26th Annual Cumming School of Medicine Symposium

Featuring innovative speakers from around the world who are driving research in health science disciplines. 

About

For 26 years, the Cumming School of Medicine Symposium has gathered top scientists from around the world who are making a difference in health-related sciences. From personalized medicine development to global HIV prevention initiatives, the Symposium aims to encompass a diverse range of speakers that will be of interest to students, staff, and faculty of the various departments and institutes within the Cumming School of Medicine. 

Save the date: May 25th, 2018
Time: 8:30am - 5:00pm, graduate student dinner to follow
Location: Libin Lecture Theatre

  1. Morning Talks

    Opening remarks – 9:00 – 9:15 – Libin 

    Rachel Kratofil, Dr. Lisa Young

    Dr. Philip Lössl – 9:15 – 9:45 – Libin 

    Dr. Carrie Bourassa– 9:45 – 10:45 – Libin

    Coffee break – 10:45 – 11:00 – HRIC atrium

    Dr. Catherine Hankins– 11:00-12:00 – Libin

  2. Lunch

    12:00 – 1:30 – HRIC atrium

  3. Afternoon Talks

    Dr. Terry Pearson– 1:30 – 2:30 – Libin

    Dr. Ian Frazer– 2:30 – 3:30 – Libin         

    Coffee break – 3:30 – 3:45 – HRIC atrium

    Dr. Miguel Nicolelis– 3:45 – 4:45 – Libin

    Closing remarks/white hat ceremony – 4:45 – Libin
    Dr. Tara Beattie

  4. Graduate Student Dinner

    Barcelona Tavern – 6:30 pm

Philip Lössl, PhD
Associate Editor, Nature Communications

Leaving the Lab to Stay in Science

Philip joined Nature Communications in July 2017. He studied biochemistry at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, focusing on cross-linking mass spectrometry for his Master's thesis. He then earned his PhD at Utrecht University, applying mass spectrometry approaches to study protein structures, modifications and interactions. Philip handles submissions in the areas of proteomics and biomolecular mass spectrometry, structural biology, as well as the biochemistry of signalling and the regulation of post-translation modifications. Philip is based in the Berlin office.

Carrie Bourassa, PhD   
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Indigenous Peoples Health, Canada

Noojimo Mikana (Healing Path): Indigenous-driven health research

Edited by Ben Ewanchuk

Dr. Carrie Bourassa, chair of Northern and Indigenous Health at the Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury and the scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health (IIPH), will bring her extensive knowledge and experience surrounding the state of health in our indigenous communities to this year’s Cumming School of Medicine Symposium.

Dr. Bourassa is Métis, belonging to the Riel Métis Council of Regina #34, and earned both a Master of Arts degree in political science and PhD in social studies from the University of Regina. Prior to taking the chair position in October 2016 and the scientific director position in February 2017, she served her communities as a professor of Indigenous Health Studies at First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) in Regina for over 15 years. Her research has raised significant awareness regarding the impacts of colonization on the health of Indigenous peoples and the necessity of creating culturally competent and safe care in health service delivery.

Dr. Bourassa proudly served as lead primary investigator on two Canada Foundation for Innovation grants, funding both the Indigenous Community-Based Health Research Lab in 2010 (re-named Morningstar Lodge), and more recently in April 2016, the Cultural Safety Evaluation, Training and Research Lab at FNUniv. She is a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada and a public member of the Royal College Council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In recognition of her remarkable work, Dr. Bourassa won the Wiichihiwayshinawn Foundation Inc. Métis Award in Health and Science in 2012.

Focus on Indigenous peoples’ health during this year’s symposium comes at an important time in the history of Canadian health care. In response to the increasingly acknowledged disparity of Indigenous health standards, the CIHR aims to “strengthen its relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples” through increased development and investment in Indigenous health research. As not only the director of the IIPH, but also an inspiring researcher, mentor and advocate, Dr. Bourassa serves as an important leader in improving the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples in Canada through the activity of CIHR. Her work to "build a healthier future for Indigenous peoples" will undoubtedly improve the welfare of Indigenous communities moving forward.

Ian Frazer, MD, DSc, FRCPC   
Professor, University of Queensland, Australia

Vaccination — from development to global application with the man who saved millions of women from cervical cancer

By Leah Hohman

Dr. Ian Frazer, a clinical immunologist and professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, is best known as the co-inventor of the Gardasil vaccine. Now, Frazer focuses his research on the immune response to epithelial cancers such as skin cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) associated infections and novel approaches to vaccine development.

Every year, more than 530,000 women worldwide receive the diagnosis of cervical cancer. It’s the second most common type of cancer in women, and one of the deadliest. In 2012, cervical cancer was responsible for an estimated 266,000 deaths, accounting for 7.5 per cent of all female cancer deaths.

The Gardasil vaccine protects against HPV, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which is the precursor to almost 100 percent of cervical cancers. HPV has also been linked to the development of other forms of cancer. Gardasil is currently undergoing a Phase I clinical trial to repurpose it for the treatment of head and neck cancers.

Prior to the application of Gardasil, more than 70 per cent of sexually active Canadians were estimated to contract HPV, making it the most commonly transmitted STI in the country.

Since the approval of Gardasil in Canada in 2006, there has been a dramatic decline in HPV prevalence. However, cervical cancer is still a problem. Approximately 1,550 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and an estimated 400 will die from it. The vaccination status for Canadians is sitting at approximately 56 per cent, which is well below the target (more than 85 per cent).

Over the course of his career, Frazer has had the rare opportunity to see vaccine development through basic science, clinical trials and global application. During this year’s CSM Symposium, he’ll speak about his work on the Gardasil vaccine, as well as recent research taking place in his lab.

