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Microbiologists receive top Canadian recognition

One is a veteran researcher, the other new, but two microbiologists from The University of Western Ontario have both been singled out to receive national recognition for their work on infectious diseases and immunity from the Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM).

Dr. Miguel Valvano, a professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry received the prestigious CSM/Roche Diagnostics Award for outstanding accomplishments and Dr. John McCormick, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology received the Fisher Scientific Award for new researchers in microbiological sciences.

Valvano, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in Infectious Diseases and Microbial Pathogenesis, received his M.D. from the University of Buenos Aires, and trained as paediatrician and infectious diseases specialist in the Buenos Aires Childrens Hospital, and later as a molecular biologist in the Oregon Health Sciences University, before joining Western in 1988. His team discovered the way to kill B. cenocepacia, a superbug which can be highly contagious and deadly for those with cystic fibrosis. This discovery paves the way for the development of new antibiotics to treat it, as well as a vaccine to prevent it. We are investigating how bacteria make their outer surface and how can we find novel ways to interfere with this process, says Valvano.

A critical aspect of our research is also to train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to become outstanding biomedical scientists within an environment of scientific inquiry, and particularly placing an emphasis on personal and scientific integrity and on team player skills.

McCormick received his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta and continued post-doctoral training in the U.S. before coming to Western in 2002. McCormick is also a scientist with the Lawson Health Research Institute and he holds a New Investigator award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and an Early Research award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Our research focuses primarily on a group of toxins called superantigens that are produced by the bacterial pathogens Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. These toxins induce a dramatic activation of the immune system and can cause a rare but very dangerous disease called toxic shock syndrome, explains McCormick. We use a number of advanced techniques in molecular biology, genetics, bacteriology, and immunology, to understand how these toxins function at a very detailed level, such that we rationally design inhibitors of their function, and also so that we can harness their function for immune based therapeutics.

The scientists will receive their awards June 9th in Calgary.


Contact: Kathy Wallis
519-661-2111 x81136
University of Western Ontario

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