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Montreal's Application to the Smart Cities Challenge

Newsroom - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:17

« Face aux grands enjeux de mobilité et d’accessibilité aux services, la Ville de Montréal a décidé de miser sur l’intelligence collective et la collaboration pour faire émerger des solutions tangibles, se basant sur le dynamisme de sa vie de quartier. » - Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal

 

Published: 18May2018

McGill partners with KINOVA to foster innovation in robotics

«McGill Reporter» - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 15:33

Left to Right: Prof. Jake Barralet (McGill), Stuart Kozlick (Kinova), Dr. David Eidelman (McGill), Dr. Kevin Lachapelle (McGill), François Boucher (Kinova), Prof. Dave Meger (McGill) at today’s announcement. / Photo: Owen Egan / Joanie Dufour

By Diane Weidner

McGill and KINOVA, one of Canada’s fastest-growing robotics companies, have signed an agreement that aims to foster productive and collaborative research to fuel the cycle of innovation. This partnership will harness the possibilities of technology and robotics through KINOVA’s collaboration with McGill’s Faculty of Medicine at the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning, and with the Faculties of Engineering and Science’s joint Centre for Intelligent Machines (CIM).

The accord paves the way for open collaboration on a variety of projects involving medical, surgical or assistive robotics. The pact will help to integrate robotics into daily learning at the university and builds on KINOVA’s history of harnessing technology to help those living with illness. The Montreal company was co-founded by Charles Deguire, who supported and assisted three of his uncles living with muscular dystrophy. Inspired by one uncle’s invention of a makeshift arm to help with tasks such as picking up a glass of water or opening doors, Deguire helped lay the groundwork for KINOVA.

“By maximizing the distinct capabilities of our two market-leading entities, we aim to develop collaboratively novel technologies and solutions with the objective of helping to improve the standard of care around the world,” says Stuart Kozlick, Vice President of Medical Robotics at KINOVA. “This collaboration with McGill University is another important step in our commitment to advancing medical robotic technologies. Together, we aim to put the best science, technology, and research know-how in the hands of medical teams around the world.”

“At the core of successful partnerships are shared values, such as that of McGill and KINOVA to bring innovative solutions to society through research,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “With KINOVA’s robotic arms and industrial guidance, two of McGill’s top interdisciplinary research groups, the CIM and the Steinberg Centre, will integrate robotics into daily learning and research at the university and create opportunities to accomplish extraordinary feats beyond their own limits.”

The Steinberg Centre facilities provide an optimal virtual environment for the design, development and implementation of novel products and processes prior to their introduction into clinical settings. “Working with KINOVA’s Robotic Manipulator Arm represents the first wave of our innovation mission, to use simulation as a tool to assist in the progress of medical innovations,” says Jake Barralet, Director of Innovation at the Steinberg Centre and Faculty of Medicine. “Having access to the expertise of KINOVA developers who will be based at our Centre will allow us to develop a wider range of academic and technological specialism in solving modern health care challenges.”

CIM is a leader in Canada in field robotics, developing theory, hardware, and software for high-performance autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic mechanisms and systems. “The collaboration with KINOVA will allow CIM researchers to more fully test their theories and techniques on practical applications in assistive robotics and human-robot interaction,” notes James Clark, Director of CIM. “Being able to work closely with KINOVA engineers and scientists and having access to state-of-the-art robot manipulators will enhance the research and training mission of CIM.”

Keith Blanchet, Director of Innovation at KINOVA is excited to see these two renowned groups at McGill engaged to make a difference with KINOVA in a cross-sector collaboration framework. “With the acceleration of technology evolution, collaborations such as this are key to KINOVA’s growth and will enable the research community to tackle the global challenges facing us.”

 

McGill partners with KINOVA to foster innovation in robotics

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 15:33

Left to Right: Prof. Jake Barralet (McGill), Stuart Kozlick (Kinova), Dr. David Eidelman (McGill), Dr. Kevin Lachapelle (McGill), François Boucher (Kinova), Prof. Dave Meger (McGill) at today’s announcement. / Photo: Owen Egan / Joanie Dufour

By Diane Weidner

McGill and KINOVA, one of Canada’s fastest-growing robotics companies, have signed an agreement that aims to foster productive and collaborative research to fuel the cycle of innovation. This partnership will harness the possibilities of technology and robotics through KINOVA’s collaboration with McGill’s Faculty of Medicine at the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning, and with the Faculties of Engineering and Science’s joint Centre for Intelligent Machines (CIM).

The accord paves the way for open collaboration on a variety of projects involving medical, surgical or assistive robotics. The pact will help to integrate robotics into daily learning at the university and builds on KINOVA’s history of harnessing technology to help those living with illness. The Montreal company was co-founded by Charles Deguire, who supported and assisted three of his uncles living with muscular dystrophy. Inspired by one uncle’s invention of a makeshift arm to help with tasks such as picking up a glass of water or opening doors, Deguire helped lay the groundwork for KINOVA.

“By maximizing the distinct capabilities of our two market-leading entities, we aim to develop collaboratively novel technologies and solutions with the objective of helping to improve the standard of care around the world,” says Stuart Kozlick, Vice President of Medical Robotics at KINOVA. “This collaboration with McGill University is another important step in our commitment to advancing medical robotic technologies. Together, we aim to put the best science, technology, and research know-how in the hands of medical teams around the world.”

“At the core of successful partnerships are shared values, such as that of McGill and KINOVA to bring innovative solutions to society through research,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “With KINOVA’s robotic arms and industrial guidance, two of McGill’s top interdisciplinary research groups, the CIM and the Steinberg Centre, will integrate robotics into daily learning and research at the university and create opportunities to accomplish extraordinary feats beyond their own limits.”

The Steinberg Centre facilities provide an optimal virtual environment for the design, development and implementation of novel products and processes prior to their introduction into clinical settings. “Working with KINOVA’s Robotic Manipulator Arm represents the first wave of our innovation mission, to use simulation as a tool to assist in the progress of medical innovations,” says Jake Barralet, Director of Innovation at the Steinberg Centre and Faculty of Medicine. “Having access to the expertise of KINOVA developers who will be based at our Centre will allow us to develop a wider range of academic and technological specialism in solving modern health care challenges.”

CIM is a leader in Canada in field robotics, developing theory, hardware, and software for high-performance autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic mechanisms and systems. “The collaboration with KINOVA will allow CIM researchers to more fully test their theories and techniques on practical applications in assistive robotics and human-robot interaction,” notes James Clark, Director of CIM. “Being able to work closely with KINOVA engineers and scientists and having access to state-of-the-art robot manipulators will enhance the research and training mission of CIM.”

Keith Blanchet, Director of Innovation at KINOVA is excited to see these two renowned groups at McGill engaged to make a difference with KINOVA in a cross-sector collaboration framework. “With the acceleration of technology evolution, collaborations such as this are key to KINOVA’s growth and will enable the research community to tackle the global challenges facing us.”