For more information on Dr. Frazer, check out the recent biography by Madonna King: Ian Frazer: The Man Who Saved a Million Lives.

Catherine Hankins, MD, PhD, FRCPC 
Deputy Director, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, Netherlands

HIV science to action: Knowledge translation for impact.

By Leigh Hurst

Dr. Catherine Hankins graduated from the University of Calgary’s medical school in 1976. She’s a world leader in the fight against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She’s known for her innovative public health and epidemiology research on HIV, but most prominently for her ability to translate her work to public policy that has produced meaningful improvements in public health around the world. She recently led the development of World Health Organization guidance on clinical trial good participatory practices for emerging and re-emerging pathogens.

Dr. Hankins has held several roles that have been instrumental in improving health outcomes related to HIV. These include serving as the Chief Scientific Adviser to UNAIDS in Geneva from 2002-2012 and leading the scientific knowledge translation team that improved the conduct of biomedical HIV prevention trials, convened mathematical modelling teams to analyze the potential impact of HIV interventions, and supported the implementation of proven biomedical HIV innovations in countries around the world. Her current research focuses on implementation science, novel biomedical HIV prevention, women and HIV, and participatory research conduct.

She’s a Public and Population Health professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill and an honorary professor in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and the Scientific Advisory Group of the USA National Institutes of Health HIV Prevention Trials Network. A trustee of the HIV Research Trust, she’s a member of the International AIDS Society Industry Liaison Forum. She’s also a board member of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) and a Good Participatory Practice (GPP) Advisory Committee member for the USAID-funded Coalition to Accelerate and Support Prevention Research.

Previously, Dr. Hankins was principal investigator for a decade of “The Canadian Women’s HIV Study,” research involving prisoners and people who inject drugs, and population-based epidemiological studies. 

Dr. Hankins received the UCalgary Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and was named to the Order of Canada in 2013.

Miguel A. Nicolelis, MD, PhD   
Professor, Duke University, USA

Linking brains to machines: from basic science to neurological neurorehabilitation

By Nicole Orsi Barioni

As one of today’s most influential neuroscientists, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis believes that what he does isn’t rocket science; it’s just brain research. To him, he has simply followed his grandmother’s advice.

“The impossible is just the possible that someone has not put enough effort into making come true,” she used to say.  

Born and raised in Brazil, Nicolelis is a distinguished professor of neuroscience at the Duke School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. He defines himself as a “storm chaser.” Neurons in our brain communicate and generate electrical signals, which, when recorded, sound like rain storms. Therefore, he listens to what he calls “brain symphonies” and tries to extract the messages they carry. This led him to create a new neurophysiological method, known today as the brain-machine interface (BMI).

Nicolelis had an idea to combine his passions for soccer and science. In January 2008, he made it possible to control a robot in Japan. This kick-started the BMI that six years later allowed a paraplegic person to deliver the kick-off at the 2014 FIFA World Cup opening in Brazil.

In addition to his pioneering research, Nicolelis funded the Walk Again Project — an international association of scientists and engineers who’re dedicated to developing an exoskeleton device to support severely paralyzed patients into recovering their full body motor abilities.

Recently, Nicolelis proved it’s possible to communicate without words, gestures or touch. For the first time, he recorded the transfer of meaningful sensorimotor information in real time. He calls this transfer a “neurophysiological torpedo.” Furthermore, he decided to push the limits and built a prospect of what he defined as a “biological computer.” He did so by having three experimental subjects mentally collaborating into achieving a common goal and named it a “brained.” This demonstrates that edge of what we call “self” is abstract and that in the future we might be able to share and donate our mental abilities.

Nicolelis is scheduled to speak at the 26th annual CSM Symposium on May 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Libin Theatre.

Terry Pearson, PhD 
Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria, Canada 

Your world in a drop of blood — Dr. Terry Pearson to personalize diagnostic medicine

By Rachel Kratofil

Dr. Terry Pearson had intended to study English and become an English professor. But when he failed English 100, he turned his attention to microbiology and biochemistry. 

For the past 35 years, Pearson has studied tropical diseases; specifically, African sleeping sickness. Moving away from being a full-time academic researcher, Pearson has switched gears to focus on disease diagnosis and has now immersed himself in the entrepreneurial world as co-founder of SISCAPA Assays Technologies, Inc.

A big problem in modern medicine is that many drugs work on some patients but not on others. There’s also a rise in the number of adverse drug reactions and drug-related deaths in the United States and in Canada. How do we ensure that the drug prescribed to a patient will be the most effective option?

Pearson has found a possible solution to this issue. First, you need to establish a baseline for your own set of unique biomarkers, molecules that indicate health or disease. By tracking a set of biomarkers in your blood over time, you’ll know if any biomarkers deviate outside of your own personal range.

Biomarkers can be used diagnostically to alert clinicians if a disease, such as cancer, is progressing. Although there have been over 4,000 potential cancer biomarkers identified to date, there are only a few markers that are used as diagnostics. Pearson wants to unlock the potential of the rest of these cancer biomarkers using antibody-based mass spectrometry, a technique used to identify proteins, peptides or biomarkers in a blood or tissue sample.

Based in Victoria, B.C. Pearson has access to a world-class mass spectrometry facility at the University of Victoria’s Genome British Columbia Proteomics Centre. By using mass spectrometry, Pearson is able to screen for at least 20 biomarkers at once in a patient.

In his early career, Pearson worked as a staff scientist at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England with Georges Kohler and Cesar Milstein to develop the monoclonal antibody. This work by Kohler and Milstein received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1984. Pearson’s lab at the University of Victoria has continued to be at the forefront of developing antibody-based techniques ever since.

Now with SISCAPA, Pearson is taking antibody-based diagnostics to the next level.

For more information, watch Pearson’s TEDx Talk.

CSM Symposium