2016-2017 State of Biochemistry & Medical Genetics Address
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Welcome to the Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, otherwise known as BMG. Biochemistry, as a separate department, dates back to 1919 when it was formed as one of the pre-clinical departments of the newly established Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, of the University of Manitoba. Professor A.T. Cameron was appointed as the first Head of the Department. The history of human genetics in Manitoba dates back to 1944 when Dr. Bruce Chown, with Dr. Marion Lewis, established the Winnipeg Rh Laboratory. Dr. John Hamerton, later to become head of the first independent Human Genetics department, came to Winnipeg in 1969 to replace Dr. Irene Uchida, a pioneering cytogeneticist. Increasing complementarity of the research interests of many members of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Human Genetics, led to the merging of the two departments in 1998. Dr. Louise Simard is the current head.
BMG is located on the Bannatyne Campus, the main medical and health sciences campus of the University of Manitoba. In addition to laboratories, common research support facilities and equipment are available to our faculty and students. The department is home to biochemistry, molecular biological sciences, and medical genetics expertise, practiced in an intellectually enriching research and teaching environment in the Max Rady College of Medicine and Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Excellent and dedicated faculty members work closely with graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, residents in genetics, and clinical geneticists to advance our understanding of complex and diverse biological processes. BMG also participates in an accredited Royal College Training Program in Medical Genetics as well as Canadian College of Medical Geneticists fellowship training. Our faculty are locally, nationally, and internationally recognized and have received numerous prestigious awards for their accomplishments in teaching and research. Moreover, our faculty members contribute significantly in providing health care services to individuals and families affected with genetic and metabolic disorders.
Further information on our department, including faculty research interests, available training programs, as well as news and events, can be found using the navigation menu on the left side of this page.
The department’s fundamental mission is to provide scholarship in teaching, innovative research, and best practices in patient care. This mission includes advancing the frontiers of knowledge in biomolecular research, dedication to research underpinning the prevention and treatment of genetic and other diseases, and disseminating our knowledge, discoveries, and inventions. Our activities are pursued in a respectful and collaborative learning environment with the aim to better the health of Manitobans, Canadians and individuals worldwide.
To promote excellence in teaching, research, and patient care, our specific goals are to:
• provide a stimulating educational experience that will motivate our students to become outstanding independent investigators, practitioners, and teachers;
• promote an interdisciplinary and collaborative research environment among students and faculty; and
• provide clinical/medical services of the highest quality to individuals or families with problems in areas of clinical genetics and certain types of birth defects
REFLECTIONS ON 2016 – Message from the Head
After years of diligent efforts by Dr. Louise Simard and Genetic Counsellors Jessica Hartley, Sherri Burnett and Shannon Chin, the University of Manitoba and the Provincial Government of Manitoba approved our proposal to implement a M.Sc. degree program in Genetic Counselling. This accomplishment would not have been possible without the hard work of Dr. Alison Elliott (now at the University of British Columbia) who had the vision to seek support from the College of Medicine to create this program, Genetic Counsellor Erin Dola (now at the University of Utah) who was among the initial drivers of this proposal and Dean Brian Postl who was extremely supportive of this professional program. Importantly, we were granted New Program Accreditation status from the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). Genetic Counsellor Jessica Hartley is Acting Program Director and the application deadline for 2017 was February 1. We will commence training our first cohort of three students this September 2017. For more information, you are directed to the MSc in Genetic Counselling section of our website for prospective and current students.
Tri-Council funding has become increasingly difficult to acquire; this year, NSERC awards went to Dr. Jim Davie for research on “Protein arginine methyltransferases and transcriptionally active chromosomal domains”, Dr. Hao Ding to study the “Function of RTEL1 in protecting the heritable genome in spermatogonial stem cells”, and Dr. Mojgan Rastegar to study “Gene regulatory network of neural stem cells: Implicating the role of MeCP2 isoforms”. Dr. Jim Davie was a Co-Investigator on a CIHR Team Operating grant entitled “The Developmental Origins of Obesity and Obesity-related Complications in Children, while Dr. Spencer Gibson was the recipient of a CIHR Bridge Grant to pursue his work on “Targeting the regulation of subtypes of autophagy in cell survival and death to develop novel treatment strategies in glioblastoma”. Dr. Mojgan Rastegar also received funding from the International Rett Syndrome Foundation, and the Ontario Rett Syndrome Association. Dr. Barbara Triggs-Raine was awarded an operating grant from Glyconet to study the “Pathogenesis of, and therapeutic approaches for, hyaluronidase 2 (HYAL2) deficiency.