 

Visiting scholar earns Getty/ACLS Postdoc Fellowship

«McGill Reporter» - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 15:10

Gül Kale

By McGill Reporter Staff

Gül Kale, a visiting scholar at the Institute of Islamic Studies, is one of 10 recipients of the new Getty/ American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art.

Each 12-month fellowship includes a $60,000 stipend and an additional $5,000 for travel and research. Awardees will convene at the Getty Foundation for a week-long residency upon completion of their fellowships, creating a community of scholars connected to one another. The fellowships encourage projects that make substantial and original contributions to the understanding of art and its history, an endeavor that now includes both technical and digital art history.

Kale, who holds a PhD from McGill’s Architectural History and Theory Program (2014), is an affiliated fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. The Getty/ACLS Fellowship will support Kale’s work titled Unfolding Text, Image, and Artifact: Theory, Poetics, and Ethics in Cafer Efendi’s Seventeenth-Century Book on Ottoman Architecture. The book-length project is the first sustained and critical analysis of A Book on Architecture, the scholar Cafer Efendi’s book about Ottoman architecture and the life of Mehmed Agha, the chief architect of the Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul in 1617.

“We believe that research support is essential to maintain art history as a strong and vital discipline in the humanities,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “The Getty Foundation’s partnership with ACLS is an opportunity to provide promising scholars the time and space they need to write, travel, and interact with collections and peers. We hope these fellows will become future leaders in art history.”

The Postdoctoral Fellowships were a flagship Getty Foundation program for 25 years. From 1984 to 2009, over 350 fellowships were awarded to scholars at the beginning of their careers. The program focused on broadening the definition of the visual arts and strengthening the connection between art history and other humanistic disciplines.

The new program allows for more cross-disciplinary research, new modes of interpretation, and projects that have an impact on the broader field of art history beyond the recipient’s specific sub-fields.

“This year’s awardees exemplify the new fellowship program’s commitment to advancing innovative research that not only broadens the understanding of art and its history, but enriches humanistic knowledge around the world,” said Pauline Yu, president of ACLS. “We look forward to another amazing and global pool of applicants next year.”

See the full list of recipients.

Visiting scholar earns Getty/ACLS Postdoc Fellowship

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 15:10

Gül Kale

By McGill Reporter Staff

Gül Kale, a visiting scholar at the Institute of Islamic Studies, is one of 10 recipients of the new Getty/ American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art.

Each 12-month fellowship includes a $60,000 stipend and an additional $5,000 for travel and research. Awardees will convene at the Getty Foundation for a week-long residency upon completion of their fellowships, creating a community of scholars connected to one another. The fellowships encourage projects that make substantial and original contributions to the understanding of art and its history, an endeavor that now includes both technical and digital art history.

Kale, who holds a PhD from McGill’s Architectural History and Theory Program (2014), is an affiliated fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. The Getty/ACLS Fellowship will support Kale’s work titled Unfolding Text, Image, and Artifact: Theory, Poetics, and Ethics in Cafer Efendi’s Seventeenth-Century Book on Ottoman Architecture. The book-length project is the first sustained and critical analysis of A Book on Architecture, the scholar Cafer Efendi’s book about Ottoman architecture and the life of Mehmed Agha, the chief architect of the Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul in 1617.

“We believe that research support is essential to maintain art history as a strong and vital discipline in the humanities,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “The Getty Foundation’s partnership with ACLS is an opportunity to provide promising scholars the time and space they need to write, travel, and interact with collections and peers. We hope these fellows will become future leaders in art history.”

The Postdoctoral Fellowships were a flagship Getty Foundation program for 25 years. From 1984 to 2009, over 350 fellowships were awarded to scholars at the beginning of their careers. The program focused on broadening the definition of the visual arts and strengthening the connection between art history and other humanistic disciplines.

The new program allows for more cross-disciplinary research, new modes of interpretation, and projects that have an impact on the broader field of art history beyond the recipient’s specific sub-fields.

“This year’s awardees exemplify the new fellowship program’s commitment to advancing innovative research that not only broadens the understanding of art and its history, but enriches humanistic knowledge around the world,” said Pauline Yu, president of ACLS. “We look forward to another amazing and global pool of applicants next year.”

See the full list of recipients.

How will climate change impact Quebec’s protected areas?

«McGill Reporter» - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:47

Climate change in Quebec may lead to a much greater diversity of species and a need to rethink conservation paradigms. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By Katherine Gombay

A team of researchers believe that Quebec’s protected areas are poised to become biodiversity refuges of continental importance. They used ecological niche modelling to calculate potential changes in the presence of 529 species in about 1/3 of the protected areas in southern Quebec almost all of which were under 50 km2, in size.

Their results suggest that fifty to eighty years from now (between 2071–2100) close to half of the protected regions of southern Quebec may see a species turnover of greater than 80 per cent. The research team, from l’Université du Québec à Rimouski, le Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, and McGill believe that, depending on the region, the gain in the number of species of birds, amphibians, trees, and vascular flowering plants could range from 12 and 530 per cent. It is the first study to examine in such details the potential effects of climate change on the biodiversity of a large network of northern protected areas.

A need to rethink conservation paradigms?

The researchers believe that the scale and rapidity of the species turnover will also result in a necessary reexamination of current conservation paradigms, since it will be impossible to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity in the National Parks. More specifically, the researchers believe that:

  • Rather than trying to preserve current biodiversity in the National Parks, a more effective conservation strategy to ensure future biodiversity may be to preserve site resilience and a diversity of physical features and conditions.
  • There will potentially be complicated choices ahead for managers of protected areas as increasing numbers of new immigrant species colonize protected sites. If historical communities are deeply modified, the managers may need self-sustaining populations of non-native species in some protected areas. But newly arriving species may also have negative impacts on ecosystem structure and function.
  • Assigning conservation status to rare and recently naturalized species may prove a thorny issue, given that a significant portion of northern species are already at risk. But the conservation value of rare new species should be considered in a long-term continental perspective rather than short-term national perspective.
  • It will be important to preserve and restore connectivity of protected areas to allow potential corridors for migration. In this way, species will avoid being trapped for decades or centuries between rapid retreat from the territory’s southern edge and only a slow advance on the northern edge.

The researchers caution, however, that potential species gains should not draw attention away from the potential extinction of local species that may no longer find suitable conditions in future in the protected areas where they are at the moment. The geographical pattern of potential relative species loss suggests that several species could disappear in both the southernmost protected areas of Quebec, and in the higher latitudes, where the extinction of only a few local species can have drastic effects on whole ecological communities.

Read the full article Northern protected areas will become important refuges for biodiversity tracking suitable climates online.

How will climate change impact Quebec’s protected areas?

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:47

Climate change in Quebec may lead to a much greater diversity of species and a need to rethink conservation paradigms. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By Katherine Gombay

A team of researchers believe that Quebec’s protected areas are poised to become biodiversity refuges of continental importance. They used ecological niche modelling to calculate potential changes in the presence of 529 species in about 1/3 of the protected areas in southern Quebec almost all of which were under 50 km2, in size.

