The Fowke Lab

Curling CAHR
Curling 2018

CAHR 2019 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


The Laboratory of Viral Immunology is committed to excellence in basic infectious disease immunology research that will make a real impact on fighting disease.  To do this the lab recruits the best people and tries to provide a work environment that is equal parts academically stimulating and enjoyable.  While our careers are an important part of who we are, we believe that great researchers have well-rounded lives and they are also great people.  Therefore, the expectation of the quality of work is that it is at an international standard, and the expectation of the work environment is that it is open, collaborative, helpful and highly productive. 

































Principal Investigator:
Keith Fowke

Hometown: Winnipeg, MB (Born in Norway House, MB)


  • PhD (Medical Microbiology) UofM
  • BSc (Honours – Microbiology) UofM

Awards: Merit (Research - 2018), MMID Dr. Frank Plummer Researcher of the Year Award - 2018

Interests: Baseball, Hockey, Golf, and going to the Cottage




Laboratory Manager/Research Associate:
Dr. Julie Lajoie
Hometown: Louiseville, Québec

  • PhD with Honours in 2010 from the Université de Montréal
  • 2010, Post-doctoral fellowship in Dr. Keith Fowke’s Lab at the University of Manitoba
  • Graduate of the International Infectious Disease and Global Health Training Program
Research Project:
  • Effective sex hormones on HIV susceptibility
  • Role of blocking inflammation in HIV prevention

Awards: Frank Plummer Research Associate Research Award - 2018, Grand challenge Canada Star in Global Health phase I and II grant

Interests: Baking


 Steve Laboratory Technician
Stephen Wayne
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB

  • BSc (honours) in Microbiology, 1986
Research Project:
  • Influenza luminex bead assays
Interests: Hockey, Cars, Model Railroading, Food



Laboratory Technician:
Natasha Hollett

Program Coordinator: International Infectious Disease and Global Health Training Program (IID&GHTP)

Coordinator: Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Program (QES-2017)

Hometown: Clarenville, Newfoundland

  • MSc (Immunology and Infectious Diseases), 2008 Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN)
  • BEd. (Post-Secondary), 2008, MUN
  • BSc. (Biology/Physicology), 2005, MUN

Awards: President’s Award of Excellence - 2019

Sports, Food, and Wine





Allison Balasko MD/PhD Student

Hometown: Winnipeg, MB


  • BSc honour Microbiology
  • Trainee in the International Infectious Disease & Global Health Training Program

Research Project: My project focuses on understanding and reversing immune exhaustion in chronic HIV infection. More specifically, I study immune exhaustion markers, such as LAG-3 and PD-1, on immune cells like T, NK and iNKT cells to understand how these exhaustion markers affect immune cell function in people living chronically with HIV; are these immune cells too exhausted to function normally? Can we reverse this immune exhaustion resulting in a healthier immune response?

Awards: Vanier Doctoral Scholarship, CIHR Masters Scholarship, 2019 UM Emerging Leader, 2018 Student Affairs Participation Award

Interests: Basketball (U of M Varsity alumna, Go Bisons!), Biking, Hiking, Boating. Basically, anything outdoors!



Colin Graydon PhD Candidate Hometown: Surrey, BC

  • BSc, Microbiology & Immunology, University of British Columbia
  • Graduate of the International Infectious Disease & Global Health Training Program
Research Project:
I am investigating the mechanism and expression of LAG-3, a protein that suppresses the immune system. I study LAG-3 from the perspective of HIV infection, but what is discovered may have implications in tuberculosis, cancer, autoimmunity, allergy, and vaccine research.

  • Nancie J Mauro Graduate Scholarship in Oncology Research ($6250)  2019
  • 3 Minute Thesis 3rd place for University of Manitoba ($250) Feb.-Mar. 2017
  • Vanier Canada Graduate Student Scholarship, CIHR  ($150,000)  2016-2019
  • Research Manitoba MSc Award, Research Manitoba/U of M  ($35,700) 2015-2016
Interests: Student leadership, debate, rugby



Monika Kowatsch PhD Student

Hometown: Winnipeg MB


  • BSc in Microbiology, UofM
  • Currently a trainee in the International Infectious Disease & Global Health Training Program

Research Project: My research focuses how immune status relates to the risk of HIV acquisition with projects looking at how immune activation induced through solvent use relates to HIV risk as well as how the induction of a resting immune state can help protect individuals from HIV.


  • CIHR silver poster award (2019)
  • Manitoba Medical Service Foundation (MMSF) poster and travel awards (2019)
  • Mark Wainberg travel award (2018, 2019)

Scholarships:University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (2018-2020), Graduate Enhancement of Tri-Council Stipends (2016-2017) (2017-2018), Research Manitoba Graduate Fellowship – Masters Studentship (2016-2017)

Interests: Crocheting and Knitting, Canoeing and Kayaking, Gardening, Water polo

 Ken Kenneth Omollo PhD Student, University of Nairobi

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya


  • MSc. Medical Microbiology, University of Nairobi
  • BSc. Biomedical Technology, University of Nairobi
  • Graduate of the International Infectious Disease and Global Health Training Program

Research Project: My study is exploring the impact of exogenous sex hormones on the activation of T cells and innate cytokines in the blood and female genital tract as a possible mechanism by which contraceptives may increase one’s risk of HIV infection.

Awards:  Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Program -2016

Training Program: IID&GHTP trainee




Lucy Lucy Mwangi PhD Student, University of Nairobi

Home town: Nairobi, Kenya


  • MSc. Tropical and Infectious Diseases; University of Nairobi Institute of Tropical & Infectious Diseases, Kenya
  • BSc. Medical Laboratory Science; Kenyatta University, Kenya
  • Graduate of the International Infectious Diseases & Global Health Training Program Infectious Diseases and Global Health University of Manitoba, Canada

Research Project: My project studies the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to induce immune quiescence and limit the number of HIV target cells in the female

Genital Tract. Awards: Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholar - 2016

Interests: Infectious diseases and clinical research, global health


  Masters student, Toby Le Hometown: Guelph, ON


  • Bachelor of Medical Sciences (BMsc)
  • Honors Specialization in Microbiology and Immunology
Research Project: My research project focuses on how the intake of DMPA, a hormonal contraceptive, affects the risk of acquiring HIV among sex workers in Kenya. Specifically, I will be looking for these effects in innate immune cells such as monocytes and NK cells.

Awards: Tunaweza Global Opportunities Award, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship, Global and Intercultural Engagement Honor

Interests: Sustainable development, knowledge translation, running, hiking, & badminton
Shifa Masters student, Shifa Mohideen

Hometown: Lake Louise, AB


  • BSc Honours Microbiology at University of Manitoba, Masters Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at University of Manitoba

Research Project: My project studies show the inhibitory receptor, LAG-3, causes functional unresponsiveness in many immune cells in the context of HIV infection. Understanding the mechanistic basis of its expression dynamics and signal transduction can better inform targeted immunotherapies.

Awards: Leader of Tomorrow Scholar, The Mindel and Tom Olenick Medal for Highest Standing in Honours Microbiology

Interests: hiking, origami, skiing, quantum physics, collard greens

 Gillian Summer student, Gillian McIvor

Hometown: Winnipeg


  • Currently a student in the Faculty of Science, Biological Sciences

Research Project: Sunshine House project with  Monika Kowatsch as my Mentor

Awards: Undergraduate Research Award, PIKE-Net Internship award

Interests: Camping, Hiking, anything outdoors!