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MUHC researcher awarded $500,000 to study pathogenesis of infectious disease

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Published: 15 Jun 2009

Dr. Maya Saleh and team will use grant to help identify genes involved in our body's first line of defense

Dr. Maya Saleh and team will use grant to help identify genes involved in our body's first line of defense.


The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) has announced the recipients of the 2009 Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award. MUHC researcher Dr. Maya Saleh was one of six recipients granted $500,000 over a 6-year period for her research proposal, "Regulation and molecular mechanisms of NLR-mediated innate immunity."

"We are studying how the body fights infections," says Dr. Saleh, who was the only researcher in Canada to receive the award. "Our focus is the innate immune system, which is our body's first line of defense. We are performing experiments at the level of the whole genome to find most of the genes needed for this defense. By using genetics and genomics we are hoping to see the whole picture."

The BWF program is intended to shed light on the overarching issues of how human hosts handle infectious challenge. The awards are designed to give recipients the freedom and flexibility to pursue new avenues of inquiry and higher-risk research projects that hold potential for advancing significantly the biochemical, pharmacological, immunological, and molecular biological understanding of how infectious agents and the human body interact.

The selection process for this award is based on the proposal and on the achievement of the scientist, in the US or Canada, as a new independent investigator. It also takes into consideration the research environment and institutional support.

By identifying various molecules involved in our body's defense, Dr. Saleh and her team hope to widen the therapeutic targets in humans. "We could start tailoring experiments where we design, then use drugs to modulate the action of the molecules we identify," says Dr. Saleh. "We currently have one family of such molecules that we are investigating. These are enzymes that are needed for the production of defence molecules (cytokines) called The Inflammatory Caspases."

"Infectious diseases remain a concern to global health," says BWF President Dr. John Burris. "We are proud to support the work of creative investigators who study the crucial interaction between the host and the microbe."


Dr. Maya Saleh
Dr. Maya Saleh is a researcher with the Critical Care Division and the Centre for the Study of Host Resistance at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) as well as an assistant professor with McGill University's Faculty of Medicine.


The Burroughs Wellcome Fund
The Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award provides $500,000 during a five-year period to encourage multidisciplinary approaches to investigating pathogenesis. BWF launched the program in 2002 and has made 78 awards for an investment of more than $33 million in the careers of assistant professor-level researchers who are working on understanding the interactions between the human host and the infectious agent-bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic. This year due to the economic environment the award will be spread out over 6 years.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and healthcare hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the Institute is the research arm of the MUHC, the university health centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The Institute supports over 600 researchers, nearly 1,200 graduate and post-doctoral students; it also operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. The Research Institute of the MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.
For further details visit: www.muhc.ca/research.
isabelle [dot] kling [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca

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Contact: Isabelle Kling
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