Their results suggest that fifty to eighty years from now (between 2071–2100) close to half of the protected regions of southern Quebec may see a species turnover of greater than 80 per cent. The research team, from l’Université du Québec à Rimouski, le Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, and McGill believe that, depending on the region, the gain in the number of species of birds, amphibians, trees, and vascular flowering plants could range from 12 and 530 per cent. It is the first study to examine in such details the potential effects of climate change on the biodiversity of a large network of northern protected areas.

A need to rethink conservation paradigms?

The researchers believe that the scale and rapidity of the species turnover will also result in a necessary reexamination of current conservation paradigms, since it will be impossible to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity in the National Parks. More specifically, the researchers believe that:

  • Rather than trying to preserve current biodiversity in the National Parks, a more effective conservation strategy to ensure future biodiversity may be to preserve site resilience and a diversity of physical features and conditions.
  • There will potentially be complicated choices ahead for managers of protected areas as increasing numbers of new immigrant species colonize protected sites. If historical communities are deeply modified, the managers may need self-sustaining populations of non-native species in some protected areas. But newly arriving species may also have negative impacts on ecosystem structure and function.
  • Assigning conservation status to rare and recently naturalized species may prove a thorny issue, given that a significant portion of northern species are already at risk. But the conservation value of rare new species should be considered in a long-term continental perspective rather than short-term national perspective.
  • It will be important to preserve and restore connectivity of protected areas to allow potential corridors for migration. In this way, species will avoid being trapped for decades or centuries between rapid retreat from the territory’s southern edge and only a slow advance on the northern edge.

The researchers caution, however, that potential species gains should not draw attention away from the potential extinction of local species that may no longer find suitable conditions in future in the protected areas where they are at the moment. The geographical pattern of potential relative species loss suggests that several species could disappear in both the southernmost protected areas of Quebec, and in the higher latitudes, where the extinction of only a few local species can have drastic effects on whole ecological communities.

Read the full article Northern protected areas will become important refuges for biodiversity tracking suitable climates online.

Living with MS – A patient’s story

«McGill Reporter» - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:22

Marc Vaillancourt hasn’t let living with MS for the past 18 years slow him down. “I have a good life,” he says.

Diagnosed with MS almost two decades ago, Marc Vaillancourt refused to change his lifestyle

By Victor Swoboda

Marc Vaillancourt remembers his defiant reaction when Dr. Liam Durcan, a neurologist at The Neuro, confirmed a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

“I told the doctor, ‘This disease is not going to change my life.’”

That was about 18 years ago. Since then, Vaillancourt, now 49, has dutifully taken medicine to manage his relapsing-remitting MS, but stubbornly has not altered his lifestyle.

“I was told to avoid the sun — I often had my MS symptoms in summer — but I love summer and the heat. That’s why I go south every winter,” says Vaillancourt, a creative director in advertising who works from home.

Nonetheless, as a result of MS, he had to relent and give up rugby, a sport that he played while living in Australia as a university student in the mid-1990s.

“When I returned to Canada, I played rugby in a West Island Montreal league but I had to quit because my dexterity was bad.”

Vaillancourt first noticed that something was wrong in his final year at university.

“I began getting severe pain in my eye. My vision was blurry. I had a headache that lasted four or five weeks.”

Body doesn’t respond to brain’s commands

Australian doctors speculated that it might be a brain tumour or other form of cancer, but it was not until a year after Vaillancourt returned to Canada that the disconnect between his mind and muscles noticeably bothered him.

“I was at a computer and my brain was saying, ‘Move the mouse,’ but my hand wasn’t moving it. I saw my general practitioner and he sent me at once to Dr. Durcan.”

Vaillancourt underwent magnetic resonance scans as well as a lumbar puncture, a diagnostic procedure in which cerebrospinal fluid is removed from the lower spine with a needle. Born and raised in the francophone area of northern Ontario, Vaillancourt came from a family with no history of MS.

“I didn’t know anything about MS,” recalls Vaillancourt. “The only thing I knew was Annette Funicello.”

Funicello, a Hollywood actress who became famous in the 1950s as a TV Mouseketeer and later as a teen star in California beach movies, publicly revealed in 1992 that she had MS. A Canadian documentary profiling her in 2012 showed her in a wheelchair, unable to walk or talk. She died a year later at age 70.

Under the care of Dr. Amit Bar Orr, a former neurologist at The Neuro, Vaillancourt participated for more than a decade in a clinical trial of the drug Aubagio.

“My remissions were always unpredictable,” recalls Vaillancourt of those years. “I could be in remission for a couple of days or a week. Everybody who has MS has different symptoms. When I had my lumbar puncture, I became friendly with a girl who was diagnosed with MS at the same time. She’s been in a wheelchair for almost ten years. It’s weird how this disease differs among men and women. And there’s a higher incidence of MS among women than men.”

Health Canada approved Aubagio in 2013 but approval was not to Vaillancourt’s benefit.

“I was on the seven milligram version of Aubagio but Health Canada approved only the 14 milligram version,” he notes. “I began the 14 milligrams, but it wasn’t doing well for me.”

New prescription, new man

Vaillancourt subsequently fell into “a little depression” and was less active, which caused him to put on weight. Dr. Bar Orr prescribed a different MS drug, Lemtrada.

“I finished my second cycle of Lemtrada last October and now I feel like a new man,” says Vaillancourt. “I go to the gym four or five times a week, and take hour-long walks.”

But there were side effects related to the drug.

“My sleep patterns became completely different. I have trouble falling asleep. Dr. Bar Orr prescribed me a medication if I can’t sleep. I’m a creature of habit and routine and still rise at seven. I’d like to try and see about going back to a nine to five job and how my body would react.”

Vaillancourt describes himself as “the kind of person who always sees the positive in everything.” Oddly enough, he finds that his approach can work against him.

“Friends have told me, ‘You’re too positive sometimes because people don’t know if you need help.’ I don’t ask for help because I don’t want to be a burden. I’d rather people offer help.”

Vaillancourt also finds that his normal appearance and behaviour can belie his condition.

“My friends and others who have MS say that just by looking at me, they wouldn’t guess I had MS. At other times, they know right away that I’m having an episode, but they know I’m still Marc. Some friends wonder, ‘Should we invite you over?’ and I say, ‘Just extend the invitation and I’ll say yes or no.’”

Vaillancourt says that people sometimes make the mistake of believing that they should leave someone with a disease alone because “he needs to rest.”

When Dr. Bar Orr left The Neuro last year, he left Vaillancourt in the hands of his colleague, Dr. Alex Saveriano. Vaillancourt now sees Dr. Saveriano every six months.

With regular clinical care, effective medication, and an understanding circle of friends, Marc can honestly say, “I have a good life.”

