About Dr. Behr

Marcel BehrDr. Marcel A. Behr, MD, M.Sc., FRCPC

McGill University Health Centre
1001 boul Décarie
Glen Block E, Office #E05.1805
Montréal, QC H4
A 3J1 Canada
Phone: 514 934-1934 (42815)
email: marcel.behr [at] mcgill.ca
Lab website: https://www.mcgill.ca/molepi
McGill TB Centre website: https://www.mcgill.ca/tb

Twitter: @mbehr_mcgill  

Dr. Behr is a clinician-scientist with appointments of Full Professor in the Department of Medicine and Associate member in the departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics as well as Microbiology and Immunology. He is the founding Director of the McGill International TB Centre and led it from 2012 to 2018. He is the Associate Program Leader of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre since 2016. In 2017 he became the co-Director the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) and became its Interim Director in late 2021. He is the interim director of McGill Infectious Diseases Division.

Dr. Behr trained at the University of Toronto, Queen’s, McGill and Stanford.  His work has been recognized in Quebec (Chercheur National Award of the FRSQ), Canada (Joe Doupe Award of the Clinical Society for Clinical Investigation, Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and of the Royal Society of Canada) and beyond (Election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology).  Dr. Behr’s lab uses bacterial genetics to study the epidemiology and pathogenesis of mycobacterial diseases. 

Most significant contributions:

Since opening a lab at McGill in 1999, I have led research that employs bacterial genetic methods to study the epidemiology and pathogenesis of mycobacterial diseases. I have published over 200 papers, with ~ 20,000 citations and an h-index of 72. Highlights include the following:

  1. Mycobacterium tuberculosis evolution. We used microarrays to define the micro-evolution of the M. tuberculosis complex (MTC) (Mostowy et al, JID, 2002, cited 333 times) and M. bovis BCG vaccines (Mostowy et al, Vaccine, 2003, cited 154 times). We then described the macro-evolution of M. tuberculosis from non-tuberculous mycobacteria (Veyrier, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2009, cited 104 times), resulting in our sequencing of the M. kansasii genome (Wang, Genome Biology and Evolution, 2015, cited 78 times). Each phylogeny answered questions of provenance and was the basis for functional studies of pathogenesis.
  2. Mycobacterium avium. Using multi-locus sequence analysis, we derived a phylogeny of M. avium, revealing a mix of environmental organisms and pathogenic clones (Turenne et al, J. Bacteriology, 2008, cited 145 times). This enabled us to identify horizontal gene transfer events that define the pathogen M. avium paratuberculosis (Alexander et al, J. Bacteriology, 2009, cited 85 times). Our appreciation of the species was captured in a comprehensive review (Turenne et al, Clin Micro Reviews, 2007), cited 267 times, and served as the basis for further studies on the role of horizontally acquired genes in mycobacterial physiology.
  3. NOD2 and mycobacterial infection. We showed that NOD2 mediates innate and adaptive immune responses to mycobacterial infection (Divangahi et al, J. Immunology, 2008). Then, using a ‘genetics squared’ approach, we showed that NOD2-dependent immune recognition is tuned to the unusually modified mycobacterial peptidoglycan, where the C2 position of muramic acid has an N-glycolyl group instead of the more commonly encountered N-acetyl moiety (Coulombe et al, J. Exp Med, 2009). These papers have been cited ~ 250 times each, in journals such as Science, Nature Immunology, Immunity, NEJM.
  4. Tuberculosis molecular epidemiology. Using a variety of genotyping techniques, our group has evaluated the evidence for TB transmission in Montreal, rural Quebec and Nunavik. Our studies in Nunavik most recently employed Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to track TB within a village that suffered a TB surge (Lee et al, JID, 2015, cited 64 times) and across the region (Lee et al, PNAS, 2015, cited 73 times). My standing in molecular epidemiology of TB has led to collaborations in South Africa (Verver, Am J Resp Crit Care Med, 2005, cited 512 times) and more recently, Vietnam, where I am doing the genotyping for a randomized controlled trial of TB prevention in Vietnam (Greg Fox, PI).

(updated January 2022)

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