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MUHC researcher awarded $500,000 to study pathogenesis of infectious disease

This release is available in French.

Montreal, 15th June 2009 The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) has announced the recipients of the 2009 Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award. MUHC researcher Dr. Maya Saleh was one of six recipients granted $500,000 over a 6-year period for her research proposal, "Regulation and molecular mechanisms of NLR-mediated innate immunity."

"We are studying how the body fights infections," says Dr. Saleh, who was the only researcher in Canada to receive the award. "Our focus is the innate immune system, which is our body's first line of defense. We are performing experiments at the level of the whole genome to find most of the genes needed for this defense. By using genetics and genomics we are hoping to see the whole picture."

The BWF program is intended to shed light on the overarching issues of how human hosts handle infectious challenge. The awards are designed to give recipients the freedom and flexibility to pursue new avenues of inquiry and higher-risk research projects that hold potential for advancing significantly the biochemical, pharmacological, immunological, and molecular biological understanding of how infectious agents and the human body interact.

The selection process for this award is based on the proposal and on the achievement of the scientist, in the US or Canada, as a new independent investigator. It also takes into consideration the research environment and institutional support.

By identifying various molecules involved in our body's defense, Dr. Saleh and her team hope to widen the therapeutic targets in humans. "We could start tailoring experiments where we design, then use drugs to modulate the action of the molecules we identify," says Dr. Saleh. "We currently have one family of such molecules that we are investigating. These are enzymes that are needed for the production of defence molecules (cytokines) called The Inflammatory Caspases."

"Infectious diseases remain a concern to global health," says BWF President Dr. John Burris. "We are proud to support the work of creative investigators who study the crucial interaction between the host and the microbe."


Contact: Isabelle Kling
McGill University Health Centre

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