Living with MS – A patient’s story

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:22

Marc Vaillancourt hasn’t let living with MS for the past 18 years slow him down. “I have a good life,” he says.

Diagnosed with MS almost two decades ago, Marc Vaillancourt refused to change his lifestyle

By Victor Swoboda

Marc Vaillancourt remembers his defiant reaction when Dr. Liam Durcan, a neurologist at The Neuro, confirmed a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

“I told the doctor, ‘This disease is not going to change my life.’”

That was about 18 years ago. Since then, Vaillancourt, now 49, has dutifully taken medicine to manage his relapsing-remitting MS, but stubbornly has not altered his lifestyle.

“I was told to avoid the sun — I often had my MS symptoms in summer — but I love summer and the heat. That’s why I go south every winter,” says Vaillancourt, a creative director in advertising who works from home.

Nonetheless, as a result of MS, he had to relent and give up rugby, a sport that he played while living in Australia as a university student in the mid-1990s.

“When I returned to Canada, I played rugby in a West Island Montreal league but I had to quit because my dexterity was bad.”

Vaillancourt first noticed that something was wrong in his final year at university.

“I began getting severe pain in my eye. My vision was blurry. I had a headache that lasted four or five weeks.”

Body doesn’t respond to brain’s commands

Australian doctors speculated that it might be a brain tumour or other form of cancer, but it was not until a year after Vaillancourt returned to Canada that the disconnect between his mind and muscles noticeably bothered him.

“I was at a computer and my brain was saying, ‘Move the mouse,’ but my hand wasn’t moving it. I saw my general practitioner and he sent me at once to Dr. Durcan.”

Vaillancourt underwent magnetic resonance scans as well as a lumbar puncture, a diagnostic procedure in which cerebrospinal fluid is removed from the lower spine with a needle. Born and raised in the francophone area of northern Ontario, Vaillancourt came from a family with no history of MS.

“I didn’t know anything about MS,” recalls Vaillancourt. “The only thing I knew was Annette Funicello.”

Funicello, a Hollywood actress who became famous in the 1950s as a TV Mouseketeer and later as a teen star in California beach movies, publicly revealed in 1992 that she had MS. A Canadian documentary profiling her in 2012 showed her in a wheelchair, unable to walk or talk. She died a year later at age 70.

Under the care of Dr. Amit Bar Orr, a former neurologist at The Neuro, Vaillancourt participated for more than a decade in a clinical trial of the drug Aubagio.

“My remissions were always unpredictable,” recalls Vaillancourt of those years. “I could be in remission for a couple of days or a week. Everybody who has MS has different symptoms. When I had my lumbar puncture, I became friendly with a girl who was diagnosed with MS at the same time. She’s been in a wheelchair for almost ten years. It’s weird how this disease differs among men and women. And there’s a higher incidence of MS among women than men.”

Health Canada approved Aubagio in 2013 but approval was not to Vaillancourt’s benefit.

“I was on the seven milligram version of Aubagio but Health Canada approved only the 14 milligram version,” he notes. “I began the 14 milligrams, but it wasn’t doing well for me.”

New prescription, new man

Vaillancourt subsequently fell into “a little depression” and was less active, which caused him to put on weight. Dr. Bar Orr prescribed a different MS drug, Lemtrada.

“I finished my second cycle of Lemtrada last October and now I feel like a new man,” says Vaillancourt. “I go to the gym four or five times a week, and take hour-long walks.”

But there were side effects related to the drug.

“My sleep patterns became completely different. I have trouble falling asleep. Dr. Bar Orr prescribed me a medication if I can’t sleep. I’m a creature of habit and routine and still rise at seven. I’d like to try and see about going back to a nine to five job and how my body would react.”

Vaillancourt describes himself as “the kind of person who always sees the positive in everything.” Oddly enough, he finds that his approach can work against him.

“Friends have told me, ‘You’re too positive sometimes because people don’t know if you need help.’ I don’t ask for help because I don’t want to be a burden. I’d rather people offer help.”

Vaillancourt also finds that his normal appearance and behaviour can belie his condition.

“My friends and others who have MS say that just by looking at me, they wouldn’t guess I had MS. At other times, they know right away that I’m having an episode, but they know I’m still Marc. Some friends wonder, ‘Should we invite you over?’ and I say, ‘Just extend the invitation and I’ll say yes or no.’”

Vaillancourt says that people sometimes make the mistake of believing that they should leave someone with a disease alone because “he needs to rest.”

When Dr. Bar Orr left The Neuro last year, he left Vaillancourt in the hands of his colleague, Dr. Alex Saveriano. Vaillancourt now sees Dr. Saveriano every six months.

With regular clinical care, effective medication, and an understanding circle of friends, Marc can honestly say, “I have a good life.”

Beyond killing tuberculosis

«McGill Reporter» - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 11:48

Maziar Divangahi and Nargis Khan at the Meakins-Christie Laboratories at the Research Institute of the MUHC, Glen site.

How can we tolerate an infection without eliminating a pathogen?

By MUHC Public Affairs

Historically, our view of host defense against infection was that we must eliminate pathogens to eradicate disease. However, this perspective has recently been challenged as scientists have taken a lesson from plant biologists about an ancient strategy involving the ability to “tolerate” rather than “resist” infection to maintain health. This concept, referred to as “disease tolerance,” provides an opportunity to develop new strategies that mitigate the consequences of infection.

Since the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or Mtb, (the bacteria causing TB) over a century ago, great progress has been made in defining strategies that facilitate elimination of the bacteria. For instance, the discovery of antibiotics was a major breakthrough in the treatment of active TB. However, greater than 90 per cent of TB-infected individuals tolerate the bacteria without any treatment.

Colored X-ray of a patient’s chest showing disseminated tuberculosis in the lungs. The lungs contain lesions (tubercles, pink) consisting of infected dead tissue. / Image: Du Cane Medical Imaging Ltd / Science Photo Library

Dr. Maziar Divangahi, a pulmonary immunologist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), and a professor of Medicine at McGill, has been trying to explain why the vast majority of people infected with Mtb can tolerate the infection without developing disease. Clinicians refer to this condition as “latent tuberculosis”, and it affects a quarter of the global population. “TB is a perfect example of disease tolerance,” says Dr. Divangahi who is also the associate director of the Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases Program at the RI-MUHC and a member of the McGill International TB Centre.

Dr. Divangahi’s team found that rather than fighting to resist the pathogen, the body’s tolerance to Mtb is the key mechanism for preventing the spread of the infection. More surprisingly, they found that having excessive levels of T cells, which are known as soldiers of our immune system, could cause more harm than good.

“We always thought that having more T cells would provide better protection against TB. Instead, we found that it could imbalance disease tolerance causing extensive tissue damage and ultimately killing the host,” says Dr. Divangahi, lead author of the study published recently in Science Immunology, who is the also the associate director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

Disease tolerance versus host resistance

Our body’s defense system is divided into two arms: one is resistance, which aims to eliminate the pathogen, while the other is tolerance, which is designed to control the tissue damage caused by the infection.

