Welcome to MI4
The control of infectious diseases through sanitation and vaccination greatly reduced childhood mortality and increased our life expectancy. It also served as the foundation for modern medicine. Yet, we cannot and should not sterilize the world around us. So long as we are surrounded by microbes, there remain microbial threats to our health.
- New pandemics, such as we experience with COVID-19;
- Bacteria that we can no longer treat with standard antibiotics;
- Interactions between microbes and our immune system that result in enigmatic diseases, including chronic autoimmune and autoinflammatory disease such as lupus and Crohn’s.
These microbial challenges remain in the 21st century one of the greatest threats to human health. Clinicians, researchers and educators at McGill University and its affiliated hospital research institutes have long been at the forefront of infectious and immune diseases. As clinician-scientists working both at the university and in the hospital setting, we have had the opportunity to work with many of these groups, and to learn that their efforts have often been compartmentalized by disease, by research approach, or by geography. Importantly, solutions to microbial threats involve research at the levels of molecules, patients, and populations, but these research strata are separated by administrative units, and have limited opportunities to interact outside of a few truly interdisciplinary research centres.
To bring different groups together, we held several consultations and brainstorming events, culminating in the first McGill-wide Infection and Immunity forum in November 2017. The take-home messages from these events were clear. First, there is a wealth of underappreciated talent in this research space with over 200 principal investigators focused on infectious or immune diseases, of which nearly 100 are clinician-scientists / clinician-investigators. Second, while there are incredible opportunities for synergistic interactions between groups with complementary expertise, investigators need support to build interdisciplinary research teams that span the larger McGill community. The McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity, or MI4, was conceived to bring together these many talented scientists.
Shortly after our official launch in 2018, we were faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this challenge, MI4 helped lead the rapid and strategic response of McGill investigators and clinicians in pivoting our research capacity to meet this global threat. MI4-initiatives include the development of the MI4 Clinical Research Platform (CRP)—a clinical trials unit that supported studies of new therapies for COVID-19, and later mpox; and the MI4 Containment Level 3 Laboratories where investigators can safely conduct studies with pathogenic viruses and bacteria in pre-clinical models. With MI4 support, our investigators rapidly launched 65 COVID-19 research projects, including studies of viral transmission, novel testing strategies, drug and vaccine development, clinical trials and the mental health and social impacts of public health lockdown measures. MI4 researchers also played important leadership roles in the federal and provincial response to COVID-19, including the development of CanCOVID, the Quebec COVID-19 Biobank and the Canadian COVID-19 Immunity Taskforce, and serving as advisors to Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Quebec Santé Public and Canada’s Chief Science Officer.
Going forward, MI4 is committed to building on our success, both in preparing ourselves for the next pandemic, and tackling the many other microbial challenges to health that were sidelined while the focus was on COVID-19.
We are excited to continue this journey and hope you will continue to work with us to shape MI4 to best support our community.
Co-Director (Immunity), MI4
Founding Director, MI4