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 2017 – Message from the Head
Reflections of 2017 from Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba by Dr. Louise R. Simard, Professor, Department Head
2017 witnessed the inaugural class of MSc Genetic Counselling trainees, Angela Krutish, Ashleigh Hansen, and Rachelle Dinchong posing from left to right with Rusty, the therapy dog. This has been a busy year with a mix of formal coursework, clinical rotations and the development of their graduate thesis topics. Rachelle came to us with an Honours BSc degree with High Distinction from the University of Toronto. Her graduate thesis topic is “Mitigating the psychosocial impact of a false positive newborn screen for inborn errors of metabolism”. Angela, native to Winnipeg, entered the program with a BSc in Genetics and an MSc in Biochemistry and Medical Genetics at the University of Manitoba. Her graduate thesis topic is “Exploration of the Genetic Assistant Position in the Genetics Clinic”. Ashleigh Hansen came into the program with a BSc in Microbiology from the University of Victoria. Her graduate thesis topic is “Exploring immigrants’ perceptions of genetic counselling: A case study”. Angela Krutish was the recipient of a Manitoba Graduate Student Fellowship, while Rachelle Dinchong was awarded a University of Manitoba Graduate Scholarship.
Additionally, 2017 marked a number of pivotal milestones for Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie, recruited to our department, and the Regenerative Medicine Program in November 2010. This year, Dr. Werbowetski-Ogilvie achieved tenure, and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor. Evidence in support of these achievements included the national recognition she received through the renewal of her Tier II Canada Research Chair in Neuro-oncology and human stem cells which commenced in July 2017 and runs to June 2022. Furthermore, Dr. Werbowetski-Ogilvie became the first Manitoban, and one of the few Canadians to be awarded an Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Innovation grant, a two year ~$249K US award to study the role of OTX2-semaphorin gene signaling pathways in highly aggressive medulloblastomas. Part of this work was piloted by 2017 CIHR Project Grant Bridge funding (April to Sept. 2017). Together, this has allowed her to recruit two new post-doctoral fellows, Drs. Jamie Zagozewski (PhD trainee of Dr. David Eisenstat), and Brent Guppy (PhD trainee of Dr. Kirk McManus). Dr. Zagozewski was the recipient of a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the partnership of Research Manitoba, the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, and CancerCare Manitoba (2017-2019). We look forward to following Jamie’s, and Brent’s progress in understanding medulloblastoma pathobiology and potential combinatorial therapeutic modalities in the coming years. Finally, Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie was one of the 2017 nominees for the YMCA/YWCA Women of Distinction Award.
Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie
Other Faculty members were also successful in attracting research funding despite the current exceedingly competitive and challenging environment; consequently, it is doubly important to celebrate these successes. Funding was attracted from a wide variety of organizations that include the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (Dr. Pingzhao Hu as Co-investigator), Cancer Research Society (Drs. Mark Nachtigal and Kirk McManus), CancerCare Manitoba Foundation (Dr. Kirk McManus), Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (Drs. Pingzhao Hu, Barbara Triggs-Raine), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie), Canada Research Chairs (Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie), Diagnostic Services Manitoba (Drs. Mark Nachtigal and Kirk McManus), Glyconet (Drs. Gilbert Arthur, Brian Mark and Barbara Triggs-Raine), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (Dr. Jeffrey Wigle), Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (Dr. Spencer Gibson), NSERC (Drs. Jim Davie, Barbara Triggs-Raine), Research Manitoba (Drs. Hao Ding and Trevor Pemberton), St. Boniface Hospital Foundation (Dr. Jeffrey Wigle), and the Western Canadian Universities, Collaborative Project Seed Funding (Dr. Pingzhao Hu). Dr. Hu was also a Co-investigator on a five-year NSERC CREATE Program grant award of $1.65 million dollars to support the “Visual and automated disease analytics (VADA)” training experience. Dr. Leigh Murphy is a Co-investigator of a recently funded “Investigator Initiated Research Scheme” by the National Breast Cancer Foundation in Australia, a >1 million dollar Australian-Canadian initiative that seeks to use “proteomics to transform treatment decisions for breast cancer”. An important component of this initiative will be the Canadian Breast Cancer Tissue Bank. Collectively, this funding will advance our research programs, and provide critical support to our trainees.
The department is built upon the productivity of its trainees and fed by our graduate program. This year, Ifeoluwa Adwewumi (Dr. Jim Davie), Yasamin Asbaghi (Dr. Kirk McManus), Anna Blankstein (Dr. Spencer Gibson), Chi Chen (Dr. Pingzhao Hu), Lexi Ciapala (Dr. Spencer Gibson), Miriam Derksen (Dr. Spencer Gibson), Veronica Lau (Dr. Jim Davie), and Margaret Stromecki (Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie) defended, and were conferred their MSc degrees. Two students received their PhD degrees, Alexandra Kuzyk and Sanzida Jahan under the guidance of Drs. Sabine Mai and Jim Davie, respectively. The quality of our graduate students was recognized by a number of awards. PhD candidate Lisa Liang (Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie) was awarded the Sheu L. Lee Family Scholarship in Oncology Research and the Nancie J Mauro Graduate Scholarship in Oncology Research. PhD candidate Sasha Blant (Dr. Trevor Pemberton) was the recipient of two very prestigious University and Departmental awards, namely, the President's Graduate Scholarship in Human Genetics and the Phyllis J. McAlpine Graduate Fellowship, respectively. Research Manitoba graduate student fellowships were awarded to Fadumo Osman (Dr. Jim Davie) and Amandeep Singh (Dr. Spencer Gibson). Amandeep Singh was also a recipient of a Masters NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship. On the postdoctoral front, Dr. Svetlana Frenkel (Dr. Pingzhao Hu) was recognized for her “Poster of Distinction” at the recent American Gastroenterological Association Digestive Disease Week. This distinction underscores the fact that her work was rated in the top 10% of all AGA abstracts selected for poster presentation. Finally, our students highlight their research progress at the departmental Seminar Series and every year we witness a wide range of topics that transcend many disciplines. One striking example this year was a number of presentations outlining the use of machine learning to better our understanding of cancer. At the end of each cycle, graduate trainees vote for the most outstanding Oral Presentations, and in 2017 the top three awards went to Margaret Stromecki (MSc trainee with Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie), Laura Thompson (PhD trainee with Dr. Kirk McManus) and Chen Chi (MSc trainee with Dr. Pingzhao Hu).
Not to be outshone by our trainees, Faculty were also at the receiving end of several important awards. Congratulations go to Dr. Jim Davie who was the Canadians for Health Research “Researcher of the Month” this past April 2017 and Dr. Kirk McManus who received the “Scientists’ Choice Award” for the 2016 Best Drug Discovery & Development Article of the Year entitled “Identification and characterization of cancer risk factors using high throughput cell screening”. Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg continues to receive accolades and this year was given the 2017 Founders Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to Clinical Genetics and Metabolic Disorders and an outstanding career in Medical Genetics in Canada and abroad.
Dr. Louise Simard, PhD
Professor & Head