“While disease tolerance is an established field of research in simple organisms such as plants, our understanding of this host defense strategy in humans is very limited,” says Dr. Divangahi.

Although, immunologists and vaccinologists have made progress in the study of host resistance to infectious diseases, little is known about the mechanisms of disease tolerance in humans.

A key protein in disease tolerance

Dr. Divangahi’s team determined that a protein in the mitochondria called cyclophilin D (CypD) acts as a key checkpoint for T cell activation. Through collaboration with McGill’s Dr. Russell Jones, who is an international expert in T cell biology, they identified that CypD is required for controlling T cell metabolism.  “T cells are traditionally considered to be important in eliminating Mtb,” says Dr. Divangahi. “However, we found that increasing T cell activation in mice by eliminating a metabolic checkpoint unexpectedly compromised host survival without any impact on the growth of Mtb.”

“In contrast to conventional thinking, we show that T cells are essential for regulating the body’s tolerance to Mtb infection,” explains one of the study’s first authors, Dr. Nargis Khan, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Divangahi’s lab at the RI-MUHC.

Giving the widespread drug resistance to various Mtb strains the limited pipeline of effective antibiotics and the lack of an efficient vaccine, alternative approaches to treat TB are urgent. “If we could understand the mechanisms of ‘natural immunity’ that controls TB in 90-95 per cent of infected individuals,” says Dr. Divangahi,“we will able to design a novel therapy or vaccine to substantially reduce the world wide burden of this ancient disease.”

Beyond killing tuberculosis

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 11:48

Maziar Divangahi and Nargis Khan at the Meakins-Christie Laboratories at the Research Institute of the MUHC, Glen site.

How can we tolerate an infection without eliminating a pathogen?

By MUHC Public Affairs

Historically, our view of host defense against infection was that we must eliminate pathogens to eradicate disease. However, this perspective has recently been challenged as scientists have taken a lesson from plant biologists about an ancient strategy involving the ability to “tolerate” rather than “resist” infection to maintain health. This concept, referred to as “disease tolerance,” provides an opportunity to develop new strategies that mitigate the consequences of infection.

Since the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or Mtb, (the bacteria causing TB) over a century ago, great progress has been made in defining strategies that facilitate elimination of the bacteria. For instance, the discovery of antibiotics was a major breakthrough in the treatment of active TB. However, greater than 90 per cent of TB-infected individuals tolerate the bacteria without any treatment.

Colored X-ray of a patient’s chest showing disseminated tuberculosis in the lungs. The lungs contain lesions (tubercles, pink) consisting of infected dead tissue. / Image: Du Cane Medical Imaging Ltd / Science Photo Library

Dr. Maziar Divangahi, a pulmonary immunologist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), and a professor of Medicine at McGill, has been trying to explain why the vast majority of people infected with Mtb can tolerate the infection without developing disease. Clinicians refer to this condition as “latent tuberculosis”, and it affects a quarter of the global population. “TB is a perfect example of disease tolerance,” says Dr. Divangahi who is also the associate director of the Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases Program at the RI-MUHC and a member of the McGill International TB Centre.

Dr. Divangahi’s team found that rather than fighting to resist the pathogen, the body’s tolerance to Mtb is the key mechanism for preventing the spread of the infection. More surprisingly, they found that having excessive levels of T cells, which are known as soldiers of our immune system, could cause more harm than good.

“We always thought that having more T cells would provide better protection against TB. Instead, we found that it could imbalance disease tolerance causing extensive tissue damage and ultimately killing the host,” says Dr. Divangahi, lead author of the study published recently in Science Immunology, who is the also the associate director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

Disease tolerance versus host resistance

Our body’s defense system is divided into two arms: one is resistance, which aims to eliminate the pathogen, while the other is tolerance, which is designed to control the tissue damage caused by the infection.

“While disease tolerance is an established field of research in simple organisms such as plants, our understanding of this host defense strategy in humans is very limited,” says Dr. Divangahi.

Although, immunologists and vaccinologists have made progress in the study of host resistance to infectious diseases, little is known about the mechanisms of disease tolerance in humans.

A key protein in disease tolerance

Dr. Divangahi’s team determined that a protein in the mitochondria called cyclophilin D (CypD) acts as a key checkpoint for T cell activation. Through collaboration with McGill’s Dr. Russell Jones, who is an international expert in T cell biology, they identified that CypD is required for controlling T cell metabolism.  “T cells are traditionally considered to be important in eliminating Mtb,” says Dr. Divangahi. “However, we found that increasing T cell activation in mice by eliminating a metabolic checkpoint unexpectedly compromised host survival without any impact on the growth of Mtb.”

“In contrast to conventional thinking, we show that T cells are essential for regulating the body’s tolerance to Mtb infection,” explains one of the study’s first authors, Dr. Nargis Khan, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Divangahi’s lab at the RI-MUHC.

Giving the widespread drug resistance to various Mtb strains the limited pipeline of effective antibiotics and the lack of an efficient vaccine, alternative approaches to treat TB are urgent. “If we could understand the mechanisms of ‘natural immunity’ that controls TB in 90-95 per cent of infected individuals,” says Dr. Divangahi,“we will able to design a novel therapy or vaccine to substantially reduce the world wide burden of this ancient disease.”

Trash2Treasure recycles unwanted household items to furnish refugees’ homes

«McGill Reporter» - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 15:47

In all, five tons of used household items were diverted from landfills during the Trash2Treasure pilot project.

By McGill Reporter Staff

The elephant has left the room – or at least the Milton Park neighbourhood.

Between April 27 and May 6, volunteers from the Trash2Treasure (T2T) pilot project collected five ton – the average weight of an African elephant – of used household goods left behind by students moving out at the end of the term. Adding to that success, enough recyclable material was amassed to furnish the homes of 19 refugee families.

The first concerted attempt by McGill and the surrounding community to reduce the amount of detritus dumped on the streets by departing students got good marks from all involved.

“At the Students’ Society of McGill University Community Affairs we’re really happy with the results of the project, particularly with the positive feedback we received from both the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee (MPCC), and Milton-Parc student residents,” says Law student and SSMU Community Affairs Commissioner Julien Tremblay Gravel, one of the organizers of T2T 2018. “We had predicted that the group that would be most likely to use T2T would be graduating students, and it looks like we were right.”

In all, 83 students signed up to have their unwanted goods picked up for free, and 49 appointments were carried out. Most of those who signed up were members of the SSMU. Volunteers also collected goods abandoned on the streets around McGill.

The work was done by thirteen volunteers from McGill and seven from the Programme régional d’accueil et d’intégration des demandeurs d’asile (PRAIDA), an organization that helps refugees and those who need help with their immigration status.

