28th Annual Cumming School of Medicine Symposium

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

SAVE THE DATE: June 11th, 2021

About

For 28 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 infection 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. 

Talk title: The early origins of health and disease: understanding the biology and engaging with community 

Dr Sloboda is a Professor and the Associate Chair of Research in the Dept of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University, Canada She holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Programming. She completed her PhD training at the University of Toronto, in Physiology in 2001 following which she was a Postdoctoral Research Rellow at the University of Western Australia. In 2006 she was recruited to the Liggins Institute as a Research Fellow, at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and where from 2008 -2011, she was the Deputy Director of the National Research Centre for Growth and Development. In 2012, she left Auckland to take up a faculty position at McMaster University.

Dr Sloboda's laboratory investigates early life impacts on maternal, fetal and placental development and how this mediates the risk of non-communicable disease later in life. Her experimental studies investigate maternal nutrient manipulation on maternal pregnancy adaptations, including the microbiome, placental inflammation and offspring reproductive and metabolic function. In community based health studies, Dr Sloboda engages with expectant mothers and services that support pregnant women. Her Mothers to Babies Study aims to develop a community-based formative knowledge transfer and work program of intervention, to improve diet, and body composition of women before and after conception.

In 2015, Dr Sloboda was awarded the International Society of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Nick Hales Award for outstanding research contribution to the field of developmental programming, and in 2017 won the Hamilton YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Science Trade, and Technology.

Dr Sloboda is one of the founding co-Presidents of the DOHaD Society of Canada, and has been the Secretary of the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease since 2013. She was an Associate Editor for the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. She has published >100 papers in leading scientific journals and contributed to 13 books on the concept of early life origins of health and disease.

Talk title: Complement-Activation and Age-related Macular Degeneration: Lessons on Mechanisms and Treatments from a Mouse Model of dry AMD

Dr. Bärbel Rohrer is Professor of Ophthalmology and the SmartState Endowed Chair in Gene and Pharmaceutical Treatment of Retinal Degenerative Diseases at MUSC, a VA Research Scientist, and an academic and innovative leader in diseases of the retina. She holds three U.S. and five international patents, with an additional 22 applications pending. Her IP contributed to the foundation for three start-up companies, one of which she co-founded. A major pharmaceutical company acquired one, the other two companies are continuing clinical development of her therapies. She has published >70 manuscripts; received 37 peer-reviewed grants; serves as editor/reviewer for many journals; and mentored 50+ trainees. She is a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow, Foundation Fighting Blindness Scientific Advisory Board member and member of multiple professional societies, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the Society for Neuroscience.  Dr. Rohrer’s educational background includes a Neuroscience Diploma from the University of Tübingen, a Neuroscience PhD from the University of Calgary, and postdoctoral training at UCSF.

Talk title: From precise microbial genomics to precision medicine

Ami Bhatt is a physician scientist with a strong interest in microbial genomics and metagenomics. She received her MD and PhD from the University of California, San Francisco. She then carried out her residency and fellowship training at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and served as Chief Medical Resident from 2010-2011. She joined the faculty of the Departments of Medicine (Divisions of Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplantation) and Genetics at Stanford University in 2014 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship focused on genomics at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Prof. Bhatt has received multiple awards for her academic scholarship including the Chen Award of Excellence from the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO).

Her team’s research program seeks to illuminate the interplay between the microbial environment and host/clinical factors in human diseases. Her translational laboratory develops and applies novel molecular and computational tools to study strain level dynamics of the microbiome, to understand how microbial genomes change over time and predict the functional output of microbiomes. These innovations facilitate much improved (1) measurement of the types and functions of microbes in patients with non-communicable diseases, (2) understanding of the interactions between microbial genes, gene products, and host cells and (3) testing of the impact of microbially targeted interventions in clinical trials.

In addition to carrying out research at Stanford University, Prof. Bhatt has active collaborations world-wide including in Nigeria and South Africa. She is committed to ensuring that advances in research touch the lives of individuals in all income settings – and thus, in her spare time, enjoys volunteering for the nonprofit she co-founded, Global Oncology and serves as the Director for Global Oncology for Stanford’s Center for Innovation in Global Health.

Talk title: Overview of OICR Drug Discovery Program & WDR5: The translational path of a first-in-class therapy for leukemia

Dr. Rima Al-awar earned a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from North Carolina State University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill prior to joining Eli Lilly and Company in 1995. 

In 2002, while still at Eli Lilly, Dr. Al-awar was promoted to Head in Discovery Chemistry Research and Technologies and later served as Head in Route Selection in Chemical Product Research and Development. In July 2008 she joined the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) as Director and Senior Principal Investigator. Dr. Al-awar also serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Toronto. 

Since joining OICR, Dr. Al-awar’s focus has been to build a drug discovery program that can efficiently translate the most promising ideas coming from Ontario’s academic community into therapeutic benefits to cancer patients by identifying hits and lead molecules and optimizing them to potential drug candidates. 

She has built a team comprised of researchers whose collective expertise spans the entire drug discovery process from target identification and validation to clinical candidate selection. The group has extensive experience within pharma and biotech environments and combines the biology, ADME/PK, analytical, medicinal and computational chemistry expertise with the state of the art infrastructure necessary to successfully advance drug discovery projects. 

In collaboration with FACIT her team has now spun out companies (Novera and Propellon) and partnered two assets with pharmaceutical companies.