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: www.mcgill.ca/molepi

Infectious Diseases: https://www.mcgill.ca/infect-diseases/
MI4: https://www.mcgill.ca/mi4/

McGill TB Centre website: https://www.mcgill.ca/tb
IDIGH Program: https://idigh.ca/en/ 
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 was the Associate Program Leader of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre from 2016 to 2023. In 2017 he became the co-Director the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) and became its Director in late 2021. He is the Director of the 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, I have led research that employs bacterial genetic methods to study the epidemiology and pathogenesis of mycobacterial diseases. Together with trainees and collaborators, we have published over 250 papers, with > 24,000 citations and an h-index > 75. 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 351 times) and M. bovis BCG vaccines (Mostowy et al, Vaccine, 2003, cited 172 times). We then described the macro-evolution of M. tuberculosis from non-tuberculous mycobacteria (Veyrier, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2009, cited 122 times), resulting in our sequencing of the M. kansasii genome (Wang, Genome Biology and Evolution, 2015, cited 89 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 160 times). This enabled us to identify horizontal gene transfer events that define the pathogen M. avium paratuberculosis (Alexander et al, J. Bacteriology, 2009, cited 96 times). Our appreciation of the species was captured in a comprehensive review (Turenne et al, Clin Micro Reviews, 2007), cited 284 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, cited 276 times). 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, cited 281times.
  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 tracked TB within a village that suffered a TB surge (Lee et al, JID, 2015, cited 72 times) and across the region, over time (Lee et al, PNAS, 2015, cited 86 times). We have contributed to studies looking at the importance of reinfection after treatment in South Africa (Verver, Am J Resp Crit Care Med, 2005, cited 550 times) and the role of M. orygis, rather than M. bovis, as the cause of zoonotic TB in India (Duffy et al, Lancet Microbe, 2020, cited 68 times). In ongoing work, our lab is genotyping bacterial isolates from a randomized controlled trial of TB prevention in Vietnam (Greg Fox, PI).

    (updated February 2024)
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