Household goods were sorted and donated to two well-known Montreal charities, Welcome Collective and Renaissance Montreal. Welcome Collective delivers quality household items to asylum seeker families that have been assigned unfurnished apartments. Renaissance Montreal helps people reintegrate into the work force by employing them in the recycling and selling of used goods in over 20 stores across the greater Montreal area.

Instead of ending up in a landfill, the five tons of furniture and household items were used to furnish the homes of 19 refugee families.

The annual spring harvest of objects abandoned on the streets and in the lanes around the campus is a longstanding irritant for permanent residents. Past attempts by student groups to address the problem provided the foundations to this year’s project.

T2T is a collaboration between borough officials, SSMU, the office of the Dean of Students, Student Housing and Hospitality Services, the MPCC, and the Société pour l’Action, l’Éducation et la Sensibilisation Environnementale de Montréal  (SAESEM), a non-profit organization specializing in sustainable solutions to waste management.

 

Trash2Treasure recycles unwanted household items to furnish refugees’ homes

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 15:47

In all, five tons of used household items were diverted from landfills during the Trash2Treasure pilot project.

By McGill Reporter Staff

The elephant has left the room – or at least the Milton Park neighbourhood.

Between April 27 and May 6, volunteers from the Trash2Treasure (T2T) pilot project collected five ton – the average weight of an African elephant – of used household goods left behind by students moving out at the end of the term. Adding to that success, enough recyclable material was amassed to furnish the homes of 19 refugee families.

The first concerted attempt by McGill and the surrounding community to reduce the amount of detritus dumped on the streets by departing students got good marks from all involved.

“At the Students’ Society of McGill University Community Affairs we’re really happy with the results of the project, particularly with the positive feedback we received from both the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee (MPCC), and Milton-Parc student residents,” says Law student and SSMU Community Affairs Commissioner Julien Tremblay Gravel, one of the organizers of T2T 2018. “We had predicted that the group that would be most likely to use T2T would be graduating students, and it looks like we were right.”

In all, 83 students signed up to have their unwanted goods picked up for free, and 49 appointments were carried out. Most of those who signed up were members of the SSMU. Volunteers also collected goods abandoned on the streets around McGill.

The work was done by thirteen volunteers from McGill and seven from the Programme régional d’accueil et d’intégration des demandeurs d’asile (PRAIDA), an organization that helps refugees and those who need help with their immigration status.

Household goods were sorted and donated to two well-known Montreal charities, Welcome Collective and Renaissance Montreal. Welcome Collective delivers quality household items to asylum seeker families that have been assigned unfurnished apartments. Renaissance Montreal helps people reintegrate into the work force by employing them in the recycling and selling of used goods in over 20 stores across the greater Montreal area.

Instead of ending up in a landfill, the five tons of furniture and household items were used to furnish the homes of 19 refugee families.

The annual spring harvest of objects abandoned on the streets and in the lanes around the campus is a longstanding irritant for permanent residents. Past attempts by student groups to address the problem provided the foundations to this year’s project.

T2T is a collaboration between borough officials, SSMU, the office of the Dean of Students, Student Housing and Hospitality Services, the MPCC, and the Société pour l’Action, l’Éducation et la Sensibilisation Environnementale de Montréal  (SAESEM), a non-profit organization specializing in sustainable solutions to waste management.

 

Brenda Milner honoured by Montreal and Quebec

«McGill Reporter» - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 18:22

Brenda Milner (left) with Mayor Valérie Plante, shortly after Milner’s induction as Commander of the Order of Montreal at City Hall on May 14.

Quebec National Assembly, City of Montreal present celebrated neuropsychologist with honours 

By Shawn Hayward

Brenda Milner has collected her share of awards, prizes, honourary degrees and other recognitions throughout her amazing career, but there is something special about being recognized with top honours from the city and province she has called home since 1944, all within one week.

On May 8, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Quebec, Jacques Chagnon presented Milner with its Medal of Honour, along with seven other Quebecers including McGill alumna Dr. Joanne Liu. The Medal of Honour is awarded to public figures from all walks of life who, through their career, their work or their social commitment, have earned the recognition of the Members of the National Assembly and the people of Quebec.

Brenda Milner receives the Medal of Honour from Quebec National Assembly Speaker Jacques Chagnon.

Milner added to that recognition the title of Commander of the Order of Montreal, given to her by Mayor Valérie Plante during a ceremony at City Hall on May 14. The Order of Montreal was created on the city’s 375th anniversary to recognize women and men who have contributed in a remarkable way to the city’s development and reputation. There are three ranks in the Order, Commander being the highest.

A celebrated researcher at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), Milner turns 100 years old on July 15. She is the Dorothy J. Killam Professor at The Neuro, and a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University.

Milner has had an extraordinary influence on the shape of neuroscience and on the work of scientists around the world. The origins of modern cognitive neuroscience of memory can be traced directly to her rigorous and imaginative studies. Just some of the awards she has collected over her outstanding career include the Dan David Prize and the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience in 2014, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize in 2011, the Norman A. Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, the International Balzan Foundation Award, the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience in 2009 and the Prix Hommage du 50e anniversaire from the Ordre des psychologues de Quebec. She was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2012. Milner is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada, and a Companion of the Order of Canada.

On September 6 and 7, The Neuro will hold the Brenda Milner Centennial Symposium in her honour.

Brenda Milner honoured by Montreal and Quebec

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 18:22

Brenda Milner (left) with Mayor Valérie Plante, shortly after Milner’s induction as Commander of the Order of Montreal at City Hall on May 14.

Quebec National Assembly, City of Montreal present celebrated neuropsychologist with honours 

By Shawn Hayward

Brenda Milner has collected her share of awards, prizes, honourary degrees and other recognitions throughout her amazing career, but there is something special about being recognized with top honours from the city and province she has called home since 1944, all within one week.

On May 8, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Quebec, Jacques Chagnon presented Milner with its Medal of Honour, along with seven other Quebecers including McGill alumna Dr. Joanne Liu. The Medal of Honour is awarded to public figures from all walks of life who, through their career, their work or their social commitment, have earned the recognition of the Members of the National Assembly and the people of Quebec.

Brenda Milner receives the Medal of Honour from Quebec National Assembly Speaker Jacques Chagnon.

Milner added to that recognition the title of Commander of the Order of Montreal, given to her by Mayor Valérie Plante during a ceremony at City Hall on May 14. The Order of Montreal was created on the city’s 375th anniversary to recognize women and men who have contributed in a remarkable way to the city’s development and reputation. There are three ranks in the Order, Commander being the highest.

A celebrated researcher at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), Milner turns 100 years old on July 15. She is the Dorothy J. Killam Professor at The Neuro, and a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University.

Milner has had an extraordinary influence on the shape of neuroscience and on the work of scientists around the world. The origins of modern cognitive neuroscience of memory can be traced directly to her rigorous and imaginative studies. Just some of the awards she has collected over her outstanding career include the Dan David Prize and the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience in 2014, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize in 2011, the Norman A. Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, the International Balzan Foundation Award, the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience in 2009 and the Prix Hommage du 50e anniversaire from the Ordre des psychologues de Quebec. She was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2012. Milner is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada, and a Companion of the Order of Canada.