Our faculty were recognized by a number of significant awards in 2016. The most prestigious was the Rx&D’s Health Research Foundation Medal of Honour awarded to Distinguished Professor Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg in recognition of her outstanding contributions as a pediatrician, geneticist, and clinician scientist. Congratulations go to Dr. Kirk McManus for his University of Manitoba Merit Award for a Combination of Teaching, Service, and Research, as well as the 2016 Graduate Student’s Association Teaching Award; it is especially rewarding when one is recognized by one’s own students! Consistent with his outstanding mentorship, Dr. McManus’ students have received many distinctions; most notably, Laura Thompson obtained both the University of Manitoba Emerging Leader Award and the Most Promising Life Sciences Student Award. We are also pleased to announce that Clinician Scientist Dr. Versha Banerji was the recipient of a New Investigator Award from Research Manitoba, the premier funding body of the Province. Lastly, Dr. Mark Nachtigal was appointed as Director of the Interdisciplinary Health Program (IHP), a joint program of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and the faculties of Arts and Science. The IHP offers two undergraduate degrees, a Bachelor of Health Sciences, and a Bachelor of Health Studies; IHP aims to provide a strong foundation for students seeking entry into professional healthcare programs. More information can be obtained at the Interdisciplinary Health Program website.
This was a busy year and many of our graduate students successfully defended their thesis work. M.Sc. degrees were awarded to Eric Bouchard (Dr. Versha Banerji), Fahmida Jahan (Dr. Jeff Wigle), Angela Krutish (Drs. Michelle Liu and Louise Simard), Erin McAndrew (Dr. Kirk McManus), Niaz Mahmood (Dr. Jiuyong Xie), Amani Moraya (Dr. Mark Nachtigal), Megha Murali (Dr. Jeff Wigle), and Kate Zhao (Dr. Pingzhao Hu). PhD recipients included Biswajit Chowdhury (Dr. Barbara Triggs-Raine), Brent Guppy (Dr. Kirk McManus), Ravinder Kaur (Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie), Peter McQueen (Dr. John Wilkins), Samantha Pauls (Dr. Aaron Marshall), Yi Yan (Dr. Etienne Leygue), and Robby Zachariah (Dr. Mojgan Rastegar). They are to be congratulated for their hard work in disseminating their research, and passing their oral thesis examinations.
On the awards front, our students were even busier than our Faculty and received numerous recognitions at local, provincial, and national levels; here is a snapshot of a few of these distinctions. Anna Blankstein (M.Sc. student with Dr. Spencer Gibson) was awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s, while NSERC Postgraduate Doctoral Scholarships went to Sasha Blant (PhD student with Dr. Trevor Pemberton), and Laura Thompson (PhD student with Dr. Kirk McManus). Lisa Liang (PhD student with Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie) was among the CBC Manitoba Top 40 under 40, and she also received the Carolyn Cope Oncology Award. Research Manitoba Studentships went to Ifeoluwa Adewumi, Shayan Amiri, Anna Blankstein, Lucile Jeusset, and Nicole Wilkinson at the M.Sc. level, and to Lisa Liang, and Laura Thompson to complete their PhD studies. Yasamin Asbaghi (M.Sc. student with Dr. Kirk McManus) received the President’s Graduate Scholarship in Human Genetics. We have three departmental awards that are part of yearly competitions; this year, Lisa Liang was the recipient of the Human Genetics Endowment Fund, Laura Thompson received the Mindel Rady Olenick Fellowship in Human Genetics, and Sasha Blant and Chen Chi shared the Phyllis J. McAlpine Graduate Fellowship. Visit our Biochemistry and Medical Genetics News section of the website for a more fulsome list and more pictures!
This is the second year that the University of Manitoba (U Mb) held a Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition that challenges graduate students to describe their thesis work in a mere three minutes or less. Originating in the University of Queensland, there are now at least 43 participating universities with regional events held in Canada, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, and the United States. The first place University recipient moves on to the Western Regional 3MT® Competition. Congratulations to Lisa Liang for being chosen as one of 2016’s Top 10 Challengers.
Dr. Louise Simard, PhD
Professor & Head