auspicious beginning, says Professor Vidal. “There are only a few places in the world where it was possible to carry out this very large project, I was very lucky to have been recruited to the LSC,” she says.

Read the full story on Med e-News.

MUHC researchers identify genetic defects that cause molar pregnancies


Isabelle Lafond lived the nightmare that about 100 pregnant Quebec women do each year, when they discover the fetus is missing or incomplete.

Isabelle Lafond will never forget the day she was told that even though she was pregnant, she wasn’t carrying a fetus.

“It was horrible, like a death,” she recalled of that day two years ago. “I didn’t understand what was happening, what the problem was, why me. Today, it’s still hard to accept.”

Lafond, who is 27, has had two complete molar pregnancies. Instead of a fetus growing inside the uterus, a mole grows inside, and in up to 15 per cent of cases, that mole turns malignant and can cause cancer.

Now scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre have discovered three genetic mutations that are likely to cause a recurrent type of molar pregnancy. The discovery paves the way for better genetic screening, says the lead researcher of a study just published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“We’re now in a better position to provide accurate genetic counselling,” said Rima Slim, a geneticist at the MUHC’s research institute.  Read more here.

Twenty-three Canada Research Chairs for McGill

Drs. Mark Lathrop, Simon Gravel, Hamed Najafabadi and Silvia Vidal are among McGill’s CRC recipients.

The Government of Canada invests $156 million in funding for 187 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs to support diverse research talent in Canada

On Tuesday, November 13, the Honorable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, announced over $156 million in funding for 187 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) at universities across Canada. Of the 23 CRCs awarded to McGill researchers, six are new and 17 are renewals.

Read more

Four Burning Questions with Dr. Gustavo Turecki

To mark the 75th anniversary of McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry, Canada’s first academic department in the field, a special symposium will be held at the St. James Theatre on November 29. Under the theme “Looking Forward, Looking Back” the event will provide participants with the opportunity to hear from a distinguished lineup of international speakers and to network with old and new colleagues alike.

To commemorate the milestone the Department has also established a goal to raise $100,000 towards the creation of the Psychiatry 75th Anniversary Fellowship, which will support trainees in the pursuit of excellence related to brain and mental health clinical care, research, education and innovation.

Ahead of the event we sat down with Dr. Gustavo Turecki who has been Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill since 2015 and was recently appointed Chief of Psychiatry at the Montréal West Island IUHSSC and Scientific Director of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

Read more.

Far from a classroom exercise happening behind the walls of the ivory tower, university research is a fundamental component of Canada’s economic health – both today and into the future.

Some of our country’s greatest inventions and world-renowned accomplishments, such as canola and insulin, have happened on the nation’s university campuses.

Universities in Canada carry the country’s burden of research and invention, and that burden is made heavier by limited funding from private resources. And, while Canada has contributed many significant discoveries to the world through its academic research, it has also received its fair share of criticism, mainly due to gaps in funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) research.

The 2017 Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, reports that, “Despite high levels of talent, expertise, and dedication on the part of those serving each agency, there is evidence to suggest that the overall stewardship of the federal research ecosystem needs to be strengthened.”

But there is hope that change is coming.  Click here for more.

Scientific breakthrough: promising new target for immunotherapy

Following the 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine, global attention is now more than ever turned toward the promise of immunotherapy in oncology. An international team’s work has shed new light on a molecule called TIM-3 that might play a key role in the regulation of the immune response. Scientists and physicians from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC (MCH-MUHC) and McGill University, in collaboration with French teams from AP-HP, Inserm, Université Paris-Descartes, Université Paris-Diderot, and the Imagine Institute at the Necker-Enfants Malades hospital, have singled out this protein as the next potential target for immunotherapy treatments in patients with cancer and other diseases.

“This study places the TIM-3 protein at the heart of immune system regulation. We could use it as a target in immunotherapies to trigger enhanced immune responses in patients with cancer and better treat them,” says co-lead author of this study, Dr. Nada Jabado, who is a researcher from the Child Health and Human Development Program at the RI-MUHC and an hemato-oncologist at MCH-MUHC.

Researchers found that when the TIM-3 protein is suppressed or inactive, the immune system becomes completely “unleashed” and T cells are uncontrollably over-activated, resulting in a rare form of lymphoma (a form of cancer that starts in the lymphocytes) called subcutaneous panniculitis T lymphoma (LTSCP).  Read more here.

McGill Accomplishments at CAGC

Congratulations to the following McGill faculty and students for their recognition at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC), held last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Janine El Helou, MSc  – Recipient of the 2018 CAGC New Leader Award


Addressing barriers for rapid cancer genetic counselling: Triage system for treatment-focused genetic testing”   MORGAN Amanda, WONG Nora

“Fetal sex discordance by non-invasive prenatal testing: Current practices and possible explanations”  LEVY Tess, HODSON Katherine, POUCHET Carly, FITZPATRICK Jennifer  McGill University Health Center, Dynacare, Montreal QC

Platform presentations:

“Incidence and carrier frequency of Tay-Sachs disease in French-Canadians from Quebec: a retrospective analysis covering 24 years (1992-2015)”  SILLON Guillaume, ALLARD Pierre, DRURY Stella, DE BIE Isabelle

“A familial investigation of recurrent Osteogenesis Imperfecta over three decades”


Scientific Planning Committee Co-Chair

Laurence Baret, MA, MSc

Congratulations, all!


Comments are closed.