On September 6 and 7, The Neuro will hold the Brenda Milner Centennial Symposium in her honour.

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #5: Crossing the Bridge

«McGill Reporter» - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:36

Dr. Sherif Emil with nurses, patients and parents during the last day on the Africa Mercy.

Dr. Sherif Emil is a pediatric surgeon at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatric surgery at McGill. Dr. Emil was recently in Douala, Cameroon, on his third mission to the Africa Mercy. The Africa Mercy is the world’s largest civilian hospital ship dedicated to bringing hope and healing to tens of thousands of the world’s impoverished  populations. This is the fifth and final instalment of Dr. Emil’s dispatches from aboard the Africa Mercy.

By Dr. Sherif Emil

The final day on the Africa Mercy is always the most difficult, not physically but emotionally. In our operating room hall meeting, it is not uncommon for operating room crew of all types – nurses, anesthesiologists, anesthesia technicians, surgeons – to shed tears as they receive their certificate of service. I am no exception. I have to work hard to hold back tears as I thank everyone for the lessons they have again taught us. It is a bittersweet moment – a separation anxiety of sorts.

The day’s emotions are heightened by the follow-up clinic, where I see most of the patients I have operated on during this mission. Little children, who a few days ago anxiously entered a foreign Ship full of strange-looking people, now return full of smiles, dispensing warm and spontaneous hugs liberally to the nurses and doctors. Teenagers who were despondent and flat, burdened by their disability when I met them in the screening clinic, are now beaming with pride at their new body image and abilities. The story of the Africa Mercy is told over and over through each of these lives.

The emotions are not only heightened by our encounter with the patients, but also by our encounter with the staff – so many acts of genuine kindness and love towards Etienne and I on our final day – until the final moment of departure from the dock. As I descend the gangway with my luggage, I can’t help but think of those who will ascend it tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that to continue the work. I almost feel envious of those yet to join this ever-changing community.  On the dock, I thank Merrill, the OR supervisor, marvelling at her amazing coordination that enabled me to perform 46 procedures on 32 patients. “You know, the idea of the Africa Mercy would never work on paper,” she reminds me. “It only works in real life.”

A few days ago, I was dining in the cafeteria with Gary Parker, the chief medical officer who has lived and operated on the Africa Mercy for the last 30 years. “This Ship is a bridge between two worlds,” he tells me. “Between our societies where much is available and Africa where little is available.” And as I sit writing this on Air France Flight 982 heading from Paris to Montreal, I can’t help but feel that I am also crossing the bridge back to what I left behind a month ago. And as I cross the bridge, excited and eager to see my wife and daughters after a long absence, I also can’t help but to keep looking back at that other world – the world where things happen in real life that can never be planned on paper.

Many have followed these dispatches over these last three weeks – thank you all for taking this journey with me. The last message I shared from the Africa Mercy in Madagascar over two years ago was this:  The real story of the Africa Mercy is not just about free surgical care among the poorest of the poor of Africa. It is not just about planting hope in the midst of despair. It is not just about capacity building in resource-poor countries. It is not even just about making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands– one life at a time – one country at a time. The real story of the Africa Mercy is about mercy – a merciful community, diverse and always changing, that has chosen to show its love through its actions. And in a world where evil is not only done, but also often celebrated, advertised and paraded, the people of the Africa Mercy remind us of what we as humans can accomplish if we are driven by mercy.

And this remains my last message today.

Related stories

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #1: If you want to go far…

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #2: Transformations

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #3: Angels of Mercy

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #4: Irene of Montreal

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #5: Crossing the Bridge

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:36

Dr. Sherif Emil with nurses, patients and parents during the last day on the Africa Mercy.

Dr. Sherif Emil is a pediatric surgeon at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatric surgery at McGill. Dr. Emil was recently in Douala, Cameroon, on his third mission to the Africa Mercy. The Africa Mercy is the world’s largest civilian hospital ship dedicated to bringing hope and healing to tens of thousands of the world’s impoverished  populations. This is the fifth and final instalment of Dr. Emil’s dispatches from aboard the Africa Mercy.

By Dr. Sherif Emil

The final day on the Africa Mercy is always the most difficult, not physically but emotionally. In our operating room hall meeting, it is not uncommon for operating room crew of all types – nurses, anesthesiologists, anesthesia technicians, surgeons – to shed tears as they receive their certificate of service. I am no exception. I have to work hard to hold back tears as I thank everyone for the lessons they have again taught us. It is a bittersweet moment – a separation anxiety of sorts.

The day’s emotions are heightened by the follow-up clinic, where I see most of the patients I have operated on during this mission. Little children, who a few days ago anxiously entered a foreign Ship full of strange-looking people, now return full of smiles, dispensing warm and spontaneous hugs liberally to the nurses and doctors. Teenagers who were despondent and flat, burdened by their disability when I met them in the screening clinic, are now beaming with pride at their new body image and abilities. The story of the Africa Mercy is told over and over through each of these lives.

The emotions are not only heightened by our encounter with the patients, but also by our encounter with the staff – so many acts of genuine kindness and love towards Etienne and I on our final day – until the final moment of departure from the dock. As I descend the gangway with my luggage, I can’t help but think of those who will ascend it tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that to continue the work. I almost feel envious of those yet to join this ever-changing community.  On the dock, I thank Merrill, the OR supervisor, marvelling at her amazing coordination that enabled me to perform 46 procedures on 32 patients. “You know, the idea of the Africa Mercy would never work on paper,” she reminds me. “It only works in real life.”

A few days ago, I was dining in the cafeteria with Gary Parker, the chief medical officer who has lived and operated on the Africa Mercy for the last 30 years. “This Ship is a bridge between two worlds,” he tells me. “Between our societies where much is available and Africa where little is available.” And as I sit writing this on Air France Flight 982 heading from Paris to Montreal, I can’t help but feel that I am also crossing the bridge back to what I left behind a month ago. And as I cross the bridge, excited and eager to see my wife and daughters after a long absence, I also can’t help but to keep looking back at that other world – the world where things happen in real life that can never be planned on paper.

Many have followed these dispatches over these last three weeks – thank you all for taking this journey with me. The last message I shared from the Africa Mercy in Madagascar over two years ago was this:  The real story of the Africa Mercy is not just about free surgical care among the poorest of the poor of Africa. It is not just about planting hope in the midst of despair. It is not just about capacity building in resource-poor countries. It is not even just about making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands– one life at a time – one country at a time. The real story of the Africa Mercy is about mercy – a merciful community, diverse and always changing, that has chosen to show its love through its actions. And in a world where evil is not only done, but also often celebrated, advertised and paraded, the people of the Africa Mercy remind us of what we as humans can accomplish if we are driven by mercy.

And this remains my last message today.

Related stories

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #1: If you want to go far…

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #2: Transformations

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #3: Angels of Mercy

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #4: Irene of Montreal

Mathematician Daniel Wise elected Fellow of Royal Society

«McGill Reporter» - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:17

Daniel Wise, James McGill Professor in the Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics.

By McGill Reporter Staff

Daniel Wise, James McGill Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is one of 50 eminent scientists who were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society and ten as new Foreign Members for their exceptional contributions to science.

Founded in the 1660’s,  Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. The Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognize, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

“Our Fellows are key to the Royal Society’s fundamental purpose of using science for the benefit of humanity. From Norwich to Melbourne to Ethiopia, this year’s newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society are testament that science is a global endeavour and excellent ideas transcend borders,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, during the announcement on may 9. “We also recognize the cutting edge innovation taking place across industry, with many of this year’s Fellows coming from the thriving tech industry. For their outstanding contributions to research and innovation, both now and in the future, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the world’s best scientists into the ranks of the Royal Society.”

Prof. Wise is a pure mathematician specializing in Geometric Group Theory, which studies symmetry through its interaction with algebra, geometry and topology. He grew up in New York and received his BA from Yeshiva University and his PhD from Princeton (1996). The early stage of his career was at Berkeley, Cornell, and Brandeis, and he then moved to McGill in 2001, where he is James McGill Professor.

Prof. Wise’s scientific agenda has been to explore and promulgate the utility and ubiquity of nonpositively curved cubical geometry in group theory and topology. His program of research led to the solution of several outstanding problems in combinatorial group theory and 3-manifold topology. For this, he was awarded the Oswald Veblen prize in 2013, became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014, spoke at the ICM in 2014, was Poincare Chair at the IHP in 2015, and in 2016 he received the CRM-Fields-PIMS Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

See the complete list of new Fellows of the Royal Society and new Foreign Members.

Mathematician Daniel Wise elected Fellow of Royal Society

McGill Reporter Newsfeed - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:17

Daniel Wise, James McGill Professor in the Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics.

By McGill Reporter Staff

Daniel Wise, James McGill Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is one of 50 eminent scientists who were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society and ten as new Foreign Members for their exceptional contributions to science.

Founded in the 1660’s,  Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. The Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognize, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

“Our Fellows are key to the Royal Society’s fundamental purpose of using science for the benefit of humanity. From Norwich to Melbourne to Ethiopia, this year’s newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society are testament that science is a global endeavour and excellent ideas transcend borders,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, during the announcement on may 9. “We also recognize the cutting edge innovation taking place across industry, with many of this year’s Fellows coming from the thriving tech industry. For their outstanding contributions to research and innovation, both now and in the future, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the world’s best scientists into the ranks of the Royal Society.”

Prof. Wise is a pure mathematician specializing in Geometric Group Theory, which studies symmetry through its interaction with algebra, geometry and topology. He grew up in New York and received his BA from Yeshiva University and his PhD from Princeton (1996). The early stage of his career was at Berkeley, Cornell, and Brandeis, and he then moved to McGill in 2001, where he is James McGill Professor.

Prof. Wise’s scientific agenda has been to explore and promulgate the utility and ubiquity of nonpositively curved cubical geometry in group theory and topology. His program of research led to the solution of several outstanding problems in combinatorial group theory and 3-manifold topology. For this, he was awarded the Oswald Veblen prize in 2013, became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014, spoke at the ICM in 2014, was Poincare Chair at the IHP in 2015, and in 2016 he received the CRM-Fields-PIMS Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

See the complete list of new Fellows of the Royal Society and new Foreign Members.

Developing the first effective drug for progressive MS

«McGill Reporter» - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 15:43

Neurologist Douglas Arnold analyzed massive clinical trial data in the development of a drug that combats two forms of multiple sclerosis.

By Victor Swoboda

A clinician/scientist at The Neuro played a major role in developing a drug that offers hope to people with two forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), including one where no other effective drug existed.

Neurologist Douglas Arnold helped determine the effectiveness of ocrelizumab, the first drug treatment approved for the treatment of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). A major breakthrough drug, ocrelizumab (known commercially as ocrevus) was approved in 2017 in the United States for patients with either PPMS or the relapsing-remitting form of MS. Late in the same year, the government agency, Health Canada, approved the drug for Canadians with relapsing-remitting MS, and in February, 2018, approved it for PPMS treatment as well.

Approval of ocrelizumab came following development and clinical trials managed by the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche during the past several years.

“I am on the steering committee for the clinical trials that developed ocrelizumab, advising on the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data collected from participating clinical sites,” says Dr. Arnold. “Standardized magnetic resonance (MR) imaging scans were collected from around the world, and then analyzed to provide the data required by government regulators to get the drug approved.”

About 9,000 MRI scans of thousands of MS patients were provided from hundreds of clinical sites. Analysis of this massive amount of data was undertaken under Dr. Arnold’s supervision by a Montreal-based firm that works with pharmaceutical companies, NeuroRx, which provides highly precise MRI outcome assessments according to strict regulations.

“MR is by far the best way to see the hallmark inflammatory demyelinating brain lesions of MS,” says Dr. Arnold.

Myelin is a protective sheath covering axons, the thin strands that connect billions of nerve cells in the body. When myelin is damaged or undergoes atrophy, nerve cells begin failing to connect. Demyelination is a root cause of MS.

“We analyzed patients’ scans to see to what extent ocrelizumab slowed the atrophy and prevented formation of new MS lesions. In the case of this drug, new lesion formation was almost completely suppressed.”

Ocrelizumab influences the action of the body’s B cells, a subset of lymphocytes that are important for the abnormal attack of the immune system on myelin in multiple sclerosis patients. Administering ocrelizumab causes B cells to break down.

Ocrelizumab is administered intravenously once every six months.

“The first dose can be associated with infusion reactions, but these are relatively uncommon after that, and are not that severe,” says Dr. Arnold.

According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, side effects could include urinary tract infections, influenza, upper respiratory tract infections and cold-like symptoms such as swelling of the nasal passages and throat.

It should be noted that clinical data came from patients between the ages of 18 and 55.

“It’s not clear how well ocrelizumab works in older people who have had progressive multiple sclerosis for a long time,” cautions Dr. Arnold, adding that research continues.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada notes that “the safety and efficacy of ocrelizumab outside of the age range of 18 to 55 is unknown.” The Society advises older patients who are interested in ocrelizumab to consult their neurologist.

The cost of ocrelizumab in Canada is still being determined. As well, the federal government and the provincial government in Quebec are deciding to what extent the cost of the drug will be borne by their respective public health insurance plans.

“Although it’s not on Quebec’s health plan yet, physicians can apply to get ocrelizumab directly from the company as part of a bridging program until the government sets a cost price along with the requirements for prescribing it,” says Dr. Arnold.

In two words, Dr. Arnold summed up the significant difference between ocrelizumab and several other MS drugs used in the past to treat progressive multiple sclerosis: “It works.”

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